Man faces life sentence for 1st-degree murder for providing weapon

By Katherine Wartell

Jurors found a Manhattan man guilty Wednesday of providing the handgun used to kill Steve Freel in December of 2011.

Domingo Soto, 42, was convicted of first-degree murder for aiding another person in committing murder, although he did not fire the bullet that killed Freel.

Court officials said that under Kansas law, a person found guilty of aiding first-degree murder is considered just as responsible for the murder as the actual murderer.

Soto therefore faces a mandatory life sentence, with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Freel’s body was found on Dec. 7, 2011, on a rural road near the 5300 block of North 48th Street. He had been shot once, the bullet entering his upper chest.

According to court testimony, Soto admitted to detectives that he gave a .45-caliber handgun to Michael Layne, 20, the man accused of murdering Freel.

Witnesses testified that Layne drove Freel to Soto’s residence in order to collect Soto’s gun before driving him to the rural road off of Tuttle Creek Boulevard.

Prosecutors argued that Soto knew Layne intended to shoot Freel when he gave him the gun, while Soto’s defense argued that no one, including Soto, believed Layne was capable of shooting anyone.

Detectives have said that Layne and Freel were former associates who were suspects in past robberies, but that their relationship soured.

Soto was also found guilty of possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

He was found not guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of stolen property. It had been alleged that Layne and two others robbed a Manhattan woman at gunpoint at the behest of Soto, and that Soto was in possession of her property.

At one point during their deliberations, jurors asked for clarification regarding the dollar value of the stolen property. The state listed its value as under $1,000, while a witness testified that it was worth more than $1,000.

Layne, who did not testify in Soto’s trial, will go to trial in December.

Soto will be sentenced in Riley County District Court on Dec. 17 at 3:30 p.m. in front of District Judge Meryl Wilson.

He is represented by Richard Seaton Jr. Assistant county attorneys Barry Disney and Wes Garrison represented the state.

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