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Lisa Dunn

Other Kansas exonerations
On February 13, 1985, a crime spree that had begun on January 27 in Michigan and spanned several states ended in a gun battle on a farm outside of Levant, Kansas. When the shooting stopped, 27-year-old David Remeta, as well as 18-year-old Lisa Dunn and James Hunter were in custody. Four people were dead, including 18-year-old Mark Walter, who had been traveling with Remeta and Dunn from the outset of the crime spree in Michigan.

Ultimately, the group would be linked to numerous other crimes including additional murders in Florida and Arkansas.

According to police, the day began with a botched robbery of a roadside Stuckey's restaurant along Interstate Highway 70 in Grainfield, Kansas. Remeta tried to rob 27-year-old Larry McFarland, owner of the Stuckey’s and would end up shooting him to death. They fled in a car as a high school student walked up to the door for an after-school drink at 3:30 p.m. The youth called the police.

About an hour later, the car was spotted 50 miles away at a highway rest stop near Levant by 27-year-old Deputy Sheriff Ben Albright. As he pulled up, Remeta got out of the car and began firing. Albright was wounded twice in the chest by gunshots before Remeta ran out of bullets and returned to the car.

The car then sped off. About a mile away, the car pulled into the Bartlett grain-storage elevator in Levant. Remeta took 29-year-old Rick Schroeder, an elevator employee, and 55-year-old Glen Moore, who was doing construction at the elevator, as hostages, then shot and wounded 61-year-old Maurice Christie, the elevator manager.

Remeta commandeered a pickup truck and got into the back where he held Schroeder and Moore at gunpoint. Hunter was in the back as well. Dunn and Walter were in the cab. The truck drove to a nearby unoccupied farm where Schroeder and Moore were forced to get out of the truck. Remeta fatally shot them both in the head.

Police, alerted by Albright, swarmed the area. They surrounded the truck, and a gun battle ensued. When the shooting stopped. Walter was killed. Remeta and Dunn were wounded. They were taken into custody at the scene.

Remeta, Dunn, and Hunter were charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder, aggravated assault, robbery, and kidnapping. Ultimately, police pieced together a narrative of the spree.

It began January 27, with a gas station robbery in Copemish, Michigan, about 25 miles from Traverse City, where Dunn and Remeta lived. Dunn had been a model student in high school, and had attended college in Marquette, Michigan at the same time Remeta was finishing a prison term there on a criminal conviction. Police said Dunn had stolen a .357 magnum revolver from Dunn’s father’s gun collection.

Police said Remeta and Dunn then headed to Florida where Walter, who lived in Suttons Bay, Mich., north of Traverse City, was on vacation.

On February 8, 1985, Remeta approached the counter of a convenience store in Ocala, Florida and put a package of bubble gum on the counter. As the 60-year-old owner, Merle “Chet” Reeder opened the register, Remeta shot him. As Reeder fell, Remeta shot him again, then walked behind the counter, shot Reeder two more times, and fled with $52 from the register.

On February 10, Remeta robbed a gas station in Waskom, Texas. He told the cashier, 18-year-old Camellia Carroll, to run for safety. When she did, she was shot in the legs, and then shot four more times in the abdomen. She survived.

On February 11, 1985, Remeta fatally shot 42-year-old Linda Marvin, who was behind the counter of a grocery store in Mulberry, Arkansas. She was shot 10 times and robbed of $556. Authorities say the three then headed for Wichita, Kansas, where they picked up Hunter. Hunter, a former roofer who lived in Amoret, Missouri, about 60 miles south of Kansas City, was hitchhiking back home after having hitchhiked to Texas in January to visit his brother and look for work. But instead of getting home, he wound up in the middle of the shootings on February 13 and was arrested along with Dunn and Remeta.

In May 1985, Remeta pled guilty to the murders of Schroeder and Moore. He was sentenced to multiple terms of life in prison. He would later plead guilty to killing Marvin in Arkansas and Reeder in Florida.

Hunter and Dunn went to trial together in June 1985. Several weeks prior to trial, Dunn’s defense attorney requested funds to secure expert services to assist in developing a defense that Dunn was under the influence and control of Remeta when the crimes were committed. In support of the motion, the defense presented a statement from Remeta's psychiatrist that Remeta was both violent and able to exert control over others. The psychiatrist said that the defense should explore the battered woman syndrome, the “Stockholm defense,” and the dissociate response in preparing for Dunn's defense. The defense also proffered the testimony of a psychiatrist from the Menninger Foundation that both battered woman syndrome and the dissociate response were likely applicable to Dunn. The trial court denied the motion, as well as a later motion to have Dunn evaluated by a psychiatrist.

Dunn’s defense renewed the motion for expert services a third time upon receipt of Remeta's prison records, and the trial court again denied the motion. Hunter’s defense also sought to present evidence that Hunter was coerced by fear into going along with Remeta’s demands. That motion was denied as well.

