Ten Unanswered Questions
Question: “Has the Topeka PD and District Attorney Chad Taylor arrested the right person for the murder of Michael Sisco and Karen Harkness?”
The TPD and Chad Taylor are desperate to hold someone accountable for this brutal double homicide.
And I don’t blame them.
But by arresting Dana Chandler in an effort to bring some semblance of closure to the victims’ families, I believe they have unwittingly forced a square peg in a round hole.
Let’s compare apples and apples:
#1: Where were they on July 6th and 7th, 2002?
While the defendant lived in Denver, Colorado at the time of the murders and has a time-stamped receipt proving that she was still 8-9 hours away at approximately 2:00 in the afternoon (Denver time) prior to the early-morning murders, the son-in-law, Jeff Sutton, lived in Kansas, approximately 75 miles from the scene of the crime.
#2: Missing weapons
Members of the TPD have been unable to find any evidence showing that the defendant, Dana Chandler, ever “purchased, owned, possessed or registered a firearm”. CJ Online
However, the son-in-law, Jeff Sutton, is known to have a fascination with guns, (See The Smoke Signal, Wamego, KS, February 26, 1997: “Guns raise concern over conduct of area officials”), (Exhibit K-3), and is a former Federal Firearms Licensee. (#01491).
#3: Prior knowledge
Karen and Michael did not return home from the casino until approximately 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. on the morning of July 7, 2002. Dana Chandler would have no way of knowing whether: a) Mike was planning to spend the night at Karen’s house that evening, or b) Mike and Karen were even planning to return to the house or had gone away for the weekend.
As a member of the family, Jeff Sutton would presumably have specific knowledge of Mike and Karen’s plans to return to Karen’s home after spending the night out at the casino, as well as their plans to host a family fish-fry the following day.
#4: Bad acts, or acts of violence?
The son-in-law, Jeff Sutton, is the only one of the two who has been arrested for acts of physical violence against others. (See summary of prior bad acts: In re Sutton, Case No 80,508.)
One of the two arrests involved the son-in-law, Jeff Sutton, throwing a man through a plate glass tavern window. The other arrest involved him hurling a full bottle of Pepsi at a female highway worker who was holding a stop sign at a construction zone. (See Parsons Sun, August 5, 1992: “Ex-prosecutor guilty in 1 fight; new charges in 2nd altercation”, (Exhibit C-3), and Counts II and III, In re Sutton – Case No 80,508.)
Here is a synopsis of the incident involving the highway worker:
Sutton is arrested (for the 2nd time in less than a month) for battering a female highway worker who was attempting to prevent him from driving past a line of approximately 10 vehicles waiting for a pilot car (road construction site, K-96, west of Columbus, KS).
Sutton’s car hits stop sign highway worker is holding to prevent him from driving on. Sutton exits his car and approaches highway worker with clenched fist and curses at her for striking his car with her sign.
According to sworn testimony from highway worker, Sutton said, “You b****, you scratched my car.” (See In re Sutton, Count III and official transcript, formal disciplinary hearing “In the Matter of Jeffery A. Sutton, Case No. A6529”, 11/25/97: Page 82: lines 1-22.)
Highway worker tells Sutton he can either back up or wait with other cars. Sutton indicates he is going to drive ahead anyway. Highway worker informs Sutton she has his license plate information (vanity plate with abbreviated version of “single lawyer”).
Sutton then reaches into his car, retrieves a full Pepsi bottle and throws it at the highway worker, striking her in the side before driving off. (See In re Sutton, Count III and official transcript, formal disciplinary hearing “In the Matter of Jeffery A. Sutton, Case No. A6529”, 11/25/97: Page 83: lines 1-24; Page 84:1-25; Page 85:1-25 and Page 86:1.)
Sutton is charged in Cherokee County District Court with battery, disorderly conduct and disobeying a stop sign; was released on $1,300 bond. (See Parsons Sun, August 5, 1992.) (Exhibit C-3)
Parsons Sun, February 2, 1993: “Ex-prosecutor gets probation for traffic, battery incident. Sutton placed on diversion for a year and ordered to obtain mental evaluation and pay court costs and $2,960 restitution. (Exhibit C-4.)
Highway worker receives $60,000 in damages from worker’s compensation insurance carrier for temporary and permanent disability and medical bills. Later files a civil suit against Sutton for automobile negligence, intentional tort, assault and extreme and outrageous conduct.
