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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Man facing life sentence found dead

  • A rural Leavenworth County man who was facing a life sentence in prison in a child molestation case was found dead Wednesday night near his residence, law enforcement and prosecution officials confirmed.
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  • A rural Leavenworth County man who was facing a life sentence in prison in a child molestation case was found dead Wednesday night near his residence, law enforcement and prosecution officials confirmed.
    Stephen M. Russell, 39, did not die of natural causes, but his case is not being investigated as a homicide, Undersheriff Jim Sherley said.
    Russell was convicted in 2011 of aggravated criminal sodomy. He received a life sentence, but was released on a $400,000 bond while his case was being appealed.
    The Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in a decision released July 5.
    Russell petitioned the Kansas Supreme Court to review his case. The petition was denied Dec. 27, Assistant County Attorney Cheryl Marquardt said.
    Leavenworth County District Court received a mandate regarding the appellate decision Tuesday.
    Marquardt said ordinarily a hearing would have been scheduled and a notice to appear would have been sent to the defendant. During the hearing, the judge would have ordered the defendant taken into custody to begin serving his sentence.
    Russell was convicted of a crime that reportedly occurred in 2007 in Lansing. The victim was 11 or 12 at the time.
    The jury convicted Russell of one of three counts of aggravated criminal sodomy. He was acquitted of the other two charges.
    Russell received the life sentence under what is known as Jessica's Law, which calls for harsh sentences in cases involving sexual crimes against children.
    Russell wouldn't have been eligible for parole until serving at least 25 years of the life sentence.
    Court records indicated Russell posted his appeal bond using four bond agencies.
    He wore an electronic monitoring device while free on his appeal bond, Marquardt said.
    While the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, the appellate judges set aside an order that Russell be subject to lifetime post-release supervision after he was paroled from his life sentence.
    The appellate judges ruled the district judge had erred when he ordered lifetime post-release supervision instead of parole.
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