A Kansas jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision after deliberating for six days over whether Dana Chandler murdered her ex-husband and his fiancée, ending the latest chapter in a 20-year legal saga. The judge told the jury that she knew they tried their best and thanked them for their service.

The court has scheduled a status hearing for September 29. It is not clear whether Chandler will be tried again. The defense team for Chandler departed the courthouse without comment.

Dana Chandler’s previous conviction for the 2002 killings of Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness, who were found gunned down in Harkness’ Topeka home, was overturned in 2018 by the Kansas Supreme Court. 

Dana Chandler in court

Pool photo

During the new trial this month, the prosecution presented a case focused on circumstantial evidence, arguing “jealousy, rage and obsession” led Chandler to kill. The prosecution said there were no signs of forced entrance or burglary and argued that for years Dana Chandler stalked Mike Sisco. Deputy DA Charles Kitt stated that through the police investigation, “they’ve learned there’s one person that has motive to have committed these crimes. And that was Dana Chandler.”   

Chandler’s defense put forth allegations of police bias and incompetence, which they summed up as tunnel vision, missed opportunities and failure to adequately test the limited forensic evidence. And they contended that whatever physical evidence existed excluded Chandler. Defense attorney Tom Bath stated, “the state had no evidence, no evidence whatsoever that placed Dana Chandler in Karen Harkness’ home, in the city of Topeka, or in the state of Kansas.” 

More than 60 witnesses were called during the four-week trial, including dozens of experts and relatives of the victims. Prosecutors on Aug. 24 called a surprise witness, a former neighbor of Harkness, who testified that she remembered seeing Chandler near the Harkness home the night of the murder, after hearing gun shots. Chandler’s defense countered with a series of witnesses who cast doubt on Terri Anderson, including individuals with the Topeka Police Department who said they were unable to find records of a 911 call Anderson said she made, nor reports of a police visit that Anderson said was made in response to that call.  

Sisco, 47, and his fiancée, Harkness, 53, were each shot multiple times with a 9 mm weapon on July 7, 2002. Chandler, now 62, was questioned in the immediate aftermath, but wasn’t charged at first.

For the next seven years the case received publicity as investigators sought information from the public. “48 Hours” broadcast the show “Haunted” in October 2009, which looked at the cold case, including a 2007 report commissioned by law enforcement that concluded that Chandler was, in the view of law enforcement, the “primary suspect.”

She was arrested and entered not guilty pleas to two counts of first-degree murder in 2011. She has been held on a million dollars bail since then. In 2012, after a trial in which her children testified against her, a Shawnee County jury convicted her on both counts and she was sentenced to life in prison. “48 Hours” broadcast a second show, “My Dad’s Killer,” in September 2012, reporting on the case and Chandler’s trial and conviction.

Chandler’s conviction was overturned in 2018, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that evidence presented by prosecutor Jacqie Spradling was, in at least one instance, “made-up” and “misleading.”

Spradling was disbarred in May for what the court called “intolerable acts of deception.”

But the Kansas Supreme Court did not dismiss Chandler’s case; instead, it ruled that there was sufficient evidence to retry Chandler. It held that she “had motive and opportunity and engaged in suspicious behavior after the murders.”

After Chandler’s conviction was overturned, she was transferred from a state prison to the Shawnee County jail, where she has remained since.