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Closing statements come early in Soto trial

By Katherine Wartell

Closing statements were made two days ahead of schedule Wednesday in the trial of a Manhattan man accused of aiding and abetting in the first-degree murder of Steve Freel in December 2011.

Domingo Soto, 42, is charged with providing Michael Layne, 20, the firearm that Layne is accused of using to kill Freel, 31, whose body was found on Dec. 7, 2011 on a rural road near the 5300 block of N. 48th St.

Assistant County Attorney Barry Disney told the court Wednesday that Soto knew Layne intended to kill Freel when he provided Layne with the handgun on the day of the murder.

Disney said Layne had sent text messages to Soto that indicated his intent, and added that Soto had told former Riley County detective Ryan Runyan that Layne had said to him, “Boss, I want to kill this guy.”

The prosecution is alleging that Layne drove Freel to Soto’s residence on Dec. 6, 2011, to obtain a handgun from Soto before driving Freel to the rural road where he shot him.

Disney noted Runyan’s testimony that Soto said he told Layne to take Freel off his property and that he did not want to know what happened.

Disney argued that every piece of evidence was corroborated by witnesses.

In the defense’s closing statements, Richard Seaton Jr., Soto’s attorney, told jurors that several of the witnesses who testified were not credible sources, particularly those who had been acquaintances of Soto prior to the murder.

Seaton argued that there were glaring inconsistencies in the testimony, particularly regarding when the handgun was returned to Soto following the murder and who returned it to him.

He said the only consistency was that no one, including Soto, believed Layne would actually kill someone. He said all of Soto’s and Layne’s acquaintances testified to that.

Soto is also facing several drug charges, including possession of methamphetamines and cocaine with the intent to distribute, and a charge of possession of stolen property.

Prosecutors allege that Layne robbed at gunpoint a Manhattan woman at the behest of Soto.

Earlier Wednesday morning, the state called Altaf Hossain, a forensic pathologist, as a final witness.

Hossain, who performed the autopsy on Freel, testified that he was killed by a bullet entering his upper chest.

The state also presented as evidence a photo of a contusion on Freel’s lower lip. It is alleged that Soto punched Freel in the mouth before Layne drove him to the rural road to shoot him.

Hossain testified the contusion could have come from a punch or from him falling on the ground.

The defense called Runyan as their only witness.

Runyan, who interviewed Layne on three separate occasions in December 2011, attested to the fact that Layne told at least nine, and up to 11, different variations on how Freel died.

Jurors were released to lunch and deliberation at approximately 11:45 a.m. Wednesday. For updated information on the verdict, check http://www.themercury.com.









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