"My Dad's Killer": A daughter's journey for justice
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- Extra: Hailey Sisco's victim impact statement
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Karen Harkness and Mike Sisco (family photo)
After all the tears and all the testimony, the toughest part of this trial is about to begin -- closing arguments and the wait for a verdict.
Once again, Deputy D.A. Jacqie Spradling relies on evidence gathered by Hailey Sisco, including an instant message Dana sent to Hailey about Hailey's father: "I cannot continue to have that bastard in my life anymore."
In an email to her then 14-year-old daughter, Dana slams Karen Harkness too: "I know she is tramp, and I pray to God you never go there."
"Demonstrates to you the level that the defendant hated Mike Sisco, demonstrates to you the level the defendant hated Karen Harkness," Spradling addressed jurors.
"Where's the evidence? Where's the evidence?" Mark Bennett emphatically asked the court.
It's a familiar refrain and the crux of Bennett's case.
"All this time, they've been tryin' to put her in Kansas when this happened. And for nine-and-a -half years, they've come up dry," he told the court.
Except for Patty Williams, the truck stop clerk who told police she was almost certain she saw Dana Chandler in Kansas the night of the murders. Even though she's dead, she still could be a major factor in this case. Shortly before the trial started, the prosecution got their hands on jailhouse phone recordings between Chandler and her sister, Shirley:
Dana Chandler: "I'll be wanting to talk about that Patty Williams ... she's dead."
Shirley: "I know. That's huge for you, yes. That's huge for you."
Dana Chandler: "...because that, you know, little piece of information could potentially put me in Kansas. But that's the only thing."
"The defendant is celebrating with -- right alongside Shirley-- the fact that ... the person who could put her in Kansas is dead and cannot come and testify against her," Spradling told Schlesinger.
Shirley: "I am feelin' -- today was such a good day."
"This defendant is guilty," Spradling continued in court.
Finally, Spradling urges the jury to end the 10-year ordeal for the victims' families.
"You're the end of this story," she continued. " Come back to us and tell us the word we all want to hear. Tell us guilty."
And with that the case goes to the jury at 2:37 p.m. Despite a courtroom filled with circumstantial evidence, prosecutors are still filled with worry.
"Do we have the right jury? And are they going to allow this to happen without that smoking gun or that fingerprint," D.A. Chad Taylor wondered.
They wouldn't have to wait long for an answer. At 4 p.m., there's a verdict. The jury's been out just 83 minutes.
"This could go either way, what are you feeling?" Richard Schlesinger asked Mark Boots.
"Is it -- that quick, does that mean it's gonna be guilty? Or does that mean they didn't buy into any of this," he replied.
The last few minutes waiting for the jury to announce its verdict were agonizing as the victims families fight to keep their composure.
The jury finds Dana Chandler guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. She barely has a reaction; her children are overwhelmed with emotion.
Hailey has been fighting for this moment for almost 10 years; A daughter forced to pursue her own mother.
"I don't feel victorious. I don't think there's any winners at all. There's justice but that's about it," she said of the verdict. "You know, my dad's not coming back and neither is Karen ... and that's the truth, that's the bottom line" (Hailey's voice sort of cracking here)
And here's the last great irony in this case. Even though Patty Williams never lived to tell the jury what she saw, the jury believed her story and it was all because of Dana Chandler's chat with her sister, Shirley.
"So in the end, it was the defendant's own statements that got in what we otherwise could not have," Spradling told Schlesinger.
Five months after the jury's verdict, Hailey and Dustin will have to see their mother at least one more time at her sentencing. This time Dana Chandler arrives in shackles representing herself:
"I absolutely deny I ever stalked Mike or Karen. And there's been no evidence presented that I did," Dana told the judge. "But most importantly, I deny that I murdered Mike or Karen. I am innocent. I did not murder Mike or Karen."
Six members of Mike and Karen's families want to tell Dana what she did to them and ask the judge to give her a life sentence:
"Dana, your murdered my brother and my friend," an emotional Cathy Boots said. "And I will not allow you to take one more second of my time. Not one more second!"
But it's Hailey, speaking for herself and her brother, who has the last word for the Sisco family:
"We each have a deep scar on our souls from what this monster has done. But I will stand here today and tell you that we are survivors ... we will live the fullest lives that we can because that's what my dad woulda wanted for us. Dana could care less about us and our struggles. But my dad wants us to flourish while we're on this earth. And that's what we're gonna do ... for you Dad," she says in tears, looking to the sky.
Dana Chandler is given two life sentences; one for killing Mike Sisco and one for killing Karen Harkness.
And with Dana Chandler locked away, the Siscos are finally free.
"So five years from now, what do you think you'll be doing?" Schlesinger asked Hailey.
"Married and with a family and doing well," she replied.
"You wanna be a mom?"
"I do very bad," she said, choking up. "I wanna be everything my mom wasn't."
Hailey Sisco is engaged to be married.
Dana Chandler must serve 100 years before she can ask for parole.
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