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Friday, Sep. 06, 2013

New Johnson County prosecutor takes on long commute to fight crime

The Wichita Eagle

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Kevin O’Connor wants to live in Wichita and put criminals in prison.

And he can do that now, but only with a long commute to Olathe.

He started work last week as a prosecutor in Johnson County, more than a two-hour commute one way.

He resigned last month as city attorney for Derby, a job he held for eight months. Before that, he ran for Sedgwick County district attorney, losing last summer to Marc Bennett.

In Olathe, he will head the sex crimes section for Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, Howe’s office said. O’Connor said he will work cases and supervise three other prosecutors.

O’Connor said he liked working for Derby but missed prosecuting crimes. He had worked on some of Sedgwick County’s bigger criminal cases, from 1992 to 2009. He left after a falling-out with District Attorney Nola Foulston, who left office in January.

For Foulston, he worked on cases including the Michael Marsh and Stanley Elms capital murder cases. Along with Foulston and prosecutor Kim Parker, he helped prepare the criminal case against Dennis Rader, the BTK serial killer.

After leaving Foulston’s office, he worked part time for the state attorney general’s office. For that office, he led the prosecution in the capital murder case against Adam Longoria, helping convict him in Barton County of the murder of 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt.

“I missed prosecuting cases, and so when this opportunity came up, I agonized but I took it,” he said.

O’Connor and Bennett, who defeated him in the August Republican primary election, were colleagues who worked several cases together as prosecutors.

“I am glad that Kevin has the chance to bring his passion back to prosecution,” Bennett said in an email last week. “I know he’ll enjoy working for Steve. I wish Kevin the best.”

It was hard to campaign against Bennett, O’Connor said, because Bennett “was a friend and a good guy. I have genuine respect for Marc. He’s doing a good job as district attorney.”

He and his family are keeping their home in the Wichita area. O’Connor, 49, said he didn’t want to uproot his four children from their schools.

He will now be a weekend commuter, a prospect made easier, he said, by XM radio. He will listen to sports on the air. And he said he will drive the speed limit.

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @roywenzl.

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