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Joint preliminary hearing set for 3 defendants in Massachusetts Street triple murder case

From left, Anthony L. Roberts Jr., Ahmad M. Rayton and Dominique J. McMillon will appear in Douglas County District Court for charges related to the Oct. 1, 2017 triple murder on Massachusetts Street.

Three Topeka men charged in connection with a quintuple shooting in downtown Lawrence will have a joint preliminary hearing next month.

The trio of defendants — all in custody — appeared as a group Wednesday afternoon before Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny, who scheduled an all-day preliminary hearing for Dec. 7.

At a preliminary hearing, the judge hears evidence and decides whether there’s probable cause for the case to continue to trial.

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson himself is prosecuting the three Massachusetts Street cases on behalf of the state.

And though without an attorney since being arrested more than two weeks ago, the defendant charged with the most serious crimes — three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder — has now hired one.

Topeka-based attorney Jennifer Chaffee said Wednesday she had just executed a contract that day with Anthony L. Roberts Jr., 20. Chaffee said while she had not yet received documents in the case, she could be ready for the preliminary hearing in a month.

After the hearing, Chaffee declined to comment further on her client or his case.

Roberts remains jailed on $1 million bond.

The shootings happened about 1:40 a.m. Oct. 1 at the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts streets, where, police say, a flurry of gunfire erupted from a physical altercation. A Shawnee woman and two Topeka men were killed by the gunfire, and two other Topeka men were hurt.

Roberts is charged with one count of first-degree felony murder in the death of Leah Brown, 22; two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Colwin Lynn Henderson, 20, and Tre’Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, 24; and one count of attempted second-degree murder for allegedly shooting Tahzay Rayton two times.

Ahmad M. Rayton, 22, is charged with one count of attempted second-degree murder for allegedly shooting Royelle Hunt in the leg. He is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Rayton, whose appointed attorney is Michael Clarke, is jailed on $1 million bond.

Dominique J. McMillon, 19, is charged with one count of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening a person named Robert Wheeler with a gun, and one count of battery, also against Wheeler.

McMillon is being held on $25,000 bond. His appointed attorney is J.C. Gilroy.

Lawrence police have not released additional details from their investigation into the shootings, other than that a crowd of up to 100 people was in the area at the time and that they believe some people were targeted and innocent bystanders were "affected."

Pokorny so far has denied the Journal-World’s requests for affidavits prepared by police in support of the three men’s arrests.

In orders sealing the affidavits, the judge said the police investigation was ongoing and that releasing the affidavits could cause the destruction of evidence and possibly endanger the life or safety of witnesses.

Contact public safety reporter Sara Shepherd

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