Sister Therese Bangert's career as a volunteer police and fire chaplain in Kansas City, Kan., took her into the heart of darkness.

She witnessed fallout of life's most painful moments -- murder, suicide and natural death. She was called to duty in 2016 when a gunman killed Kansas City, Kan., police Detective Brad Lancaster. The defendant was sentenced to life in prison, despite the judge's belief many people thought the crime warranted death.

"My community, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, have a 30-year-old stance against the death penalty," Bangert said. "I am even more convinced that the path to healing and wholeness and the grace God provides in abundance to all of us is not reflected in the death penalty."

Bangert was among people offering insight Tuesday on a House bill repealing the capital punishment statute in Kansas. On July 1, it would be replaced with a new crime of aggravated murder punishable by life in prison without possibility of parole. Under House Bill 2282, death sentences already handed down in Kansas wouldn't be rescinded.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt objected to the repeal bill, arguing the state's death penalty was narrowly tailored, applied only in the most horrific cases and had withstood repeated constitutional challenge. He said eight years as attorney general, including arguing of two death penalty cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, strengthened his conviction that Kansas ought to retain capital punishment in state law.

"Whatever your views," Schmidt said, "I urge you to resolve this matter based on those fundamental concepts that underlie the death penalty -- notions of justice, of life, of morality, of religious beliefs."

He said the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee shouldn't allow complaints about cost of death penalty cases to render debate into "a dollars-and-cents calculation, a cold mathematical approach that, in my view, obscures the very real dynamics at work."

The state adopted the death penalty in 1994, but no one has been put to death in Kansas since 1965. Twenty states have ended use of capital punishment. Repeal activity in the Kansas Legislature has been modest since the Senate rejected a bill in 2010.

During the committee hearing, a pair of former Republican legislators reached opposite conclusions on repeal. Former Johnson County Sen. Greg Smith outlined in detail why preservation of capital punishment was in the public's interest, while former Rep. Steven Becker, of Buhler, said the potential for error was too high.

Smith offered comment as an employee of the Johnson County Sheriff's Department. His belief repeal would be a miscarriage of justice was shaped by the murder of his daughter, Kelsey.

"I am not here to cast judgment on the validity of another homicide survivor's feelings," he said. "Yet, every time the Legislature decides to bring this issue up, you force every homicide survivor to relive their worst day. The pain, the grief, the shock and the horror all comes back as fresh as the day our loved one was murdered."

Becker, who served 26 years as a district court judge, said application of an absolute penalty -- death -- was too risky because the criminal justice system was imperfect. In the United States, 164 people on death row have been exonerated, he said.

"How can we impose the absolute certainty of death when we do not require the absolute certainty of guilt?" he said.