Jury Finds Chandler Guilty Of Double Murder

By: Suzie Gilbert/Giang Nguyen/Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Suzie Gilbert/Giang Nguyen/Lindsey Rogers Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Shawnee Co. jury Thursday returned a guilty verdict against Dana Chandler for the 2002 murders of Karen Harkness and Michael Sisco.

The panel deliberated about 90 minutes Thursday, after hearing nearly four hours of closing arguments earlier in the day.

Chandler and Sisco's daughter, Hailey Sisco, told 13 News the verdict shows the trial should have happened a long time ago. She said it brings up a lot of mixed emotions, saying she feels both love and hatred toward her mother. She says Chandler did say some words to her in the courtroom but "it wasn't the right time."

Prosecutors say Chandler was jealous of the relationship her ex-husband had with his new fiance, Harkness. They presented evidence that she repeatedly harassed them. But defense attorney Mark Bennett kept making the point that prosecutors had no evidence putting Chandler at the scene.

After their verdict was read, jurors told 13 News the testimony from Chandler's children impacted them most.

Chandler faces life in prison when she's sentenced.

March 21, 2012
Jurors will soon start deliberating in a Topeka double murder case.

Dana Chandler's defense attorney spent less than a day calling witnesses, then suddenly rested his case.

Jurors heard from 100 witnesses in this case, about 95 percent of them, for the prosecution.

Defense attorney Mark Bennett used the tenth day of testimony to point out gaps in the double murder investigation of Chandler, who's charged with murdering her ex-husband, Mike Sisco, and his fiance, Karen Harkness. The two were found dead back on July 7, 2002, in Harkness' southwest Topeka home.

Prosecution witnesses have testified to seeing Chandler's car, a black Mitsubishi Eclipse, near Harkness' home around the time of the murders. On Wednesday, a defense witness agreed that could have been her car, because she drove the same make and model, and made frequent visits to her mom's house, just two duplexes away from Harkness.

Witnesses for the state have testified that Chandler made rapid phone calls to the victims, prosecutors saying chandler was jealous of their relationship. On Wednesday, a defense witness said there was another woman who was unhappy with Harkness, a woman who was never investigated.

Neighbor Ken Crockett said Harkness had an affair with a married man, Jim Bascal, whose wife Jean also made frequent calls to Harkness. Detectives have testified that they didn't know about the couple, so neither of them were investigated.

Prosecutors wrote off the incident, saying it happened too far before the murders.

Jurors will hear what are expected to be lengthy closing arguments Thursday morning, then will begin deliberating.

March 20, 2012
Jurors heard how much the defendant in a Topeka double murder case hated the two victims in Shawnee County court on Tuesday (3/20), and it came not from prosecutors, but from Dana Chandler's own words.

Jurors heard a revealing e-mail from defendant Dana Chandler to
her then 14-year-old daughter Hailey. Chandler is on trial for the 2002 slayings of Hailey's father Mike Sisco, and his fiancé Karen Harkness.

Prosecutors say the email shows Chandler's jealousy and rage against the victims. In it, Chandler writes that's she's sickened by the way Harkness and Sisco are raising Hailey, saying she wished Hailey had better role models. Chandler also called Harkness a tramp, and referred to Sisco as "it".

Topeka Police Detective Richard Volle read the e-mail. Here Chandler
writes about Harkness:

"She doesn't have to clean toilets, take responsibility for children or anything, just drink the booze and spread her legs, such a pathetic arrangement. I am sickened that's the lifestyle by which
you're being raised and exposed to."

That testimony wrapped up the state's case; prosecutors rested Tuesday morning.

Defense Attorney Mark Bennett then called several law enforcement officers to the stand, in an effort to pin the murders on burglary suspects.

March 19, 2012
Jurors saw expressive reactions from the defendant in a Topeka double murder case on Monday (3/23), starting the third week of testimony in the state's case against Dana Chandler.

Chandler was reacting to testimony from a Topeka police detective. Detective Richard Volle said he called Chandler on the phone to tell her that her ex-husband Mike Sisco and his fiance Karen Harkness had been murdered back in 2002.

