Layne pleads not guilty to murder

By Katherine Wartell

Michael Layne pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Riley County District Court Tuesday.

Layne, 19, is charged with the Dec. 6 murder of Steve Freel, 31, whose body was found on a dirt road near the 5200 block of N. 48th Street, off Tuttle Creek Boulevard.

He also pleaded not guilty to the Dec. 6 aggravated robbery of Nicole Autrey, 914 Hunting Ave., allegedly also involving Reyna Youdath, 18, and Areale Hanks, 25.

In Layne’s preliminary hearing, Youdath testified that Layne told her about killing Freel by driving him to an isolated road and shooting him. She testified that Layne told her Freel had been causing problems for him and that Freel had been sending Layne pictures of guns, which he took as a threat. She also testified that Layne said Freel had been showing an interest in purchasing a gun, and Layne believed he wanted one so that Freel could shoot him.

RCPD officials have said that Freel and Layne were suspects in past armed robberies committed together in Manhattan.

At the same hearing, Det. Alan Riniker testified that the coroner determined Freel was killed from a single gunshot wound from a .45-caliber bullet, which damaged his right lung, heart, aortic artery and spine.

Layne’s trial has been set for May 1 to May 4.

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