Killer gets three ‘Hard 40s’ for 1998 triple homicide

Native of Mexico shot wife, two others

? Seven years after his wife, her father and her boyfriend were found shot to death, Martin Vasquez was sentenced Wednesday in an Edwards County courtroom to three back-to-back “Hard 40” prison sentences for their deaths.

Vasquez, 43, was convicted in May of first-degree murder of Robin Vasquez, a reporter for the Kinsley Graphic; her father, Howard Franks of Berkeley, Calif., and City Councilman Thomas Dinkel, who had started dating Robin Vasquez shortly before the shootings. All three were shot in the head and found in the Vasquez home on Dec. 13, 1998.

He also was convicted of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felony theft.

“I told the family that justice can’t be served with a crime like this in a court. The only justice that can be served is by God almighty,” said County Atty. Mark Frame. “We did the best we could.”

The prosecutor said the courtroom was filled with friends and relatives of Vasquez and the victims.

“I just hope that in some way it brings closure and relief to the family,” Frame said.

Frame said the killings were the first homicides in nearly two decades in this town of some 1,600 that bills itself as “Midway USA” – claiming to be 1,561 miles from both New York and San Francisco.

After the killings, Vasquez fled to Mexico, where he was found at his family’s farm in Durango state. But he wasn’t returned to Kansas until October 2004.

“Step one for them (Mexico) to even consider extradition was for us to take the death penalty off the table,” Frame said.

Mexico doesn’t have capital punishment and generally won’t agree to people being extradited if they face the death penalty. Even so, Mexico had refused extradition of Vasquez, claiming the length of the “Hard 40” sentence amounted to a death sentence. Mexico finally relented and Vasquez was returned to Kansas for trial.

The “Hard 40” sentence means a person must serve 40 years without any consideration for parole.

During the trial in nearby Larned, prosecutors laid out a circumstantial case that included testimony about Vasquez’s behavior leading up to the killings and that the murder weapon was stolen from his former employer. Vasquez said he went to the house, hoping to say goodbye before his pending divorce, but found it empty.

At the time, friends and relatives of Robin Vasquez said her husband had been harassing her for weeks since they had separated.

Franks had traveled to Kansas to spend Thanksgiving with his daughter. His family in California became worried when he didn’t arrive home on his scheduled flight. A friend of Robin Vasquez became concerned when she didn’t answer the door, and police pried open a door and found the bodies.