COLUMBUS — The trial of a Cherokee County man accused in the deaths of 13-year-old Taylor Kemp and her mother Teresa came to a dramatic close Thursday with a guilty verdict.
Kaston Hudgins was found guilty of two counts of first degree murder and one count of felony fleeing from law enforcement. In July of 2009 Hudgins was running from Cherokee County Deputy Dean Kidd after a traffic stop and slammed into the back of a 2005 Pontiac Vibe driven by Teresa Kemp. Taylor Kemp was pronounced dead at the scene, Teresa Kemp died six days later in the hospital.
"I think it was (the verdict) supported by the evidence," Special Prosecutor Barry Disney said after the verdict, adding he felt the law was very clear. "The jury didn't accept my logic, they followed the law."
The prosecution called it's final witness Thursday morning Jerry Daniels who is a crash investigation consultant and at the time of the crash was an accredited crash scene investigator for the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Daniels said according to his investigation Hudgins was traveling at least 98 miles an hour when he hit the Kemp's vehicle. It was the culmination of an 11 mile chase at speeds reaching 120 miles an hour — often with no lights.
The defense called only one witness, Mary Wright — an EMT who had been on the scene and earlier testified for the prosecution.
Defense attorney Shane Adamson asked her if Hudgins had been upset or crying as she assisted him. She indicated he had.
The defense then rested its case and District Judge Robert Fleming gave jury instructions.
In the instructions the jury was allowed to consider the lesser included offenses of second degree murder, involuntary vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol, involuntary vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide.
In his closing statement, Disney explained to the jury that the law was clear that they could only consider those lesser crimes if they could not find Hudgins guilty of first degree manslaughter.
In his closing statement Adamson, as he had done throughout the trial, that Hudgins had been drunk the night of the crash — his blood alcohol content was .15, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 — which had affected Hudgins' judgement.
"There's no question this is a horrible case," Adamson said. "It's a tragedy, two very nice people are dead. It's a tragedy for Kaston as well, he's a young man and his life is greatly disrupted."
In his response Disney jumped on that statement.
"I'm sorry it's a disruption in your life, but there are two people dead," he said.
The jury apparently discarded the argument that alcohol had been a factor and came back within about an hour and a half to deliver the verdict.
Sentencing has not yet been set, but first degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence in Kansas.
Disney would not comment on whether or not the state would request the sentences run back to back or at the same time.