Relatives of murder victims testify as Dana Chandler retrial enters Day 7 Monday in Topeka

Judge Cheryl Roos announced that another juror was dismissed from the case. This makes the third juror to be dismissed, leaving two alternates.
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 9:36 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Day 7 of the Dana Chandler double-murder retrial got underway Monday morning at Shawnee County District Court in Topeka, and at the end of the day, testimony had been heard from nine different people, including one on video.

Chandler was convicted in 2012 of the double-homicide of her ex-husband Mike Sisco, 47, and his fiancé, Karen Harkness, 53, on July 7, 2002, at a west Topeka townhouse.

However, the Kansas Supreme Court in 2018 overturned the convictions.

Chandler, who has maintained her innocence, was granted a retrial, which is ongoing.

Charles Kitt, chief of staff for the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office, is prosecuting the case for the state.

Chandler, now 62, is being represented by defense lawyers Tom Bath, Tricia Bath and Mark Hartman.

Prior to the start of Monday’s proceeds, which began at 9:18 a.m., Judge Cheryl Rios announced that another juror was dismissed from the case.

This makes the third juror to be dismissed, leaving two alternates.

Twelve jurors and five alternates were sworn in when the retrial began Friday, Aug. 5.

Several family members of Harkness and Sisco testified on Monday.

The day’s first witness on Monday was Erin Sutton, the daughter of Karen Harkness.

The second person to take the witness stand Monday was Chadwick Harkness, the son of Karen Harkness.

Both of Harkness’ children mentioned hearing their mother speak of phone calls she received from Chandler. They also said their mother expressed fear of Chandler.

The morning’s third witness was Dewitt Harkness, who said he was married to Karen Harkness about 25 years before they divorced in 1996.

Under questioning from Chandler defense lawyer Tricia Bath, Dewitt Harkness said a stick that was photographed in a sliding sliding glass door at Karen Harkness’ residence didn’t appear to be the same one that was admitted into evidence.

After an approximate 15-minute break, the fourth witness of the morning was Carol Sisco, the mother of Mike Sisco, who was questioned by Kitt. She was formerly was known as Carol Engler in 2002.

Carol Sisco said she, her friend Doug Wohler and Harold and Betty Worswick, the parents of Karen Harkness, had gone to Karen Harkness’ home the afternoon of July 7, 2002, for a dinner.

When no one answered the front door, she said, all four went to the back of the residence, where they entered an open sliding door.

She said Harold Worswick went downstairs a short time later and found Karen Harkness’ body.

He came upstairs to tell the others that Karen Harkness was dead.

He then went back downstairs and found Mike Sisco’s body.

Tricia Bath then cross-examined Carol Sisco and questioned her about a court case between Carol Sisco and Chandler regarding custody of Mike Sisco and Chandler’s children, Hailey and Dustin Sisco.

At the time of the double-homicide, Hailey Sisco was 17 and Dustin Sisco was 14.

Tricia Bath also questioned Carol Sisco about who contacted CBS’ “48 Hours,” which later had a program on the Harkness-Chandler double-homicide case.

Tricia Bath also asked Carol Sisco if anyone was with Hailey Sisco when Topeka police asked her to call Chandler.

The morning’s final witness was Cathy Boots, the sister of Mike Sisco.

Cathy Boots was on the witness stand when the Monday afternoon trial began at 1:15 p.m.

She was questioned by both Kitt and Tricia Bath.

Tricia Bath questioned Cathy Boots on the marriage of Chandler and Harkness, noting Chandler had filed for divorce in 1994 before the couple reconciled. Mike Sisco then filed for divorce in 1997, when the couple separated.

In her testimony, Cathy Boots described the divorce as “messy.”

Cathy Boots also testified that Mike Sisco was “upset” in May 2002 when he returned to his home in the 2500 block of S.E. Alexander to find Chandler at his residence.

Cathy Boots said Mike Sisco called him a short time later to tell her Chandler was at his residence.

Cathy Boots said her brother told her that Chandler “wanted to get back together” as their children were at an age where they needed both parents.

