Sterling Mills said he shot Aron Villegas in self defense the night Villegas and others broke into his Great Bend home at 1801 Eighth St. and beat him up. But when Mills called police about the burglary he didn’t mention shooting anyone.
Meanwhile, Adam Suppes first told police that he and Aron Villegas were walking from 2903 Lakin Ave. to Casey’s convenience store on 10th Street to get some pizza when Villegas suddenly grabbed his side and said his chest hurt; then they walked back to the house.
Officers who investigated the early morning events of Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, found stories changed and witnesses on both sides were uncooperative. Details of the unfolding investigation were shared as three combined preliminary hearings began Wednesday for the three men charged with first-degree murder in connection with Mr. Villegas’s death: Alejo Villegas, Juventino Villegas and Adam Suppes.
The preliminary hearing will continue at 9 a.m. Thursday in Barton County District Court.
The Barton County Attorney’s Office alleges that the suspects were with Aron Villegas and were therefore participants in an aggravated burglary that ended in homicide, which means they can be charged with murder.
Amber Allen from the Great Bend Police Department was one of the officers dispatched to 1801 Eighth St. at 6:39 a.m. on Nov. 15. She testified that Mills was “distraught” and “appeared scared, anxious.” There was an abrasion on one of his arms, and his left eye was red and starting to swell.
“He told me several individuals broke in and beat his ass,” Allen said. He told her there were three of four people but he wasn’t sure who they were. The front door was broken, as was the door to the bedroom. Mills said he was hit in the back with a piece of wood from the second door. Police collected a sledge hammer that Mills said had been left behind.
It was during this police investigation that the call of shots fired at 2903 Lakin came in. Mills heard some of the radio talk but still didn’t mention that he had fired a gun.
When he took the stand on Wednesday, Mills admitted the shooting took place in his home, with him firing the .45 Ruger handgun he kept under his pillow. He talked by fighting with Aron, Alegjo and Juventino Villegas. After he fired the gun he heard someone say, “You shot my brother.” Then Alejo Villegas wrested the gun from him and they all left.
Mills identified all three suspects in the courtroom, referring to them as “Adam,” “AJ” and “Tino.” But he stopped short of saying Suppes had been in his home, only saying there was a large white man with tattoos on his arms standing in the doorway.
Instead, he testified that he identified them because he had seen their photos in the paper, and he assumed police had arrested the right people. He did not explain how he knew two of them by their street names.
Allen said Mills was uncooperative and confused when talking to police. But so were the people on Lakin Ave., who admitted there had been drinking the night before. They were also upset about Aron being shot, but no one knew who shot him, or where it happened.
Mills was questioned more than once, by Great Bend detectives and a Kansas Bureau of Investigation Agent. One interview lasted eight hours.
Official reports cited at the preliminary heading show Mills was evasive. He was asked if there was a gun involved. His answers at the time include, “There might have been. It depends. Are you taking me to jail?”
Once he was told that it was “understandable” to shoot intruders who were beating him, he did admit to shooting Aron Villegas.
He told officers and testified Wednesday that his memory is faulty because he had a car accident which caused a brain injury and PTSD, for which he takes medication. And, although he was afraid to go to the hospital on Nov. 15, because someone might be waiting, he did see a doctor later and was told he had a concussion.