“Dana Chandler’s son testifies Friday afternoon in her double-murder retrial in Topeka”
Testimony resumes Friday on Day 6 of retrial at Shawnee County District Court in Topeka
Thats how WIBW’s friday article Started off before re-capping what had gone on in this ridiculous trial. WIBW has always had a very decided bias for police and republicans. Some wonder if it is because WIBW’s News Director has a son who is an officer, and is therefore loathe to report the truth on many issues involving LEOs?
DYSTOPEKA.COM’s Commentary and additional information is in BOLD ITALICS, the rest is from WIBW or other news sources. We attempt to bring additional information that other news sources do not provide, while providing critical analysis of media and media bias and other factors that affect public opinion and policy.
Day 6 of the Dana Chandler double-murder retrial is underway Friday morning at the Shawnee County Courthouse in Topeka.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 10:41 AM CDT
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Day 6 of the Dana Chandler double-murder retrial on Friday featured testimony from a Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent; the brother of Chandler’s murdered ex-husband, who was killed in 2002; and late in the afternoon, Chandler’s son, Dustin Sisco, who is now an adult.
Friday’s session started at 9:04 a.m. at the Shawnee County Courthouse. It was continuing at 3:15 p.m.
Chandler, now 62, was arrested in 2011 and charged with the July 7, 2002, murders of her ex-husband Mike Sisco, 47, and his fiancé Karen Harkness, 53, at a home at 2231 S.W. Westport Square in west Topeka.
Testimony indicated Harkness had been shot five times and Sisco seven times while they were in bed in the basement of the residence, located just southeast of S.W. 21st and Wanamaker.
Though she has maintained her innocence, Chandler was convicted in 2012.
However, in 2018, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction, citing misconduct by former prosecutor Jacqie Spradling, who has since been disbarred.
Chandler, who previously was in the Topeka Correctional Facility after her 2012 conviction, has been in the Shawnee County Jail since May 18, 2018.
The state’s prosecutor is Charles Kitt, chief of staff for the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office.
Chandler is being represented by lead defense attorney Tom Bath, of Leawood. Tricia Bath and Mark Hartman also are serving as a defense lawyers for Chandler.
The first witness on Friday was Patrick McLaughlin, who was a Topeka police officer in 2002.
McLaughlin, who is now employed by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office, said he assisted with a canvas of the neighborhood near the 2200 block of S.W. Westport Square on July 8 and 9, 2002, in the days after the double-homicide of Harkness and Sisco.
That he is NOW employed by the DA’s office that is now prosecuting this case should have possibly gotten him disqualified, but whatever, he has a story to tell, and I think it should have probably been dismissed as heresy.
He said a woman in the neighborhood reported hearing a car running outside her house around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, July 7, 2002, followed by what sounded like a gunshot around 3 a.m.
And she was the only one who saw or heard this? While the neighbor who shared a wall with the Harkness Duplex didnt hear anything?
McLaughlin said as part of the investigation, he later spent “five or six days” examining surveillance video covering 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 7, 2002, from an entry and exit point of Rocky Mountain National Park, looking for a black 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse, the same make and model of Chandler’s car.
He said he wasn’t able to locate a car of that type on the video footage, which he said was “not of great quality.”
And here is another example of “Not quite dishonest, but not quite the whole story” testimony that one really hopes that the jury can process and filter logically on their own. And another case of “Pick a lie and stick to it” for the prosecution. Contrary to some peoples worries, I am not giving away anything that was not publicly available in open court. BUT, If this cop was spending “five or six days” examining survailence video and couldn’t spot Chandler’s car because “The video was not great quality” , that ALSO means that he very easily could have MISSED Chandler’s car going in or exiting the park. Furthermore, part of the prosecutions argument is that Chandler’s alibi of “Driving in the mountains and camping” is false because “there where so many fires in Colorado at the time” (A theory that has now been dismantled by the defense team: The prosecutions own witness, under cross examination had to admit that maps and reports used actually covered the entire month, or even entire 6-month period of time and NOT just the weekend of the murders, therefore the prosecutions refuting of Chandler’s alibi was ‘a load of crap’ ) But ALSO, if this cop watching the surveillance videos looking for cars coming and going from that park, obviously (Obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be pointed out.) that park was open for business during the time frame, and no “massive fires at the time” where keeping ANYONE from coming and going. Further more, even a poor quality video should have been able to show weather and smoke and fire conditions at the time.
The second witness on Friday morning was Kim Warrender, who formerly worked with Harkness between around 1999 and 2001 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka.
