A 21-year-old Walmart attendant has been charged with raping and murdering a Kansas homecoming queen then dumping her body in a field.
Dustin Leftwich could face the death penalty if convicted of capital murder in the slaying of 18-year-old Brenna Morgart.
The Topeka man was initially charged with premeditated first-degree murder but the charge was upgraded on Wednesday after new evidence came to light, which added rape to his long list of indictments.
Ms Morgart, a Sunday school teacher and cross-country runner, was found dead on May 25, just five days after graduating from Seaman High School.
Her family reported her missing at around 3.45pm when she failed to return after going on a jog about 10am.
Police said she was killed after being struck by a car on Jennings Road, three miles from where her body was found.
Besides the murder and rape charges, Mr Leftwich is also charged with the aggravated kidnapping of Ms Morgart, aggravated battery and misdemeanor reporting false information tied to the vehicular accident in connection with her death.
He has pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping and murder charges, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
If Mr Leftwich is convicted of capital murder, a jury would decide whether to recommend the death penalty. The judge would make the final decision on whether to sentence Mr Leftwich to death or to life in prison without parole.
After Wednesday’s hearing, District Attorney Chad Taylor told the Capital-Journal that his office decided to file the capital murder charge ‘when (it) received further results in the investigation.’ He didn’t elaborate on what those results were.
On July 16, the judge had ruled prosecutors could conduct DNA testing on potential evidence.
The evidence included possible seminal fluid and blood found on underwear, a rape kit, and finger swipe marks on the inside of a vehicle trunk.
Mr Leftwich is also facing an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge stemming from a separate incident on June 29, 2011 in which he allegedly ran down a 14-year-old girl with his car.
In 2009, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl and had 10 days left on his probation when he was arrested in the slaying of Ms Morgart.
Mr Leftwich lives at home with his parents and sister and worked at Walmart for about a month before being arrested, earning $286 a week. He will next appear in court on January 10.
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