Published November 17, 2014
A Kansas judge will decide Tuesday whether to follow a jury's recommendation and sentence a former Columbia, Mo., city official to death for killing his wife, two daughters and his wife's grandmother in 2009.
James Kraig Kahler, 48, is scheduled to be sentenced before District Judge Phillip Fromme, who will determine if evidence supports the jury's recommendation in August that Kahler should be executed.
Kahler's defense attorney Thomas Haney filed a memo with the court Oct. 6 arguing that his client should be sentenced to life without parole. Haney argues the fact his client had no criminal history and suffered from mental illness brought on by his failing marriage support sparing Kahler's life.
Spokesmen with the Kansas attorney general's office and Osage County attorney declined to comment ahead of Tuesday's hearing.
Kahler, who goes by his middle name, is a former utilities director in Weatherford, Texas, and Columbia, Mo. He moved back to Kansas to live on his parents' farm outside Topeka after losing his Missouri job in 2009.
According to testimony during Kahler's trial, his wife, Karen, was having a sexual relationship with a Weatherford, Texas, woman, and seeking a divorce.
The victims were Karen Kahler, 44; her grandmother, Dorothy Wight, 89, and the Kahlers' daughters, Emily, 18, and Lauren, 16. A psychiatrist testified during Kraig Kahler's trial that he was upset with his daughters for siding with their mother and believed Wight had a duty to push Karen Kahler to stay in their marriage.
The shootings occurred the weekend after Thanksgiving at Wight's home outside Burlingame, about 30 miles southwest of Topeka. The Kahlers' son, Sean, then 10, was at the home but escaped without physical injury and testified that he saw his father shoot his mother. Law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel said Wight and Lauren Kahler identified Kraig Kahler as the gunman before dying.
Haney contends that the Kahler case isn't "special or unusual" in the manner that the victims died, and that they weren't stalked before the shootings.
"The evidence does show in the instant case that the entire shootings were over in a matter of minutes and the perpetrator left the residence," Haney wrote. "It clearly appears the passions of the jury were inflamed to such an extent by the evidence in this case that the law has not been followed as interpreted by the Kansas Supreme Court."
The case is State of Kansas v. James Kraig Kahler, No. 09-CR-270 in Osage County District Court.
Kansas courts website for Kahler case: http://www.kscourts.org/State-v-Kahler