Warrender said Harkness showed up to work one morning upset over phone calls she said had come from Chandler.
Warrender said Harkness “had been up all night” and was “very afraid” after Chandler’s phone calls.
Warrender said Harkness was “questioning” whether she should stay in her relationship with Sisco “because she was afraid and receiving lots of phone calls.”
Now I must admit that I was not in the courtroom for this witnesses testimony, But I got a glance at another writers notes (With permission mind you, even a “reporter” as sloppy and unethical as me has certain rules.) And while they said that the witness “Seemed credible” they also wondered aloud ‘How many times they have recited that testimony to others, themself, and Prosecutors coaching her?” I couldn’t say, BUT this whole business about the phone calls gets eviscerated much like that Old Man’s Fish in the novel.
Friday’s third witness was Dena Soden, who also worked with Harkness at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.
Soden also testified that Harkness had become “afraid” after phone calls from Chandler.
Soden said Harkness reported Chandler making “harassing” phone calls.
Both Warrender and Soden said they became friends with Harkness after meeting her through their work at the Capitol Plaza Hotel and socialized outside of work, frequently playing golf together.
They added that Harkness left her job at the Capitol Plaza around 2002 to work for Visit Topeka, which was the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
Oh, “Visit Topeka”, yet another tentacle of The Chamber Of Commerce, who the victims family has been heavily invested and involved in for many many decades. I felt the need to point that out as it speaks to what was alluded to in an article in “The Kansas Reflector” about how money, affluence, influence and powerful members of the community came together to pressure a DA (Chad Taylor) into pursuing and charging Dana Chandler. That the main business of many of those people is a (Wolfs) Camera store that dealt quite a bit in professional level photographic equipment put them in the pocket of many local reporters and news media outlets, possibly with connections to TV Shows like “Frontline” and “48 Hours.”
I am not playing “Blame the victims” here, and I am certainly nt implying that the victims somehow invited their tragic demise. But I am exploring the idea that undue social pressures where put to bear to keep the focus on Dana Chandler, as if influenced by someone within those families.
The morning’s fourth witness was Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Ryan J. Williams, who said he was asked in 2018 by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office to analyze phone records in the Harkness-Sisco double-homicide case.
OK, here we go, as alluded to earlier…..
Williams said he examined calling patterns for numbers associated with Chandler over an approximate six-month period from December 2001 to June 2002, noting 707 calls were made over 194 days to numbers belonging to Harkness and Sisco.
Re-read that as many times as you need to. WIBW is echoing, with a certain amount of dishonesty and lacking integrity that the FBI agent testified that ‘Dana Chandler made over 700 calls over 194 days to Make Sisco and Karen Harkness’.
But this is a deliberate misdirection and and deliberately misleading on the part of the FBI agent AND the prosecution. In other words: Its a goddamned lie.
The FACTS are that the big pile pf phone records showed just over 700 calls *TOTAL* made by Chandler, but only about 20 made to Harkness within a six month time period. Not the hard-blowing blizzard of calls that the prosecution wanted the jury to believe.
Defense attorney Tom Bath was easily able to sort out of the 700+ calls how many where actually made to the victims.
And on topof that, The FBI agent testified under oath that “
Dana’s phone pinged off of a tower in Salina and later in Topeka on July 9 – two days after the murders.
So Tom Bath, defense, said: “Well, that would be consistent with her traveling to Topeka to attend her ex-husband’s funeral, wouldn’t it?”
Well yes, of course it would.
Here’s what the FBI analyst didn’t say. He didn’t say that Dana’s phone pinged off of towers and route to Topeka on the weekend of the murders. ” Because it didn’t, and if it HAD, that would have been pretty damning evidence, wouldn’t it? Thats a hell of a detail to leave out by a prosecutor or FBI agent trying to help them make their case. Hmmm? So to spell it put for those who might need it: They have cellphone tower records that recorded and detected her coming to Topeka on July9th, two days after the murders, but not before or during the murders.
So the fact that the defense attorneys revealed that there was NO “700 phone calls to Mike and Karen “in a short amount of time kind of made the other witnesses, Karens friends, look unstable and even dishonest.
In other words: They still have not provided any evidence that shows Dana Chandler being in Topeka
From Williams’ report, Kitt highlighted 18 calls made in 21 minutes on June 3, 2002, as an example of “rapid calling” to numbers associated with Sisco and Chandler.
