Wellington murder suspect Spencer Weikal was assigned a court-appointed attorney during a brief courtroom appearance Thursday morning.
Weikal, 23, is to be represented by Elaine Esparza, a Harper-based attorney. Family of the defendant had initially told the court they planned to retain their own legal counsel, but during his appearance, Weikal submitted an application for a public defender.
He was arrested in late November after Larrissa Marie Foster, 2, was taken to the hospital with severe injuries that medical professionals said indicated child abuse. She died in a Wichita hospital Dec. 1.
Weikel has been charged with first-degree murder, child abuse and child endangerment.
His bond is set at $250,000 and he has remained incarcerated since his arrest.
Judge R. Scott McQuin scheduled Weikal’s next appearance for 9 a.m. Feb. 2 so that a preliminary hearing date could be set.
The appearance Thursday was mostly uneventful until families for the victim and defendant exchanged words.
Tensions spiked as the family members exited the main courtroom at the Sumner County courthouse. A verbal altercation spilled onto the courthouse’s front steps where a member of Foster’s family yelled to the Weikal family “your son is a baby killer.”
Others in the same group suggested Spencer Weikal had a drug problem that may have led to the alleged incident involving Larrissa.
Weikal’s family said their son is no killer.
The brief exchange ended when the two families were separated by a law enforcement officer.
Some of the tension appears to stem from Kayla Murphy, Larrissa’s mother, who has continued to appear in court with Weikal’s family. She has voiced support for Spencer Weikal, her boyfriend at the time, and said he is not guilty of the charges.
Debbie Murphy, Kayla’s mother, said she remained in contact with her daughter and talked with her daily. But, she said, it was clear to her that her daughter still very much supported Spencer Weikal.
“This is killing my family,” Murphy said. “Someone knows what happened. We want them to do the right thing. But they want to fight.”
Murphy said the family is convinced there are people who were well aware of prior and current abuse that went on while Larrissa was living.
Kayla Murphy declined NewsCow’s offer to comment for this story.