Olathe Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline said Thursday he would consider seeking the death penalty against a man charged in the kidnap and murder of a teenager whose body was found three days after she was abducted from a Target store parking lot.
Kline said it was unclear if the case would be tried in state or federal court. But he said the death penalty would be a possibility in either jurisdiction.
"If we believe the crime is severe enough, and we do in this case, we will go to the jurisdiction that provides the most severe penalty," Kline said. "The discussions continue almost around the clock."
Edwin R. Hall, 26, was charged with premeditated first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping in the death of Kelsey Smith, 18. Bond was set at $5 million.
Hall was being held at a Johnson County jail in Gardner, and appeared in court via a video feed looking tired and downcast. He spoke briefly, waiving reading of the charges until he could hire his own attorney. His next appearance was scheduled for June 14.
If convicted, Hall faces a minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison for the murder charge and more than 12 years for aggravated kidnapping, Kline said. Authorities have not said how or where Smith was killed.
Smith's sister, Stevie Hockersmith, 23, and several supporters also attended the hearing. Hockersmith left without speaking to reporters.
Smith had been missing since Saturday night, when she went to a Target store in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park to buy a gift for her boyfriend.
Surveillance video showed her being forced into her car around 7:10 p.m., and the car drove off. It was found in a nearby mall parking lot about two hours later.
Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said Wednesday that Hall appeared to be the same person shown in the video leaving the Target soon after Smith. He was wearing a white T-shirt, sneakers, shorts and a goatee. He was clean shaven during the court appearance Thursday.
Police also said Hall's vehicle matched the description of a dark mid-1970s Chevrolet pickup that was seen entering the Target parking lot shortly after Smith's car.
Douglass said police had received more than 500 tips in the case and had questioned numerous people, including Hall, who was arrested at the end of his interview Wednesday.
Douglass said there was no evidence that Hall and Smith knew each other. He and Kline both have declined to offer a motive for the attack or specify whether investigators had determined that Smith was killed in Kansas.
Shortly after Smith's body was found Wednesday in a wooded area not far from Longview Lake Park, detectives were talking with Hall. A tip from the public led them to Hall, who has been living with his wife, Aletha, and 4-year-old son in Olathe.