James Kahler draws death penalty in the November 2009 murder of four in Burlingame
October 11, 2011
James Kraig Kahler, who killed his wife, two daughters and their great-grandmother, took a parting shot at his in-laws as he walked out of the Osage County District Courtroom on Tuesday after he was sentenced to death.
James Kahler spoke to his parents about his son, Sean Kahler, 12.
"Take care of Sean so he's not raised by a bunch of freaks," James said, referring to the relatives of his wife who are caring for the boy.
During the trial in August, the boy testified about seeing his father shoot his mother while the son and mother were cleaning coins in a kitchen sink. James Kahler allowed his then-10-year-old son to escape unharmed.
Kahler, 48, earlier made remarks under his breath as the sister of his slain wife told a judge the pain the killings have caused her.
The two remarks were uttered about 20 minutes before he was sentenced to death for capital murder.
During the hearing, Lynn Denton, sister of Karen Kahler, said that after the sentencing, she could go outside and enjoy the day.
"A beautiful sunny day outside," James Kahler said from his seat at the defense table.
A few minutes later, Denton talked about the last two times she saw her niece Lauren Kahler during the Halloween and Thanksgiving Day holidays in 2009, including a trip to the River Walk in downtown Wichita.
"And with Sunny, too," Kahler said, referring to Sunny Reece, the lover of his estranged wife, Karen Kahler. Kraig Kahler had resented his two daughters and son being present when Reece and Karen Kahler were together.
At 10:18 a.m. James Kahler was sentenced to death for murdering Karen Kahler; daughters Lauren Kahler, 16, and Emily Kahler, 18; and Karen Kahler's grandmother, Dorothy Wight, 89.
The four were killed during the Thanksgiving Day weekend in 2009 at Wight’s Burlingame home.
“The court at this time for the crime of capital murder will sentence the defendant to death under the law,” Chief Judge Phillip Fromme announced.
Before sentencing, Fromme heard comments from Denton and another survivor of the victims.
Denton spoke first.
“I miss her (Karen) every day, some days more than other,” Denton said. “I still want to pick up the phone and call her.
“There are no words of how deeply I hurt because of these tremendous losses,” she told the judge. “I loved Grandma Wight, Karen, Emily, and Lauren very much and will miss them until the end of my days.”
A statement written by Patricia Hetrick, the daughter of Wight, was read into the record by Brenda Albright, office manager for the attorney general's office.
“I lost three generations of loved ones in one fell swoop, and to this day, I still replay that frightening night over and over in my mind just like watching an old movie reel,” Hetrick wrote. "I try so hard to rewrite (the end), but there is no such option."
Karen Kahler and her daughters died Nov. 28, 2009, the evening of the shooting, but Hetrick was able to drive to Kansas to be with her mortally wounded mother.
“I got to be with my mother until she died on Dec. 1,” Hetrick wrote.
Hetrick talked about cleaning up and restoring Wight’s house after the killings and said that even with all of the painting and new furniture, she knew the house that she had grown up in would be “hell and horror for me.”
Kraig Kahler was raised in Meriden and had lived in Columbia, Mo., where he once headed the city utility company.
After a jury convicted James Kahler of capital murder, four counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated burglary, but before it began deliberations on whether to recommend to the judge the death penalty or life imprisonment, two notes from Sean Kahler were read to the jurors.
“I do not want my Dad to receive the death penalty because it would be hard on my grandparents,” the first note said.
The second note said, “I do not want my whole family gone.”
Defense attorneys said Sean Kahler was given an opportunity to appear at the sentencing but declined. However, they said he hadn’t changed his opinion that his father shouldn't be sentenced to death.
Defense attorney Tom Haney said sentencing James Kahler to death "was totally anticipated today. There's never been a (Kansas) judge who overturned the jury's recommendation for death."
Assistant attorney general Amy Hanley and Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment.
Haney filed a notice of Kahler's appeal of the convictions and death penalty sentence. Haney has withdrawn from the case, which will be handled by the state's capital appeals office.
At the end of court, Fromme turned Kahler over to the Osage County Sheriff's Office to transport the defendant to the Kansas Department of Corrections.
In the end, James Kahler was sentenced to death on October 11th in 2011.
credit murderpedia / Steve Fry