WICHITA (AP) — The father of Newton murder victims says the Kansas legal system failed his loved ones because it kept a man's sex offender status below the radar long enough to kill his daughter and granddaughter.
Keith Hawkins, 19, was charged Aug. 8 with capital murder, just hours after Alyssa Runyon, 24, and her daughter Zaylynn Paz, 4, were found dead in their Newton home, at 15 Roanoke Court.
Harvey County attorney David Yoder said Wednesday that Hawkins previously was supposed to be arrested for failing to register as a sex offender but that a warrant wasn't filed in time due to a backlog of cases.
According to a records search by the Newton Kansan, the warrant was returned to district court as undeliverable. Hawkins address was listed as "homeless."
Yoder said during a previous press conference that Hawkins was bouncing from place to place, and was "basically homeless."
He said even if a warrant was filed, he can't speculate on whether Hawkins would've been arrested before the killings.
"There wasn't anything in the nature of this case that said the public was in immediate danger of a horrible crime like this," Yoder said. "You can't go back and look at what ifs."
Runyon's father, Edward Runyon, says the system failed the victims because it kept Hawkins' status from public disclosure and didn't hold him fully accountable for failing to register his address.
"I feel like the public should have known he was out and about," Edward Runyon said. "Somebody has got to be held accountable for where these people are at all times."
Court records show Hawkins was found guilty of aggravated indecent liberties with a 5-year-old girl when he was 12 and was sentenced to one year of probation in 2011. He was listed only on the part of the sex offender registry seen by law enforcement because judges have discretion on whether juvenile offenders are placed on the public list.
According to records searches by The Newton Kansan and The Hutchinson News, Hawkins' involvement with the legal system and the Kansas Department of Corrections did not end with the probation and requirement of registration. As reported Aug. 15 by The Newton Kansan, Hawkins was sentenced to an intensive supervision probation for one year. That was to begin in October of 2011. In 2014, he entered case management and Kansas Department of Corrections custody. In 2015 he was sentenced to 24 months, with six months of aftercare at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Larned. Later that year he was transferred to Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility.
In 2016 his sentence was modified, allowing for his release from the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility on Aug. 1 with six months of aftercare. He was released from custody via court order on Feb. 22 of this year. His court-ordered aftercare ended July 31.
He was accused of a double homicide Aug. 8 in connection with the deaths of 4-year-old Zaylynn Paz and her 24-year-old mother Alyssa Runyon. Paz was found stabbed to death while Runyon was found strangled in their home.
Hawkins was later arrested in Texas. Hawkins was involved in a chase, driving over spike strips before losing control and crashing into two vehicles and Christian Brothers Automotive in Hutto, Texas. He was driving the victim's vehicle when he arrived at a family member's residence.
He has been appointed counsel from the Death Penalty Defense Unit, as capital murder can carry with it a possible death penalty. He is charged with capitol murder and two cases of first-degree murder.
Republican Rep. John Whitmer of Wichita agreed with Edward Runyon that the system failed the two victims in the recent case. Whitmer said he'll push for legislation to address Runyon's concerns, including a proposal to increase the penalty for failure to register.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report with information from The Wichita Eagle.