Yup, that does sound bad, and helps the prosecution paint Chandler up as being crazy. But the facts are that LOTS of people, out of whatever neurosis, do the “rapid dialing” thing: They dial a number once and get a busy signal, or dropped line and they immediately re-dial. Kinda like those people who slowly close the refrigerator door hoping to find out if that light stays on or is their ketchup shivers in the dark.
This doesn’t prove Dana committed any murders, and it doesn’t prove that she was in Topeka when they happened.
Williams also provided details on how towers are used to help track phone calls.
Under questioning from defense lawyer Tom Bath, Williams said he hadn’t seen phone records from 1999, 2000 and much of 2001, when Harkness told friends Warrender and Soden she and Sisco had received multiple calls from Chandler.
It also wasn’t known how many, if any, of the “rapid calls” had been answered, Williams said upon questioning from Tom Bath.
Upon further questioning, Tom Bath asked Williams to break down how many of the 700-plus calls went to Mike Sisco’s phones and how many went to Harkness’ residence.
Putting all of the calls together, Bath said, was similar to putting “soybeans and wheat” together as a single amount, but not specifying how much of each crop was included in the final total.
In responding to Tom Bath, Williams said only around 20 of the 700-plus calls from Chandler went to Harkness’ residence. That amounted to only about 3.5 percent of the calls during the six-month period from December 2001 to 2002. The rest of the 700-plus calls went to either Mike Sisco’s home phone or cellphone.
Notice how earlier in the article WIBW just says there were 700+ calls and leaves it at that, and then only examines that courtroom exchange “down below the fold” knowing that many readers wont make it this far? And here they are again implying that “The rest of the 700-plus calls went to either Mike Sisco’s home phone or cellphone.” Which is simply not true and is unprovable. The prosecution was rolling the dice hoping that the jury wouldn’t figure this out on their own, and that the defense wouldnt spot it and expose it. They lost that roll of the dice. And it wasnt the first or last time.
Three phone numbers were the focus of questioning from Bath to Williams. Two of the numbers belonged to Mike Sisco — a home number and a cellphone number — while the third number was to Harkness’ home.
Two other numbers that frequently had been called were determined to belong to Hailey Sisco and her boyfriend at the time, Chris Seal.
Under terms of a 1997 divorce settlement, testimony showed that Mike Sisco retained custody of the two children he had with Chandler — Hailey and Dustin Sisco.
As part of the divorce settlement, it was disclosed in testimony that Chandler had visitation rights on weekends and the right to call her children on a daily basis.
Read that again: ” the right to call her children on a daily basis.” Dana Chandler was not doing anything unreasonable by trying to contact and talk to her own children once a day, as was her right and responsibility as a MOTHER. And if you do the math, it doesnt look like she was calling them every day.
Bath also brought into question the use of an AT&T calling card on June 4 that registered to a 785 area-code number, which corresponds to Topeka, the same day records showed Chandler’s cellphone was being used in the Denver area.
Bath noted a calling card could be used by multiple people, noting in this case it could have been used by Hailey Sisco.
Oh, well isn’t THAT interesting?
Bath also asked Williams about cellphone companies’ retention of call records.
Questions during Fridays proceedings also addressed details on cell-site towers.
Information from cell-site towers can help show when and where calls were placed or which calls were routed.
Williams said routing for cellphone calls occurs for one of four reasons: the cellphone Is turned off; the cellphone is outside the cellphone company’s service area; the call goes to voicemail; or the call is taking place in another cellphone company service area.
Bath also asked Williams if records could show if a phone is turned “on or off.”
Williams said he wasn’t aware of cellphone companies being able to track whether a phone was turned on or “powered off.”
(Im pretty sure that Apple I-Phones can still be tracked when “turned off” and are still communicating with cell towers and satilites…..but thats kind of irrelevant here.)
Bath also confirmed with Williams on several dates in the spring of 2002 when Chandler’s Sprint cellphone had no service for more than 24 hours.
Those times were in addition to the dates in June and July of 2022 when evidence indicated Chandler’s cellphone also had no service for more than 24 hours.
Timothy Sisco, the younger brother of Mike Sisco, took the witness stand mid-afternoon on Friday.
In his testimony, while questioned by Kitt, Timothy Sisco recalled an incident at a youth soccer game in Olathe in where Hailey Sisco, Mike Sisco’s daughter, was playing.
Timothy Sisco said he was at the match with his brother when Chandler also came to the game and began to scream at Sisco on the sideline.
