Kora Liles convicted in triple homicide | DA to seek life sentences
Jurors deliberated about three hours Wednesday before they convicted a 32-year-old woman of three counts of first-degree murder in the grisly slayings of two men and one woman in a North Topeka house in March 2017.
Kora L. Liles was convicted of three counts of felony first-degree murder in the killing of each victim; three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of aggravated kidnapping; and cultivating, distributing or possessing methamphetamines and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia.
District Attorney Mike Kagay said he would seek three consecutive life sentences for Liles based on the murder convictions.
That means Liles would have to serve each term for at least 25 years apiece before she is eligible for parole, Kagay said. That would mean at least 75 years.
Liles will be sentenced Sept. 5 by Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham.
The jurors returned the verdict about 2:40 p.m. Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, a prosecutor called Liles the “Queen Bee” in the kidnappings and killings on Sept. 12, 2017.
“The (bodies of) innocent victims ended up in her basement,” Deputy District Attorney Brett Watson told jurors. “Liles ended in WalMart.”
Watson referred to Liles leaving her home at 115 N.W. Grant where the victims were killed to shop and eat at businesses with surveillance cameras to record her presence outside her home.
Jurors shouldn’t convict Liles of three counts of murder because she wasn’t in the house when the three victims were strangled or smothered to death, Defense attorney Gary Conwell countered.
After closing arguments were made, jurors began deliberations at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday on the eighth day of Liles’ trial.
Liles was convicted in the slayings of Matthew Leavitt, 19; Luke Davis, 20; and Nicole Fisher, 38.
Liles was in control during the kidnappings and killings, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Dunbar told jurors:
• Liles told Brian Joseph Flowers to bring Matthew Leavitt and Shane Mays inside her home after Leavitt’s vehicle was carjacked when it arrived at the Grant address.
• Liles phoned Joseph Aaron Krahn asking him to come over to the Grant house. Krahn was convicted of killing the three victims himself.
• Liles ordered three young men to take off their shirts and dance to music during their kidnappings.
“Do you for one second think those boys danced because wanted to?” Dunbar said. ”You can only imagine the fear running through those young boys. They were 19-year-old boys.”
Dunbar quoted Mays when he testified about Liles, saying she is “pure evil. She dictated who lived and who died. The evidence tells you one thing and one thing only: that Kora Liles is guilty.”
Conwell listed each victim by name, then told jurors his client wasn’t in her north Topeka home when each was killed there.
According to surveillance tapes at several locations, Liles was buying clothing and other items at a WalMart and breakfast at a McDonald’s restaurant when the victims were killed, Conwell said.
Liles also didn’t commit the aggravated kidnappings of Luke Patrick Davis and Matthew Leavitt, Conwell said. Davis and Leavitt later were killed.
Conwell urged jurors to consider with caution the testimony of co-defendant Shane Mays, who negotiated a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office. Rather than being tried on two charges of first-degree murder in the North Topeka killings case, the charges would be amended to attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery, Conwell told jurors.
This situation was controlled from the beginning by co-defendants Flowers, Joseph “Boston” P. Lowry and Krahn, Conwell said.
“Not Liles,” Conwell said.
Watson said Liles was charged with the slayings under the Kansas felony murder statute.
The motive in the killings was tied to Liles’ allegation that Leavitt had tried to sexually assault Liles several weeks before. The story had cicrculated.
“This is about what they thought Leavitt did,” Dunbar said. “He was going to pay for it, and he did.”
Davis and Fisher were slain because they were in the N.W. Grant address at the wrong time, prosecutors said. Witnesses couldn’t be allowed to leave.
Of the other four defendants, Krahn, 35, was sentenced Nov. 17 to three consecutive life terms of 50 years each for each victim. Krahn strangled Davis and Leavitt and asphyxiated Fisher, according to a statement issued by the district attorney’s office.
Krahn pleaded no contest on Oct. 19 to three counts of first-degree murder. As part of the plea agreement, other charges were dismissed.
Three other defendants are scheduled to be tried.
On Oct. 22, Brian Joseph Flowers, 33, is to go on trial charged with two counts of felony first-degree murder in the slayings of Leavitt and Fisher; two counts of aggravated kidnapping; one count of aggravated assault; and one count of aggravated robbery.
The trial of defendants Joseph P. Lowry, 31, and Shane Andrew Mays, 20, will start on Sept. 24.
Lowry is charged with three counts of felony first-degree murder of the three victims or in the alternative, two counts of premeditated first-degree murder of two victims; three counts of aggravated kidnapping; and one count each of aggravated assault and aggravated robbery.
Mays is charged with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder.