Archive for May, 2016

When Mark Mangelsdorf is released from the Kansas State Penitentiary this Saturday, the 34-year-old David Harmon murder case — beguiling and frustrating from start to finish — will officially be closed.

While Harmon was asleep, Mangelsdorf beat him to death with a crowbar in 1982 because he and Harmon’s wife, Melinda Harmon, had become close and had visions of a life together. David, of course, loomed as an impediment. But there was an equally big impediment. Being a good Nazarene and the daughter of the regional Nazarene superintendent, Melinda could not countenance divorce.

And so the couple turned to murder.

Olathe police might have solved the case in short order, except for one person, J. Wilmer Lambert, Melinda’s father. In his 2009 book, A Cold-Blooded Business, author Marek Fuchs described Lambert in a way that explained his later obstructionist role in perhaps the most heinous murder case Olathe has ever seen.

Lambert, Fuchs wrote, was “aggressive and worldly,” despite his spiritual calling.

“Lambert had an air of quiet superiority and a reputation for being demanding, tight-fisted, judgmental; he also took good care of relatives by finding them work in and around the church, as well as housing them, accumulating properties as he went along.”

Melinda’s story about the murder was two men came into their house, wanting David to give them the keys to the bank where he worked. One of the men knocked her unconscious, she said, and when she awoke, David was dead.

When police sought a detailed interview with Melinda, her father insisted on accompanying her and two officers, including Detective Roger LaRue, to headquarters.

Here’s how Fuchs describes what occurred next:

When the group got to police headquarters, stashed in a building with other city offices, they took the elevator to the fifth floor. When they stepped off the elevator, LaRue attempted to separate Melinda from her father.

LaRue told Lambert, “Melinda’s going to have to be questioned closely. And read her rights.”

“The hell she will,” said Lambert. “She’s coming home with me and right now, you bumbling pieces of shit,” he said, advancing at LaRue, pushing a forefinger into his chest, again and again and again.

Fuchs says a nervous assistant district attorney rushed out of a nearby office and arranged  compromise that allowed Lambert to be present for the interview.

Fuchs wrote that during the dust-up with Lambert, Melinda “observed the events around her passively, like a bystander at an accident.”

LaRue then informed Melinda she was a suspect, but Lambert, having gained the upper hand, grabbed his daughter by the shirt, walked her to the elevator, and they left the building.

That was the last time Olathe police talked with Melinda until December 2001, when two cold-case detectives approached Melinda at the Ohio home she shared with her husband, a dentist, and their two children.

Mangelsdorf also left the area, heading east, where he earned a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard. He married and moved to New York, where he worked for years as a marketing executive.

A measure of justice began to take shape in that 2001 police interview with Melinda, when her father was no longer her keeper. Giving in to her conscience, she changed her story and said she suspected Mangelsdorf was the killer.

Later, she and Mangelsdorf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and both were sentenced to 10 years. Melinda was released from prison last year, after serving nine years.


And J. Wilmer Lambert…what about him?

He died more than three years ago while living in Columbus, Ohio. His obituary says nothing about his time in Kansas.

The obituary says, in part…

“He went to meet his Lord on October 14, 2012, after serving Him all of his life. His focus on getting to Heaven had an impact on every life he touched. J.W. (as he was lovingly called) was a born leader. As a minister he was responsible for the building of new church buildings, increasing the membership of the churches, and spreading the vision of the Nazarene Church. Later he became the District Superintendent for the North Dakota, Upper New York and Central Ohio Districts. His energetic style and persistence raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the churches on the various Districts. He was well thought of and respected by his peers. His care and guidance affected all those who served under him. He truly loved what he did as a minister and a District Superintendent and gave everything he had to further the Church and his belief in God. He had a deep heart for church missions and organized and participated in over 20 mission trips around the world. He also established a center to train ministers in Mexico. He made many life-long friends who appreciated the qualities that made him the man he was. They will not forget him and will miss him every day. J.W. loved life to the fullest. His many interests included hunting and fishing. Later in life he learned to paint and became a fine artist. His paintings hang in many homes of his family and friends…He is survived by two daughters, Janet Hyde (and Don Stalenger) and Melinda Raisch (and Mark Raisch); and two grandchildren, Landon Raisch and Layne Raisch. He loved his family with his whole heart and spent every moment he could with his grandchildren. He was their grandfather (“Paps”), mentor and coach and they will miss him greatly. His daughters are forever grateful for the love and support they received from their father.”

One daughter undoubtedly is particularly grateful for “the love and support” her father provided.

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Now that the push for a new single-terminal airport seems to be gaining momentum, the big question is when to put the $1 billion revenue-bond proposal (or maybe $999 million, just to avoid the “b” word) on a ballot.

In my last post on the subject, I said I thought this year would be too soon. The airlines are agitating for an August election, and I think that’s definitely too soon. A KC Star editorial last week — undoubtedly written by Yael Abouhalkah — said an August vote could make it appear that the city is trying to ram the issue down voters’ throats.


Steve Glorioso

In need of keen insight on the matter, I turned to my longtime friend Steve Glorioso, who has been involved in local and national elections for nearly half a century. In an exchange of emails, Steve explained why the November general election offered the best option: “Younger voters could be the key to victory, and they vote in much greater numbers in November general elections, especially presidential ones. In August primaries, older voters are dominant.”

But…but, I replied, what about presidential elections attracting “a lot of uninformed voters, with their heads in the sand and who don’t want anything new”?

Steve pointed out the only Clay Chastain, light-rail plan that passed (but never came to fruition) was in a November general election. It wasn’t a presidential election, but it was the 2006, “off-year” general election.

“The under-35’s voted for it.” Steve said. “They just wanted light rail.”

…A letter in Saturday’s KC Star confirmed for me Steve was on the right track. Under the headline “Disgrace at KCI” was a letter from Don Hurlbert, a retiree who was city engineer during the construction of KCI in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I remember his name from when I covered City Hall from 1985-1995.

In his letter, Hurlbert, who has to be at least as old as I am — 70 –railed against a single terminal, saying the city could never replicate an airport as convenient as KCI.

“You can drive to a parking garage and walk under cover to your gate and depart or await arrivals with the most convenience. The facility was designed with that in mind. The idea that anyone could build one facility with the same convenience is asinine.”

Well, if we were going to follow Don’s reasoning, why would we have ever built the Truman Sports Complex?

We could have just held on to good ol’ Municipal Stadium and painted it from time to time. Remember? You could park right on the street and walk a block or so to the entrance and stroll right in. Now, of course, with the Royals and Chiefs so damned popular, you’ve gotta park way out in the farthest reaches of Lot F and walk a quarter- to a half-mile before waiting in a long line to put your cellphone and change in a plastic tub and then go through a metal detector.

Yeah, these modern times are hell, aren’t they? There are so many people everywhere. Big tie-ups on the highways. Waits to be seated in restaurants. And those checkout lines at Costco!

How will we muddle along?

Oh, I know, let’s let the young people lead the way; none of that stuff bothers them…I want them voting on the airport…In a way it’s too bad Bernie Sanders is sinking beneath the floor, arms waving wildly above his head. If he and the new airport proposal were on the ballot in November, the airport bonds would pass 2 to 1.

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