It takes a certain personality trait to handle some of the toughest criminal cases of them all — cold-case homicides.
“You have to be tenacious, you need to be meticulous, you need to dive in and look places where people have gone before,” Jacqie Spradling said.
Spradling specialized in such cases as a deputy district attorney in Shawnee County.
While there isn’t much of a demand for those types of cases in these parts, Spradling will bring that same desire for justice to the Allen County attorney’s office, where she was hired earlier this month.
Spradling, who turns 57 next week, joined County Attorney Jerry Hathaway’s staff Jan. 9.
She’ll handle misdemeanor, juvenile, traffic and forfeiture cases.
While it’s not as high profile, say, as resolving a 15-year-old murder case, Spradling’s new caseload offers its unique set of challenges.
“I’ve never done traffic or juvenile cases before,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to working in a new area of the law. There will be questions I haven’t encountered yet. I’m looking forward in forging a new way.”
In a twist of fate, Spradling will have little or nothing to do with a pair of current homicide cases going through the court system in Allen County.
“Those are Jerry’s cases,” Spradling said of Hathaway. “He’s taking good care of them.”
A Topeka native, Spradling became familiar with Allen County through her work with Hathaway, who for a spell worked as a special prosecutor for the Kansas attorney general’s office.
“I’ve known Jerry Hathaway a long time,” Spradling said. “He has a good reputation, and this office has a good reputation in the prosecutor’s community. I was happy to be asked.”
Spradling resigned from her Shawnee County position following the recent primary election in which the district attorney, her partner, Chad Taylor, declined to run for re-election.
A yearning for small-town law also played a role in Spradling’s new venture.
“I have lived in the country forever, and so small-town communities are my people,” she said. Prior to working in Shawnee County, Spradling, too, was a prosecutor for the attorney general’s office, which frequently led her to smaller communities around the state.
“I’ve always enjoyed it,” she said.
“My favorite part of law is making the victim whole again, when that’s possible.”
Her passion, besides resolving previously “unsolvable” crimes deals with animals.
“I’m an animal rescuer,” she said. “I live in the country, so there are plenty of those.”
As an aside, Spradling was in Allen County last October as one of the presenters for the Kansas Crime Stoppers annual meeting. Her topic: cold cases.
SPRADLING gained prominence in recent years for her work in convicting Dana Lynn Chandler in 2012 for the shooting death of her ex-husband, Mike Sisco, and his fiancee, Karen Harkness, a decade earlier.
As part of the appeal’s process, which since made it to the Kansas Supreme Court, Spradling was questioned by Supreme Court justices about her role in the trial.
Chandler has alleged that Spradling incorrectly referred to protection order and took other steps to secure the conviction. (After filing their briefs and testifying before the justices, the High Court took the unusual step of ordering Chandler a new appellate attorney.)
“I’d never heard of that before,” Spradling said.
In any event, any follow-up work will be done by Spradling’s successors in Shawnee County.
The case also brought Keen Umbehr into the mix. Umbehr is an attorney, former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate and admitted friend of Chandler’s.
As one of the candidates seeking to replace Chad Taylor in the Shawnee County district attorney’s race last August, Umbehr filed prosecutorial misconduct allegations against Spradling less than a week before the election, and made it a central theme to his candidacy.
Umbehr wound up third of the three candidates.
His allegations against Spradling are still being resolved.
“He doesn’t bother me,” Spradling said. “There are plenty of other defendants and families that get angry at you.”
Spradling leaves a slew of supporters as well in Topeka.
“We’re going to miss her in the homicide unit and cold case unit,” Topeka police Detective Jeri Cole told the Topeka Capital Journal.
Her former boss, Taylor, meanwhile, described her to the Topeka newspaper as one of the top 10 prosecutors in the country.
“She is absolutely top shelf,” Taylor said. “Jacqie is absolutely fearless and tenacious in pursuing where she believes there has been a wrong that needs to be righted.”
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