and attorney Amanda Vogelsberg confer during defense testimony
Monday. The defense rested their case Friday, shortly before the
jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts.
Alton /Topeka Capital Journal
after 3 p.m. Thursday, the jury delivered a verdict of guilty
on all counts. The jury heard testimony and closing statements
Monday, and after 55 minutes of deliberation, recommended James
Kraig Kahler receive the death penalty.
By Peggy Mooney, Wayne White
and Catherine Faimon
LYNDON—A forensic psychiatrist told jurors on Tuesday
afternoon that capital murder defendant James Kraig Kahler
was suffering from a major depression when he allegedly shot
and killed his wife, two daughters and his wife’s grandmother
in November 2009.
James Kraig Kahler is on trial in Osage County for the shooting
deaths of his wife, Karen, 44, his two daughters, Emily, 18,
and Lauren, 16, and his wife’s grandmother, Dorothy
Wight, 89. The killings took place at Wight’s home in
Stephen Peterson, hired by Kahler’s defense team, said
Kahler’s actions that night came about because he was
suffering from a mental illness. He was suffering, and still
is, from a major depression, he said.
During cross-examination by prosecutors, Peterson said, “He
was able to shoot them, and efficiently. He went there under
the umbrella of mental illness.” Peterson said he does
not consider Kahler to be psychotic. However, his capability
to make decisions was “seriously” degraded.
While being questioned by Topeka defense attorney Tom Haney,
Peterson said he met with Kahler seven times throughout the
evaluation process, saying Kahler is suffering from a severe,
major depression,” which he referred to as a “major
mental illness.” Peterson said he found no evidence
that Kahler had undergone any prior psychological testing.
Before his marriage began to crumble, Kahler was functioning
“well,” Peterson testified. Later, Kahler’s
emotions began to deteriorate while trying to understand the
complexities of the divorce.
Peterson said Kahler became obsessed and “he could not
While testifying, Peterson called the shootings in Burlingame
“haphazard” considering the fact that Kahler was
known as a marksman. He also said Kahler did not empathize
with his daughters and while Kahler was talking to him, referred
to them as “rotting corpses.”
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