Sanford sentenced to life without parole for murders at UW Arboretum

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – One of two men convicted of the kidnapping and murder of a Madison couple who were discovered at the UW Arboretum will spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of release, said a Dane Co. judge ruled.

Khari Sanford returned to the Dane Co. courthouse on Wednesday, knowing he was going to face a mandatory life sentence. The only question would be whether he would have a chance of being released on parole. Defense attorneys had asked that Sanford be allowed to request a hearing in 25 years to consider early release.

Dismissing the possibility that Sanford would ever ask to be released, Judge Ellen Berz noted that the murders were premeditated and that Sanford showed no remorse after hearing that one of the victims, Dr. Beth Potter, and did not did not immediately die of her injuries.

“You have taken a step that no human who wants to live in society would take,” Judge Berz said. “It is inexplicable why these two people who have shown nothing but kindness and generosity to you and to all members of the community… shot you down. It does not mean anything.”

Sanford, 21, said childhood trauma and abuse had severely affected his mental health.

“It was me with a broken family at five, seven, 16 and 18 years old having to grow up and be the adult and role model for my younger siblings because the people who were supposed to be the adults in our lives have chosen to be the children,” Sanford said.

He acknowledged that Dr. Potter and Carré were trying to help him live a better life and build a better future.

“They tried to be that adult for me,” he said.

Sanford was found guilty earlier this year of two counts of first-degree homicide in the deaths of Potter and Robin Carre in March 2020, while the other defendant, Alijah Larrue, pleaded guilty to two counts of murder charges last year.

Berz’s sentencing came Wednesday in the first of two hearings in which they both learned their fates.

Khari Sanford is on trial for the deaths of a Madison couple on May 20, 2022.(NBC15/Pool Camera)

A few hours later, Alijah Larrue appeared before Berz. Almost a year to the day before Sanford’s sentencing, he had pleaded guilty to two counts of felony murder-kidnapping, but his sentencing was delayed until Sanford’s case was completed.

Prosecutors had said he helped Sanford kill Potter and Carré, who were the adoptive parents of Sanford’s girlfriend. In exchange for his plea, the first degree homicide charges against him were dropped. For each of the two murder charges, Larrue was sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by a decade of extended supervision, with both sentences to be served concurrently.

During his hearing, Larrue apologized for his role in Potter and Carré’s deaths and expressed his hope that one day their families would be able to forgive him.

“Thirty months later, I still don’t know why this happened,” he continued. “I blame myself every night for not calling the police.”

Prosecutors pointed to the same fact, that Larrue did not call the police that night during the sentencing hearing, arguing that “the fact that Mr. Larrue was unaware that the murders were going to happen does not absolve him. Why didn’t he call law enforcement and give them the information?

Alijah Larrue
Alijah Larrue(Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office)

In March 2020, joggers discovered the victims at the Arboretum. Carré, 57, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Potter, 52, was taken to a local hospital where she later died.

Autopsies indicated they had been shot in the back of the neck, apparently the day before they were found. At the time, UW Police Department Chief Kristen Roman described the crime as “calculated, cold-blooded and senseless.”

During Sanford’s trial, prosecutors argued that Potter and Carré were killed over a dispute over social distancing restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A friend of Potter’s told detectives that Sanford and the girl were moved from their home to an AirBnB because they were not following social distancing rules due to COVID-19 concerns, according to the criminal complaint.

Additionally, the complaint reports that a friend of Sanford’s told detectives she overheard the girl telling Sanford that her parents were wealthy and she knew how they could get money.

Beth Potter, MD, and Robin Carre, PhD
Beth Potter, MD, and Robin Carre, PhD(UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health)

As prosecutors began to close the arguments, they began by detailing the fears the Madison couple had regarding the coronavirus. The prosecutor pointed the finger at Sanford and said that “they should live in fear of Khari Sanford.”

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