One year after Perry Lake killing, first of two murder defendants set to face jury

photo by: Jefferson County Sheriff's Office

Jonathan D. Blevins

A year after he allegedly teamed up with a woman to kill a man at Perry Lake, Jonathan D. Blevins is scheduled to stand trial for murder in a case that has Douglas County ties.

A weeklong trial for Blevins is set to begin Monday in Jefferson County District Court in Oskaloosa.

Blevins is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly intentionally killing 22-year-old Taylor D. Sawyer with premeditation on March 14, 2018. Sawyer didn’t have a permanent address, but frequented the Lawrence and Topeka areas.

Authorities have alleged that Blevins pulled the trigger, killing Sawyer, and that co-defendant Ashlyn N. Hemmerling helped orchestrate the homicide.

Hemmerling, also charged with first-degree murder, does not yet have a trial scheduled, according to the court clerk. Her arraignment is set for March 21.

photo by: Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office

Ashlyn N. Hemmerling

Blevins, a Topeka resident, was arrested at a Lawrence smoke shop where he worked on March 15, 2018, hours after authorities found Sawyer’s body. Blevins was 22 at the time.

Hemmerling, 18 at the time and living in Baldwin City, was arrested the following day.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office worked with Douglas County, Shawnee County and Kansas Bureau of Investigation authorities to investigate the case.

Circumstances leading to the homicide may have involved a domestic dispute as well as drug use, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig previously told the Journal-World.

The morning of March 15, 2018, Hemmerling’s mother told authorities that her daughter had witnessed a homicide the night before at Perry Lake.

Authorities then interviewed Hemmerling, went to the lake and found Sawyer’s body with apparent gunshot wounds. The body was found in a parking area for accessing the lake’s walking trails that had been closed to the public for some time.

Blevins was arrested that afternoon, and after further investigation, Hemmerling became a suspect as well.

Hemmerling’s mother, Sarah M. Hemmerling, was suspected of helping her daughter disseminate a false story and ended up charged in connection with the case, too.

She was charged with obstructing apprehension or prosecution, a felony, for allegedly helping her daughter avoid legal consequences when she knew she’d committed murder, according to the initial charging document.

Jefferson County Attorney Joshua Ney dismissed Sarah Hemmerling’s charges early in the process but said in a written statement at the time that he anticipated refiling the charges at a later date.

Last week, Ney declined to make additional statements about any of the cases.

Blevins and Ashlyn Hemmerling remain jailed in Jefferson County on $1 million bond.

In October 2017, Jefferson County had a double murder-suicide in rural Grantville in which three adults died. Prior to that, Jefferson County’s last homicide was a decade ago.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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