Soto appears in court for preliminary hearing

By Katherine Wartell

Domingo Soto, accused of aiding and abetting the December 2011 murder of Steve Freel, appeared in Riley County District Court Friday morning for his preliminary hearing in front of Magistrate Judge William Malcolm.

Soto, 41, is accused of providing Michael Layne, 19, with the firearm Layne allegedly used to shoot and murder Freel, whose body was found on Dec. 7 near the 5300 block of N. 48th Street.

During the hearing, the state, represented by County Attorney Barry Wilkerson and Assistant County Attorney Barry Disney, called RCPD officials who investigated Freel’s murder and Ashley Wright, an acquaintance of Soto’s, to the stand.

On Dec. 29, 2011, Wright was charged with burglarizing Soto’s home after he was arrested. She entered into a plea agreement with the state to have those charges dismissed in exchange for providing information in Soto’s case.

Wright, 18, testified that she was friends with Soto and was with him the night of Dec. 6, when it is alleged that Layne shot Freel. She told the court that Soto picked her up from her house to drive her back to his place and that during the car ride told her that he had given a gun to Layne and that Layne was planning to shoot somebody.

Wright testified that Layne later came to Soto’s house, bringing a gun with him, which, she said, Soto checked to see if it had been fired and indicated to Wright that it had. She said that Layne told them he had allegedly shot Freel and then left him on the road.

Wright testified that in the time leading up to Freel’s murder, Soto had not said anything about Freel to her.

Soto is represented by Larry McRell, Chief Public Defender for the North Central Regional Public Defender’s Office.

The preliminary hearing will determine whether Soto will be bound over for trial.

The hearing was still in progress at press time

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