Hawkins enters guilty plea, agrees to life in prison without parole

Carly Willis/KSN news

HARVEY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Swift justice is how Harvey County officials are describing the court process for a double murder that shook Newton.

Keith Hawkins, 20, is charged with capital murder in the double homicide of 24-year-old Alyssa Runyon and 4-year-old Zaylynn Paz of Newton in August. Hawkins was needing a place to stay, and Runyon was allowing him to stay in her home. Runyon was found on August 8 strangled but ultimately beaten to death in her home, along with daughter Zaylynn who was stabbed to death.

On Friday in court, Hawkins pleaded guilty to capital murder, waiving a trial. He will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole. This will spare the victim’s family from reliving the harrowing details in a possible years-long trial.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen as egregious and painful and as senseless of case as we have dealt with here,” Harvey County attorney David Yoder said.

In an unprecedented move, Yoder said Hawkins will present a written statement to the family following his sentencing.

“That was something the family wanted to know. They wanted to know why. They wanted to know the specifics, why he did it, why it happened, anybody else he communicated with and was involved with in the process,” Yoder said.

Yoder called it “unusual” but Hawkins and his defense agreed to the request.

The state threw out two first-degree murder charges and a charge in a separate case of Hawkins’ failing to register as an offender in exchange for his life in prison without parole. The death penalty will not be pursued.

Hawkins requested a “no contact order” placed on he and his mother be lifted. His mother was listed as a witness in the case. The judge granted the lift and Hawkins will be able to communicate with his mother during his time in jail.

Hawkins will be sentenced February 9.

Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.