Drake defense calls witnesses to take stand

By Katherine Wartell

Cole Drake’s defense attorney called several witnesses to the stand Friday morning following the state’s decision to show footage of Drake allegedly admitting to RCPD detectives that he shot Tyler Dowling in April 2011.

The state, represented by County Attorney Barry Wilkerson and Assistant County Attorney James Garrison, is alleging that Drake, 15, shot Dowling, a 14-year-old Manhattan High School freshman, with premeditation and should be tried as an adult.

On Thursday, the state showed footage of Drake being interviewed by RCPD detectives after it was determined that Drake was the last person to see Dowling alive on April 12.

In the video, Drake tells the detective that he shot Dowling twice while walking with him in a field near Eisenhower Middle School around midnight on April 12. Drake first tells the detective that he shot Dowling because he was trying to scare him and he didn’t know the safety on the gun was off. He later said that he shot him because Dowling had gotten into a fight with another teen with whom Drake had more allegiance.

Brenda Jordan, Drake’s attorney, tried in an earlier hearing to suppress the statements made in the video, but Judge David Stutzman denied the motion. Jordan had argued that Drake didn’t understand his Miranda rights when he made the statements. The state will be able to use the video footage as evidence in Drake’s trial.

In court Friday, Jordan called several of Drake’s teachers and a former principal, Greg Hoyt, of Eisenhower Middle School, to the stand. They attested to Drake’s respectful and generally good behavior in school, though they acknowledged that Drake had a problem with absences and tardiness.

A juvenile corrections officer at North Central Kansas Regional Detention Facility in Junction City, where Drake is being held, testified that Drake is cooperative and polite and to his knowledge has never acted out, though Wilkerson argued that it is perhaps in Drake’s best interest to behave well.

Jordan also called Ian Drake, Drake’s father, to the stand. Ian Drake and Kristi Gorman, Drake’s mother, have been divorced nearly a decade. Ian Drake presently lives in Oklahoma, while Gorman lives in Manhattan with their two other sons.

Ian Drake testified that his son lived with him for a summer in between his seventh and eighth grade years and that during that time, Cole Drake experienced supervision and discipline that he was probably not used to from his mother. He told the court that he is now in the process of filing for custody of his other two sons.

Ian Drake alleged that Gorman did not have a “normal” routine with her sons and that he knew she had challenges disciplining Drake. He said he talked to his son about behavioral issues, including Drake’s participation in “car-hopping,” or burglarizing vehicles. He said Drake told him he burglarized cars to get money for items he wanted, like clothing. He said he did not find out that Drake had fathered a child until after Dowling’s murder.

Ian Drake also testified that his son was just a kid who didn’t try to act above his age, a point echoed by Drake’s present teacher at his juvenile detention center.

Jordan was expected to call several more witnesses Friday afternoon.

In court Thursday, the state called 10 witnesses, including the teenager who discovered Dowling’s body. Also called were RCPD officials who investigated the murder and teenage friends of Drake and Dowling.

The state questioned RCPD officials for the circumstances surrounding the initial investigation into Dowling’s death, including examination of his body, the crime scene and interviews with friends to recreate the days leading up to Dowling’s death.

Det. Alan Riniker told the court that he examined Dowling’s body as it was found in a field near Eisenhower Middle School on April 13, 2011. He said it was notable that socks were found on Dowling’s hands and that his shorts pockets were pulled out. He said Dowling had a gunshot wound on the middle, right part of his back.

Riniker said officers also discovered a 22-caliber shell case and a live 22-caliber round not far, but in separate locations, from Dowling’s body. He also said officers recovered a cell phone purported to be Dowling’s from a pond near the field where his body was found.

Det. Brek Jager testified that Drake told detectives Dowling had called Drake on the night of April 12 to meet up, a point emphasized by Jordan, who told the court there was nothing to indicate the two were going to meet up if not for Dowling’s call.

A 16-year-old female said she exchanged text messages with Dowling on the night he was murdered. An MHS sophomore said Drake showed him he was in possession of a gun,

but he didn’t threaten anyone with it. He said he was under the impression Drake had the gun to defend himself against another boy with whom he had a dispute.

Another student testified that Drake told him two weeks before Dowling’s death that he intended to hurt Dowling.

Drake could face life imprisonment if he is tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder. He is also charged with aggravated robbery.

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