Man accused of quadruple murders blamed ‘Omar and Chewy’ for the killings, according to court testimony; records end up sealed

After Kyle Flack was arrested in the 2013 brutal killings of three adults and a toddler near Ottawa, he blamed “Omar and Chewy,” two men he said he met in prison, prosecutors told a Franklin County judge during a hearing Wednesday.

But authorities determined that “Omar and Chewy” did not exist after investigators checked prison records and conducted background checks, said Victor Braden, a Kansas deputy attorney general who is working with the Franklin County county attorney to prosecute the case.

A motion to allow Flack’s statement to be presented as evidence in his upcoming September trial was at the heart of Wednesday’s hearing.

In addition, the Lawrence Journal-World learned most of the court records in the quadruple-murder case have been ordered sealed even though two years ago a judge said most of the records would be open.

Flack, 29, is facing the death penalty on charges of first-degree murder, rape and criminal possession of a firearm.

He is accused of killing Andrew Adam Stout, 30, Steven Eugene White, 31, and Kaylie Kathleen Bailey, 21. Their bodies were found May 6 and May 7, 2013, at a farmhouse about five miles west of Ottawa.

Flack also is accused in the death of Bailey’s 18-month-old daughter, Lana-Leigh, whose body was found several days later in rural Osage County.

Jury selection in Flack’s trial is expected to begin Sept. 14.

Motions hearing

On Wednesday, Flack was in court for a hearing on several motions including one that would allow the jury to hear his confession or a portion of it that he gave to arresting officers, one that would allow him to wear civilian clothes during court proceedings and another that dealt with DNA evidence.

In Flack’s confession, he said two men — “Omar and Chewy” — he had met in prison were responsible for the murders, Braden said.

Braden said it was important to show the jury that investigators proved that “Omar and Chewy” never existed.

“Omar and Chewy, there is no Omar and Chewy,” Braden said. “The state has an obligation to present that. The state is trying to present that he is the true killer of these individuals.”

But one of the defense attorneys, Ron Evans, argued that the jury could be prejudiced if they learned that Flack had been in prison prior to the 2013 murders.

“Why is it relevant to bring up the fact that the defendant was in prison?” Evans asked.

Sealed records

After the hearing, John Steelman, the court administrator for the Fourth Judicial District, said he could not release the written motion that contained Flack’s confession because Judge Eric W. Godderz had ordered it sealed.

Generally, documents that are discussed in a court hearing are available to the public.

Through Steelman, Godderz said he did not have to explain his decision to seal records. Godderz’s written orders that explain why the records are closed also are sealed, Steelman said.

Flack’s court files had been closed as they were being filed with the court over the last two years, Steven Hunting, Franklin county attorney, told a Journal-World reporter on Wednesday.

Hunting pointed out that no one had objected to the records being sealed, including two judges who have presided over the case and Flack’s criminal defense attorneys.

“We are going to do what we can with the written records to control pre-trial publicity,” he said. “When it comes time to select a jury, we don’t want the pool to be tainted.”

The discovery that about 60 court records were sealed comes as a surprise because legal and media experts had challenged the initial attempt by prosecutors to seal the records and close hearings in 2013.

“This is very disheartening,” said Bernard J. Rhodes, who heads up the media law group for Lathrop & Gage in Kansas City.

Rhodes was one of the attorneys who fought a motion to close the Flack records — and he said he thought they had won that legal battle.

In addition, he said the Kansas Supreme Court recently ruled in a criminal case that had received far more publicity than the Flack case. That court found that the jury had not been prejudiced because of the publicity.

“I just don’t agree that the desire to find an impartial jury can justify sealing all these records, which I thought the judge agreed with me the last time we went down and argued this,” he said.

During the original legal fight, Franklin County District Court Judge Thomas H. Sachse, who now is retired, had been petitioned by prosecutors to seal all future court records, shielding them from public view.

Sachse agreed with the media lawyers and said a blanket order sealing all relevant court documents would be too much and decided that he would rule on sealing documents on an individual basis as they were filed.

According to Steelman, Sachse sealed 33 records before he retired in 2014. Since Judge Godderz took over the case he has ordered 27 sealed.

The state supreme court as well as the U.S. Supreme Court have long upheld that criminal proceedings and court records that generally are used as evidence are open to the public, said Ron Keefover, director of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition, and Jonathan Peters, a Kansas University media law professor.

They said the attorney seeking to close court records must show that a clear and present danger exists that a defendant cannot get a fair trial if the records are released.

The attorney must also show that a fair trial is not possible even if attorneys question the jury pool, change trial to a new location, sequester the jury and evaluate several other alternatives.

The judge must also clearly state the reasons court records are sealed, they said.

During Flack’s hearing on Wednesday, Godderz said about 800 summons for jurors would be issued. The potential jurors — about 60 percent of the 800 are expected to show up — would be placed in the city’s municipal building to fill out surveys and be questioned by attorneys.

“This is a unique situation for Franklin County,” Godderz said.

Several of the victims’ family were in the audience during the hearing and left immediately to meet with Hunting after the hearing concluded.

Tammy McCoy, Flack’s mother, also was there and said she visits her son weekly.

One of the victims, Andrew Adam Stout, had been like a son to her for 23 years, she said.

“They were all brother-like, so I lost him too,” she said.