Soto bound over for trial in court Friday

By Bill Felber

A local man was ordered bound over for trial Friday in connection with the Dec. 7 murder of Steven Freel.

Domingo Soto was ordered to stand trial on five charges by Magistrate William Malcolm following a preliminary hearing. Soto is accused of aiding and abetting Freel’s murder by providing the gun that prosecutors allege Michael Layne, 19, used to kill Freel.

Soto was also ordered bound over on four drug-related charges. He will be arraigned on the charges by Judge Meryl Wilson at 2:30 p.m. March 12.

Malcolm made his ruling at the conclusion of a hearing that featured several prosecution witnesses, the key one apparently being Ashley Wright. She testified that Soto told her he had provided the gun to Layne, knowing Layne intended to use it to kill Freel. Prosecutor Barry Disney said Wright’s description of Soto’s statement to her constituted ample evidence to bind him over.

Defense attorney Larry McRell did not put Soto on the stand to testify during the preliminary hearing. He argued, however, that Wright’s testimony should be viewed in light of her acceptance of a plea deal in exchange for more lenient treatment on a charge pending against her. He said Wright had been arrested later in December on charges of burglarizing Soto’s residence and stealing two TVs.

“When she sat with investigators, she knew she had stolen items,” McRell said. He contended that the plea deal “cast a shadow over her credibility,” and described Wright as a “make or break witness” in the case against Soto. “She wasn’t there,” McRell said. “She didn’t have any first-hand knowledge.”

Freel’s body was discovered near the 5300 block of North 48th Street. Layne has already been bound for trial on the murder charges.

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