The third and final suspect in the Dollar General murder in Bonner Springs was sentenced Wednesday to the maximum amount allowed for a juvenile.
Amber Russell, 18, of Lenexa, was sentenced to juvenile lockup until age 22 and a half and will receive after-care until age 23.
Russell pleaded guilty April 13 to first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery for her participation in the Nov. 11, 2005, murder of Robin Bell at the Bonner Springs Dollar General.
Russell, who was 15 at the time of the murder, made a deal with the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office that she would be tried as a minor in exchange for her truthful testimony in the trials of Robert Haberlein and John Backus. Both men were sentenced last month to life in prison for their involvement in the murder.
Wyandotte County Deputy District Attorney Sheryl Lidtke said she hated that a plea deal had to be made with Russell but that the case would not have moved forward without Russell’s testimony.
“This was a horrendous case factual,” Lidtke said of why she requested the maximum sentence possible for Russell.
Lidtke said that while no evidence was found that showed Russell ever struck any of the deadly blows that ended Bell’s life, Russell was still a clear participant. Lidtke said it was the financial troubles of Russell’s family that led to the crime in the first place.
Lidtke also said that at one point Bell almost escaped by running out the store’s back door. After being caught and dragged back into the store, Bell looked Russell in the eye and begged for help, Lidtke said.
“Ms. Russell had the opportunity to assist Robin Bell, yet Ms. Russell didn’t do the right thing. She made a lot of bad choices that night,” Lidtke said.
During several interviews with Russell over the course of the trial, Lidtke said Russell never showed compassion for Bell.
“She just didn’t have any sympathy or empathy for what had happened to Robin Bell,” Lidtke said. “She did care a lot, however, what was going to happen to her.”
Russell chose not to speak during the sentencing, but her lawyer said that Russell had expressed how sorry she was for the outcome of that night.