Oct. 01--Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said he expects to file a motion later this week seeking to have 14-year-old Sam Vonachen tried as an adult in connection with the deaths of his mother and 11-year-old sister, who died from a Sept. 26 early-morning house fire.
If found guilty as an adult, Vonachen would face life in prison, Schroeder said. If he is tried as a juvenile, the court will only have jurisdiction over Vonachen until age 23.
Schroeder said he needs more information from investigators before he files the motion.
"I'm the one who gets the task of weighing a 14-year-old's life and what's best for the safety of the community," he said.
Reno County Chief District Judge Patricia Macke Dick said she considers criminal history, whether the juvenile system could help with rehabilitation, the seriousness of a crime and the safety of the public when deciding whether to try a defendant as a juvenile or adult.
She declined to comment further, however, because of Vonachen's pending case.
Vonachen, through a letter from his court-appointed attorney, waived his right to a detention hearing in Macke Dick's courtroom Monday morning. The hearing would have determined whether Vonachen needed to stay in detention or could be released. He remains in the Reno County Juvenile Detention Center.
Vonachen was arrested Thursday night and charged Friday with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of Karla Jo Vonachen, 47, and Audrey Vonachen, 11, as well as attempted first-degree murder for allegedly trying to kill his father, Steve Vonachen, who escaped the burning home without harm, and aggravated arson.
Schroeder said that so far, evidence indicated Vonachen thought about the act before Thursday evening. Investigators found accelerant throughout the first floor of the home and Schroeder said the teenager was not at the scene when firefighters arrived. He returned to the home hours later.
Smoke detectors awakened Steve Vonachen, who was asleep at the time the fire started, Schroeder said. The father saw a line of fire going up the staircase, as if it were an electrical cord, Schroeder said, as he went down the stairs to get a phone. However, the fire forced him outside.
According to her obituary, Karla Jo Vonachen was a 1985 Hutchinson High School graduate. She worked at Peel's Beauty Supply for 16 years and was employed at Lowen Corporation at the time of her death. She married Steve Vonachen in 1993.
Audrey Vonachen was a sixth-grader at Prosperity Elementary School. She played the trombone in the school band and was a member of the 56 Club at CrossPoint Church, her obituary states.
Memorials for both Karla and Audrey may be made the Hutchinson Animal Shelter or New Beginnings, both in care of Elliott Mortuary.
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