Worried that she couldn't reach her longtime companion by phone, 70-year-old Eunice Kershner went to his rural Lecompton home to check on him. She found a horrifying scene.
The back door was ajar, which was unusual for that time of night. When she went inside, she saw him lying on the kitchen floor.
"I went over and felt on his neck for a pulse. There was no pulse," Kershner said.
Kershner, who discovered the body of 77-year-old Clarence David Boose in April 2005, took the witness stand Tuesday during a preliminary hearing for a man charged in the death: Leonard Wayne Price of Topeka, a repeat burglar nicknamed "Battle Axe." Boose was shot once through the head.
After about an hour of testimony, Judge Michael Malone found there was enough evidence to try Price for the killing. He scheduled a weeklong trial for March 5.
But Price is not the only suspect in the case. Douglas County Sheriff's Detective John Lewis testified that during a jailhouse interview last year, Price told detectives his burglary partner, Allen D. Smith, 35, was the one who pulled the trigger.
So far, Smith has not been charged in the killing. Both he and Price are serving prison sentences for attempted murder for a shooting during a Pottawatomie County burglary, less than a week after Boose's killing.
Even if it's found that Price didn't shoot Boose, he still can be convicted of murder under Kansas law. He's charged with bringing about the death during the commission of an "inherently dangerous felony" - in this case, aggravated burglary.
More about the case
- 6News video: Lecompton murder suspect stands trial
- 2005 killing part of burglary spree, prosecutors say (07-20-05)
- Burglar faces murder charge (07-15-06)
- 6News video: Police connect convict to Lecompton murder (07-14-06)
- Probe continues in death of jeweler (11-25-05)
- Police are silent about Boose clues (07-18-05)
- Police: Jeweler's death a homicide (05-03-05)
- Kansas Court of Appeals 1998 opinion on Leonard Price (.pdf)
Price's story, according to the detective, was that he and Smith, both from Topeka, went out looking for homes to burglarize on April 29, 2005. They came across Boose's rural home and thought no one was there, but while they were inside, Boose surprised them and began yelling at them.
While Price was looking for a way out of the home, he told detectives, Smith shot Boose with a gun they'd stolen in a previous burglary: an old-fashioned, black-powder pistol.
Kirshner, who said she was in a long-term relationship with Boose but didn't live with him, testified that she drove to his home from Topeka that night after she grew worried that she couldn't reach him by phone. She found him lying on the floor with no pulse and called 911.
Lewis, the sheriff's detective, testified that he learned of Price and Smith as possible suspects in early May 2005 at a briefing organized by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. At that time, the KBI had information that the two men were linked to a burglary spree in Pottawatomie, Jackson, Jefferson and Douglas counties.
Lewis said investigators eventually served a search warrant at a camper-trailer in Topeka that was associated with Price. There, they found Boose's wallet and driver's license. The wallet and a cell phone appeared to have been the only things taken from Boose's home, Lewis said.
Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said he couldn't comment on whether Smith would be charged. Price's next hearing was scheduled for Dec. 29.