Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson announces today, Thursday, April 18, 2019, Christina L. Towell, 38, was sentenced for her part in the November 2017 homicide of Mr. Joel Wales. The Court sentenced Towell to lifetime imprisonment without the possibility of parole until she has served a minimum of twenty-five-years in prison. Today’s sentencing follows Towell’s March 21 guilty plea to first degree murder – felony murder. If Towell would be paroled from prison after her 25 year minimum sentence, she would be required to register as a violent offender for 15 years and would have life-time, post-release supervision.
Today’s hearing was nearly a month after co-defendant Tria Evans, 39, was also sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for murdering Mr. Wales. The Court sentenced Evans, following her conviction by a jury earlier this year, to the “Hard 50” sentence. Evans must serve a minimum of 50 years without the possibility of parole. If Evans would be paroled after serving her 50 year minimum sentence, she would be required to register as a violent offender for 15 years and would have life-time, post-release supervision.
The investigation into the murder of Mr. Wales began on Friday, November 3, 2017 at approximately 9:30 p.m. when officers with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a house fire in the 1100 block of East 1200 Road in Lawrence, Kansas. The person that called 9-1-1 also reported she heard an altercation, and she heard a woman yelling.
Wakarusa Fire Department extinguished the house fire and located Mr. Wales deceased. Dr. Erik Mitchell performed an autopsy on the victim and determined the victim had been shot six times and died as a result of those injuries. Dr. Mitchell was able to determine that an absence of soot in Mr. Wales’ lungs indicated he died prior to the house being set on fire.
Law enforcement was already aware of issues between Towell’s co-defendant and Mr. Wales. Evans and Mr. Wales had multiple child custody plan disagreements which resulted in law enforcement being called and Mr. Wales had reported to law enforcement his fear that Evans would kill him.
Investigation by law enforcement revealed that Towell used her car to drive Evans to and from the scene of the murder. Investigators also discovered that Towell was involved in the planning and in the commission of the homicide.
Today’s hearing was held in the Division Three courtroom of the Honorable Barbara Kay Huff. The case was investigated by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Lawrence Police Department, the Eudora Police Department, the Wakarusa Fire Department, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Topeka Fire Department, and the Johnson County Criminalistics Laboratory. Chief Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan and Assistant District Attorney Nicole Southall prosecuted the case.
*Rule 226 - Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct
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3.8 Advocate: Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor