TOPEKA, Kansas - The Kansas Supreme Court Friday made a unanimous decision in State v. Andrew Ramey Ellmaker.
Ellmaker appealed his convictions of first-degree murder and aggravated battery, which arose from the stabbing death of his social worker, Teri Zenner, and aggravated battery of his mother, Mary Sue Ellmaker. The Court affirmed those convictions and Ellmaker's hard 50 prison sentence.
Ellmaker was 17 years old and a senior in high school when the crimes occurred in August 2004. Court documents state he had a long history of mental "dysfunction."
The documents report Ellmaker told police the following story of what happened that day:
On the day of the crime, Zenner came to Ellmaker's home for an after-school visit. Initially, Ellmaker and Zenner were the only ones in the home. Consequently, most of what the jury learned about the events came from Ellmaker's statements to police. These statements were made several hours after the crimes were committed and after Ellmaker waived his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602, reh. denied 385 U.S. 890 (1966). Recordings of the police interviews were played to the jury.
According to Ellmaker, when Zenner arrived she indicated the meeting would be short. She quickly completed some paper work for Ellmaker to sign and then prepared to leave. But Ellmaker did not want her to leave, and he asked her to go upstairs to his bedroom. Ellmaker told the detective he had a reason for not allowing Zenner to leave, but he did not want to say what it was. Eventually Ellmaker "convinced" Zenner to go to his bedroom. Once there, Ellmaker pulled out his sharpest knife, which he described as a sharpened chef's knife. Zenner told him she was scared, needed air, and wanted to leave. She told Ellmaker that she would not report the incident, but he told the detective, "I knew she was going to go to the police about me holding her at knife point in my room so I did it." According to Ellmaker, he "did it" when his mother Sue came home earlier than he expected, approximately 30 minutes after Ellmaker and Zenner had gone into his bedroom. He explained that Zenner was crying loudly when he heard his mother come into the house. Sue testified, however, that she did not hear the crying when she first entered the house. But, after just a few minutes, she went back to her car briefly, reentered the house, and at that point heard Zenner crying. Sue yelled for her son to come downstairs. When nothing happened, Sue persisted, telling Ellmaker numerous times that she wanted both of them to come down. At one point, Sue threatened to call the police, and Ellmaker replied, "When?" Giving Ellmaker until the count of three to come downstairs, Sue began counting down, "Three, two, one." When Sue got to "one," Zenner sprang for the door. As she did, Ellmaker stabbed her in the throat.
Ellmaker told the detective he "just didn't care." Despite the wound, Zenner escaped; she came running out of the bedroom and down the stairs. Ellmaker followed and continued stabbing her+. He explained that "one [stab] came" and "then all the others had to come." When Ellmaker and Zenner got to the bottom of the stairs, Sue placed herself between Zenner and Ellmaker, yelling for Ellmaker to stop. All three tumbled to the floor, and Sue rolled onto Zenner to protect her. Ellmaker stabbed Sue four times in the back, once in the chest, and once in the right arm; he also slashed her ear. Ellmaker stopped stabbing at them when the knife bent.
At that point, Sue ran next door to get help and call 911. Meanwhile, Ellmaker returned to his bedroom, turned on some music, and grabbed his chainsaw from the closet. He explained to the detective that he followed the instructions printed on the chainsaw's box that detailed seven steps for starting and operating the chainsaw. Ellmaker then used the chainsaw to almost sever Zenner's left forearm and her neck. He also slashed her head, back, and right hip. At this point, the chain broke which, according to Ellmaker, caused him to be "pissed off" because he had recently bought the chainsaw.
After using the chainsaw, Ellmaker tried to commit suicide by ingesting a variety of pills. He then left the house with two pellet guns and tried to leave in Zenner's vehicle. When he had trouble getting the car to start, he took gasoline from the garage, poured it on the vehicle, and set it on fire. Ellmaker ran into the street as police arrived. The police ordered him to drop his weapons, which he did. As Ellmaker was being handcuffed, he spontaneously stated, "I just killed my therapist with a chainsaw," and "I cut her down the back, on the arm, [and] I cut her leg off. I don't know if I cut her head off or not." Because Ellmaker had cut one of his fingers, officers sent him by ambulance to the emergency room at a local hospital where an emergency room physician stitched the finger. The physician testified that he asked Ellmaker how he injured his finger, and Ellmaker replied he was not exactly sure how it happened. Ellmaker reported that he had stabbed his social worker in the neck and then chased her down the hall, stabbing her. He also reported that they fell down the stairs, that he had stabbed his mother, and that at some time during these events he cut his finger. Ellmaker told the physician that after the stabbings stopped, he turned and saw Zenner on the floor and "knew what he had to do." He then "went to get his chainsaw."
Still at the hospital, Ellmaker was interrogated by Sergeant Russell Stamer. After being Mirandized and signing the waiver, Ellmaker agreed to speak to Stamer. Because of the circumstances at the hospital, Stamer conducted two interviews over the course of approximately 2 hours. These are the recorded interviews that were played for the jury.