Wednesday, October 22, 2014

County sheriff, attorney show wisdom in asking for help

5/20/2013

People understandably want to work with professionals and those with more resources to help solve problems quicker — especially when the consequences are serious and complex, and results matter. Such is the case with Ottawa’s recent homicides and the eventual prosecution of the suspected killer.

Newly minted Sheriff Jeff Richards — with only a few weeks on the job — immediately was tasked with handling what turned out to be a quadruple homicide crime scene. Though the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is staffed with qualified law enforcement professionals, Richards quickly accessed the state’s Major Case Squad, or M-Squad, which includes officers from about 40 law enforcement units, to assist with the search of the residence on Georgia Road and subsequently the identification of victims.

People understandably want to work with professionals and those with more resources to help solve problems quicker — especially when the consequences are serious and complex, and results matter. Such is the case with Ottawa’s recent homicides and the eventual prosecution of the suspected killer.

Newly minted Sheriff Jeff Richards — with only a few weeks on the job — immediately was tasked with handling what turned out to be a quadruple homicide crime scene. Though the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is staffed with qualified law enforcement professionals, Richards quickly accessed the state’s Major Case Squad, or M-Squad, which includes officers from about 40 law enforcement units, to assist with the search of the residence on Georgia Road and subsequently the identification of victims.

Richards additionally asked the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, which has its own crime scene unit, to assist with the investigation. The team — complete with its own forensics lab/unit — processed evidence from the crime scene faster than the Kansas Bureau of Investigation could have completed because of the KBIs shortage of resources. Richards’ two requests for assistance, no doubt, expedited the investigation with an “all-hands-on-deck” mentality that aided in the quick apprehension of the alleged perpetrator.

The decision to ask for help — not an easy thing to do when dealing with potential turf wars among agencies — helped Richards’ office get traction quickly. Now the Franklin County Attorney’s Office is following a similar path.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Friday that his office had joined the prosecution team in the Franklin County homicide case, State v. Kyle Flack. Franklin County Attorney Stephen Hunting requested the assistance and will continue to play an important role in the prosecution. Since the case seems likely to become a death penalty case, it makes sense to have the Kansas Attorney General’s Office involved early on to ensure the proper steps are taken to accomplish a feat of such magnitude.

A previous shooting case in Franklin County was thrown out in 2007 with a mistrial declared because of the mishandling of evidence. Having the attorney general involved provides a backstop of sorts to avoid this kind of a situation.

Professionals in various parts of the law enforcement hierarchy aided the recent quadruple homicide investigation. Professionals in the judicial hierarchy should deliver the same level of results to expedite prosecution and justice in this terrible situation.

— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher

comments powered by Disqus