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.

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