A drug dealing operation goes awry.
A ringleader orders the kidnapping of one of the partners in crime, whose body is found seven months later buried in a field.
It sounds like a plot straight from a crime novel. But the details are from a real case that began unfolding Tuesday in Douglas County District Court.
Prosecutors concluding a two-day preliminary hearing asserted that Michael W. Kesselring, 41, Topeka, was the triggerman in the September 2000 slaying of 38-year-old Dale Alan Miller. The Topeka man's remains were found in April 2001 beneath dirt and rubble in a field near Lecompton.
Three other Topeka men also are charged in the case: Curtis D. Callarman, 24; Michael W. Reece, 34; and Gary F. Holmes, 52.
Heather Reece, estranged wife of Michael Reece, testified Tuesday that the men and Miller had operated a drug ring. She told the court the men kept their drugs in a storage locker, but in September 2000 the stash was stolen. She testified Miller was the last to have the key to the locker.
"It didn't dawn on me that something bad was going to happen to Dale," Heather Reece said from the witness stand. "I figured they'd just threaten him."
Prosecutors assert the four men concocted an elaborate plan to kidnap Miller. Witnesses said Callarman went to the door of a house where Miller was staying to lure him outside. Holmes and Kesselring allegedly were waiting to nab him, armed with handguns.
Prosecutors said Kesselring then drove Miller to rural Douglas County while Holmes held a gun to the back of Miller's head.
Kesselring allegedly ordered Miller from the car and shot him five times with a .22-caliber handgun.
KBI agents discovered Miller's decomposed body in April 2001 in a field near Lecompton, buried beneath dirt and concrete rubble.
It took authorities nearly a year to identify the body because it was so badly decomposed.
Judge Paula Martin ruled there was enough evidence presented during the preliminary hearing to bind Kesselring over for trial on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping.
His arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 12.
Kesselring is the only member of the group charged with murder. The other men face charges of aggravated kidnapping and conspiracy.