Prosecutors played the recording for jurors. Volle said the conversation between he and Chandler happened the day Sisco and Harkness were killed, but he said he incorrectly recorded the call, only capturing his voice, and not Chandler's.

Volle said Chandler never asked the questions he typically hears in death notification phone calls, but Chandler's eye rolling and head shaking challenged Volle's testimony.

Volle said detectives ruled out burglars, ex-spouses and friends as possible suspects.

"That leaves us with the very first person who came to mind, Dana Chandler," Volle said. "At that point, I decided we needed to take a deeper look into this part of the investigation."

The state spent Monday working to discredit Chandler's alibi, that she was camping in Colorado the day of the murders.

Prosecutors were expected to wrap up their case in the next day.

March 16, 2012
Dana Chandler looked on in court Friday as her son and daughter testified against her in her double murder trial.

Chandler is accused of killing her ex-husband Mike Sisco and his fiancee Karen Harkness in Harkness' Topeka home in July of 2002. She was charged in the cold case years after the deadly shootings. Her trial has been underway for two weeks.

On the stand, Dustin Sisco, 25, and Hailey Sisco, 27, recalled their parent's bitter divorce in 1997. They went on to describe strange visitations with his mother, spent watching their father’s every move.

"She took me and my sister with her to go and spy on my dad and we were young at the time and we didn't really understand that we shouldn't be doing it. So we were in the car and she told us we were just going to be her little helpers," Dustin testified.

"She said, 'We're going to just watch the house and you can be my little helpers. And so we sat there and we sat there for a long time. We were there for hours. I remember it being daylight when we got there and it was dark and then she asked if I would go up to the house with her and we did and she started looking in all of the windows....She thought there was another woman in there with my dad," Hailey added.

Hailey said that Dana Chandler was visibly distraught when she saw Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness together. Both of the children recalled a times when they were younger and Dana would show up different places unexpectedly. They said they would see her drive through the neighborhood when she lived in another state and she also showed up at their soccer games and would yell and scream at Mike from across the field in front of their teammates and the other parents that were present, calling him a "rapist." In their separate testimonies, they also talked about an incident where Dana waited with her kids in the car for Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness to come home one night and as soon as they got out of the car in the driveway, Chandler immediately approached them and starting arguing with them, calling Karen names and shouting expletives.

Both of Chandler's children recorded conversations with their mother after she got in touch with them years after the murders. Dustin and Hailey said they recorded the conversations because they hoped she'd confess.

"I really feel like she was really just obsessed with him. I think that was a lot of what she did. I don't think that she could really move on like my dad had moved on," Hailey said.

Cory Latham, a team leader with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's Crime Scene Team, also testified Friday. He was asked to look at the crime scene and to provide an overall analysis of the case. After looking at photos, videos and going to Harkness' house, Latham said he determined that the crime scene was not staged and ruled out signs of burglary or robbery because there was money left in a bag in the kitchen and in Sisco's pants pockets and other valuables left in house. He also ruled out sexual assault and a drug-related shooting. With no signs of a confrontation between the victims and killer, he called Sisco and Harkness "defenseless," leading him to determine that the motivation behind their deaths was murder. Casings found scattered in the bedroom where the victims' bodies were found were all fired from the same gun but the weapon itself was not recovered. Since the shooter was not looking for financial gain, sex or drugs, Latham said the only motive left was revenge.

When the defense asked Latham whether or not money and jewelry that might have been left out in plain sight could have been taken during the murders and he said that was possible. The defense also pointed to fact that two known criminals passed one of Mike Sisco's checks for $30 at a Quik Trip and that there were unidentified hairs, fibers and DNA that were found at the crime scene that were not a match to Mike, Karen or Dana but no work done to see if they were a match to anyone else

Latham said that because the crime scene was vacuumed, he was not surprised that there were unmatched items because vacuuming picks up "layers and layers of history" in carpets from past visitors. He added that Sisco and Harkness could even have picked up fibers from other people at the casino where they were earlier in the night. He said he never worked case where all hairs and fibers from the vacuum were matched. In terms of the stolen check, Latham said it doesn't change his analysis of the crime scene because the check wasn't taken from the murder scene. It was taken from Mike's house in what the prosecution described as an apparent break-in.

