Tuesday, October 25, 2005

 

From pillar of community to accused killer


Again, from YH:

Kansas City - The telephone rang at 10 p.m. April 4. Kristina Mangelsdorf and her husband were upstairs on the computer, and Mark Mangelsdorf picked up the receiver.

It was a detective calling to say he and other officers were at the front door of their home in Pelham, N.Y., in upscale Westchester County. Could Mark Mangelsdorf please come down?

“I think Mark was always sort of expecting that that could happen,” Kristina Mangelsdorf said in a telephone interview last week. “We went downstairs, grabbed his shoes and went to the front door. They were standing there and they took him away immediately. I didn’t even get to kiss him goodbye, which absolutely traumatized me.”

Today, Mark Mangelsdorf is scheduled to appear in a Johnson County courtroom to answer charges in a murder that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago. The 1986 graduate of Harvard University’s MBA program is accused of killing — and plotting with Melinda Raisch to kill — Raisch’s first husband, David Harmon of Olathe.

Mangelsdorf said last week he would waive his preliminary hearing, which was scheduled to begin today. He is expected to plead not guilty. A judge likely will bind him over for trial.

For Kristina Mangelsdorf and others who know Mark Mangelsdorf, the accusations are impossible to believe. They see the 45-year-old as a devoted father, a successful business executive and a person of impeccable character.

“He is the best father, the best husband, the best person that I can imagine him being,” said Kristina Mangelsdorf, 36, who is expecting their second child in December. “I know for 100 percent certainty that he didn’t do this.”

Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison said Mark Mangelsdorf might not appear to fit the mold of a murderer. Many people, he said, felt the same about Raisch, a 48-year-old churchgoing mother married to a dentist in Ohio. Still, Morrison said, a jury convicted her in May.

“We’re not really concerned about what he (Mangelsdorf) has done since Feb. 28, 1982,” Morrison said, “ but we do have a very strong belief that he was involved in the homicide of David Harmon during the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 28, 1982, and that’s what this case is about.”

The year the murder happened, Mangelsdorf was a senior and student body president at Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe. His student government office was next door to the office of the dean of students, where Raisch, then Melinda Harmon, worked as a secretary.

The two became romantically involved, prosecutors contended at Raisch’s trial last spring. Raisch wanted out of her marriage, prosecutors said, but felt trapped by the conservative religious culture that dominated her life and took a dim view of divorce.

So the two devised a plot and beat 25-year-old David Harmon to death with a blunt object, according to the complaint filed April 4 against Mangelsdorf.

Tracking dogs brought in at the time to search for clues led detectives from the Harmon duplex to a trash receptacle next to Mangelsdorf’s apartment a few blocks away. Nothing was found.

Inside Mangelsdorf’s apartment, investigators discovered about 20 cards and letters from Raisch. An investigator testified during Raisch’s trial that the cards reflected more of a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship than the platonic friendship the two claimed to have.

Also, during Raisch’s trial, an employee for a private DNA laboratory in North Carolina testified that DNA found on the carpet inside Mangelsdorf’s apartment in 1982 could have come from David Harmon. The carpet was taken from Mangelsdorf’s apartment but DNA testing was not available back then.

At the time, Raisch told police that two men entered her home, beat her husband to death and knocked her unconscious. She said the men wanted the keys to the bank where her husband worked.

But when Olathe investigators reopened the case in 2001, Raisch told a different story. She denied involvement in the murder but said only one man entered the home. She did not see who he was, she told an Olathe detective, but she felt the “presence” of Mangelsdorf.

Raisch had been expected to testify during Mangelsdorf’s preliminary hearing. She faces up to life in prison. She has yet to be sentenced.

Mangelsdorf testified during Raisch’s trial that the two were friends. He said he was not in love with Raisch and that he had nothing to do with the murder.

Donald Stelting, who was dean of students at Mid-America Nazarene in 1982, last week described Mangelsdorf as a bright student and a natural leader. He said that he never was aware of anything improper between Mangelsdorf and Raisch.

“I thought there was absolutely no way either of them could have been involved in that at all,” said Stelting, now dean of academic affairs at Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Students were very supportive of Mark. They were as astonished as anyone else that he was suspected of this.”

Stelting performed the ceremony at Mangelsdorf’s first wedding in June 1983. He married a woman he asked out on his last day of classes as a senior at Mid-America Nazarene. The two have three children; they were married about 14 years.

Kristina Mangelsdorf said she met Mark Mangelsdorf in 1997, shortly before his divorce was final.

Both were working for Pepsi, she in its New York office and he in Seattle as a vice president. Their paths crossed while working on a project that led to the idea of selling coffee beverages in glass bottles.

After the project, Mark Mangelsdorf took her out to dinner in New York to thank her for her work on the project .

They quickly found they had much in common, Kristina Mangelsdorf said. They married 6½ years ago and have a 2-year-old daughter.

Kristina Mangelsdorf now is a marketing director for Diet Pepsi at PepsiCo’s headquarters in Purchase, N.Y. Mark Mangelsdorf is an independent consultant.

Kristina Mangelsdorf said her husband told her about the murder early in their relationship.

“We had a very long dinner and he took me through it,” she said.

He said a friend of his had died and that he had been a suspect in his friend’s murder but that he had not been involved.

“He didn’t need to tell me that (he was innocent). I would have known that anyway but he wanted me to know that this was out there, that it could possibly come back to haunt him some day. He didn’t want there to be any surprises or secrets in our marriage.”

Kristina Mangelsdorf said she had tucked the story away and hadn’t thought about it much over the years.

“There was no reason to think about it,” she said. “It was an unpleasant thing that had happened in the past.”

Early in 2001, however, she came home from work and found her husband standing at the front door talking with police officers. He told her they were from Olathe. She knew immediately why they were there.

Last April, when detectives showed up at their door again, they took her husband to jail. He was released on a $300,000 bond.

Those who know them have been incredibly supportive, Kristina Mangelsdorf said.

Kristina Mangelsdorf accompanied her husband in April when he testified in Olathe in the Raisch case. She plans to be at his side throughout.


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