Five years after one jury convicted a Shawnee man in the killing of a Johnson County teenager, a second jury decided Friday he should serve life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years.
A judge accepted the jury’s finding and imposed the “hard 50” sentence on Dustin Hilt for killing 18-year-old Keighley Alyea in Overland Park in 2009.
Last year, the Kansas Supreme Court threw out a previously imposed hard 50 life sentence for Hilt.
The state Supreme Court, following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, found that Hilt was entitled to a new sentencing hearing because a judge, and not a jury, had sentenced him in 2010.
After the U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Kansas Legislature amended the state’s hard 50 law to allow jurors to consider sentencing in those cases. The Legislature also made the law’s application retroactive.
But in granting new sentencing hearings for Hilt and other Kansas inmates serving hard 50 life sentences, the state Supreme Court did not address whether it would find the retroactive application of the law constitutional.
An attorney for Hilt argued that it should not be applied retroactively and that he should receive the only other option of life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years.
But a Johnson County judge denied the defense motion. So this week in Johnson County District Court, a new jury was seated to consider Hilt’s sentence.
Hilt, now 23, was one of three men convicted in the kidnapping and killing of Alyea.
Her abductors beat her, stuffed her into a car trunk, and later stabbed and choked her before dumping her body in Cass County.
In imposing the hard 50, the jury found that the killing was “heinous, atrocious or cruel.”
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said the case was one of the most heinous killings he had ever seen.
“We’re happy for the family,” Howe said. “He won’t have the opportunity to hurt anyone else.”
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