March 15, 2012

The brother of murder victim Mike Sisco was the last to the stand today on the sixth day of Dana Chandler's double-murder trial. Tim Sisco recalled a bizarre conversation he had with Dana Chandler's sister, Shirley Riegel when both came to the Mike Sisco's funeral.

Chandler is accused of killing her ex-husband Mike Sisco and his fiancee Karen Harkness in 2002.

Tim Sisco said he told Riegel, "I said I just can't get passed the fact that she [Dana] didn't have something to do with this and there was this odd pause, no comment, no nothing," Sisco said. "Not yes she did it, but why wouldn't you say she didn't do it?"

The daughter of murder victim Karen Harkness also testified today. She told the court her mother was traumatized by phone calls and visits from the woman accused of killing her.

In earlier testimony, prosecutors focused on Chandler's alibi.

They brought in two car seats from Chandler's Mitsubishi -- a stain on the driver seat looked like blood.

But Topeka Police Detective Douglas Searcy testified it was not.

Chandler had previously said she had her period while driving her vehicle in Denver during the time of the murders and had to throw away her blood-stained clothes.

"During your examination of the passenger and driver seat, did you find any evidence that any person had blood out sufficient to which they had to throw away their pants and shirt?" prosecutor Jacquie Spradling asked Searcy.

Searcy answered: "No."

Defense attorney Mark Bennett repeatedly questioned Searcy on whether any evidence gathered from Chandler's trailer in 2011 indicated she had been Topeka, Kansas or Harkness' residence at the time of the murder.

Searcy answered all with "No."

March 14, 2012
A double murder defense team worked to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of jurors on Wednesday.

The panel hearing the Dana Chandler case heard the names of two known felons, who the defense says could have been persons of interest, but were never investigated.

The defense theory stems from a stolen check, passed just a month after the murders of Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness.

The attorney for Dana Chandler, on trial for the murders nearly ten years ago, says that check could have led to another suspect.

Investigators say Terry Tignor and Walt Rogers were responsible, men with lengthy criminal histories, including burglaries, thefts, and aggravated assaults.

Defense attorney Mark Bennett says it was poor police work that investigators didn't look to the two men as suspects.

Prosecutors say it wasn't a burglary, it was a double homicide, with Dana Chandler responsible.

Chandler refused to look at graphic pictures of the victims when the coroner took the stand on Wednesday. The doctor says Harkness likely died instantly, while Sisco did not.

March 13, 2012
The sister of a woman on trial for two Topeka murders took the stand on Tuesday. Prosecutors say she might be trying to protect the defendant.

Defendant Dana Chandler had been living in a trailer in her sister Shirley Regal's yard in Duncan, Oklahoma when she was arrested last year. Now Shirley says she doesn't remember much of what happened after Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness were murdered in 2002.

Prosecutor Jacqie Spradling was looking for details of conversations between the sisters, but Regal said she didn't recall talking to Chandler about the murders, or even testifying under oath just last year.

Regal says chandler told her she was hiking in the mountains when Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness were murdered, but Chandler first told law enforcement she'd been at her apartment in Denver.

Investigators say they've heard more than one story from both sisters.

Defense attorney Mark Bennett brought up the fact that about 11 burglaries happened near Harkness' house boxes around the time of the killings. He also alluded to Harkness having an affair with a married man, not Mike Sisco, before she died. Investigators said they had no knowledge of an affair.

Chandler and Sisco's children, Dustin and Hailey Sisco, are expected to take the stand Thursday or Friday.

March 12, 2012
Testimony turned to the defendant's alibi in a Topeka double murder case on Monday.

Dana Chandler is charged with two counts of first degree murder for
the killings of her ex-husband Mike Sisco and his fiancee Karen
Harkness. The two were slain in July 2002.

