LYNDON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man was sentenced Monday to four years and two months in prison for beheading another man with a guitar string after a plea deal that prosecutors said they accepted because of problems with the case.
James Paul Harris originally was charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 death of James Gerety, but pleaded no contest in December to involuntary manslaughter.
The victim's brother, Tom Gerety, called the justice system "a joke" after learning how long Harris would serve, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1y9j6rP) reports. But Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones said pursuing the more serious charge posed challenges because of problems with evidence and witnesses.
A former girlfriend testified last year that Harris told her he shot Gerety in the stomach, tortured him for two days, then cut off his head. Prosecutors allege Harris kept Gerety's head for months for some type of religious practice. Part of the skull was found in March 2012 in rural Osage County on land where Harris' father lived.
"You can murder somebody and get out in 50 months," Tom Gerety said. "What's that tell everybody on the wrong side of the law?"
Other than a portion of the victim's skull, prosecutors didn't have the victim's body, the murder weapon hadn't been recovered, not all of the prosecution's witnesses were available, and prosecutors faced "credibility issues" with a major witness, Jones said.
"It was going to be a tough case to prosecute," Jones said.
Harris declined to say anything during the sentencing. The judge asked if Tom Gerety wanted to say anything.
"It wouldn't do any good," Tom Gerety said.