Dana Chandler, accused in 2002 double murder in Topeka, to go to trial for third time

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A woman accused in a Topeka double murder will face a jury for the third time — but not in Shawnee County — in a controversial saga that has now spanned two decades.

Four weeks ago, Dana L. Chandler’s second trial ended with a hung jury.

Prosecutors with the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office and Chandler’s defense team were back in court Thursday.

Chandler was walked into the courtroom shortly after 4 p.m. in handcuffs and shackles, but not in a jail uniform.

Shawnee County Judge Cheryl Rios denied a defense motion to acquit Chandler, but granted a change of venue and lowered the 62-year-old’s bond from $1 million to $350,000.

In moving the location for the third trial, Rios said jury selection in the second trial was a “difficult, arduous process.” They got through the trial “by the skin of our teeth,” after jurors were exposed to information about the case by no fault of their own, Rios said.

Chandler is accused of killing her ex-husband and his fiancee in 2002. The case garnered national attention in 2009 when it was featured on CBS’ “48 Hours.” The police investigation dragged on for years until Chandler was arrested in 2011.

She was found guilty at the end of the first trial in 2012 and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. But the convictions were reversed in 2018 after the Kansas Supreme Court concluded her case was marred by prosecutorial misconduct.

Former prosecutor Jacqie Spradling was disbarred in May over misconduct in two cases including Chandler’s.

After years of delays, Chandler’s second trial began July 28 with jury selection in Topeka.

During opening statements on Aug. 5, prosecutors said Chandler had caused “problems” with her her ex-husband Mike Sisco and his fiancee Karen Harkness by showing up at their home and calling them repeatedly. The case was based on “jealousy, rage and obsession.”

Chandler’s legal team argued that she was hundreds of miles away when the couple was killed and that a crime scene reconstruction showed the shooter was likely taller than Chandler. Attorney Tom Bath said no DNA connected her to the murders.

The case went to the jury on Aug. 25. But a week later, the jury announced it could not reach a verdict. The split was 7-5, with the majority voting in favor of conviction.

Two jurors attended Thursday’s hearing. Both voted to acquit Chandler. Jury foreman Ben Alford said he was surprised the prosecutor’s office opted to retry Chandler, and that he believes their case relied on speculation and emotion.

“Even in a different county, I have a hard time finding this is going to be a different story,” Alford said.

A status conference on the venue is set for Oct. 11.

The third trial, scheduled to take four weeks, is tentatively set for Feb. 6.