(See Formal Complaint No. A6529, Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys, Count III.16)
Sutton responds by filing a “Four-count Counter-claim” against highway worker, requesting damages in excess of $50,000 from her. (See Formal Complaint No. A6529, Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys, Count III.17)
Matter is resolved by out-of-court settlement and dismissal of counterclaims. Sutton reportedly pays $30,000 directly to the worker’s compensation insurance carrier which had filed lien for benefits seeking reimbursement for monies previously paid to highway worker.
(See Formal Complaint Count III.18 – Exhibit D; see also official transcript, formal disciplinary hearing “In the Matter of Jeffery A. Sutton, Case No. A6529”, 11/25/97: Page 91: lines 8-11 and 20-25.)
In addition to these two incidents, in August of 1991, Sutton was charged in Columbus, Kansas, municipal court for fighting. The charge was eventually dismissed. In 1992, a Columbus man appeared in court (Labette County) for a plea hearing on an arson charge and stated that Sutton and some of his friends beat him up at a cabin the previous year. (See Parsons Sun, June 16, 1992: “Complaint: Prosecutor to face charge for damage.”) (Exhibit C-1);
The individual reportedly burned down the cabin in an apparent act of revenge. Charges were never filed against Jeff Sutton for the alleged beating.
#5: Mystery surrounding point of access
Neither the DA nor members of the TPD have been able to adequately answer the question about how the defendant may have gained access to Karen’s home.
According to this CJ article posted October 21, 2009, Slain couple sensed danger Mike’s sister reported that Karen was so afraid of the defendant that her house had become a fortress.
“You can’t imagine the locks and all the precautions she had taken,” she said.
When lead detective, Richard Volle appeared on CBS 48 Hours Mystery in 2009, he told correspondent Harold Dow that there was “no sign of forced entry.”
Notwithstanding, during the preliminary hearing in December of 2011, Sgt. Volle testified that members of the TPD had “collectively” decided that the defendant gained access through the sliding glass door. For that theory to work, Chad Taylor will have to convince the jury that Karen Harkness left her sliding glass door unlocked, which totally contradicts the earlier claim that Karen’s house had become a virtual fortress.
So how did the perpetrator enter Karen’s home? Did the TPD just pick a random point of entry without any logical explanation for their choice? They can’t have it both ways: either the door was forced open, leaving evidence of a break-in, or there was no sign of forced entry.
The two investigators hired by 48 Hours Mystery surmised that the perpetrator gained access through a basement window. So there are numerous conflicting stories about the point of access.
As a member of the family, Jeff Sutton would presumably have known where Karen hid the spare key or perhaps had a duplicate key of his own. This is one possible explanation for why there was no sign of forced entry.
#6: Likely suspect, or convenient scapegoat?
As a member of Karen’s immediate family, Jeff Sutton would have been aware of the acrimonious nature of the relationship between victim Michael Sisco and his ex-wife. This could potentially have provided assurance that if anything ever happened to Mike or Karen, Dana Chandler would be the chief suspect. And that’s exactly what happened.
#7: Who was the primary target?
It seems reasonable to conclude that whoever committed this horrendous crime was targeting Karen, not Michael, due to the fact that the murders occurred in Karen’s home. The perpetrator would have no way of guaranteeing that Michael was staying at Karen’s house on that particular night. Remember, Mike had his own house across town. It would appear that Michael was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
#8: Greed: The oldest motive in the book.
The son-in-law, Jeff Sutton, is the only one of the two who directly benefited financially from Karen’s death due to his marriage to Karen’s daughter, Erin (Harkness) Sutton. (Whoever killed Karen and Michael did not steal a gold ring, a gold and diamond bracelet, or the $1,300 in cash that was easily accessible in Karen’s purse and Michael’s pocket. Consequently, robbery was ruled out as a motive.)
#9: Forensic evidence lacking, or non-existent?
There is not a single “shred of physical evidence” cjonline.com/news/2011-12-15/chandler-case-forensic-evidence-lacking linking defendant Dana Chandler to the scene of the brutal murders.
However, if any of the son-in-law’s fingerprints were located at the scene of the crime, they would quickly and logically be explained away by the fact that he had been in Karen’s home on numerous occasions.
(But the arm hair that was found attached to one of the shell casings at the scene of the murders is another story.)
#10: Mystery remains
Without any forensic evidence linking Dana Chandler to the crime, and with law enforcement officials choosing not to compare the hair or DNA found at the scene with anyone other than Dana Chandler, questions remain.
While none of us knows for sure who committed this unforgivable act of violence, one thing is certain: the perpetrator mapped out every detail and had enough foresight and savvy to wipe clean each and every bullet loaded into the 9mm carbine rifle used to kill Michael Sisco and Karen Harkness.