Sanford gets life with no parole in killings at UW Arboretum

Alijah Larrue was sentenced later in the day to eight years in prison, plus extended supervision
Khari Sanford returned to the Dane Co. courthouse on Wednesday knowing he was going to receive mandatory life sentences.
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 9:16 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 6:52 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - One of two men convicted in the kidnapping and killing of a Madison couple who were discovered at the UW Arboretum will spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of being released, a Dane Co. judge ruled.

Khari Sanford returned to the Dane Co. courthouse on Wednesday knowing he was going to receive mandatory life sentences. The only question would be whether he would get a chance at being paroled. Defense attorneys had asked that Sanford be allowed to request a hearing in 25 years to consider an early release.

Rejecting the possibility of Sanford one day petitioning to be released, Judge Ellen Berz noted that the killings were premeditated and that Sanford had shown no remorse after hearing that one of the victims, Dr. Beth Potter, and did not immediately die from her injuries.

“You took a step that no human who wants to live in society would take,” Judge Berz said. “It is inexplicable why these two people who only showed kindness and generosity to you and to everyone in the community… you would gun down. It makes no sense.”

Twenty-one-year-old Sanford said childhood trauma and abuse severely impacted his mental health.

“That was me with a broken family at five, seven, 16 and 18 years old forced to grow up, be the adult and role model for my younger siblings because the people who were supposed to be the adults in our lives chose to be the child,” Sanford said.

He acknowledged that Dr. Potter and Carre were trying to help him live a better life and build a better future.

“They tried to be that adult for me,” he said.

Sanford was convicted earlier this year on two counts of first-degree homicide in the March 2020 deaths of Potter and Robin Carre, while the other defendant, Alijah Larrue, pleaded guilty to a pair of felony murder charges last year.

Berz’ sentence came in the first of two hearings Wednesday during which both of them learned their fates.

Khari Sanford appears on trial for the deaths of a Madison couple on May 20, 2022.
Khari Sanford appears on trial for the deaths of a Madison couple on May 20, 2022.(NBC15/Pool Camera)

Just hours later, Alijah Larrue appeared before Berz. Almost a year to the day before Sanford’s conviction, he had pleaded guilty to two counts of felony murder - kidnapping, but his sentencing had been delayed until after Sanford’s case was completed.

Prosecutors had said he had helped Sanford kill Potter and Carre, who were the adoptive parents of Sanford’s girlfriend. In exchange for his plea, the first-degree homicide charges against him were dropped. For each of the two murder charges, Larrue was given eight years in prison, to be followed by a decade of extended supervision, with both sentences to be served concurrently.

During his hearing, Larrue apologized for his role in Potter and Carre’s deaths and expressed his hope that one day their families would be able to forgive him.

“Thirty months later, I still don’t know why this took place,” he continued. “I blame myself every night for not calling police.”

Prosecutors pointed to the same fact, that Larrue did not call police that night, during the sentencing hearing, arguing “the fact that Mr. Larrue wasn’t aware the murders were going to happen doesn’t absolve him. Why didn’t he call law enforcement and give them the information?’

Alijah Larrue
Alijah Larrue(Dane Co. Sheriff's Office)

In March 2020, joggers had discovered the victims at the Arboretum. Carre, 57, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Potter, 52, was taken to a local hospital where she later died.

Autopsies indicated they had been shot in the back of the head, apparently the night before they were found. At the time UW Police Dept. Chief Kristen Roman described the crime as “calculated, cold-blooded, and senseless.”

During Sanford’s trial, prosecutors argued Potter and Carre were killed of a dispute over social distancing restrictions caused by COVID-19 pandemic. A friend of Potter told detectives Sanford and the daughter were moved out of their home into an AirBnB because they were not following social distancing rules due to COVID-19 concerns, according to the criminal complaint.

Additionally, the complaint reported a friend of Sanford’s told detectives she heard the daughter tell Sanford her parents were rich, and she knew how they could get money.

Beth Potter, MD, and Robin Carre, PhD
Beth Potter, MD, and Robin Carre, PhD(UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health)

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.”