WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Kansas man accused in the deaths of his adoptive parents last year thought he would get an inheritance, a friend who is charged with helping kill the couple testified Thursday.
Branden Michael Smith, 19, took the witness stand as part of a plea deal in which he agreed to testify against his friend, Anthony Bluml; Bluml’s biological mother, Kisha Schaberg, 35, of San Diego; and a former classmate, Andrew Wallace Ellington, 19. Smith waived his own preliminary hearing on capital murder and other charges and testified. His co-defendants waived the remainder of the hearing after his testimony and the judge determined there was enough evidence for the cases to go to trial.
All four defendants are accused in the deaths of 48-year-old Roger Bluml and 53-year-old Melissa Bluml, who were shot in the head Nov. 15 at their home near Valley Center. Smith’s testimony before a packed courtroom made public for the first time a possible motive for the killings.
Smith told the court Anthony Bluml moved in with him after his adoptive parents kicked him out of the house for using marijuana. Late last year, Smith and Bluml drove to San Diego so Bluml could reconnect with his biological mother and they stayed with her for nearly two months.
When Smith decided to drive back to Wichita, Bluml came with him, as did his biological mother. The plan to kill the Blumls was first brought up in an Arizona motel room on the way back, he said.
Smith said Anthony Bluml told them, “If we kill my parents we can get will money,” referring to an inheritance he thought his adoptive parents would leave him. Smith admitted that he later gave them the gun that was used in the shootings.
Defense attorneys, who presented no evidence at the hearing, focused on small inconsistencies between Smith’s testimony and earlier police statements. Smith acknowledged that his heavy drug use may be responsible for some memory problems. The defense also tried to raise doubts about his credibility given his deal with prosecutors.
Smith said that in exchange for his testimony at any hearings and trial, prosecutors will reduce the charges against him to second-degree murder and recommend a sentence of 24½ years.
He recounted a conversation he had with Bluml and Schaberg during which Bluml told them his adoptive parents kept a “stash of cash” in the house that they could steal. They decided that Bluml would draw his parents away from the house by taking them out to dinner when his younger brother was at a wrestling event. Schaberg would then go to the house to take the money and kill the couple when they returned, Smith said.
Smith said he didn’t want to drive Schaberg to the house, so he suggested they could pay Ellington to help.
“I said I was scared, I didn’t want to be the one to do it,” Smith testified.
Ellington agreed to take Schaberg to the house for $1,000 so she could burglarize it, but Smith said he did not tell Ellington that she also planned to kill the couple, Smith said.
Smith said Schaberg later described the shootings to him, saying she and Ellington waited for them come home, then approached the couple before they got out of their truck.
He said Schaberg told him that Melissa Bluml started opening the truck’s passenger door and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, Kisha,” before Schaberg shot her.
Roger Bluml apparently did not notice Schaberg as she went over to the driver’s side door, Smith testified. He was focused on his wife, saying, “Baby, baby. Are you all right?” before Schaberg shot him, Smith said.
After the shooting, Bluml told Smith that a family member had said he might not be in his adoptive parents’ will anymore: “So this might have all been for nothing,” Smith testified.
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