First-degree murder charges against three men were dismissed Thursday in Barton County District Court. Alejo Villegas, Juventino Villegas and Adam Suppes still face felony charges that include aggravated burglary, stemming from Nov. 15, 2015, when they allegedly broke into the home of Sterling Mills with Aron Villegas. Aron was shot by Mills and died.
Thursday’s hearing before District Magistrate Judge Don Alvord was the conclusion of preliminary hearings held in March. Two of the defendants’ attorneys asked Thursday to proceed to arraignment. Alejo Villegas and Juventino Villegas stood mute when asked to enter pleas. Alvord entered pleas of “not guilty” on behalf. Both have requested jury trials.
The attorney for Suppes, Paul Oller, requested and Aug. 12 arraignment before District Judge Ron Svaty, who will preside over all three cases from now on.
The state showed evidence that the men broke into the Mills residence at the urging of Aron Villegas, who was angry with Mills. They all allegedly battered Mills before he shot Aron.
The murder charges were based on the law that if someone dies during the commission of a felony, all who were involved in the crime may charged with murder. But the law does not apply in this case, because Mills was the shooter and he was acting in self-defense.
All three were also charged with aggravated burglary based on an underlying felony of aggravated battery, and with aiding and abetting aggravated burglary. Alvord cited State’s evidence that the defendants and the deceased all left together from 2903 Lakin Ave. and went in Alejo’s Chevy pickup to the Mills residence at 1801 Eighth St. Aron broke in the door with a sledge hammer, they all went inside and Mills was hit with fists and a board that was part of his bedroom door. Alvord found probable cause and they were bound over for arraignment on those charges.
All three were charged with an alternative of aggravated burglary based on a motive of robbery. This charge was dismissed for Alejo Villegas and Juventino Villegas.
“I do not believe that the Villegas cousins had set off to commit a robbery,” Alvord said.
However, because Suppes reportedly told a Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent he thought they were going there to rob Mills, he was bound over for arraignment on that charge.
Suppes was also bound over on a charge of possession of cocaine. During the investigation, Great Bend Police Detective seized a Visa card and rolled up currency at 2903 Lakin. Both contained white powdery residue. The card belonged to Suppes and he told an agent he used coke in the residence, according to testimony.
Each of the defendants faces additional misdemeanor charges of criminal damage to property and aid and abet criminal damage to property.
While Suppes and Alejo Villegas remain free on bond, Juventino Villegas has been in the Barton County Jail for nearly eight months. His attorney, Kurt Kerns, requested a bond reduction. Juventino appeared in court wearing a jail jumpsuit, his hands and legs in shackles. Kerns said his $1 million bond was based on the murder charge and a pending case in immigration court.
Assistant County Attorney Amy Mellor said the standard bond for the remaining charges is $50,000. Mellor objected to Kerns’s request for an own-recognizance bond.
Alvord set the bond at $45,000; Juventino has already posted a $5,000 bond on the immigration issue.
Alejo Villegas was granted a $125,000 bond in January with the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device and check in with a court service officer twice a week. His attorney, Richard Ney, requested a reduction in conditions in April when the State conceded the murder charges were a mistake. Court records show that Svaty has already granted his request to be released from electronic monitoring, and he doesn’t have to check in as often.