LARNED — On March 20, a Kansas Court of Appeals panel issued an opinion upholding a Pawnee County jury verdict against Zachary Hutchens, 23, of Garden City. Hutchens was found guilty following a two-day jury trial in October of 2017 of aggravated kidnapping, theft of a motor vehicle, aggravated endangering of a child and misdemeanor theft.
Pawnee County Attorney Douglas McNett summarized the Court’s ruling and the history of the case.
On appeal, Hutchens did not challenge the kidnapping aspect of his conviction, but rather argued whether there was sufficient evidence to consider his actions “aggravated kidnapping” as he did not cause any serious or long-term physical injuries. At trial the jury had been advised that for the purposes of aggravated kidnapping the term “bodily harm” included any unnecessary acts of violence upon the victim occurring after the initial abduction.
In a 2 to 1 decision, the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and panel found that the trial court’s “definition of bodily harm encompassed the essence of the term recognized in case law” and that the definition used did not affect the verdict in light of the entire record.
The charges stemmed from an incident at a city park in Larned on September 6, 2016, wherein Hutchens forced a 17-year-old female into her vehicle and then drove the vehicle east on U.S. 56 out of town against her will. A motorist in Great Bend later contacted law enforcement stating they had witnessed a young woman in another vehicle being struck repeatedly, have her hair pulled and mouthing, “Help Me, Help Me, Please Help Me!” The motorist then called 911 and followed the suspect vehicle to Ellinwood.
As the suspect vehicle entered Ellinwood on U.S. 56 it tried to elude an Ellinwood Police Department officer at the edge of town. The vehicle was ultimately stopped in an alleyway. The Barton County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the scene. The Ellinwood officer found a very distraught 17-year-old female in the vehicle with Hutchens.
At trial, the girl told the jury that she had been in an on-again-off-again relationship with Hutchens for approximately a month. After they broke up, they had planned to meet on September 6, 2016, at 4:30 p.m. in Schack Park in Larned to exchange property. Once there an argument ensued and Hutchens took her car keys and cellphone. When she tried to walk away the defendant grabbed her arm and forced her into the passenger side of her vehicle and then drove the vehicle in the direction of Great Bend. She further testified that Hutchens stated he would drive head-on into a semi-truck if she continued to try to escape. The defendant later threw her cellphone out the window.
As a result of the convictions, Hutchins was sentenced to 626 months (52 years and two months) with the Kansas Department of Corrections to run consecutive to his prior Finney County convictions. At the time of the conviction, the defendant was a registered sex offender and on probation for a prior Finney County conviction of Aggravated Indecent Solicitation of a Child of less than 14 years of age.
Pawnee County Attorney McNett presented the State’s case at trial. Hutchens was represented by Scott James and Chay Howard of Greensburg.
According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, Hutchins also had prior convictions in Finney County for burglary and theft. He is incarcerated at Hutchinson Correctional Facility where his custody level is high medium. He is not working; he earliest possible release date is Oct. 13, 2069.