Psychiatrist: Killer of Lesbian Wife, Daughters ’Lost Control’
A psychiatrist testified during a sentencing hearing Monday that a Kansas man had lost control mentally on the night he shot and killed four family members in November 2009.
James Kraig Kahler was convicted Friday on four counts of capital murder in the deaths of his estranged wife, their two teenage daughters and his wife’s grandmother at the older woman’s home in Burlingame. Kahler’s attorneys said he committed the crimes after his spouse took a lesbian lover and filed for divorce.
Jurors began hearing testimony Monday on whether Kahler should be sentenced to death or spend life in prison. The jury must decide unanimously that Kahler should receive the death penalty.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports (http://bit.ly/r5LBP7) that defense psychiatrist Stephen Peterson testified Kahler was suffering from severe, major depression when he shot the victims.
"To me, it sounded like the actions of someone who completely lost control," Peterson said. "He had shot the people he loved the most."
The victims of the shootings were Karen Kahler, 44; her grandmother, Dorothy Wight, 89; and the Kahlers’ daughters, Emily, 18, and Lauren, 16. Kraig and Karen Kahler’s son, Sean, now 12, was at the scene but wasn’t threatened and escaped without physical injuries.
Defense attorneys contend he was severely depressed and snapped under the strain of his crumbling family and professional lives. Kahler, 48, a former city utilities director in Weatherford, Texas, and Columbia, Mo., had lost the latter job after his deteriorating mental health caused his work to suffer, and he moved back to Kansas just weeks before the killings to live with his parents outside Topeka.