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Khari Sanford convicted in UW Arboretum killings

Deliberations lasted for just over three hours Monday.
The jury has found Khari Sanford guilty Monday in the killings of Robin Carre and Dr. Beth Potter.
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 2:17 PM CDT|Updated: May. 23, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The jury has found Khari Sanford guilty Monday in the killings of Robin Carre and Dr. Beth Potter, who were kidnapped and shot in the UW Arboretum over two years ago.

Sanford was found guilty of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide. He faces a life sentence in prison. It will be determined at a sentencing hearing if Sanford will be eligible for the possibility of parole.

The Dane County jury, made up of 13 men and three women, reached a verdict just over three hours after going into deliberations.

Judge Ellen Berz thanked the jury for their service during the trial, calling it a “necessary and essential” part of the justice system. She also praised the work of both the prosecution and the defense before adjourning.

“I have never seen a trial better advocated on both sides than in this case,” Berz said. “You are all excellent advocates for your sides. I’m very impressed.”

Verdict: The jury finds Khari Sanford guilty on both counts of first-degree intentional homicide.

Posted by Colton Molesky NBC15 on Monday, May 23, 2022

UW-Madison Police Department Chief expressed her thoughts to the family of Carre and Potter, saying that it has been a “painful two years.” She also commended her officers on their work over the course of this investigation.

“Fortunately, it’s not the type of case that we see on campus very often, so the fact that our folks sort of sprung into action and really within days had suspects in custody, so they’ve been working around the clock very hard the last two years and obviously, I think were able to bring justice today,” Roman said.

Outgoing UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank thanked UWPD officers who worked on the case in a statement on Twitter, saying they worked to help pursue justice for the family of the victims.

After the state announced that it would not be calling any more witnesses Monday, attorneys for Khari Sanford revealed they would not not call any witnesses to the stand in Dane County Court and the defendant indicated that he would not be testifying. Judge Berz spoke directly with Sanford, saying it should be a personal choice for him to speak or not speak in his own trial.

Court was in a break following the defense’s announcement until 3 p.m. Monday and then both sides delivered closing arguments. The jury then received instructions before breaking off to discuss the verdict.

Judge Ellen Berz said that Sanford had been “acting out” in a violent matter Monday behind the scenes toward deputies. The judge advised the defense that if Sanford starts acting out, they should move away. If he needs to be restrained, the judge said it won’t count as a mistrial against him.

As prosecutors began closing arguments, they led by detailing the fears that the Madison couple had regarding the coronavirus. The prosecutor pointed at Sanford and said that “They should be living in fear of Khari Sanford.”

Potter was at a greater risk of contracting the virus, which is why she moved her daughter Miriam Carre and Sanford into an Airbnb rather than having them stay in the home.

During the defense’s closing arguments, they described Sanford as a “typical teenager in an atypical time.” The defense also talked about the alleged accomplice in this case, Alijah Larrue, and how she believed he was only speaking with prosecutors because it benefitted him. Larrue was a key witness in the case for the prosecution. He alleged last week that Sanford demanded him to drive the vehicle used to kidnap the victims before shooting them at the UW Arboretum.

Sanford, 21, is accused of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the deaths of Robin Carre and Dr. Beth Potter. The charges previously had an enhancer of “with use of a dangerous weapon,” which was dropped Monday after a motion by the state.

A series of officials testified Monday about evidence collected over the course of the investigation.

UW-Madison Police Department Detective Peter Grimyser told the court about DNA collected from inside the van allegedly used to kidnap the Madison couple. He explained that the collection process was difficult due to the suspect and victims using the same van.

Matt Shaw, also with UWPD, stated that he attended the autopsies for both victims and collected DNA evidence from them. He also collected bullet fragments recovered from Potter’s body. These DNA samples, which also included DNA from a mask and pants found in a trash can by the Airbnb that Sanford and his then-girlfriend Miriam Carre were staying at the time of the crimes, were taken by Shaw to a crime laboratory to be analyzed.

UWPD Digital Forensics Detective Matt Schirmacher took the stand, revealing that he was able to analyze Sanford’s cell phone. Schirmacher stated that it took five months to get into the phone due to the Apple OS that Sanford’s phone was using. Schirmacher found that data tracking points in the phone had been deleted by the operating system. Schirmacher said that text messages were also deleted.

Schirmacher did determine when Sanford’s cell phone was locked and unlocked on the day of the alleged homicides, noting it was locked at 9:25 p.m. and wasn’t unlocked until 11:56 p.m. that night. Sanford’s Google searches were also revealed that he searched for his alleged accomplice Alijah Larue’s address at a McDonalds. Schirmacher also stated that Sanford downloaded a police scanner app the next day and then deleted it shortly later.

Sanford also reportedly searched “how long does it take to know who died” and “When did police say who died.”

Heather Williams with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab in Milwaukee noted that all four fired shell casings recovered from the scene came from the same gun.

The jury heard from the alleged accomplice of Sanford Friday, who accused Sanford of demanding him to drive the vehicle used to kidnap the victims before shooting them at the UW Arboretum. Alijah Larrue, 20, pleaded guilty last year to two counts of felony murder kidnapping for the deaths of Potter and Carre in March of 2020. In exchange for the plea, the two counts of party to the crime of first-degree homicide against him were dropped.

If convicted, Sanford faces a mandatory life sentence in prison.

Judge Ellen Berz announced before the trial started that the media was barred from all video or audio streaming or recording. Only still images are allowed to be taken in court. She did allow the media to record the reading of the verdict.

The jury has begun deliberations Monday to decide Khari Sanford’s fate following five days of testimony in the double homicide trial.

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