6 witnesses called in Chandler re-trial must return to witness chair in January

Dana Chandler
Dana Chandler(WIBW)
Published: Dec. 29, 2020 at 5:02 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Six witnesses called Tuesday by Dana Lynn Chandler, who awaits retrial on two counts of murder, will have to return to the witness chair in January because Chandler needs to ask them more questions she didn’t ask on Tuesday.

Chandler wants to suppress statements of her financial records and alleged false records. On Monday, multiple witnesses were called to testify in Shawnee County District Court.

Chandler, now 60, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 7, 2002, shooting deaths of her former husband, Mike Sisco, 47, and his fiancee, Karen Harkness, 53.

Chandler, whose 61st birthday is on January 5, is acting as her own attorney.

The six witnesses will have to return to the witness chair on January 25.

One witness was Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham, who pointed out he has a tight court calendar of hearings on January 25. Debenham was an assistant district attorney when Harkness and Sisco were killed in 2002, and Debenham was called to the crime scene.

Debenham testified he didn’t have an independent “recall” of details of meetings with police detectives at that time and then-District Attorney Robert Hecht.

“That was 18 years ago,” Debenham said. Debenham has since been appointed as a district court judge.

At another point Tuesday, Chandler started to rifle through a police investigation notebook, then said she hadn’t seen it before and wanted to make some copies.

The judge drew the line.

“I will not spend the afternoon copying documents that you’ve already seen,” Rios said.

As her defense, Chandler will assert she was in Colorado when her former husband and his fiancee were shot to death in Topeka in 2002, court records say.

Sisco and Harkness were slain in Harkness’ west Topeka home.

The bodies of Harkness and Sisco each bore a number of gunshot wounds when they were found in the basement of the Harkness home.

Chandler has filed an alibi saying she was in Colorado when the two victims were shot. The alibi document was filed on August 19.

“On the date and time the alleged offense occurred in Topeka, Kansas, (on) July 7, 2002, Ms. Chandler was west of Denver, Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains of the state of Colorado,” Chandler has written in the alibi notice.

So the judge can hear and decide the large number of motions before the trial starts, several hearings a month are being conducted, sometimes twice in a week.

Following a lengthy trial in 2012, a Shawnee County District Court jury convicted Chandler of two counts of first-degree murder, and she was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. The terms totaled 100 years.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 2018.

A date to start the re-trial of Chandler hasn’t been scheduled.

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