DA on Sam Vonachen life sentence: ‘This was a cold-blooded killer’

Sam Vonachen was sentenced to life on two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his mother and sister back in 2013. (KSN News)
Hutchinson fire, September 26, 2013 (KSN Photo/Nicholas Kieffer)

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – Sam Vonachen, who was found guilty of killing his mom and sister in a Hutchinson house fire, was sentenced Friday.

Vonachen was sentenced to life for two counts of first-degree murder, plus another 17 years for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated arson.

“She (the judge) ordered all of those to run concurrently at the same time so essentially amounts to one lifetime prison sentence,” said Keith E. Schroeder, Reno County District Attorney. “That is not what I asked for. I have to accept what the court imposes, but I’m pleased that we were able to get this behind us. This community needs to heal.”

Vonachen, now 18 years old, stood motionless as the judge handed down his sentence.

Vonachen, who was only 14 years old at the time, set the fire by pouring gasoline throughout the house. His 47-year-old mother, Karla Jo Vonachen, and his 11-year-old sister, Audrey, died. Sam’s father escaped the fire that engulfed the two-story house located at 19th and Main back on Sep. 26, 2013.

“He intended to kill his family. He planned it and he executed it. He did it because all people are bad,” Schroeder said.

In court on Friday, Schroeder argued Vonachen cannot be rehabilitated. He described the teen as a ‘homicidal psychopath.’

“He confessed to killing his family because quote-unquote, ‘I want people to die because human life is worthless,'” Schroeder said. “He has shown no remorse and there is no cure.”

The defense was quick to rebuke Schroeder’s claims.

“The statements that Samuel Vonachen is fundamentally impulsive, deceitful, doesn’t have feelings for other people, refuses to abide by authority are just false,” said Defense Attorney Lynn Burke.

Burke and Public Defender Sarah McKinnon fought hard to keep Vonachen’s sentence minimal citing people who know him best know he is a good person.

“Not one of them had anything bad to say about him, not one of them said he was impulsive. They did not say he was deceitful and they certainly did not say he does not have feelings for other people,” Burke said. “Friends and family are here to support him because they love him and he loves them.”

At one point during sentencing, Vonachen’s grandmother addressed the court.

“The only thing I can say is I love my grandson very much,” Vonachen’s grandmother said.

While Vonachen will spend life behind bars, he will be eligible for parole in 25 years. Schroeder said he’s disappointed with the judge’s sentence.

“He has never shown any remorse for it. He has never been upset  about any of his conduct. This was a cold-blooded killer,” Schroeder said.

The defense requested a new trial, but it was denied.

The Kansas Department of Corrections will evaluate Vonachen and decide where he will serve his sentence.


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