Two brothers convicted of four murders in ‘Wichita massacre’ denied new hearing

Two brothers behind a gruesome, weeklong murder spree dubbed the “Wichita massacre” 24 years ago have been denied a new hearing.

Jonathan Carr and Reginald Carr killed five people within a few days of each other in December 2000. One woman was severely injured but survived.

The Carr brothers were convicted and sentenced to death in October 2002. They are on death row at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas, the same prison where notorious serial killer Dennis “BTK” Rader, is housed.

They were convicted of breaking into a house and forcing three men who lived there to rape two female housemates, before withdrawing money from cashpoints. The women were repeatedly raped before all five were taken to a soccer field and shot in the head.

On Monday, a Kansas judge denied the Carr brothers’ request for a resentencing hearing, saying that he lacked jurisdiction to approve a re-examination of the sentences.

“I don’t know that I can do anything about that sentence until somebody vacates it,” Sedgewick County Chief Judge Jeff Goering said, according to The Associated Press.

Jonathan Carr, 44, appeared in court for the hearing on Monday, but his brother Reginald Carr, 46, waived his right to appear (AP)

Jonathan Carr, now 44, appeared in court for the hearing in Sedgewick County, Kansas, but his brother Reginald Carr, 46, waived his right to appear.

Their attorneys argued that since some convictions were tossed out in previous appeals, a new sentencing hearing is appropriate, ABC News reported. Reginald Carr’s attorney, Julia Spainhower, told the judge he had a chance to correct “what was an obvious error”.

But Sedgewick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said there was no “lack of clarity” from the Kansas Supreme Court which ruled that the two brothers had received fair trials and upheld their death sentences.

The US Supreme Court refused a request for a formal resentencing hearing for the brothers last year.

The brothers’ deadly crime spree in Wichita began on 11 December 2000 when they gunned down Ann Walenta, a 55-year-old cellist and librarian, while she sat in her car in her driveway in Wichita.

While she was in the hospital, Walenta was able to describe the suspects to the police, Oxygen True Crime reported. She died three weeks later from her injuries.

Police later linked the suspects in Walenta’s shooting to a deadly home invasion on Birchwood Drive in a horrific attack that later came to be known as the “Wichita Massacre.”

On 14 December 2000, just three days after Walenta was shot, the Carr brothers broke into the home of a woman referred to in court documents as “H.G.,” who later testified against them in court.

Armed with guns and golf clubs, the brothers forced H.G., her boyfriend, and three roommates, into a room while they ransacked the house for valueables. They rounded up three of the roommates and forced them to ATMs where they depleted their bank accounts, withdrawing nearly $2,000.

After securing the money, the brothers carried out what Wichita Police Sgt. Jim Merrick described to Oxygen True Crime as “disgusting series of sex crimes” against the five victims, who were tied up. The men were beaten with golf clubs and the women were raped by the Carr brothers who then forced the men in the house to rape the women while the brothers watched, according to court documents.

After hours of terrorizing the roommates, the Carr brothers drove them to a soccer field at an abandoned sports complex. They lined the five people up and shot them each in the back of the head, execution-style, according to the court documents. Then, they ran them over with one of the victim’s trucks.

Aaron Sander, 29; Brad Heyka, 27; Jason Befort, 26; and Heather Muller, 25, all died in the attack. H.G. was the only one who survived the deadly invasion, with her plastic hair barrette miraculously deflecting the bullet that was shot at her head.

Despite the freezing temperatures, the snow-covered ground and having been stripped of her clothes, H.G. ran for help after being left for dead, and the brothers were later taken into custody.

Each brother accused the other of carrying out the crimes. In 2002, H.G. testified against the Carr brothers at their trial.

The brothers were also convicted of killing another person in a separate attack.

Jonathan and Reginald Carr were convicted of murder after breaking into a home on 14 December 2000, terrorizing five people and shooting them execution-style (Kansas Department of Corrections)

At Monday’s hearing, attorneys for both brothers raised concerns, arguing that prospective jurors weren’t properly questioned about racial biases, The Associated Pressreported. The brothers are Black, and their victims were white.

Reginald Carr’s attorney also said an investigation into members of the Wichita Police Department revealed they had exchanged racist, sexist and homophobic texts and images. Several were disciplined. One officer was involved in the investigation of the brothers, according to court filings.

From there, the brothers’ attorneys deviate in their court filings. Jonathan Carr’s attorneys argued that the trial attorneys failed to investigate and present evidence that Reginald Carr, who is older, had a powerful influence over his younger brother and sexually abused him. A Kansas Department of Correction evaluation conducted just days after Jonathan Carr was sentenced to death said he “appears to idolize his brother,” his attorneys wrote.

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld their convictions in 2014 but overturned their death sentences, concluding that not having separate hearings violated the US Constitution. The US Supreme Court reversed that decision in 2016, returning the case to the Kansas Supreme Court.

When the Kansas Supreme Court took up the brothers’ cases again, their attorneys raised questions about how their cases weren’t conducted separately when jurors were considering whether the death penalty was warranted. Other issues they raised included the instructions that were given to jurors and how closing arguments were conducted.

The Kansas court’s majority concluded that while the lower-court judge and prosecutors made errors, those errors did not warrant overturning their death sentences again.

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