Prelim hearing for murder suspect is set for Feb. 10

By Katherine Wartell

A Feb. 10 preliminary hearing date was set Tuesday for Michael Layne, the 19-year-old Manhattan man accused of murdering Steve Freel. The hearing date was set during a video conference court appearance before Magistrate Judge William Malcolm.

Layne is confined in the Riley County Jail on $1 million bond.  He is represented by Attorney Jillian Waesche.

Layne is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, kidnapping and misdemeanor theft committed against Freel, who was 31 at the time of his death. Freel’s body was found Dec. 7 on a dirt road off of Tuttle Creek Boulevard. Police believe Layne and Freel were associates who committed robberies together in Manhattan before their relationship turned sour, due to what police called a “broken confidence,” on the part of Freel.

They said Layne took Freel on a car ride Dec. 6, during which the two began to argue. They believe that near the 5200 block of N. 48th Street, Layne forced Freel out of the car, shot him in the chest and drove away without him.

During the course of the homicide investigation, police said they also discovered that Layne, along with two female associates, Reyna Youdath, 18, and Areale Hanks, 25, had committed an aggravated burglary at the home of Nicole Autrey, 1914 Hunting St., on Dec. 6. Capt. Kurt Moldrup said the three had bound and gagged Autrey, while they burglarized her home.

Youdath, who is still confined to the Riley County Jail, made her second appearance Tuesday in front of Malcolm as well. Malcolm accepted a request from Brenda Jordan, Youdath’s attorney, for a reduction to Youdath’s bond, dropping it from $250,000 to $150,000. Youdath’s preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 17 at 2 p.m.

She, along with Hanks, is charged with aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, kidnapping and felony theft. Hanks, who has bonded out of jail, is expected back in court next week.

Also appearing through video conference was Domingo Soto, 41, who police said supplied the murder weapon, which officials said they have not recovered. They said Soto loaned a firearm to Layne for the sole purpose of killing Freel. He is formally charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder and remains confined to the Riley County Jail on $500,000 bond. Officials set a status hearing for Dec. 27 at 1 p.m.

During their investigation, police also arrested Devin and Tevin Bruce, who they said were associates of Layne’s, after witnessing the two trying to steal firearms related to past crimes from Layne’s residence in the early morning of Dec. 7. Both brothers, who posted their separate bonds of $7,500, appeared before Malcolm in person.

Devin Bruce is charged with aiding a felon, obstructing the legal process, burglary and possession of marijuana, while Tevin Bruce is charged with aiding a felon and residential burglary. Their next court hearing will be Jan. 17 at 1 p.m.

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