Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fabulist who murdered wife convicted, sentenced to LWOP

(Initial Post 9-26-10)
A Tulsa County, OK jury needed only a half hour of deliberation in a lawyer's shooting murder by her own husband. John Robert Kastner, 52, was convicted of the 1st degree murder of his wife, 44 year old Lori Moon Kastner, at their south side Tulsa, OK home on June 25, 2008. The motive, according to Tulsa County, OK prosecutors, was that the victim was about to expose her husband's lies.

Kastner had led his family to believe that all five family members were traveling by plane to Israel on June 25, 2008, prosecutors said. Kastner indicated he was a former member of the Israeli military who had been honored for heroism and that the trip to Israel was related to a high-paying job that Lori Kastner was going to get with a corporation connected to her husband.

No such flight or job offer existed, and Kastner never served in the Israeli military, prosecutors said.

Kastner made significant financial promises to benefit Webster that he could not keep, and he "was a ticking time bomb getting ready to explode," [First Assistant District Attorney Doug] Drummond said.

Drummond also insisted that "[Kastner's] reputation was going to be ruined, and that was the most important thing in John Kastner's life."

The other prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, said that Kastner, the "legend of Webster High School," is "nothing but a bald-faced liar. You cannot believe a word that the defendant says."

Kastner said the killer was an intruder who he said picked up Kastner's gun in the house. He told police that he struggled with the intruder and was shot in the hand, and he said the intruder fled with a bag containing about $5,000, evidence indicated.

Kunzweiler said Kastner's account features a "mysterious man" moving around in a dark house and finding a loaded gun and money on the same table. Kastner was an English teacher, "and as an English teacher he deals in fiction," Kunzweiler said

Assistant Public Defender Jill Webb said that Kastner had no motive to kill his wife because killing her would not solve his problems - "John's problem was John." Webb said that while Kastner was guilty of lying and making false promises, it did not prove he was a murderer. Kastner was never called to the witness stand.

When he is formally sentenced tomorrow, Kastner will be sentenced to life without parole - in Oklahoma, murder carries death, life without parole, or life with parole. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, and jurors ruled out life with parole.  Amber Merchant, Lori Kastner's best friend, said "We're very pleased with the verdict and feel like justice was served."

Kastner plans to appeal the verdict, according to Chief Public Defender Pete Silva. The presiding judge is District Judge Tom Gillert.

(Update 9-29-10) Kastner was formally sentenced to life without parole Monday, September 27, 2010. If he had been granted parole, he would have had to serve 38 and 3 months before his first chance of it.

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