By Managing Editor Teri L. Hansen
A case that is more than five years old is being brought back up in the McPherson County District Court. Samuel Darrah, 50, pleaded no contest to first degree felony murder, attempted aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery in November 2016. He has recently filed a motion to withdraw his plea.
Darrah is one of three people who have been charged in the death of James “Frog” Avery Croft on Nov. 15, 2014. He was arrested Aug. 21, 2015, after avoiding law enforcement for more than a month. He was found hiding in a false wall in a home in Wichita, during a joint operation between U.S. Marshals, Wichita Police Department and Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents.
Judge John Klenda sentenced Darrah to a hard 25-year life sentence for murder and a 100-month sentence for attempted aggravated kidnapping, to run consecutively, not concurrently. Darrah also was sentenced to 59 months for aggravated robbery, but that will run concurrently with the 25 years and 100 months.
According to affidavits and witness statements, on the night of Nov. 15, 2014, Darrah, along with Kamra Kay Farrell and Clinton Bascue, planned to confront Croft about a computer and $3,200 they believed he had taken from them. Farrell picked up Croft and took him to a location just outside Galva, to meet Bascue and Darrah.
After Farrell exited the vehicle, Bascue entered and stabbed Croft multiple times. Croft drove the vehicle a short distance before the car entered the ditch.
The three were later found in a field near the car where Croft’s body, which had sustained puncture wounds, was discovered. An autopsy identified multiple stab wounds as the cause of death.
Bascue, 36, of McPherson pleaded no contest to a charge of first-degree murder in April 2015 and subsequently was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Farrell, 32, of McPherson was also charged with first-degree murder. Farrell pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, for which she received 19 years; kidnapping, for which she received 61 months; and aggravated robbery, for which she received 34 months.
Now Darrah has filed a motion to withdraw his plea stating that the crime scene, the car in which Croft was killed, was not properly secured and later released and deprived him of obtaining relevant evidence for his defense.
The motion also stated Darrah’s guilt rest upon the testimony of unreliable witnesses and hearsay. Both Bascue and Farrell’s statements were used in proceedings, though when called to the stand, Bascue refused to testify and was declared a hostile witness. Farrell’s credibility is being questioned in the motion stating “Farrell made multiple statements concerning the crime then was awarded lesser charges.”
The prosecution has responded in opposition of the motion, stating that both issues had already been decided in the original preliminary hearing and that the deadline to appeal on it had passed. In regard to the vehicle, the court found that the car was not exculpatory evidence, or evidence in favor of the defendant’s innocence. As for witness testimony, it was ruled that witness statements were admissible because both witnesses were available for cross examination if necessary.
The response states a guess as to why these issues are being raised now as it claims, “Using a motion to withdraw plea as a vehicle to breathe new life into this issue is not proper procedure. Now that his appeal has failed, he now seeks to initiate another appeal under the guise of a collateral proceeding (motion to withdraw plea).”
Since pleading no contest, Darrah did file an appeal against Klenda’s decision to run his sentence consecutively, not concurrently. Darrah maintained that he did not personally kidnap or fatally stab Croft. In seeking consecutive sentences, Darrah said he had struggled with drug addiction his entire life and had accepted responsibility by entering a no-contest plea in the Croft crimes. Darrah has three children and consecutive sentences would make it doubtful that Darrah would see his children outside prison walls, his defense argued.
In June of 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed McPherson County District Court’s sentencing. The decision pointed out that Darrah “was central to the conspiracy and acted as a leader in the commission of these serious crimes.”
Darrah is currently incarcerated in Ellsworth Correctional Facility. Current court documents show the case as ongoing and, The Buzz will continue to provide updates as the case continues.