“She was yelling that Mike is a rapist, ‘He raped me,’” Timothy Sisco said. “That was the main thing that I heard. I don’t recall all the other things that were being spewed out. It was very, very traumatic.”
(I need to point ut here that there IS such a thing as “Marital rape” where one person in a married couple forces sex on the other without consent. Some advocate organizations say that this happens much more often than is reported….just saying.)
Timothy Sisco also testified Mike Sisco told him about an incident in which he came home in 2002 to find Chandler inside his house in the 2500 block of S.E. Alexander, in the Tecumseh area east of Topeka.
According to Timothy Sisco’s testimony, Mike Cisco said Chandler told him, “I have a solution to our problem.” She said, ‘I’ll move in and we’ll be a happy family again.”
Timothy Sisco said Mike Sisco replied to Chandler, “Are you crazy?” before telling her he was going to marry Harkness.
In her questioning of Timothy Sisco, Tricia Bath noted there had been prior talk of daughter Hailey moving to Denver to live with Chandler.
Tricia Bath also produced an audio recording in which Chandler and Mike Sisco had a discussion at a parent-teacher conference for their son, Dustin.
In the recording of the conversation, Chandler asked Mike Sisco if they could go together to the parent-teacher conference, but he resisted the idea.
Under questioning from Tricia Bath, Timothy Sisco said that following Mike Sisco’s death, he and his brother-in-law, Mark Boots, went on July 10, 2002, to a Holliday Inn in Topeka, where Chandler was staying, to tell her they didn’t want her to attend Mike Sisco’s funeral.
It begs more questions, such as who really has the right to tell someone not to come to a funeral? Remember, Chandler and Sisco where married for 16 years, this is not an insignificant amount of time.
Timothy Sisco said Chandler agreed to meet with her children Hailey and Dustin for an hour before the funeral, but then stayed for the service.
The day’s last witness took the stand around 3:50 p.m. Friday, when Dustin Sisco, the son of Mike Sisco and Chandler, was questioned by Kitt.
Dustin Sisco recalled his parents’ 1997 divorce, noting he was 10 and his sister was 12 at the time.
He testified he and his sister were enlisted by their mother to “spy” on their dad — Mike Sisco — following their divorce while they were on a weekend visitation with their mother when they lived in Lawrence.
“We were with her,” Dustin Sisco said. “We were in her car, me and Hailey, my sister. She told us to come along — we could be her helpers, look and spy on my dad at his house while we were with her.”
After he was questioned by Kitt, Chandler’s lawyers declined to keep Dustin Sisco on the witness stand, and he was dismissed.
Im sure that there are lots of questions that people would love to ask of the Sisco/Chandler children. But most of us remember and are mindful of the fact that they have been through a very traumatic and life-altering experience.
But one question I’d really like to ask, and I don’t know exactly WHO to ask it of: We know that in the first trial that Defective Detective Dick Volle knowingly lied on the stand when he testified under oath that there was a “restraining order” against Dana Chandler, implying that it was filed just before the murders. And many jurors pointed at THAT singular testimony as convincing them of Chandlers guilt. There was no restraining order, and the divorce was finalized FOUR YEARS prior to the murders. And Dana’s moving around actually shows that she was trying to distance herself from Sisco and get far from him, certainly not the behavior of a “stalker”. Chandler’s behavior actually shows that she was trying to get her shit together, she had been going to AA meeting, trying to sober up, had taken classes at KU trying to finish her degree, and trying to improve her life.
BUT if she truly was being so scary and terroristic to Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness, making all of these alleged phone calls and unwelcomed visits, then we really have to ask: Why was there NOT a restraining order filed for and/or granted against Chandler? One that would “protect” Harkness and Sisco from her harassment and intrusions on their lives…if such things where actually happening. Such things can be and have been granted that would still allow her to communicate with her children or have visitation with them. Things that make you go “Hmmm”.
Court was adjourned for the weekend around 4:35 p.m. Friday as Rios noted the next witness — who wasn’t named — was expected to give extensive testimony.
The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 15.
During the first six days of the retrial, former Topeka police officers; former neighbors of Harkness in the 2200 block of S.W. Westport Square; a former employee of the Sac ‘N Fox Casino, where Harkness and Sisco went the night before they were killed; a U.S. Forestry Department fire investigator; a former business acquaintance of Chandler from Denver; the lead Topeka police detective in the case; and a friend of Chandler’s from Arizona.
Twelve jurors and five alternates were sworn in for duty when the retrial began Friday, Aug. 5.
Two of the jurors were released earlier this week.
The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.
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