Friend from Arizona testifies Thursday afternoon in day 5 of Dana Chandler retrial in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Seven people took the witness stand Thursday in Day 5 of the Dana Chandler double-murder retrial at the Shawnee County Courthouse in Topeka.
Chandler, now 62, was arrested in 2011 and charged with the July 7, 2002, murders of her ex-husband Mike Sisco, 47, and his fiancé Karen Harkness, 53, at a home at 2231 S.W. Westport Square in west Topeka.
Testimony indicated Harkness had been shot five times and Sisco seven times while they were in bed in the basement of the residence, located just southeast of S.W. 21st and Wanamaker.
Though she has maintained her innocence, Chandler was convicted in 2012.
However, in 2018, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction, citing misconduct by former prosecutor Jacqie Spradling, who has since been disbarred.
Chandler, who previously was in the Topeka Correctional Facility after her 2012 conviction, has been in the Shawnee County Jail since May 18, 2018.
The state’s prosecutor is Charles Kitt, chief of staff for the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office.
Chandler is being represented by lead defense attorney Tom Bath, of Leawood. Tricia Bath and Mark Hartman also are serving as a defense lawyers for Chandler.
Among those who testified Thursday afternoon was Ann Hammer, who said she knew Chandler from the days in the late 1990s when they lived close to each other in the Phoenix area.
In her testimony, Hammer -- formerly known as Ann Carrender -- said she met Chandler at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the Phoenix area and that the two got together several times a week.
She said Chandler moved from Phoenix and later lived in Denver, noting the two would visit on the phone occasionally.
Hammer said that while she was visiting a stepdaughter in Boulder, Colo., she and Chandler got together on Friday, July 5, 2002, going to Estes Park, Colo., for shopping and a late lunch.
Chandler then returned to Denver that evening, Hammer said.
Around July 10 or 11, 2002, Hammer said, she received a phone call from Chandler who said her ex-husband Mike Sisco had died.
Hammer said it wasn’t until Topeka police detectives showed up at her office in September 2002 in Phoenix that she realized Sisco had been murdered.
Hammer said she received a call from Chandler less than a week later. Hammer said she told Chandler about the Topeka police detectives’ visit regarding their investigation into th double-homicides of Sisco and Harkness.
“She called me,” Hammer said, “and I told her what was happening.”
Kitt then asked Hammer, “What was her reaction to that?”
Hammer replied, “She told me not to worry about it -- that they couldn’t prove it.”
Defense lawyer Tom Bath then questioned Hammer on her recollection of the dates in which she and Chandler had spoken by phone in the spring of 2002.
Also testifying Thursday afternoon was Marcilyn Martinez, who was working for Dyncorp in 2002, which was contracted with the state for the enforcement of child-support orders.
Martinez said that in her divorce from Sisco in 1998, Chandler had been ordered to pay child support to her ex-husband, who also had custody of the couple’s two children.
In questioning from Tricia Bath, another defense lawyer, Martinez said Chandler could be “belligerent” to her when she inquired about the status of the payments.
Martinez also noted that Chandler’s child-support payments also had been doubled as of Sept. 1, 2001. She added that she was around $7,600 behind in her payments to Sisco.
Following Volle’s dismissal around 1:45 p.m. Thursday, Michael Barron, another retired Topeka police detective, took the witness stand.
Barron was questioned by both Kitt and Tom Bath regarding the seizure of Chandler’s black 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse car with Arizona license plates.
Earlier testimony indicated Chandler had lived in Arizona before she moved to Denver.
Around 2:15 p.m., retired Topeka police Det. Don Kennedy testified he and another detective, Brian Hill, traveled to Denver on July 11, 2002, to check on acquiring video surveillance and receipts that possibly could have provided details on Chandler’s activities at stores and gas stations related to the investigation.
Kennedy said he and Hill, the current Shawnee County sheriff, began their investigation July 12, 2002, into retail establishments at locations in the Denver and Loveland, Colo., area.
Kennedy said he also participated in a search of Chandler’s apartment in Denver.
Photos from Chandler’s apartment in Denver were shown in Thursday afternoon’s session, including pictures of a five-gallon gas can that Kennedy said appeared to be new and that was on the back deck of the unit.
The container had about a “cup-full” of gas, Kennedy said.
Earlier testimony from Volle indicated Chandler on Saturday, July 6, 2002, purchased two five-gallon gas containers at an AutoZone store in Denver.
He said five officers from the Denver Police Department assisted in the search of Chandler’s residence.
Also testifying on Thursday afternoon was Marcilyn Martinez, who formerly worked for Dyncorp, a company that was contracted with the state of Kansas for child-support collection.
Martinez said Chandler had been ordered to make child-support payments to Sisco following their 1997 divorce. She said Chandler was about $7,600 behind in her child-support payments by July 2002.
Thursday’s first witness was Richard Volle, the Topeka Police Department’s lead detective in the double-murder case from 2002.
Volle was on the stand all morning and into the early afternoon Thursday, taking questions from both Kitt and Tom Bath.
Some of Bath’s questions focused on evidence from the case that wasn’t available or that had never been gathered, including audio recordings that weren’t made or that were incomplete.
“If they don’t say it or they can’t remember,” Bath asked Volle, “then we have to rely on your notes or your report, don’t we?”
Volle replied, “As a contemporaneous understanding of what they said, yes.”
Bath continued, “Well, that’s not my question is how contemporaneous it is -- we’ll have to rely on you to tell us what they said, right?”
Volle answered, “Oh, yes, you would have to rely that I’m telling the truth.”
On Thursday morning, Volle recounted interviews he conducted with Chandler pertaining to her activities on July 5, 6 and 7, 2002, the weekend when Harkness and Sisco were slain.
Receipts from stores and gas stations that Chandler told Volle she had visited in the Denver and Loveland, Colo., area were admitted into evidence.
Kitt questioned Volle for about 90 minutes Thursday morning.
Tom Bath then questioned Volle for about 90 minutes later Thursday morning.
Following the noon recess, Volle returned to the witness stand on Thursday afternoon.
He again was questioned by both Kitt and Tom Bath and continued on the witness stand as of 1:38 p.m. Thursday.
Testimony through the previous four days of the retrial included former Topeka police officers; former neighbors of Harkness in the 2200 block of S.W. Westport Square; a former employee of the Sac ‘N Fox Casino, where Harkness and Sisco went the night before they were killed; a U.S. Forestry Department fire investigator; a former business acquaintance of Chandler from Denver.
At the outset of Thursday morning’s proceedings, Shawnee County District Judge Cheryl Rios announced a person who had been serving on the jury was released.
It was the second day in a row that a juror was dismissed.
Twelve jurors and five alternates were sworn in for duty when the retrial began Friday, Aug. 5.
The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.
Copyright 2022 WIBW. All rights reserved.