Lowry guilty on all counts in 2017 triple murders

Published: Mar. 27, 2019 at 11:32 AM CDT
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Less than two hours after they began deliberating, Shawnee County District Court jurors on Wednesday convicted Joseph P. Lowry in the ghastly slayings of two men and a woman, who were strangled or suffocated.

Jurors began deliberating at 9 a.m. Wednesday and notified the court at 10:53 a.m. they had verdicts in the 10 charges. The slaying victims were Matthew Leavitt, 19; Luke Patrick Davis, 20; and Nicole Star Fisher, 38.

Jurors found Lowry guilty of all 10 charges. They were:

    two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in the slayings of Leavitt and Davis.
  • three counts of felony first-degree murder in the slayings of Fisher, Leavitt and Davis.
  • three counts of aggravated kidnapping of the three victims.
  • one count of aggravated assault of Leavitt.
  • one count of aggravated robbery of Leavitt.

Lowry can't be sentenced to all five murder counts. He likely will be sentenced to two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, which can carry a minimum 50-year sentence for each count, and one count of felony first-degree murder, which can carry a 25-year sentence. Consecutive murder sentences would tally 125 years.

Sentences for one conviction of aggravated kidnapping could be 12 years and three months to 54 years and five months; 12 years and three months to 13 years and nine months for the other two kidnapping convictions; four years and seven months to five years and one month for the aggravated robbery; and 11 to 13 months for the aggravated assault.

A date to sentence Lowry wasn't scheduled on Wednesday.

The victims' bodies were found on March 12, 2017, in the basement at 115 N.W. Grant, a North Topeka house.

Matthew Leavitt's mother reacts

Shari Leavitt, Matthew Leavitt's mother, said it was good Lowry was convicted of all 10 charges "to hold him accountable as much as possible."

To her, the short deliberation time reflected that Deputy District Attorney Brett Watson "did his job very well," she said.

Matthew's mother listened to the trial taking notes in a spiral notebook for eight days.

"I feel if me or my family wasn't there, there's no one representing Matthew," she said.

"I'm there to represent Matthew, to remind them this is not a victimless crime."

It was tough for Shari Leavitt to listen to testimony and to see the graphic crime scene photos, including her son's body.

"But it's nothing compared to what Matthew went through," Shari Leavitt said.

She has no closure to her son's death because he will never come back, she said. Sometimes she looks in his room at home to see if he has returned.

"There is no easy (day), there is no not-as-hard day," she said. "I have been part of Matthew's life up until he was tortured and killed. It's not easy to see my baby that way," Shari Leavitt said.

She carries Matthew with her all the time in a glass necklace with some of his ashes in it.

"I wear it all the time. It never comes off," she said.

The DA, the detectives

District Attorney Mike Kagay expressed gratitude to the work of the jurors. Kagay and six Topeka police detectives who investigated the slayings listened as the verdicts were read.

Jurors "had the difficult job listening to all the evidence," Kagay said.

Kagay said he saw relief on the faces of survivors when the verdicts were read.

"We have another pending trial starting next month," Kagay said, referring to the case of Brian Joseph Flowers, who is charged with two charges of felony first-degree murder; two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count each of aggravated assault and aggravated robbery.

The Flowers trial starts on April 19.

The other three defendants

On June 20, 2018, jurors convicted Kora L. Liles, 32, of three counts of felony first-degree murder; three counts of aggravated assault; three counts of aggravated kidnapping; and cultivating, distributing or possessing methamphetamines; and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia.

Liles is to be sentenced on May 10.

Joseph Aaron Krahn, 36, was sentenced Nov. 17, 2018, to three consecutive life terms of 50 years each for each victim. Krahn earlier pleaded no contest to three counts of premeditated first-degree murder.

Shane Andrew Mays, 21, faces two charges of premeditated first-degree murder and his next hearing will be on May