Texas man pleads guilty in deaths of Kansas fair vendors

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Photo Courtesy: Crawford County Sheriff’s Office

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A Texas man has pleaded guilty in the deaths of a couple who were killed at a Kansas county fair after one suspect ordered the killings as part of a “carnival mafia” initiation.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office said in a news release that Rusty Lee Frasier, 36, of Aransas Pass, Texas, pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of first-degree premediated murder the 2018 deaths of Alfred “Sonny” Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter at the Barton County Fair, where they were vendors. The bodies of the Wichita couple were discovered in a national forest near Van Buren, Arkansas.

Also on Monday, Thomas Donald Drake, 32, of Van Buren, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of obstructing apprehension.

Their sentencings have not been scheduled.

The latest guilty pleas come on the heels of guilty pleas by two others for their roles in the deaths. Christine M. Tenney, 39, of La Marque, Texas, pleaded guilty in May to aggravated robbery and obstructing apprehension in the case. Michael Fowler, Jr., 54, of Sarasota, Florida, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of theft in the case. Both are also awaiting sentencing.

Police in Arkansas alleged that a Kansas carnival worker posed as a member of a fictitious mafia group and ordered fellow workers to kill a couple as part of an initiation ritual. Investigators said there is no such thing as a “carnival mafia .”

Carnival workers Kimberly Younger, Fowler, Frasier and Tenney were first charged in Arkansas with abuse of a corpse, theft by receiving and tampering with physical evidence in the Kansas vendors’ deaths. Those charges in Arkansas were dropped after they were extradited to Kansas to face more serious charges.

Younger allegedly posed as a carnival mafia member named “Frank Zaitchik” and texted others last month to kill the Carpenters on the fairgrounds. The suspects allegedly loaded the bodies into the couple’s camper and dumped them in a creek bed north of Cedarville, Arkansas.

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