Defendant makes last-minute plea in 2017 beating death

Howard Burchfiel (Source: Shawnee Co. Sheriff's Office)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Prospective jurors were waiting in the hallway outside a Shawnee County District Courtroom on Monday when Howard Dale Burchfiel, 32, twice said "guilty" to charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated burglary rather than face a jury trial.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to sentence Burchfiel, who has a history of violent crimes, to 16 years and four months in the slaying case, Deputy District Attorney Brett Watson said Monday.

Watson said in court that Burchfiel has a B criminal history of two person felony convictions prior to the pleas on Monday.

As a basis for the Burchfiel guilty pleas, Watson said that on June 18, 2017, Burchfiel attacked Allen Wichman, 66, at the Pointer Apartments, 117 N.E. US-24, knocking him unconscious.

After regaining consciousness, Wichman went to his apartment in the building, then Burchfield broke in the door and again beat Wichman, Watson said. Wichman was taken to a hospital, where he died on July 14, 2017, Watson said.

An autopsy showed Wichman died as a result of the June 18, 2017, beating, Watson said Monday in court.

Moments before he pleaded guilty on Monday, Burchfiel asked the judge if he could call witnesses during his sentencing on June 18, 2017, to explain his version of events at the Pointer Apartments. The judge said he could.

Burchfield will be sentenced on March 8 by District Judge David Debenham.

Burchfiel also was sentenced to prison after he was convicted of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and drunk driving, all tied to events on March 2, 2009, during a shooting at the Pub tavern in North Topeka, according to Kansas corrections records.

In March 2017, Burchfiel was released from the Lansing Correctional Facility, a Kansas prison.

On Aug. 23, 2017, Burchfiel was indicted in U.S. District Court on a charge of possessing a 12-gauge shotgun on June 17, 2017, after he completed the sentences for the 2009 offenses, according to federal court records.

That federal case is pending, according to court records.