Lawrence murder suspect enters plea in lower-severity case

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Steven A. Drake III appears in Douglas County District Court during a hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019.

Lawrence resident Steven A. Drake III, 22, has three pending criminal cases against him in Douglas County District Court — all involving victims being killed or seriously hurt.

Drake has now entered a plea and been convicted in one of those cases, stemming from a fight that injured a teen two years ago.

Originally charged with aggravated battery in the case, Drake pleaded no contest to attempted aggravated battery, a lower-severity felony, in June, according to court documents. Drake was accused of beating a 16-year-old boy in a fight, causing a serious head injury, on July 8, 2017.

Drake is scheduled to be sentenced in the case on July 29.

State sentencing guidelines call for 17 to 46 months prison for the conviction, Cheryl Wright Kunard, assistant to the district attorney, said in an email. She said Drake’s prior criminal history would factor in to whether the guidelines recommend prison or allow for probation.

Drake has already been in jail nearly two years — since being arrested at the scene of the homicide he’s charged in — and remains held on $750,000 bond.

His sentencing in the battery case is three weeks before he’s scheduled to go on trial for first-degree murder, beginning Aug. 19.

Bryce S. Holladay, 26, of Lawrence, was shot and killed the night of Sept. 19, 2017, in the doorway of Drake’s home in the 2000 block of West 27th Terrace.

According to Drake and three other people at the house with him, Holladay was taking items from the home and refused to leave, even after the four of them tried to physically force him out the door.

Witnesses testified at a preliminary hearing that Holladay was trying to punch them and force his way inside the house when Drake retrieved a handgun from a bedroom and shot him in the face at close range.

Drake’s appointed attorney, Angela Keck, has said that she plans to argue he’s not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder as charged because he acted in defense of himself or others. Drake previously tried to get the charges dismissed altogether, arguing that he acted lawfully under Kansas’ stand-your-ground law, but the judge denied that request.

Drake’s third case remains pending, in which he’s charged with vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor.

That case stems from a November 2016 crash near Clinton Lake that killed Taylor B. Lister, 24, of Lecompton.

Though the fight and crash occurred prior to the homicide at Drake’s home, he was not charged in those cases until months after he was arrested in the homicide case.

Drake previously rejected a plea offer that would have resolved all three cases together.

Asked how the new plea deal arose, Wright Kunard of the DA’s office said the office would not comment on plea negotiations.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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