Dunn and Hunter were tried together. Defense motions to be tried separately were denied as were motions for a change of venue to a different county. The trial was the first televised trial in Kansas history.

At the trial, witnesses for the state and the defense gave conflicting accounts concerning Dunn’s and Hunter’s participation in the crimes. Virtually no witness identified them as having a weapon at any time, and Remeta testified for the defense that he had committed the crimes.

Dunn testified that Remeta initially treated her well, but began abusing her after they left Michigan for Florida. She contended Remeta raped and sodomized her, punched her, burned her with cigarettes, placed a loaded gun in her mouth, and threatened to kill her and members of her family if she tried to leave.

Hunter testified Remeta had refused to let him out of the car. He said Remeta had bragged about having killed 12 people, including a hitchhiker, and made it clear he didn't leave witnesses.

Hunter, Dunn, and Remeta all testified that Hunter had tried to shoot Remeta and accidentally wounded Dunn after Remeta shot Albright. Remeta said he took the gun from Hunter then, but gave it back at the scene of the final shoot-out.

"I thought he would cover me while I was reloading, but he didn't," Remeta testified. Instead, Hunter ran away, Remeta said. Remeta testified he had planned to kill Walter and Hunter in Colorado, but hadn't decided what he would do with Dunn. He said he used threats against Dunn and her family to ensure she had "no choice" as to whether to stay with him.

Hunter’s attorneys asked that the jury be instructed on the defense of compulsion—that Hunter had been forced to take part in the crimes. The judge refused to give that instruction. On June 15, 1985, the jury convicted Hunter and Dunn of murder, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault. Both were sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In July 1987, the Kansas Supreme Court reversed Hunter’s convictions, ruling that the trial judge should have given the jury instruction regarding a compulsion defense.

In January 1988, Hunter went to trial a second time, but the trial was moved to Ellis County. He again testified that he was forced to go along with Remeta, fearing that if he tried to leave, Remeta would kill him. The jury, which was instructed on the defense of compulsion, deliberated for an hour before acquitting Hunter on January 20, 1988.

Four days later, Hunter died of a heart attack.

In July 1988, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Dunn’s convictions, rejecting her argument that she should have been allowed to present a defense based on battered woman syndrome. In 1990, Dunn filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. During a hearing on the petition, Dr. Marilyn Hutchinson, a psychologist specializing in trauma survivors, gave her professional assessment of Dunn's mental responses to the events surrounding her association with Remeta. Dr. Hutchinson described Dunn as a very bright, but emotionally immature young woman with a dependent personality.

Dr. Hutchinson testified that, as a result of isolation and Remeta's abuse, including threats, physical and sexual abuse, and sleep and food deprivation, Dunn was emotionally overwhelmed and developed a dissociative response during her time with him. According to Dr. Hutchinson, the result of such a response was a feeling of numbness and inertia with a corresponding diminution of Dunn's judgment and problem-solving faculties. This sense of inertia, in turn, according to Dr. Hutchinson, would have prevented Dunn from recognizing opportunities for escape from her circumstances or from objectively assessing her ability to escape. It was this sense of inertia, not simply Dunn's intellect, which properly should have been considered by the jury in evaluating whether Dunn had the requisite intent to participate in the crimes of which she was charged, Dr. Hutchinson said.

In June 1991, Senior U.S. District Judge Dale Saffels granted the petition, ruling that the trial judge should have allowed the defense funds to seek experts to support a defense that Dunn was a victim of battered women syndrome. Judge Saffels ruled that “a lay jury would require expert testimony to appreciate [Dunn’s] mental condition; its concomitant aspects of inertia, the response of compliance, and the perception of impending violence; and, ultimately, its impact on her ability to remove herself from the company of Remeta. Therefore, the court concludes petitioner should have been afforded access to expert services in order to effectively present her defense and finds the failure to provide such services resulted in a denial of due process.

The prosecution appealed, and in May 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld the lower court ruling.

Dunn went to trial a second time in August 1992. Dr. Hutchinson testified for the defense and presented her findings which she had presented during the federal habeas hearing. On September 2, 1992, following three days of deliberation, the jury acquitted Dunn.

Following a subsequent legal battle, Dunn was ordered extradited to Arkansas where she faced murder and other charges relating to the fatal shooting of Marvin in Mulberry. Ben Wood, who defended Dunn along with attorney Richard Ney, said that the only evidence against Dunn was that she was seen in a car.

In December 1993, Dunn pled guilty in Arkansas to a charge of hindering the arrest of Remeta. She was released and returned to her home in Michigan.

In March 1998, the state of Florida executed Remeta for the murder of Reeder.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/7/2023
Last Updated: 12/7/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Assault, Kidnapping
Reported Crime Date:1985
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No