Daughter: Khari Sanford ‘felt like a slave’ when murdered parents helped couple or set house rules

MADISON, Wis. — In nearly 3 hours of testimony Wednesday afternoon, the daughter of a couple murdered in the UW Arboretum in 2020 said her then-boyfriend ‘felt like a slave’ when her parents tried to make suggestions for him, or set rules for the couple while they lived in the family’s home.

UW Health’s Dr. Beth Potter and husband Robin Carre were found shot and left for dead in the Arboretum in March 2020; their daughter’s then-boyfriend Khari Sanford is accused in their killing.

RELATED: Khari Sanford trial: Witnesses testify about stress, disrespect in family’s home

The 20-year-old daughter, who News 3 Now is not naming because she is not implicated or charged in the couple’s murder, also said Sanford left her alone late into the night of the murders after saying he was taking the van borrowed from the parents to a pawn shop. When he returned with a friend, neither would tell her where they had been or what had happened, leaving her angry and frustrated.

He ultimately never told her where he was or what he did that night, she testified in court on the second day of the trial. And while he has tried to call her several times since, she says she has never accepted the calls or seen him since the day after her parents’ murders, when she left the Airbnb where they were staying to go with a neighbor to find out what had happened with her parents. Sanford would be arrested for the murders three days later, on April 3.

The trial got underway Tuesday morning. Sanford has been charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon and party-to-a-crime modifiers in the deaths of Dr. Potter and Carre.

Prosecutors allege Sanford and another man, Ali’jah Larrue, kidnapped the couple from their home before driving them to the Arboretum and shooting them. Larrue, who accepted a plea deal in the case last year, is expected to testify against Sanford in the ongoing trial.

Daughter granted immunity for testimony

Before testifying, the daughter first invoked her fifth amendment rights, before the state granted her immunity and compelled her to testify. When Sanford was led into the courtroom just before her testimony started, she turned her face away before being led to the witness stand.

The daughter described a relationship with Sanford that began in 2019, growing stronger through the summer and that fall. She said her parents, however, grew concerned for both her grades and mental health during that time, because she spent a lot of time worrying and trying to help Sanford through his own struggles–he did not have a home, and would stay in her car at times overnight, or frequently with her in her parents’ home without their knowledge.

“They were concerned because I would leave very early in the morning to pick up Khari from school,” she said. “I would often try to encourage him to go to school instead of being focused on my academic stuff. They were worried it was causing me mental health issues because I was constantly stressed about him.”

At one point during testimony, her voice cracked as prosecutors asked her to read aloud a text exchange she had with Sanford before March 2020. She and Sanford were discussing over text how they felt her parents had a “white savior” complex, and she said she’d tried to show them that “her whole life”.

Sanford texted back that it was cool because they were “gonna die”. At the time, she said as she audibly held back tears, she didn’t know he was speaking literally because he would use violent language or talk about killing whenever he was mad with somebody.

It was a requirement for children living in the home to apply for colleges, she also said, but Sanford–who was captain of the football team at West High–generally wasn’t interested in talking about it or applying.

As tensions escalated, family agreed Sanford could move in

As family tensions about their relationship escalated toward the end of 2019, the parents agreed he could move in with them — a decision their daughter said she was surprised by.

House rules, however, including setting curfews for the couple and not allowing them to sleep in the same room, as well as more communication from Sanford, who rarely talked to them. Sometimes, the daughter said, he would walk in and not respond when the parents greeted him.

Tensions only escalated after they moved in. The daughter said Sanford would sometimes threaten to kill himself if she didn’t come with him at night after he had argued with her parents, leading her to staying out past curfew. She felt responsible for his wellbeing, she said multiple times throughout her testimony.

Finally, in March and a couple family therapy sessions, she says she told Sanford her parents were planning to ask them to leave because of her mom’s concerns about them breaking Covid precautions. The daughter started searching for apartments with her father’s support, until one day he said he had booked an Airbnb and told them they needed to go.

The decision excited her, she said–it was her first time on her own, and she was looking forward to being independent and being able to smoke. In fact, she said, her relationship with her father improved in the aftermath; they would sit and have coffee outside the home when she would make trips back for belongings.

The day of the murders

The daughter said she couldn’t remember much from most of what they had done on March 30, before Sanford asked to borrow the white van and go to a pawn shop earlier in the evening. He didn’t mention going anywhere else or seeing anyone that night, she said.

At nearly 11 that night, she was worried and started texting him: “Where are you”, she texted at 11:50. “Khari”, she texted a moment later.

A few minutes later, just after 11, she texted again. “At least bring back the car and have someone get you from here. I don’t feel safe here.” Then: “Why would you put me in this position.”

In testimony, she said she was afraid of being alone in the apartment on Madison’s south side. It was her first time alone at night, and she was used to being with Sanford or her family when at home.

She didn’t hear from Sanford until he came home later that night, with a friend she didn’t immediately recognize at the time, Ali’jah Larrue. She was mad: he didn’t tell her where they had been and went straight to the bathroom, she said. She followed him there and stayed outside the door, trying to get him to talk while Larrue stayed on the couch.

She didn’t know what he was doing in the bathroom, he said. When he left, he went over to Larrue and they “muttered” before smoking a blunt, she said. Then, they asked her to drive Larrue home.

The van ride was silent both there and back. She was angry and frustrated with Sanford, she said, because he wouldn’t tell her where he had been.

When they woke up around 11 the next morning, they still hadn’t talked about it, and went to get food and drive around. At one point, Sanford suggested they drive to the Arboretum to smoke; when they arrived, police were there so they went to the parking lot in the zoo very nearby to smoke instead.

That was when she said she first saw the news about bodies found in the Arboretum, in a news article posted to Facebook. “That’s crazy,” was all Sanford said.

They drove home to their Airbnb and Sanford left with the van. Two neighbors called her about police outside her home, she said, and offered her a ride.

Ultimately, she said Sanford came home around the same time a neighbor arrived to pick her up. She asked Sanford to go with her to her parents’ home, but he refused; in earlier opening statements, prosecutors said he was “scared of police”.

That was the last time she saw or spoke to Sanford, she testified; she never learned from him where he had been or did that night. She left with the neighbor, with whom she was also friends, and ended up staying with her and her two brothers in her home that night after she learned what had happened to her parents.

Trial timeline

State prosecutors said they expected they would wrap up their presentation of evidence early next week. The trial is scheduled to run nine days, and will also include testimony from the alleged accomplice, Larrue.

Earlier on Wednesday, prosecutors showed images of Dr. Potter and Mr. Carre where they were found in the Arboretum, and heard from multiple law enforcement witnesses about what they had done on the first day their bodies were found.

Prosecutors also showed three videos of Sanford pointing a handgun at the camera or otherwise using a handgun.