Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Daniel Remeta: On the Road to Destruction

In the Courts

Daniel Remeta in prison
Daniel Remeta in prison

The fallout from the multi-state killing spree was swift. Law enforcement agencies quickly linked Remeta, Dunn and Walter to the killings in Florida, Texas, and Arkansas. Prosecutors in the different jurisdictions conferred and came up with a procedure to try the killers in the various states. Danny Remeta had his own ideas. He wanted to die, and soon. That meant he had to get out of Kansas, which had no death penalty at the time.

The three surviving criminals were taken back to Colby after the shootout and Mark Walter's body was shipped home to his grief-stricken and baffled family in Michigan. The preliminary investigation yielded no answers for his family, and early indicators portrayed Walter as a willing participant in the spree. Remeta claimed Walter murdered Linda Marvin in Arkansas. At the time there was no evidence to dispute his statements.

The trio didn't stay in jail in Colby for long. The bloodbath to which they subjected the small community had sparked a backlash of anger that was unprecedented in recent memory, and for their safety, Sheriff Tom Jones moved Dunn, Hunter and Remeta several counties away to prevent vigilantes from subjecting them to their own brand of justice.

Sheriff Tom Jones
Sheriff Tom Jones

In May 1985, Remeta opted to put Kansas behind him and pleaded guilty to the three murders committed in that state. He subsequently waived extradition to Florida, which wanted a shot at him for the slaying of Chet Reeder.

"I want them to pull the switch," the killer said at the time.

Many connected to the mayhem concurred with Remeta's idea.

"They had a total disregard for life," said Colby Police Chief Mark Spray.   "Money can't be neglected as some of the motive, but the shootings and killings — why, that's a totally different motive when you get to abduction and killing."

Prosecutors in Kansas turned their attention to convicting Lisa Dunn and James Hunter. Dunn's family secured defense counsel for her, but with their limited resources, there was little they could do. The same month the judge accepted Remeta's guilty pleas, he rejected motions from Dunn and Hunter to have their trials moved out of the small community surrounding Levant. The judge also refused to provide funds Dunn sought for a psychologist to examine her and testify as an expert witness about hostage  syndrome and the compulsion to commit crimes.  This type of defense was used by Patty Hearst to explain why she started out as a victim and ended up as a participant.  A month later, the pair went on trial for murder.

Lisa Dunn in Court
Lisa Dunn in Court

Both defendants presented significant evidence that they had been forced to participate in the spree by Daniel Remeta. Dunn described physical and verbal abuse, sexual assaults and threats that left her unable to make rational choices and spot opportunities to escape from his control.

During the trial, Remeta, who was serving four consecutive life sentences in Kansas and awaiting extradition to Arkansas, Texas and Florida, took full responsibility for the spree and said that Dunn and Walter –and later Hunter — were tricked into participating. He said he had planned to kill everyone but Dunn, about whom he hadn't made up his mind. The entire trip, he implied, was a long, drawn-out suicide attempt.

The Kansas jury, however, didn't buy Remeta's story, Dunn's claims that she was a hostage, or Hunter's plea that he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. After 13 hours of deliberation, they returned guilty verdicts against the pair for the murders of Schroeder and Moore.

When the jury announced its verdicts, Dunn's head dropped to the table and she began to sob. Hunter, who spent a grand total of six hours in Daniel Remeta's company, from the time he was picked up as a hitchhiker until the time he was arrested, simply grimaced.

Categories
Advertisement