Archive for Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hearing delayed in KCK

April 22, 2008

Kansas City, Kan. - The trial for one of the two men charged with the November 2005 murder of Robin Bell is on tap for next week.

The trial for Robert Haberlein, 19, Kansas City, Kan., is set to open Monday after a delay of one week. A one-week continuance caused by an unrelated murder trial in Wyandotte County District Court pushed the start date of Haberlein's trial back a week.

The trial for the other defendant, John Backus, 21, Bonner Springs, has been continued until a time to be later decided, a clerk for the court said Monday.

Both trials will be in Division 4 of Wyandotte County District Court.

Bell, a 44-year-old Tonganoxie resident, was general manager of the Dollar General store in Bonner Springs.

Amber Russell, 18, Lenexa, was charged in Bell's death, but the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office agreed not to try her as an adult in exchange for testimony against Haberlein and Backus. Russell's testimony at a December hearing called into question whether her deal still stood, and Assistant District Attorney Chris Schneider said this week he couldn't comment.

The trial will feature testimony from "a lot of officers" in the Bonner Springs Police Department, said Lt. Rick Schubert, including all the members of the investigative unit working on the case.

In a December hearing that featured testimony from Russell and from a former social worker assigned to Haberlein, Wyandotte County District Judge David Boal ruled that Haberlein would be tried as an adult. He was 17 at the time of the murder and turns 20 on Wednesday.

Boal said he made his decision after weighing the seriousness of the offense; the nature of the offense; that it was against a person; that other means of adjudication weren't appropriate; the previous history of the defendant; the maturity of the defendant; evidence he could be rehabilitated in the juvenile system; and whether the community would be better served if he were tried as an adult.

Stephanie Carlin, who served as supervisor for Haberlein in the Wyandotte County intensive supervision program of the juvenile division of community corrections, testified in the December hearing that Haberlein had been assessed as having "mild mental retardation." Also, Carlin said that in 1999, when Haberlein was 11, he had been tested and found to have a third-grade reading level, second-grade math skills and the written-language skills of a student still in first grade. He also received a bipolar diagnosis, with attention deficit hyperactive disorder, and abusing alcohol and cannabis, Carlin said.

Both Haberlein and Backus are in Wyandotte County Jail; Russell is in the county's juvenile detention facility.

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