Kyler Carriker will stand trial for felony murder because, in essence, he knew a guy who knew a guy who wanted to purchase a small quantity of marijuana, and also knew a guy who knew a guy who wanted to sell a small quantity of marijuana. Carriker, 22, ran into an acquaintance from high school, Lorenzo Spires, in April of 2013. Although Carriker was not a drug dealer, he did, on occasion, smoke marijuana and agreed to help Spires find a quarter of a pound of the drug, a transaction that would have netted Carriker a much needed fifty dollar bill.
Thinking this would be a relatively innocent transaction, Carriker contacted another acquaintance, Kyle Beltz, who contacted a drug dealer, Ronald Betts. Unbeknownst to Carriker, Spires had joined a street gang since graduating from Wichita Northwest High. The three met at Beltz’ home to conduct the deal. Ronald Betts, the drug dealer and victim in this murder case, was the brother of former state legislator Donald Betts.
Spires, along with fellow gang members John Carter and Dennis Haynes showed up to Beltz’ home on North Emporia St., in Wichita, presumably to purchase the marijuana from Betts. Both Spires and Carter later testified that they had no money, and intended to rob Betts. When they arrived, Carriker, who was merely a middle-man in the deal, did not like the looks of Haynes and told Belts and Betts that they should call the deal off. Betts refused to call off the deal.
Haynes entered the home and within 60 seconds had opened fire on Carriker, wounding him in the leg and abdomen. Carriker fell to the floor and played dead. Haynes then turned his gun on Betts, shooting him several times, killing him.
Carriker, whose mother, Jennifer Winn, is running for Governor of the State of Kansas, is being charged with felony murder, based on the notion that he was engaged in an inherently dangerous felony which led to Betts’ death. Carriker’s attorney argues that the inherently dangerous felony that caused Betts’ death was the robbery, a crime that Carriker was not involved in, rather than the marijuana deal.
Carriker has no prior criminal record, and had never met the shooter in this case, Dennis Haynes. This will be Haynes second murder trial (he was acquitted in a murder trial in an unrelated case). Haynes and Carter are both admitted crack-cocaine dealers and gang members with extensive criminal records and entered in to this transaction, along with Spires, with the stated intention of committing armed robbery, a fact that Spires and Carter have both testified to in open court.
Charging Carriker with felony murder, a crime punishable by a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison, without parole, seems excessive, even to Judge David Kaufman, who said in Carriker’s preliminary hearing that he, as the judge, is bound by law to find in favor of the prosecution.
Jennifer Winn decided to run for governor after seeing firsthand the injustice of Kansas law in regards to the prohibition of marijuana and the penalties that surround the failed war on drugs. Winn says she has no illusions about the charges against her son, and that she is not running for office to save her son, noting that her attorney will be the one who does that.