LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Three carnival workers have been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of a couple at a Kansas fair whose bodies were found days later in shallow graves in a national forest in Arkansas.
The Kansas Attorney General said 52-year-old Kimberly Younger, of McIntosh, Florida; 54-year-old Michael Fowler Jr., of Sarasota, Florida; and 35-year-old Rusty Frasier, of Aransas Pass, Texas, are jailed on $1 million bond in Arkansas, where they also face charges.
Capital murder carries a sentence of execution or life imprisonment.
Alfred "Sonny" Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter of Wichita had been selling crafts, jewelry, purses and other handmade items at the fair in Barton County, Kansas, in July when they were killed. Investigators believe the carnival workers used the couple's recreational vehicle to drive the bodies 320 miles (515 kilometers) to Van Buren, Arkansas. Their bodies were found buried in shallow graves next to a creek outside the small community of Natural Dam in the Ozark National Forest.
Police in Arkansas have said Younger texted the other suspects posing as a carnival mafia boss named Frank Zaitchik and ordered them to kill the Carpenters and dispose of the bodies. Fowler told investigators that he believed this was an initiation into the carnival mafia, so he shot the couple and Frasier stabbed Alfred Carpenter.
Asked whether a carnival mafia even exists, Van Buren police spokesman Jonathan Wear said in an email that this was something Younger "definitely made up."
When told that the order to kill had come from Younger, not Zaitchik, Fowler said she had "suckered" him in and that he had thrown his life away, according to police reports.
Fowler is also charged in Kansas with theft, while Younger faces charges in that state of conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation and theft.
A spokeswoman in the Kansas Attorney General's office didn't immediately respond to questions about whether the suspects have attorneys who can speak on their behalf.
Two others — 38-year-old Christine Tenney, of Santa Fe, Texas, and 31-year-old Thomas Drake, of Van Buren, Arkansas — are charged with obstructing apprehension. All five are awaiting extradition to Kansas.
Younger, Fowler, Frasier and Tenney have pleaded not guilty in Arkansas to charges that include abuse of a corpse.