KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The acquittal of a man charged with the double murder of a Wyandotte County woman and her unborn baby is raising questions about how the district attorney’s office handled the case.
In a rare move, the jury made a statement, on the record, that they regretted having to find the defendant not guilty.
“When I heard about this today that murder suspect Magee got off, they had to acquit him because the district attorney’s office, one of the deputy district attorney’s, Darrell Smith, screwed it up,” former KCK Police Chief Terry Zeigler said, “it infuriated me, infuriated me.”
Zeigler was top cop at the department when 23-year-old Jocelyn Ybarra and her unborn baby were shot and killed.
Alora Mendoza and Nicholas Magee were both arrested and charged in their murders. Mendoza pleaded guilty in 2018, becoming a witness in Magee’s case.
“It’s hard to get a really rock solid case most of the time, but the detectives did a good job in this case,” Zeigler said.
“And I can tell you that because Mendoza turned around and gave a statement to the lead detective and told them who the shooter was and how it happened. She laid it all out for them. Doesn’t get much better than that in Wyandotte County”
“They, (the jury), I think considered all of the evidence and decided that he wasn’t guilty,” said Magee’s defense attorney Bill Dunn, who agrees there was not enough evidence presented.
Dunn was in court when the jury made its statement after the not guilty verdict. Read the transcription here.
“That was unusual. I’ve been doing this for 42 years, and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that,” Dunn said. “They wanted to make sure, I think, that the family members didn’t think they were being slighted or disrespected.”
FOX4 asked Dunn, “But they also said they didn’t think the prosecution put together a good enough case?”
Dunn answered, “Well obviously, you know?”
Sources close to the investigation said that much of the evidence provided to the Wyandotte County DA’s office by KCK police wasn’t presented, and the lead detective on the case, who had been subpoenaed and was waiting in the hallway, was never called to testify by Deputy District Attorney Darrell Smith.
“I have to say yes, generally, I expect to see the lead detective testify in a case and be available to answer questions about his investigation,” Dunn said.
“I don’t know why they did or didn’t. I guess that was a tactical move,” he continued. “I try to take advantage of that from my side and argued to the jury that maybe he should’ve been there and been available to answer questions.”
In response to FOX4’s request for an on-camera interview with Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, his office sent the following statement:
“Based on the evidence presented, the state believes there were two individuals involved in this homicide. We secured a conviction for one of the individuals that resulted in a 2nd degree murder conviction for each victim. That individual was sentenced to prison.
“The evidence connecting Nicholas Magee to the homicide was the statement of his co-defendant, who testified against him at trial. There was no gun, no DNA connecting this defendant, no fingerprints and no eyewitness identification. All of the evidence connected to Magee was introduced in trial.
“While this office is saddened the jury did not find proof beyond a reasonable doubt for this defendant, there was a conviction of 2nd degree murder for both victims of this senseless crime.”