[Editor’s note: The following report includes graphic details from public court proceedings that some readers might find unsettling.]
In Tequa Creek’s still waters, the corner of a suitcase caught the eye of a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy.
Law enforcement, the Johnson County crime lab, a medical examiner and the Pottawatomie Township dive team responded May 11, 2013, to Osage County’s Bridge No. 60 on 317th Street, which became the fifth crime scene in a quadruple homicide, Stephen Hunting, Franklin County attorney, said in his opening statements in the trial of Kyle T. Flack.
“In just a few hours, it’ll be Mothers Day, he said. “It’s May 11, 2013, and at this point in the evening, the sun has set, darkness has fallen, and there’s a group of officers and they’re huddled together on a bridge.”
Hunting described how the dive team slowly waded through the creek that night to retrieve the little black suitcase, expecting to find the body of 18-month-old Lana Leigh Bailey.
“They place that suitcase in a bag and before they zip up that bag, a gloved hand of a crime scene technician reaches down, grabs the zipper to that suitcase and starts to open it up,” Hunting said.
“There’s a group of dedicated individuals standing around the suitcase, wondering and waiting, what is in that suitcase. And more specifically, is the what a who?” he continued.
Inside was Lana Bailey, who law enforcement had searched for since May 6, when they found her mother, Kaylie Bailey, 21, and two other bodies at 3197 Georgia Road in Ottawa.
On the ninth day of Flack’s trial Thursday, Hunting presented photos of the dead child, the last victim shown to jurors. Three photos at the morgue — two of Lana curled up in the suitcase and one cropped to show her fatal wound from a shotgun blast — were admitted as evidence, as well as photos documenting her retrieval.
Flack, 30, has pleaded not guilty to the murders. He is charged with capital murder in the deaths of the two Baileys, premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of Andrew Stout, 30, and Steven White, 31, criminal possession of a firearm, and misdemeanor sexual battery against Kaylie Bailey.
His defense team objected during the trial, as well as in pretrial hearings, to photographs of the bodies, arguing they were prejudicial and could inflame the jury. District Judge Eric W. Godderz previously reviewed all photographs and rule that several were too gruesome, but some could be admitted at trial.
All four victims died as a result of blasts from a 12-guage shotgun and then were somehow hidden, either under items or thrown into the wooded creek, prosecutors said.
Lana Bailey was killed immediately with one shotgun blast to her back that created a “tunnel of destruction” through her small body, Erik Mitchell, a Kansas City forensic pathologist who said he has performed more than 12,000 autopsies, testified Thursday.
Mitchell said Lana Bailey suffered extensive internal damage to her liver and right lung, as well as multiple broken ribs. He said the shot was fired from an intermediate range, though he could not give an exact distance.
Prosecutors have said Lana Bailey was killed soon after her mother May 1 in the master bedroom at the Georgia Road residence, where Kaylie Bailey's and Stout's bodies were found.
The study of stomach contents suggest Lana Bailey had eaten a meal consisting of raisins, which was fed to her May 1 according to last week’s testimony from her grandmother Lisa Smith.
Blake Reker, an Osage County Sheriff’s deputy, testified Thursday about the trail of diapers he saw on the creek’s steep bank that led him to believe the search for Lana Bailey might be over.
He said he was patrolling county roads that afternoon, paying attention to culverts, ditches and bridges in hopes of aiding in the search. When he saw trash, including the unused diapers and a Walgreen’s prescription with the toddler’s name, he said he called his sheriff.
Prosecutors have said Flack traveled in Kaylie Bailey’s car from 3197 Georgia Road in Ottawa, where the three adult bodies were found, on May 3 to Emporia along I-35 and left the suitcase in the creek on the way.
However, soil from only one wheel well of Kaylie Bailey’s car matched soil from the rural road, an FBI geologist forensic examiner testified Thursday.
Jodi Blakely Webb, with the FBI’s Trace Evidence Unit in Virginia, said she compared the soil’s color, texture and composition to reach a conclusion about the source of the debris from the car.
Sixteen samples were collected January 2014 from Kaylie Bailey’s black Toyota Corolla parked in Emporia Police Department storage, Tammy Alexander, Franklin County detective, said.
“The possibility of wheel well soil coming from the road can’t be eliminated,” Webb said, about the rear passenger’s side.
Soil samples from the other three wheel wells did not match the soil taken from 317th Street, she said.
Flack’s defense team objected during the trial, as well as in pretrial hearings, to the opinions of Webb, but the judge overruled.
Alexander said the car was moved from the garage underneath the Emporia Police Department, where it was towed after it had been found parked at an east Emporia apartment complex.
Flack was detained May 8 a few miles to the west, at a friend’s apartment.
Amelia Arvesen is a Herald staff writer. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AmeliaArvesen.