In December of 2000, within the span of less than a week, two brothers, Reginald and Jonathan Carr, engaged in a series of crimes in Wichita that Kansans recognize as among the worst in their state’s history.
First, they abducted and robbed assistant baseball coach Andrew Schreiber. Three days later, the Carrs set their sights upon 55 year-old librarian and cellist, Ann Walenta: they shot and killed Walenta as she attempted to flee them in her automobile.
But it wasn’t until three days after this murder that the Carrs’ campaign of evil reached its horrifying climax.
On the night of December 14, the Carrs broke into the residence of Brad Heyka, Aaron Sander, and Jason Befort. Heyka was a financial analyst, Sander a seminary student preparing for the priesthood, and Befort a high school science teacher and coach. Also in the home that evening were Heather Muller, Sander’s former girlfriend and a graduate student who also happened to work as a pre-school teacher at a local church, and a young woman named “H.G.”—a school teacher to whom Befort was about to propose and who would be the sole survivor of the grisly events that were about to unfold over the next few hours.
Armed with guns, the Carrs made their victims perform sexual acts on one another. The women were forced to penetrate each other’s vaginas orally and digitally, and the men were forced to have sex with the women. Yet when the Carrs discovered that Befort and “H.G.” were romantically involved, they prevented them from having sexual intercourse with one another, choosing instead to force Befort watch as they coerced his friends to essentially rape his fiancée to be.
At one point, when Aaron Sander couldn’t get an erection, the Carrs put a gun to his head and threatened to shoot him lest his momentary dysfunction resolve itself within the two minute time frame that they allotted him. When the time expired, the Carrs returned Sander to the closet in which they corralled their prey with “H.G.” and retrieved Befort and Heyka, both of whom were then forced to sexually assault Heather Muller, whose pain-racked groans, “H.G.” later testified, were all too audible from the next room.
The sexual degradation that the Carrs inflicted upon their victims was punctured by episodic beatings that the Carrs gave the men—beatings that appear to have involved the use of golf clubs. It was also interrupted by drives to ATM machines where the Carrs had their victims withdraw funds.
Yet the Carr brothers themselves also repeatedly raped, vaginally and orally, the two women.
About three hours into this nightmare, the Carrs drove their victims to a snow-covered field. The men were stuffed into the trunk of Sander’s Honda Accord that Jonathan Carr drove while Reginald drove Befort’s truck. Being less than 20 degrees, the air was frigid—and yet their captors permitted Befort, Heyka, and Sander to wear not a single article of clothing, while permitting Muller and “H.G.” to wear only a sweater.
Once they arrived at their destination, the Carrs commanded their prey to kneel in the snow and ice. As the five begged for their lives, their tormentors shot them each in the backs of their heads. Then, they drove over their bodies with Befort’s truck.
Miraculously, courtesy of a metal hairclip, “H.G.” survived. She didn’t even lose consciousness. Instead, she tried to help her boyfriend, from whom “blood was squirting everywhere”—including from his eyes—by wrapping around his head her sweater, the only article of clothing, mind you, that she was wearing.
Naked, she walked over a mile in the freezing cold to a stranger’s home in search of help for herself and her friends—for whom, sadly, it was already too late.
Meanwhile, the Carrs would return to their victims’ home to pillage it. While there, they encountered Nikki, the dog that belonged to “H.G.” The Carrs pummeled the poor animal with a golf club before driving an ice pick through it.
The Carrs were arrested and went to trial. “H.G.” took the stand, explaining that she constantly awakes in “cold sweats” from her “nightmares,” that “every morning” she must “carefully blow-dry” her hair to “cover up the spot that,” as result of being shot, “can no longer grow hair,” and that she has “the scars” on her knees from the rapes to which these “two soulless monsters” subjected her.
“H.G.” also testified that she has a sexually-transmitted disease courtesy of one of her rapists.
That a jury of their peers convicted the Carrs of capital murder and sentenced them to death suggests that they agreed with “H.G.” that her attackers are “soulless monsters.” Yet on Friday, July 25, by a 6-1 decision, the Kansas Supreme Court, citing procedural problems, maintained the convictions while overturning the Carrs’ death sentences.
According to The Topeka Capital-Journal, Republican members of the GOP-controlled Legislature have complained about the “‘activist’ streak” of the justices while noting that Kansas hasn’t had an execution since 1965. But while an anti-death penalty sentiment may account for this outrage, that racial considerations may be in play is also a possibility not to be overlooked.
The brothers Carr, you see, are black. All of their victims are white.
Can there be any doubt that had the racial roles here been reversed that everything from the coverage of this case—which, nationally speaking, has been virtually zilch—to this latest travesty of justice would be different?
In any event, Reginald and Jonathan Carr are as guilty as sin itself of raw savagery. There can be no conceivable justification for permitting their natural existence another moment.
And there can be no conceivable justification for nominating judges who allow their racial preoccupations and other political predilections to prevail over their duty to rule justly.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.