Dana Chandler traveled to Topeka to attend the funeral of her ex-husband several days after he was killed alongside his fiancee in July 2002.
Meanwhile, authorities were searching her Denver apartment for evidence she had made a purchase at a gas station three hours west of Topeka on the day of the killings. Chandler returned home to find a search warrant on her kitchen counter.
"This was when I realized law enforcement was trying to put me in Kansas the week of the murders," she said during a hearing Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court.
Chandler, 59, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness. A conviction at the 2012 trial was overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court for prosecutorial misconduct.
Defending herself ahead of a retrial in the highly publicized case, Chandler asked District Judge Robert Fairchild to exclude information gathered by police in WaKeeney when the case is argued before a jury.
Chandler also agreed to abandon her hope for a speedy trial, opting instead for more time to argue more than 50 unresolved issues with the evidence in the case. Fairchild canceled a trial that was scheduled for September and will wait to set a new date until Chandler has a chance to argue her litany of motions.
"I don't care to try this case three times," the judge said. "I don't think anybody does."
The first trial — featured by "48 Hours," the CBS program that touted its ability to turn up the heat on the capital city cold case — included police accounts of two women who worked at an Amaco in WaKeeney. Detectives traveled Interstate 70 after the killings to ask gas station attendants if they had seen Chandler purchase gas.
One woman told police she saw a black car like Chandler's with Virginia plates but didn't see the driver. At a preliminary hearing nine years later, the woman changed her account. She claimed to have seen Chandler and testified the car had Colorado plates. During the trial, she reverted to her initial statement.
At the time of the killings, Chandler's car had Arizona plates.
Another woman at the gas station said she saw someone who looked like Chandler buying a book around the time of the killings. This witness couldn't be questioned by the defense because she died in 2006.
In the weeks leading up to the first trial, authorities reached out to the manager of the WaKeeney gas station. The manager, who was allowed to testify, remembered observing the conversation between a detective and the deceased colleague a decade earlier.
Chandler said there isn't evidence she was in WaKeeney. Police found no receipts at her apartment. The testimony, Chandler said, merely allowed the prosecutor, former deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling, to build inferences upon inferences — a misleading tactic cited in the high court's reversal of Chandler's convictions.
Appearing in blue fatigues from the county jail, Chandler broke down at one point as she pleaded with Fairchild to shield the jury from sources who couldn't positively identify her or her car in WaKeeney.
"That was a figment of their imagination," Chandler said. "That was not my car."
Dan Dunbar, a prosecutor with the district attorney's office, said the judge shouldn't block the testimony just because Chandler disagrees with it.
When the Supreme Court reversed the decision in the case, Dunbar said, it cautioned against repeating Spradling's mistakes. The court took issue with Spradling's false claims about internet searches and a nonexistent protection order, as well as Spradling comments about Chandler's post-arrest silence and trying to outsmart people. The court also took issue with Spradling telling the jury Chandler robbed her children of their father.
The court could have referenced the WaKeeney testimony but didn't include it in the list of problems, Dunbar said.
Justices reversed the earlier decision "for one main issue," Dunbar said, "and that's prosecutorial misconduct. Plain and simple — that's why this case came back."
Those errors won't happen again, Dunbar said.
Fairchild planned to rule on the WaKeeney issue, among other concerns raised by Chandler, at a later date.