Kahler unable to pay for defense, requesting court-appointed attorneys

Thursday, September 8, 2011 | 12:55 p.m. CDT

TOPEKA, Kan. — A man facing the death penalty after being convicted of killing four members of his family in Kansas said in a court filing that he needs court-appointed attorneys because the costs of his trial and a trust fund for his son have left him broke.

James Kraig Kahler, 48, is specifically asking an Osage County judge to appoint the attorneys who represented him at his trial to continue to serve as his attorneys, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Thursday.

Kahler, a former city utilities director in Weatherford, Texas, and Columbia, was convicted Aug. 25 of killing Karen Kahler, 44, his wife; daughters Emily Kahler, 18, and Lauren Kahler, 16; and Dorothy Wight, 89, grandmother of Karen Kahler, at a Burlingame, Kan., home on Thanksgiving Day weekend in 2009. His son, Sean, was able to escape the rampage.

The Osage County jury that convicted him also recommended that he be sentenced to death. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 11.

After his arrest, Kahler hired Tom Haney and Amanda Vogelsberg to defend him. But Kahler's funds "are exhausted" because of the trial and a trust account established for Sean, who is now 12 years old, court records said.

Kahler was a utilities director for Weatherford, Texas, before becoming director of the Columbia Water and Light Department. Testimony during the trial indicated his retirement income of $2,200 a month was placed in the trust account for his son, for a total of $26,400 a year.

In the court filing, Kahler said he can't pay anything toward his defense, doesn't own a home or land and doesn't receive any income. He listed a 1992 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle valued at $500 as his only asset. Kahler also listed child support of $100 a month.