Darren McMannis looks for victims of murder, but he is not a law enforcement officer — he is a historian.
What started out as some quick research for an article for the Harvey County Genealogical Society Newsletter turned into reams of material McMannis shares in presentations and will compile into a book.
"For me, it's about these people's stories," McMannis said.
According to his research, in the 145 years of Harvey County's existence, 145 murders have been recorded in 125 separate incidents. The majority of those incidents occurred before 1925.
McMannis focused on murders that have a connection to Harvey County, whether committed in the county lines or elsewhere by county residents. In some cases, Harvey County residents were killed as they travelled. There have even been a few instances, such as with BTK, where murder victims died elsewhere, but had their bodies dumped in Harvey County.
To track down the details of each case, McMannis relied heavily on newspapers of the day.
"It's lots of time on the microfilm machine at the library," McMannis said.
He gathered records from police reports in other states, searched online sources and walked cemeteries to try to piece together the puzzle of why and how each victim was assaulted. In that search, he came to see Harvey County as a "microcosm" of murder.
"They came out of greed, jealousy, pride or anger," McMannis noted. "It was often a result of a love triangle."
Though some murders were committed using a gun, other weapons were used as well.
"If there wasn't a gun at hand, they grabbed a knife. If there wasn't a knife, they used a brick," McMannis said.
In most instances, the violence occurred when white males attacked other white males. In the early years of the county's existence, when the murders involved victims or perpetrators who were African-American or Hispanic, fewer details were recorded both in the papers and in police reports.
Murder cases in Harvey County were often open and shut affairs. Few went unsolved, even if the murder was arranged by a third party. Those convicted of murder were sentenced to jail and most spent between 13 and 20 years incarcerated before being released. The death penalty has never been imposed in Harvey County.
The only active unsolved murder case in Harvey County is the death of Sean Ormsbee, who died in a fire intentionally set at his apartment in 2008.
McMannis will present "Early Times Murders in Harvey County" at 7 p.m. March 27 at the Sedgwick Senior Center, 105 W. 5th in Sedgwick. He will also speak at Grand Central at 6 p.m. May 18 and at the Newton Public Library on July 18.
McMannis' book, set to be published later this year, will feature a forward written by former Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton.
"We need to tell these stories before they are forgotten," McMannis said.