A recording of a phone call from Chandler to Mike Sisco was played. Tricia Bath in her cross-examination of Cathy Boots, noted that in the call, Chandler wanted to talk to the couple’s son Dustin but wasn’t able to do so because Chandler and Mike Sisco had a disagreement.

In what sometimes was contentious cross-examination, Tricia Bath also questioned Boots about her recollection of Chandler jumping on a trampoline at Mike Sisco’s house and comments Cathy Boots said Chandler made during a breakfast July 11, 2002, at a Topeka Holliday Inn that “God was in charge and it was all in God’s hands now.”

Mark Boots, Cathy Boots’ husband, was the sixth person to take the witness stand Monday afternoon.

Under questioning from Kitt, he said he was good friends with Mike Sisco, whom he met in 1978.

He said the last time he saw Mike Sisco was on June 29, 2002, when they were on a fishing trip in the Ozarks.

During that fishing trip, Mark Boots said that Mike Sisco told him he was concerned about the communication he was receiving from Chandler.

“Mike told me that the patterns of harassment had increased,” Mark Boots testified, “and that he feared for he and Karen’s lives.”

Kitt responded, “Was that a light-hearted conversation you were having?”

Mark Boots replied, “No.”

Kitt continued, “Can you describe for me what Mike’s demeanor was during that conversation?”

Boots responded, “Absolutely can -- he was distraught.”

A phone recording of Mark Boots and Chandler was played regarding custody of Hailey and Dustin Harkness following the death of Mike Sisco.

Mark Boots also recalled comments from Chandler that “It’s all in God’s hands” at breakfast at the Holliday Inn.

Under questioning from Tricia Bath, Mark Boots answered “absolutely not” when he was asked if he arranged to have plainclothes Topeka police officers at the Holliday Inn on the morning of the breakfast.

Tricia Bath asked Mark Boots if he conferred with police about having plainclothes officers being at the Holliday Inn. He said he spoke with police about being at the Holliday Inn but didn’t “arrange” them being there.

Under questioning from Tricia Bath, Mark Boots said he walked around Harkness’ property after he arrived in Topeka on July 9, 2002.

Boots testified that he told police that Chandler was a “heavy smoker” and noticed a lot of cigarette butts near the Harkness residence. However, he said he didn’t know if police took any of the cigarette butts for evidence.

Mark Boots also testified that he noticed storm drains in the immediate area of the 2200 block of S.W. Westport Square, where Harkness’ residence was located.

Under questioning from Tricia Bath, Mark Boots said he mentioned to police that the storm drains were a possible place for someone to throw a gun. However, he testified that he didn’t know if police looked for a gun in the storm drains.

Around 2:20 p.m., former Topeka police Sgt. Richard Volle, the lead detective in the case, returned to the witness stand.

Volle testified extensively this past week on Wednesday after, Aug. 10, 2022, and Thursday morning, Aug. 11, 2022.

Under questioning from Kitt, Volle discussed phone numbers for individuals including Mike Sisco; Karen Harkness; Carol Sisco; Hailey Sisco; Chris Seal, Hailey Sisco’s boyfriend at the time; and Jeff Bailey, a former business associate of Chandler’s from Denver.

Tom Bath began cross-examining Volle around 2:30 p.m. regarding phone numbers.

Later Monday afternoon, Chandler’s daughter, Hailey Seel, took the witness stand.

Kitt asked Seel, “Who is Mike Sisco to you?”

“He’s my dad,” she replied.

“And who is Dana Chandler to you?” Kitt asked.

Eight seconds later, Seel replied, “She’s my mom.”

Seel talked about the divorce of her mother and father, Mike Sisco, in 1997.

Seel recalled a soccer game when she said her mother stood on the sideline and yelled at her father.

“She yelled from across the field at my dad, calling him just terrible names, right in front of all my teammates and all the parents,” Seel said. “It was really embarrassing.”

She noted she was having some problems with her father following the divorce as she didn’t like his rules.

Court is scheduled to be in session again at 9 a.m. Tuesday for Day 8 of the retrial, which is receiving national media attention.

The retrial is expected to last up to three weeks.

Copyright 2022 WIBW. All rights reserved.