Archive for Monday, August 29, 2011

Jury recommends death for Osage County man convicted of killing his family

August 29, 2011, 4:46 p.m. Updated August 30, 2011, 12:34 a.m.


— A jury recommended Monday that a Kansas man be sentenced to death for killing four family members in November 2009.

The jury returned its recommendation after hearing more testimony about 48-year-old James Kraig Kahler and his state of mind at the time of the fatal shootings. The judge — who is not bound the recommendation — set sentencing for Oct. 11 in Osage County District Court.

Kahler was convicted Thursday of four counts of capital murder in the killings of 44-year-old Karen Kahler; her grandmother, Dorothy Wight, 89; and the Kahlers’ daughters, Emily, 18, and Lauren, 16. The Kahlers’ son, Sean, now 12, was not threatened during the rampage and testified at trial that he saw his father shoot his mother.

The victims’ family members read a short statement outside the courthouse after the verdict, saying all relatives “still have a lot of healing to do” and that the trial didn’t restore their relatives’ lives.

“For the past year and a half, we’ve had a dark cloud around us that we associated with this trial,” said Lynn Denton, Karen Kahler’s sister. “Now that it’s over, the cloud is still there.

“The cloud wasn’t about the trial, it is about our loss.”

The defense argued for life in prison, saying Kahler was out of control emotionally and suffering deep depression when he went from room to room at Wight’s home in Burlingame, shooting the four victims with an assault rifle.

Defense attorney Thomas Haney declined to speak to reporters after the verdict was read. None of the jurors spoke as they left the courthouse.

Prosecutors said it was difficult to read anything into the speed at which jurors reached their decision, taking just 55 minutes to return. Osage County attorney Brandon Jones and Assistant Attorney General Amy Hanley said jurors had the evidence about the highly publicized murders “on their minds for several weeks now.”

“We believe it is the appropriate verdict,” Hanley said.

A former city utilities director in Weatherford, Texas, and Columbia, Mo., Kahler had lost the latter job after his deteriorating mental health caused his work to suffer. He moved back to Kansas just weeks before the killings to live with his parents outside Topeka.

Karen Kahler had filed for divorce in Columbia, Mo., in January 2009, after 23 years of marriage, amid her affair with Sunny Reese, who’d been a fellow fitness trainer at a gym in Weatherford, Texas. Reese testified in court, and the defense contended that the two women’s relationship also had contributed to Kahler’s mental state.

Under Kansas law, Kahler’s mental illness was a defense only if it prevented him from forming the intent to kill or acting with premeditation. Prosecutors presented evidence showing he had been upset with each of the victims and targeted them one by one on the Saturday night following Thanksgiving 2009.


rukidingme 6 years, 7 months ago

Kansas DOES NOT have a DEATH PENTALY. They say you get sentenced to death but they really don't. You spend rest of your life in State prison eating three meals a day watching T. V. unlimited health and dental care. The state spends millions if not Billions in tax money keeping convicted killers alive and healthy. While hard working law abiding people can't afford to go to the doctor or denisit because no insurance. Or in some cases can't afford to feed themself and children three meals a day. It makes me sick when time and money is spent on trials for death pentalys.

BlackVelvet 6 years, 7 months ago

He should be treated to the same that he gave his family. An assault rifle and not an immediate death.

ljwhirled 6 years, 7 months ago

Why don't we save the millions of dollars in legal fees that a death sentence will cost the taxpayers and just give him 4 consecutive life terms?

It will be cheaper, less likely to be overturned and will prolong his suffering.

Though the death penalty looks good on paper, in practice is is way more expensive than just dropping him in a cell to rot.

I'd rather those millions go to educations, drug rehabilitation, mental health care, or a thousand other purposes.

BTW: I am not some liberal hippy anti-death penalty zealot. It is simply impractical and expensive to put these guys to death. If we could hang him next week without enriching 20 lawyers, I'd gladly do it myself.

ljwhirled 6 years, 7 months ago


He has been convicted of murdering his family by a jury of his peers in a fair trial.

If it was 1911 instead of 2011, he would be hung within 24 hours of his last hearing.

The death penalty was reinstated for this exact type of criminal.

That said, the blood sucking parasite lawyers (on both sides) will string this case along for the next 20 years with appeal after appeal.

They might get lucky and get him off (eventually), or a future supreme court might rule the death penalty unconstitutional (it has happened).

What I am saying is either execute him swiftly at a low cost to the taxpayer, or put him in a cell to rot forever.

Putting him on death row for an execution that might never happen (Kansas hasn't executed anyone since the death penalty was re-established in the US in 1976) is just welfare for the attorneys in the case.

ljwhirled 6 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps you have a better idea? Maybe we should do this to him:

Is that what you want? Is that the justice his victims deserve?

Part of prison is justice for the victims, part is punishment and ideally part is rehabilitation.

Some people, however, are beyond rehabilitation. These people need to be locked away forever, or put to death.

My point is simply that we should use the least expensive method of keeping this man off the streets. There is no reason for us to use funds that could go to good purposes just to try to put him to death. Four consecutive life terms would also do the trick and would be cheaper.

ferrislives 6 years, 7 months ago

Did Cousin Virgil get a hold of 'yer laptop ther' 'gain SouthSide? ;-)

ljwhirled, while I understand your point, he deserved the death penalty for what he did. Now all Mr. Brownback has to do is make it a priority to speed up the process here in Kansas. An individual on death row should not die in prison before he is put to death.

Mike Ford 6 years, 7 months ago

kansas is a state that wants eye for an eye like any fundy state that isn't willing to pay for it. What kind of verdict was anyone really expecting here from rural people??? I had a neighbor in southwest Topeka who murdered his wife and raped and killed his step daughter in 1996. He pled away the death penalty and was sentenced to 83 years and died 15 months into his sentence of natural causes at Lansing. This state will not pay for criminal defense but they mislead their constituency in every election.

TopJayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

Pretty condescending there tusch. But then you are not doubt from some big sophisticated state and are oh so much better than us.

A fundy state and rural people. If it is that bad, leave. And let me know how you are doing growing your own food you schmuck.

Tony Kisner 6 years, 7 months ago

So where did these rural folks get it wrong? You say this Guy was just misunderstood?

MarcoPogo 6 years, 7 months ago

So don't pay for the death penalty because people die naturally? Huh? What just happened?

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