A Dane County jury deliberated for about three hours Monday before finding a Madison man guilty of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the 2020 shooting deaths of a UW Health doctor and her husband.
Khari Sanford showed no reaction to the verdicts, which bring automatic life sentences. Dane County Circuit Judge Ellen Berz will decide at a later date when, if ever, Sanford would be eligible for release from prison on extended supervision.
Jurors began deliberating following closing arguments that painted two radically different versions of the 20-year-old: “silent assassin” driven to kill his then-girlfriend’s parents or “typical teenager in an atypical time.”
Assistant District Attorney Tim Verhoff took the 13 men and three women back to late March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning and “the anxiety was palpable.”
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Sanford and his girlfriend, Miriam Carre, were living in an Airbnb paid for by her parents, Dr. Beth Potter and Robin Carre, when Sanford went out on the night of March 30, picked up his friend Ali’jah Larrue in the van Potter and Robin Carre was letting him and Miriam use, and proceeded to the Potter-Carre home on Madison’s Near West Side, where up until recently Sanford had been living.
Pointing to video, surveillance photos and cellphone location data presented over the trial’s last five days, Verhoff took the jury through Sanford and Larrue’s path from the Potter-Carre home, where Sanford kidnapped the couple at gunpoint, to the UW Arboretum, where he shot both of them in the head and left them for dead.
The state wasn’t relying on one piece of evidence or one witness to prove their case, he said, but many.
“The pieces are all there ... to come to your conclusion,” he said.
Testimony during the trial and in the criminal complaint in the case have pointed to friction between Miriam Carre and Sanford and Miriam’s parents over pandemic restrictions Potter wanted the young couple to follow in their home, but wouldn’t, as well as Sanford’s feeling that his girlfriend’s parents didn’t respect him and treated him as a “slave” while he lived there.
“They were living in fear of COVID,” Verhoff said. “They should have been living in fear of Khari Sanford.”
Sanford’s public defender, Crystal Vera, rejected that characterization, calling Sanford a “typical teenager” who like a lot of teenagers sometimes acted disrespectfully toward adults. She said there had been no evidence presented at trial that before the murders anyone perceived Sanford as a dangerous person.
“Would parents let their daughter live with someone dangerous?” she asked.
She also called into question what she termed the state’s “star witness,” Larrue, who on Friday testified to driving Sanford, Potter and Robin Carre to the Arboretum and watching his friend since elementary school kill the pair.
Larrue, who pleaded guilty to felony murder last year, had plenty of motive to be less than truthful given that he only decided to cooperate after sitting in jail for a year and is yet to be sentenced, Vera said.
Larrue “told them everything they wanted to hear,” she said. “Because they wanted justice and he was going to give it to them.”
Larrue said during his testimony that prosecutors made no promises about what sentence they will recommend and that he decided to testify to take responsibility for his actions. He said he did not know Sanford planned to kill Potter, 52, and Robin Carre, 57, and that he feared for his own safety when Sanford kidnapped the two.
Sanford’s attorneys did not call any witnesses and Vera in her closing argument leaned heavily on the state’s responsibility to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Sanford declined to testify in his own defense Monday.
Miriam Carre has not been charged in the case and has testified she knew nothing of Sanford’s plans.
After closing arguments but prior to the jury being sent to deliberate, Berz chose the names of four jurors out of a hat and dismissed them as alternates. That left a jury of 10 men and two women.
Victims’ debit cards
Earlier Monday, prosecutors sought to place Sanford at an ATM on Madison’s South Side trying to use the victims’ debit cards on the day after they were killed.
Surveillance video from the ATM on South Park Street shows a man who appears to be Sanford trying for several minutes to withdraw money seven different times, mostly in denominations of $300, according to Scott Sandberg, the ATM and facilities manager for Park Bank, which operates the ATM. The withdrawals were unsuccessful because Sanford didn’t have the cards’ personal identification numbers, or PINs, he said.
UW-Madison Police Detective Peter Grimyser then testified that the hooded sweatshirt the man wears in the video appears to be the same sweatshirt Sanford was wearing on April 2 when he was arrested.
Also testifying Monday was Matt Schirmacher, a digital forensics detective with UW-Madison police. He said it was not possible to extract GPS location data from Sanford’s newer-model iPhone because the third-party software needed to do it hadn’t been released yet. As a result, he said, all such data from the night of the murders was automatically purged from the phone after seven days.
However, he was able to extract other information from internet and Google Map searches on the phone, which was locked and not in use from about 9:30 p.m. to just before midnight on the night of the murders, he said.
The phone, which had no call plan, connected to the free Wi-Fi at a McDonald’s on Regent Street at about 9:15 p.m. on the night of the murders and was used to search for Larrue’s address. A little less than a half-hour later, it automatically connected to Wi-Fi at the Potter-Carre home, where Sanford had gotten the password months before.
Among the questions entered into Sanford’s phone’s browser in the days after the murders, Schirmacher testified, were “how long does it take to know who died?” and “how long does it take to die?”
Data from the phone also showed that its “find my phone” feature was disabled the day after the murders and that someone had downloaded an app that picks up police scanner traffic at 4:08 a.m. on March 31 and then deleted it 10 minutes later, Schirmacher said.
Berz said after lunch Monday and before the jury and Sanford entered the courtroom that Sanford had been “acting out” and “threatening to the deputies” that day, saying he is “going to take them on.”
“The deputies will try as much as they can to not go hands-on,” she said. “However, if they have to go hands-on, they will.”
She said that even if that happens with the jury in the courtroom, she wouldn’t consider it cause for a mistrial because it will have been action Sanford initiated.
Sanford’s attorneys then went to speak privately with their client before he was brought back into the courtroom, where he appeared calm.
Later, with the jury deliberating its verdicts outside of the courtroom and the attorneys discussing questions it had sent out to Berz, Sanford smirked and appeared to point and give the thumbs-up sign to members of the news media.
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