On Monday, Chandler's former coworker Jeff Bailey took the stand.
Bailey said Chandler had called him in August 2002, asking for his
help getting $50 thousand for attorney fees. Bailey said Chandler told
him she needed a lawyer to represent her, because she thought she'd soon be arrested for murder.

Bailey said he questioned Chandler about the murders, and about where she was when they happened. Bailey said Chandler told him she'd been camping by herself, that she never stopped for gas because her car got good gas mileage, and that she took food an slept in her car. She said she took a horseshoe route through the state of Colorado on her trip. Bailey said it did not seem like a route one would usually take to go camping. He said he questioned her as to whether or not she saw forest fires that had been burning in Colorado at the time. He said Chandler told him she had not seen any smoke or flames from the fires on her route. Bailey said Chandler also told him someone had stolen her credit card and purchased a book in Wakeny, Kansas.

Bailey also said Chandler told him she was telling him the truth, but
that she had told police a different story, a lie, because she said
she thought police would not believe her.

Attention Monday morning then turned to a forest fire investigator,
who testified that most of Colorado was on fire at the time of the
murders. She said Chandler's route would have crossed several fires,
and that fire and smoke warning signs posted by the Colorado
Department of Transportation would have been visible. She also said
Chandler's alleged route would have crossed the largest forest fire in
Colorado state history, that charred 137 thousand acres of land.

Defense attorney Mark Bennett said the pictures admitted as evidence
showed no smoke. He also confirmed from the fire expert that she had no knowledge of what Chandler saw on her drive.

A former friend of Dana Chandler took the stand next, testifying that
Chandler left their group's activities the morning of July 6th. He
also testified that he overheard a conversation Chandler had with his
wife in 2001. He said the conversation was about Chandler's
relationship with Mike Sisco. He said Chandler displayed a lot of
anger in the conversation, so much that it made him uncomfortable.

Day 2- March, 09, 2012
Prosecutors in a Topeka double murder case spent Friday morning (3/9) working to explain to jurors how someone could commit two murders, and leave behind no physical evidence.

Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor donned a stocking cap and black gloves when he interviewed an investigator, demonstrating to jurors what he says is a simplistic way to avoid detection.

Several Topeka Police investigators took the stand, introducing
several bags of evidence to jurors, including bed sheets soiled with
blood, and several shell casings and bullet fragments.

The case revolves around Dana Chandler. She's on trial, charged with
two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Mike Sisco and
Karen Harkness. They were shot a dozen times, and were found dead in bed in Harkness' southwest Topeka home in July 2002.

Prosecutors say Chandler, Sisco's ex-wife, committed the murders
because she was jealous of his relationship with Harkness.

Defense attorney Mark Bennett says the state has no physical evidence that even puts Chandler in the state of Kansas at the time of the murders.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Day 1- March 8, 2012
It's a trial nine and a half years in the making. The first evidence in a Topeka double murder case was admitted Thursday afternoon in Shawnee County Court. It begins what could be a month-long court battle for the state versus Dana Chandler.

The trial kicked off Wednesday morning with about three hours of opening arguments. The state outlined defendant Dana Chandler's disdain for the two victims in this case. The defense made its claim that Chandler wasn't even in Kansas at the time of the murders, nearly ten years ago.

Prosecutors said Chandler was enraged at the loving relationship between her ex-husband Mike Sisco and his fiance Karen Harkness.

Harness' father Harold took the stand, detailing the murder scene the July 2002 day, when he found Harkness and Sisco in their bed with eleven bullet wounds.

Defense attorney Mark Bennett said law enforcement officials had tunnel vision on this case, only focusing on Chandler as a suspect, even though he said they have no eyewitness testimony or forensic evidence tying Chandler to the murder scene.

Sisco's mother, Carol, also took the stand, saying Chandler showed up to Sisco's funeral, uninvited, and wearing the same thing she wore on their wedding day.

The trial will continue Friday, and may take several weeks.


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