By Erin Mathews
The Salina Journal
District Judge Jared Johnson denied both of Dane DeWeese's motions for a new trial Wednesday and ordered him to serve sentences for his first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder convictions one after the other.
DeWeese, who listened without displaying emotion during the sentencing hearing in Saline County District Court, declared himself "wrongfully convicted."
"I feel I've been wrongfully convicted, and someday through God my innocence will prevail," DeWeese said in his only statement to the court.
Lisa Dockstader, mother of murder victim Kristin Tyler, 27, tearfully asked Johnson to impose the maximum sentence.
"I don't know what kind of faith you have, but God doesn't approve of killing people," she said to DeWeese. She said she hopes one day he can admit his role in Tyler's homicide.
Johnson sentenced DeWeese, 33, to life with a minimum of 25 years served for the murder conviction and 10 years and 11 months for conspiracy to commit murder. He imposed the sentences consecutively and informed DeWeese that upon his release he will be required to register as a violent offender. DeWeese was ordered to pay $193 in court costs, a $200 DNA testing fee and $8,429 in restitution for funeral expenses and trial costs.
DeWeese was found guilty by a jury in April of murdering Tyler on April 25 or 26, 2013. Joel M. Heil pleaded guilty to murdering Tyler and was sentenced in June to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years served. Heil testified at DeWeese's trial that he had fatally beaten and strangled Tyler and held her head under water at DeWeese's bidding.
DeWeese initiated murder
"I don't hate you because I'm not that kind of person, but I hope you can help your family to heal (by admitting his role in Tyler's homicide)," Dockstader said. "If you can't do it for yourself, at least do it for your kids."
Dockstader said that on the night Tyler was killed, those involved were thinking only of themselves. She said that even though Heil later admitted to killing her daughter, it wouldn't have happened without DeWeese.
"He was the one who initiated this," Dockstader said. "I feel he should have the more severe punishment."
Attorney Doug Thompson, who represented DeWeese, asked the judge to allow DeWeese to serve his sentences at the same time.
"He's not guilty of these charges, but the jury found otherwise," Thompson said.
'Never shown ... remorse'
Prosecutor Christina Trocheck, an assistant county attorney, argued that while Heil admittedly dealt the blows, he did so after DeWeese sought him out to deal with Tyler, whom DeWeese suspected of stealing drug proceeds and bringing a police informant to his house.
"Mr. DeWeese has demonstrated arrogance and absolute disregard for the fact that he was involved in taking a human life," Trocheck said. "He's never shown any type of regret or remorse for his involvement."
Trocheck said DeWeese had the right to assert his innocence, but "it flies in the face of everything presented at trial."
She cited Heil's testimony that when Tyler wasn't dying fast enough, DeWeese "participated by cruelly putting his shoe on her head and pushing her face into the mud to make sure she was dying."
Trocheck said she feels sorry for the ordeal DeWeese's family has endured, but it doesn't compare to what Tyler's family has suffered.
Motions for new trial denied
Before sentencing DeWeese, Johnson denied two motions that Thompson had filed seeking a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence, insufficient evidence and duration of deliberation. Johnson said the length of deliberation is irrelevant, and there's no evidence the jury failed to follow court instructions.
Johnson said he reviewed numerous federal cases and considered arguments of attorneys before determining that new information contained in a police report discovered after the conclusion of the trial was not sufficient to undermine confidence in the jury's verdict.
He said the only information contained in the report that had not been made available to the jury from other sources was from a woman interviewed by a police officer on May 1, 2013. The woman said she and her husband had stayed with Heil for four days in early April 2013 and fled in fear for their lives after Heil threatened them with a gun. She said that Heil was looking for an opportunity to rob Tyler and her mother of a large quantity of drugs.
Johnson said the jury was made well aware during trial that Heil was a "gun-toting, violent, drug-dealing meth user," and jurors heard about a confrontation between Heil and Tyler that occurred the day before her murder. He said the allegation from a few weeks prior would not have caused the jury to reach a different conclusion.
"Mr. DeWeese received a fair trial in its absence, and it does not undermine confidence in the trial's outcome," Johnson said.
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