Andrew Helm says he can’t understand what happened to his friends.
They were all together just a short time ago — Helm and his wife and sons, Kyle Flack, Andrew Stout, Kaylie Bailey, and Bailey’s young daughter — laughing, grilling hamburgers and planning surprise gifts for each other at Helm’s home in Gardner on a rainy Friday afternoon.
Now four of his friends are dead and one of them is facing a capital murder trial, accused of killing them.
LJWorld coverage: Ottawa homicides• Timeline: Ottawa Quadruple Homicide case
• May 19: Friends tell of homicide victims’ last days
• May 15: Father of slain toddler grieves in Missouri jail
• May 11: Toddler's body found in Osage County
• May 10: Suspect in Ottawa killings charged with murder
• May 9: FBI joins search for missing toddler, now presumed dead; Suspect arrested
• May 9: Homicide suspect had mental health and drug problems, sources say
• May 7: Ottawa triple homicide; missing woman
• May 6: Double homicide investigated near Ottawa
It’s clear that some terrible things happened at 3197 Georgia Road, a farmstead about five miles west of Ottawa, sometime between April 20 and May 6, when investigators began finding the bodies of Kaylie Kathleen Bailey, 21, of Olathe; Bailey’s boyfriend, Andrew Adam Stout, 30, of Ottawa; Steven Eugene White, 31, of Ottawa; and Bailey’s 18-month-old daughter, Lana-Leigh Bailey, whose body was found several days later in rural Osage County. All of them were killed with a gun, Franklin County officials say.
Kyle T. Flack, 27, of Ottawa, has been charged with four counts of murder, one count of rape and one count of criminal possession of a firearm, and is in Franklin County Jail awaiting his next court hearing.
For Helm, who remembers nothing amiss when the group left his home a few days before, it doesn’t make sense.
“I don’t know what happened to Kyle to make him do something like this. Andrew was his friend, too,” he said. “That’s why this is so hard to grasp.”
Stout and Flack had known each other for many years, from when they were kids in Pomona, say friends who knew them both. When Flack was released from prison in 2009, Stout welcomed him into his home on Georgia Road. Flack had served four years for attempted murder after shooting an Ottawa man in 2005, and was released in 2009.
It was typical of Stout to let friends stay at his home, even if they had trouble in their pasts, said his friend Corey Schlotzhauer.
“He was the kind of person — it didn’t matter what you’d done — if he could help you, he’d give you the shirt off his back,” Schlotzhauer said. “He gave people second chances.”
Schlotzhauer was one of the first to discover the bodies when he checked Stout’s residence two weeks ago, worried about his missing friend. Stout was with Flack the last time Schlotzhauer saw him alive, he said. They were both doing work on some rental properties that belonged to Schlotzhauer’s family, joking around as they helped put new trim on the homes.
Stout wasn’t the only one who disregarded Flack’s violent past. Andrew and Lori Helm knew of it, too, and it gave Lori pause to have Flack in their home, playing with their children. But he was great with the kids, they said, and the Flack they knew wouldn’t hurt anyone.
“Everybody’s got skeletons in their closet,” Helm said.
Flack wasn’t easy for everyone to get along with, and could be moody and quiet, Helm said. People could be intimidated by him.
“It took a while to warm up to him. It was something about the aura he put off,” Helm said. “Maybe from being in prison. He would have his off days. There would be days he wouldn’t talk."
But, Helm said, “He was a good guy, once you got to know him.”
A rainy day barbecue
Helm, 27, moved away from Ottawa in December with his wife, Lori, and their two young sons. But he stayed close to Stout, and didn't need a special occasion to invite him over along with his girlfriend, Kaylie Bailey, her young daughter, Lana-Leigh, and Flack.
Helm had gotten a new barbecue grill in mid-April, and thought Friday, April 26, would be a fun time to use it. He wanted Lori to meet Stout’s new girlfriend. If Lori and Kaylie got along, Helm thought, the two could visit and watch the children while he had some time with just the guys.
It rained, but they cooked under the Helms’ covered porch and enjoyed dinner, as Helm and Lori remember it, with hamburgers, bratwursts, hot dogs, potato salad, and mac ‘n cheese. Lori also made carrot cake, which she knew Stout particularly liked. Stout, in charge of the burgers, pressed Velveeta cheese into the patties before grilling them so that they were cheesy from the inside out.
“He did a good job with it,” Helm said.
Lori remembers Kaylie’s daughter, Lana-Leigh, playing in a Little Tikes toy car and coming to dinner with an appetite.
“She ate, like, four hot dogs,” Laurie said. “She was like an eating machine.”
Meanwhile, the group playfully talked around Stout’s plans to buy a surprise gift for Kaylie. Stout and Flack discussed driving to Emporia to “get a tattoo,” which was code for Stout’s plan to have a personalized flying disc, for disc golf, made for Kaylie.
Stout was an enthusiastic disc golf player, his friends say, who loved teaching others to play. Kaylie was one of those people, and she had recently surprised him with the gift of several disc golf baskets that he could use to play on his property on Georgia Road.
“So, you know, he cared about her,” Helm said.
Stout was an open book, Helm said. He hadn’t waited long to send Lori pictures of Kaylie after the two started going out some weeks before.
“He was really proud of her,” Lori said.
When Stout and the other friends left that Friday night in late April, that was the last time he saw them alive. The next time he saw Flack was in court last week.
Looking back, Helm said, it is odd, and even ominous, that Steven White wasn’t there, because he was living with Stout and often came along with him to Helm's house.
Helm doesn’t remember any mention of White’s absence on April 26. But Franklin County officials say he was killed sometime between April 20 and April 28, and lay dead on the 3197 Georgia Road property for days. They have accused Flack of murdering him before later shooting Stout, Bailey and Lana-Leigh.
To the courts
Exactly what happened to White, and what happened to the others after the barbecue, remains unclear and may not be known until Flack goes to trial. Franklin County officials have not made public any motive or theory of the crime, or the exact cause of death for any of the victims. The investigation continues, Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Richards has said, though no other suspects have been named or arrested.
Flack is scheduled to appear in Franklin County District Court again July 8, and the Kansas Attorney General’s office has announced it is taking the lead in prosecuting the capital murder case. Whether prosecutors seek the death penalty won’t be decided for months, but Flack is represented by court-appointed attorney Ron Evans, head of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit in Topeka. Evans has not commented on the case.
For his part, Helm said he is trying not to rush to judgment. He can't understand how his friend Flack could be the killer, but he also wants justice for Stout.
"I'm on Andrew's side," he said. "I want to believe Kyle is just being profiled because of his past crimes, but I don’t know.”