UPDATE: Son of slaying suspect to testify by video link

Thursday, May 20, 2010 | 5:16 p.m. CDT; updated 6:11 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 20, 2010

LYNDON, Kan. — An 11-year-old boy who fled a shooting rampage that left his mother, two sisters and great-grandmother dead will not have to testify in person against his father, who is accused in the deadly attack, a judge has ruled.

An Osage County judge ruled Wednesday that Sean Kahler will testify via a remote television at the June 22-23 preliminary hearing for his father, James Kraig Kahler.

Kahler is charged with capital murder in the deaths of his wife, 44-year-old Karen Kahler; his daughters, 18-year-old Emily and 16-year-old Lauren; and Karen Kahler's grandmother, 89-year-old Dorothy Wight. The shootings happened Nov. 28 at Wight's home in Burlingame, Kan., where the victims were celebrating Thanksgiving.

Sean Kahler, who was 10 at the time, fled the home as the attack took place and was not injured.

Kahler, the former director of Columbia Water & Light, had been sued by his wife for divorce in January 2009.

A social worker said at a hearing Wednesday that testifying in court while his father watched could damage the boy's therapy, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

"This is about strong emotions he has had for his father (and) the loss of his mother and sisters," said Phillip Newman, who has provided about 50 hours of therapy for Sean. "Those emotions are still raw. He's in the middle of it."

Magistrate Judge Jon Stephen Jones ruled that the boy could testify by closed-circuit TV because of the trauma and emotional distress that would result from testifying in front of his father.

Karen Kahler sought a divorce following an altercation in Columbia that led to a domestic assault charge against her husband. He resigned from the city's Water & Light Department when a friend of his wife expressed concern to city officials about her safety.

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