Carnival workers arrested in deaths of Kansas fair vendors

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three carnival workers have been arrested in the deaths of two vendors who disappeared from a fair in Kansas and whose bodies were found days later in a shallow grave in an Arkansas forest.

Police Cpl. Jonathan Wear said the suspects have been jailed without bond in Van Buren, Arkansas, on suspicion of abuse of a corpse, felony theft and tampering with physical evidence in the deaths of Sonny and Pauline Carpenter of Wichita, Kansas.

No charges have been filed. He said he didn’t know if the two men and one woman who have been arrested had attorneys.

Authorities believe the Carpenters were killed Friday after meeting the carnival workers as the couple sold crafts, jewelry, purses and other handmade items during the fair in Barton County, Kansas, Wear said.

He couldn’t provide a cause of death, saying the bodies would be sent for an autopsy.

Alfred “Sonny” Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter

Investigators believe the carnival workers used the couple’s recreational vehicle Saturday to drive the bodies 320 miles (515 kilometers) to Van Buren, Arkansas, where a relative of one of the workers lives. Wear said authorities suspect the bodies were buried Monday next to a creek bed outside the small community of Natural Dam in the Ozark National Forest.

Arkansas authorities began investigating after a fourth person who was traveling with the carnival called her sister and said she was scared, Wear said. The woman didn’t witness the killings but saw other elements related to the crime. He declined to be more specific.

The woman’s sister then called police around midnight Tuesday, and officers went to an apartment complex in Van Buren where the carnival workers were staying. Authorities found the bodies the next morning hidden beneath a mattress that had been buried under rocks.

Wear said police aren’t releasing a motive at this time.