Court sends child-rapist case back to Franklin County for resentencing

? A Franklin County man who was found guilty of teaming up with his girlfriend to repeatedly rape the woman’s 7-year-old daughter could see his life sentence reduced to 40 years in prison, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court also sent back to Franklin County District Court another charge against Melvin Trautloff for a new trial.

Trautloff was convicted in 2008 on one count of rape, one count of aggravated criminal sodomy, one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, and one count of sexual exploitation of a child.

Trautloff was found guilty of having sex in 2006 and 2007 with the 7-year-old girl, who was brought to him by the girl’s mother in exchange for lowering the payments of a car the mother had bought from Trautloff, according to the court opinion. The mother also helped undress the girl and took pictures at Trautloff’s request, the court opinion said.

The mother eventually pleaded guilty to several charges and she testified against Trautloff.

Trautloff was sentenced to life in prison on each count with no possibility of parole.

But Trautloff argued he didn’t meet the prior convictions required by Kansas statute for enhancing his sentences to life without parole.

He did have prior convictions from 1996 involving an 8-year-old girl and 9-year-old girl. But the state Supreme Court ruled that the statute was unclear in referencing “prior conviction event.” The Supreme Court ruled that the district court made a mistake in sentencing him to life without parole as a habitual offender on all the counts. Trautloff may be subject to a minimum sentence of 40 years in prison with the possibility of parole, the Supreme Court said.

“Because Trautloff is currently 43 years old, the difference between mandatory life and mandatory 40-year sentences is unlikely to be great,” the court said in sending the case back to Franklin County for re-sentencing.

The court ordered a new trial on the charge of sexual exploitation of a child, saying that the charge against Trautloff concerned whether he displayed photos of the child, while the jury was instructed to consider a wider charge of whether he promoted child exploitation.

“There exists a real possibility that the jury would have rendered a different verdict if the district court had instructed only as to displaying,” the court said.