A Quest for Justice
On July 7, 2002, Michael Sisco and Karen Harkness were brutally murdered with a 9mm semi-automatic weapon while asleep in their bed in Topeka, Kansas.
Several months later I contacted the lead detective in the case, Richard Volle, and asked if I could meet with him to pass along some information I had about a possible person of interest, Karen’s son-in-law, Jeffery A. Sutton. Jeff had married Karen’s daughter Erin about nine months before the murders occurred. So we made arrangements to meet over my lunch hour in the parking lot of White Lakes Mall in Topeka.
Our visit took place in Det. Volle’s vehicle. I told him everything I knew about Jeff Sutton’s prior arrests for acts of violence, the controversy involving his removal of weapons from the Wabaunsee County Courthouse, and his sanction from the Kansas Supreme Court for a double billing incident which occurred during his tenure as Wabaunsee County (Kansas) attorney.
Det. Volle listened politely as I explained why I believed they needed to take a closer look at Karen’s son-in-law. He then began telling me about how the investigation was focusing on Michael Sisco’s ex-wife, Dana Chandler, (who lived over 500 miles away in Denver, Colorado at the time of the murders). He seemed very certain that they were on the right track. In fact, I still remember him saying, “We are this close to making an arrest.”
I brought a large envelope full of information about Jeff Sutton’s past, including newspaper articles covering his two prior arrests and a copy of the Supreme Court decision ordering him to be disciplined by published censure in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 203(a)(3) (1997 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 201) for his violations of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. However, as our meeting drew to a close, Det. Volle did not express any interest in receiving my packet of information, so I simply placed the envelope on the passenger seat when I exited his car.
Sometime later I contacted Karen’s parents, Harold and Betty Worswick, and they agreed to meet me at the coffee shop located at Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Topeka. Det. Richard Volle accompanied them to the visit. I explained to them how we came to know Jeff Sutton and shared with them all the information we had compiled about his past. Harold stated that he was not aware that Jeff had ever served in the capacity of Wabaunsee County Attorney. As we concluded our visit, I handed Harold a packet of information containing the same information that I had provided to Det. Volle during our previous meeting. I said, “I don’t know who killed Karen and Michael, but regardless of who committed the murders, this is information you need to have about the man who is married to your granddaughter.”
Then in April of 2009, after the case had been cold for nearly seven years, I decided to organize all the information I had compiled on Jeff Sutton and put it into a spiral-bound notebook. I titled the document person of interest and distributed it to every law enforcement agency I could think of throughout the state of Kansas.
On the first page of my cover letter I wrote in part:
Although I do not know who murdered Karen Harkness and Michael Sisco, by submitting the enclosed information I know that I have done everything in my power to inform members of law enforcement about the personal and criminal background of someone who not only had access to weapons and a history of violence and fraud, but was closely connected to Karen Harkness and stood to benefit from her death. That person is Jeffery A. Sutton.
Regrettably, I never received a response from any of the law enforcement officials who received a copy of [person of interest].
Eventually, a newly-elected district attorney, Chad Taylor, and his deputy assistant D.A., Jacqie Spradling, filed charges against Michael Sisco’s ex-wife, Dana Chandler. In December of 2011, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence connecting her to the crime, Dana Chandler was bound over for trial.
On February 20, 2012, approximately two weeks before the trial began, I sent an updated version of my previous compilation of information about Jeff Sutton to Ron Miller, Chief of Police for the Topeka Police Department (TPD), and a copy of the same to District Attorney Chad Taylor, Deputy Assistant District Attorney Jacqie Spradling, TPD lead detective Sgt. Rich Volle, Kansas Bureau of Investigation Director Kirk Thompson, and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, among others. The revised version of the spiral-bound compilation was titled [person of interest] II, and mailed via USPS, with tracking numbers and signature confirmations.
The trial for State of Kansas v. Dana L. Chandler commenced on March 8, 2012. I was in attendance every day, and was sorely disappointed when the 12 men and women of the jury never heard about the prior arrests of Karen’s son-in-law Jeff Sutton, his published sanction from the Kansas Supreme Court, history of violence, or affinity for weapons (he was a federal firearms licensee – FFL #10491).
The trial lasted through March 22, 2012, and closing arguments wrapped up by mid-afternoon. The only portion of the trial that I missed was the reading of the verdict because I never imagined that the jury would reach a decision as quickly as they did. After deliberating less than 90 minutes, the jury handed down a guilty verdict, convicting Dana Chandler of two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of Karen Harkness and Michael Sisco.
Fast forward to January 27, 2016. The case took a dramatic turn when the justices of the Kansas Supreme Court held a hearing and Dana Chandler’s court-appointed attorney petitioned the court for a new trial. As reported in this article from the Topeka Capital-Journal, several justices questioned Deputy Assistant Jacqie Spradling about statements she made to the jury which were not backed up by actual evidence from the record.
Here is a link to a video of the oral arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court.
Based on the fact that there is not a single shred of forensic evidence linking Dana Chandler to the crime, and no credible evidence placing her in Kansas, I remain firmly convinced of her innocence. And I do not believe that Jeff Sutton has been thoroughly investigated. For example, an arm hair found attached to one of the shell casings left at the scene of the murders was not tested until 9 1/2 years after the murders. Nonetheless, an examiner with the FBI in Quantico was able to obtain a mitochondrial DNA profile from this hair. The DNA profile excluded Dana Chandler and both victims as contributors. Although Jeffery A. Sutton is a person of interest by default due to the fact that he is a family member who benefited financially from Karen’s death, I do not believe law enforcement officials have compared Mr. Sutton’s DNA profile to the profile obtained from the arm hair left at the scene.
That is why I have decided to set up a web site and post a copy of person of interest II. Now others will be able to read the same documented information that I provided to members of law enforcement about Karen’s son-in-law, Jeff Sutton. (Please note that the document has been partially edited.)
If you have any additional information to provide, please feel free to email me at Eileen@personofinterest2.com.