Shane is a victim, should be freed


Four men charged with one to three counts of murder in weekend slayings

Demonstrators say defendant Shane Mays is a victim, should be freed.

Shane Mays’ mother hold signs picketing her son’s release from jail. Mays is one of four men arrested in connection with the deaths of Matthew Leavitt, 19; Nicole Fisher, 38; and Luke Davis, 20, all of Topeka. (Steve Fry/The Capital-Journal)

Four men were charged late Thursday with the slayings of a woman and two men Sunday night at a North Topeka residence.

One of the defendants is Shane Andrew Mays, 19, whose friends and family carried signs earlier Thursday urging prosecutors to release him. His family said Mays, whose best friend was among the victims, reported the killings to Topeka police and had helped investigators. Mays’ supporters demonstrated adjacent to the Shawnee County Courthouse.

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay issued a statement saying Mays was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the killings of Nicole Fisher, 38, and Matthew Leavitt, 19. Mays’ mother and stepfather described Leavitt and Mays as best friends.

Two other defendants, Joseph P. Lowry, 30, and Brian Joseph Flowers, 33, both of Topeka, were charged with one count of first-degree murder in Leavitt’s slaying, Kagay said. Flowers and Lowry also were charged with one count each of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault.

A fourth defendant, Joseph Aaron Krahn, 34, of Topeka, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Leavitt, Fisher and Luke Davis, 20, all of Topeka, Kagay said.

Earlier Thursday, Pepsi Rodarte said that Mays, her son, was kidnapped during the weekend by the same men who killed the victims, but he was arrested when he reported the killings to police.

Rodarte and 18 other friends and relatives of Mays held signs seeking his release as they demonstrated at S.E. 7th and Quincy.

Rodarte held signs reading “United We Stand” and “Free Shane.” She said she was “stunned and in disbelief” that Mays was in jail.

The victims’ bodies were found by Topeka police, who were called to a house at 115 N.W. Grant on Sunday to check the welfare of the house’s occupants, authorities said.

“My son reported it,” Rodarte said of the slayings. “He chose to tell the truth. His best friend and two other people were murdered, and he chose to report it.”

Topeka police declined to comment on accusations made by Mays’ friends and family.

Rodarte said she knew her son and Leavitt were kidnapped, “tortured” and held by three men, and that her son was present during the killings. Rodarte said she didn’t know why Mays and Leavitt were kidnapped.

Mays’ stepfather, Jay McPherson, said demonstrators were trying to “get the word out” about Mays. McPherson stood across the street from his wife holding a sign reading “Shane Mays Is Innocent,” which is also the name of a Facebook page.

“We can’t possibly imagine that they have anything that would tie him to first-degree murder,” McPherson said. “It’s beyond comprehension. Our thoughts and prayers go to the victims.”

Mays, Krahn, Flowers and Lowry remained in Shawnee County Jail on Thursday in lieu of a $1 million cash or professional surety bond, a jail official said.

A fifth defendant, Richard Folsom, 26, of Topeka, was arrested in connection with identity theft, interference with a law enforcement officer and a Texas warrant. Folsom’s bond was set at $10,000 cash or professional surety.

Victim Forced to ‘Dirty His Hands’

Three people were strangled or smothered to death in a Kansas drug home over a rape allegation and one of the suspects was forced to participate to save his life, according to court testimony.

The details about the case were revealed during a preliminary hearing that ended Wednesday with Shawnee County District Judge Nancy Parrish finding sufficient evidence for 19-year-old Shane Mays, 33-year-old Brian Flowers and 31-year-old Joseph Lowry to be bound over for trial on charges that include first-degree murder, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . Parrish said that even though Mays was under duress, the state showed enough evidence that he aided and abetted the crimes.

Witness Richard Folsom testified that Mays was crying as he begged for his life during and after the March slayings of 19-year-old Matthew Leavitt, who was his best friend, and two others, 38-year-old Nicole Fisher and 20-year-old Luke Davis. To save himself, Mays was told he had to take part in the killings to “dirty his hands,” Folsom said.

Police Det. Jason Deutsch testified that the violence stemmed from an unproven rape allegation against Leavitt. Mays, Flowers and 31-year-old Kora Liles, who was only charged Wednesday, face murder counts in two of the deaths. Lowry and another person, 34-year-old Joseph Krahn, are charged in all three deaths.

Kathleen Ambrosio, Mays’ defense attorney, described her client as a victim, saying he wasn’t killed “by the grace of God.” But chief deputy district attorney Dan Dunbar argued that Mays was “willing to surrender other people’s lives to save his own.”

Attorneys for the other defendants either didn’t return calls or declined to comment on the allegations.

Folsom said he and Krahn had gone to the Topeka home to try to sell or trade a shotgun and a watch to get methamphetamine. They left when they weren’t able to get any meth, but then Folsom later brought Krahn back to the home. Folsom said he was waiting outside for Krahn when Davis approached the home. Folsom said he warned Davis, “I think there’s something going on here, and you should just go,” but that Davis went inside anyway. Folsom said eventually went inside to check on Krahn.

There, Folsom said he watched as the victims were killed. Folsom said he didn’t try to help the victims because Lowry was armed with a large-caliber revolver. Davis was killed first, then Fisher, and finally Leavitt, Folsom said.

“I felt like I’d be next if I tried,” Folsom said.

Davis, who had been bound with zip ties, tried to escape, but Krahn and a second man caught him, Folsom said. Davis then was stabbed and strangled with an electric cord, Folsom testified. He said Davis had called out to him for help as he was being killed.

He said Mays and Leavitt were crying and praying to God when Krahn and Lowry told Mays he could save himself if he participated in the killings. Mays put a bag on Fisher’s head, then Krahn took over, suffocating her, Folsom said.

Folsom said Krahn beat Leavitt, used a plastic bag, then wrapped something around Leavitt’s neck to strangle him.

After the three victims were dead, a smiling Krahn spoke to Mays, Folsom said.

“Welcome to the elite,” Folsom quoted Krahn as saying. “You’re one of the few who gets to see me kill and live.”

Folsom, who said he was too fearful to report the killings, was charged with identity theft and interference with law enforcement.