No. 10: Southwest Kansas sees string of murder cases

12/22/2010

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of 10 stories counting down The Telegram's top 10 stories of 2010 as chosen by the staff of The Telegram.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of 10 stories counting down The Telegram's top 10 stories of 2010 as chosen by the staff of The Telegram.

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

It was a deadly year in the area as three southwest Kansans were accused of first-degree murder. Two men also were convicted of first-degree murder in a case from 2008 and 2009. In Garden City, two men accused of first-degree murder from a 2008 and 2009 case await 2011 trials.

In March, Todd Schumacher, Leoti, was charged with the first-degree murder of his ex-wife Ann K. Schumacher. He also is charged with two counts of aggravated child endangerment. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and the trial is set for Jan. 10 through Jan. 14 in Wichita County District Court.

During a July preliminary hearing, Schumacher's daughter, Miranda Schumacher, testified that she watched from a chair as her father pulled a gun from his jacket, placed his hand on her mother's shoulder and shot her.

Before that, the 15-year-old had grabbed a digital camera to record her parents' conversation.

According to testimony from Todd Schumacher's sister-in-law, Laura Schumacher, Todd and Ann Shumacher were involved in a custody battle.

Marnie Johnson, who was dating Todd Schumacher at the time of the shooting, testified in July that the night before Ann Schumacher died, Todd Schumacher had received custody papers from his ex-wife, which upset him.

"He said he wanted to kill her," she said in her testimony.

In May in Hamilton County, 26-year-old Seth Farnsworth was arrested on allegations of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Christopher Barr, Syracuse.

A case management date has been set for Jan. 4, 2011. Farnsworth appeared in Hamilton County District Court in November. A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for September but Farnsworth changed attorneys.

Authorities responded at 4 a.m. May 26 at Barr's residence after they were notified of an altercation involving an edged weapon. Farnsworth is accused of stabbing Barr, who was transported to the Hamilton County Hospital, where he died of his injuries.

Marilyn Hoffman, 26, Scott City, pleaded not guilty in November to charges connected to the death of her 3-month-old son Xavier. A trial has been set for Feb. 8 through 11, 2011.

She was bound over for trial after a September preliminary hearing.

Xavier was flown to Via Christi-St. Francis July 10, after Hoffman and a neighbor initially took the infant to the Scott County Hospital. Hospital officials testified Hoffman had brought Xavier to the Scott County Hospital after his cries were abnormal, he had difficulty breathing and his pupils were fixed and dilated.

He died in Wichita after being taken off of a ventilator, according to KBI agents. Hoffman was arrested the next day in Wichita. She told investigators she never had time for herself and felt she didn't have support from her family, and that she sometimes wished to harm her children, according to special agents with the KBI.

According to testimony from Dr. Kerri Meyer, a specialist in child abuse and neglect cases who assessed Xavier's injuries at Via Christi, the boy suffered retinal hemorrhages, which can be caused by shaking or an abusive head injury, a skull fracture, global swelling of the brain, or rib fractures that are in various stages of healing. She said she also found an older injury to his stomach.

Xavier ultimately died from lack of oxygen due to the swelling of his brain, Meyer said. At the time of the boy's death, Hoffman was living with her boyfriend, Dromico Elam, 30, who now is living in Salina.

Convictions

Michael Maestas Jr., 26, Hugoton, was convicted in May of first-degree murder in the Aug. 1, 2009, stabbing death of his mother, Lorenza Maestas, 52. Sentencing was set for August but was delayed after a ruling that Maestas is mentally disabled. Autopsy reports revealed Lorenza Maestas was stabbed more than 150 times and had wounds to her back, neck, chest, breasts and face.

In October, Marcos Lomas, 24, was sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of capital murder in the Aug. 30, 2008, stabbing deaths of Marcos and Hilda Garcia of Ulysses.

Trials set

Luis Montoya, Garden City, who is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the August 2009 stabbing death of his sister, Maria Montoya. Luis Montoya pleaded not guilty earlier this month to the charge. A trial has been set for April 18 through 21 in Finney County District Court.

Family members testified that Montoya and his sister had been arguing, and said Montoya had said he was working up the courage to kill his sister earlier the day she was found dead.

A trial has been set for Joaquin De Anda, 19, who is accused of raping, killing and sodomizing a Deerfield teen. The trial is scheduled for March 22 to April 1, 2011.

De Anda pleaded not guilty on March 29 to first-degree murder, rape and aggravated criminal sodomy in connection with the December 2008 death of Julia Quintana, 16.

De Anda was bound over for trial in late February after a preliminary hearing, during which investigators and police detectives testified that Margie Romero, De Anda's mother, came forward to investigators saying she may have had information about Quintana, who had been reported missing.

De Anda is represented by Melanie Freeman-Johnson, a member of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit. Prosecutors Linda Lobmeyer and Lora Ingels, assistant Finney County attorneys, said early in the case they would not be seeking the death penalty because De Anda was 17 when he allegedly committed the crimes. Although De Anda is certified as an adult in the matter, prosecutors still cannot seek the death penalty under Kansas law. Ingels has since left the county attorney's office, but will be prosecuting the case, she said.

Quintana's body was found in a Dumpster in the west alley behind De Anda's residence, after she went missing the previous weekend. Evidence from an autopsy disclosed that Quintana died due to suffocation, sustained a broken neck and was sexually assaulted.

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