Judge denies Carr brothers’ request for new sentence in death penalty murder case

A judge has denied a request by death-row inmates Jonathan and Reginald Carr to be resentenced in a December 2000 crime spree that included five murders.

The Carr brothers filed motions in November requesting a new hearing to determine whether the evidence supports the death penalty. Their lawyers also sought new pre-sentencing reports and journal entries in the case.

Sedgwick County Chief Judge Jeffrey Goering ruled from the bench on Monday, saying he has no authority to overrule a 2022 Kansas Supreme Court decision that upheld the Carr brothers’ convictions and sentences.

The Carrs are expected to appeal Goering’s decision.

It’s the latest appeal in a court case that has gone to the highest levels of the state and federal court systems over the past 22 years.

The Carrs were convicted of robbing, sexually assaulting and murdering 29-year-old Aaron Sander, 27-year-old Brad Heyka, 26-year-old Jason Befort and 25-year-old Heather Muller and injuring a fifth victim in an brutal execution-style shooting in a snow-covered soccer field at 29th North and Greenwich. They also carjacked and robbed a 23-year-old man and shot to death 55-year-old Wichita Symphony cellist Linda “Ann” Walenta.

Jonathan Carr, now 44, and Reginald Carr, 46, were in their 20s when they invaded an east Wichita home on Dec. 15, 2000. They forced the five people inside to have sex, raped the women and took them to withdraw money from ATMs before shooting shooting them each in the head.

Jonathan Carr appeared at Monday’s hearing. Reginald Carr waived his right to attend. Both are incarcerated in solitary confinement at the El Dorado Correctional Facility.

The Carr brothers were sentenced to death in 2002. In 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned their death sentences because the prosecutors tried them together. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision. The state Supreme Court upheld the brothers’ convictions and sentences in 2022, saying evidence against them was so overwhelming that jurors would have recommended the death penalty despite trial errors.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a second appeal last year. The brothers are expected to file additional, “indirect” appeals, which typically look at issues such as whether a defendant received effective representation from their defense attorney at trial and possible misconduct. A successful indirect appeal could result in a new trial but that isn’t common.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Monday that the Carr brothers’ are likely to continue to appeal various aspects of the case for years to come.

“I’m not going to hazard a guess on how long it will be,” Bennett said. “Probably longer than I’ll be district attorney. We’ll see.”

Contributing: Amy Leiker of The Wichita Eagle

U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear 2nd appeal from KS brothers on death row for Wichita murders

To read more of our coverage of the Carr brothers case, go to: https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/carr-brothers/