Testimony: 15 shell casings from Lawrence triple homicide scene were all fired from defendant’s gun, 2 victims were shot in the back

Police say murder weapon recovered months after slayings

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Lawrence Police Detective M.T. Brown shows jurors a box containing the alleged murder weapon during the trial of Anthony L. Roberts Jr., on Friday, June 14, 2019, in Douglas County District Court.

Updated story

June 25 — Jury finds Topeka man guilty of 3 downtown Lawrence murders

Story updated at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, 2019:

Bullets tore through five people at the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts streets, but all save one apparently fragmented or were never found by police.

Evidence left behind on the pavement did include 15 9 mm shell casings.

All of those were fired from the defendant’s Glock 26 pistol, police and forensic scientists testified at the triple murder trial of Anthony L. Roberts Jr., 22, of Topeka. Police — unexpectedly — recovered that gun seven months after the shootings.

Roberts’ trial started last week and is scheduled to run through Friday in Douglas County District Court. Prosecutors rested their case and Roberts’ defense attorneys started putting on theirs Wednesday afternoon, following testimony by the coroner and Kansas Bureau of Investigation scientists.

Groups of Topeka men got into a fistfight that escalated to gunfire around 1:40 a.m. Oct. 1, 2017. It was bar-closing time on a busy weekend night in downtown Lawrence.

Killed were Leah Elizabeth Brown, 22, of Shawnee; Colwin Lynn Henderson III, 20, of Topeka; and Tre’Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, 24, of Topeka. Royelle Hunt and Tahzay Rayton, both of Topeka, were shot but survived.

photo by: Contributed photos

From left, Leah Elizabeth Brown, 22, of Shawnee; Tre’Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, 24, of Topeka; and Colwin Lynn Henderson III, 20, of Topeka.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Anthony L. Roberts Jr. walks into Douglas County District Court for the eighth day of his murder trial on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

Roberts is charged with second-degree murder, for allegedly intentionally killing Henderson; two counts of first-degree felony murder, for allegedly killing Brown and Dean-Rayton while targeting Henderson; and attempted second-degree murder, for allegedly shooting Rayton, who was hit twice in the pelvis.

Brown was the only victim who knew no one involved. She’d just left a nearby bar with a friend.


The two slain men were both shot in the back, former Douglas County coroner Erik Mitchell testified Wednesday.

Henderson died from a bullet that entered his back and exited through his breastbone, Mitchell said. Henderson had a second gunshot wound where a bullet entered the back of his left calf.

Dean-Rayton died of a single bullet that hit the center of his back and exited the left side of his chest, Mitchell said.

Brown, in the crosswalk when she was shot, died from a single bullet as well, Mitchell said. It hit her left side, went through her aorta, exited her torso, then went through her right arm.

The gunshot wounds were visible in photos of each victim shown to the court.

Other than fragments left in Henderson’s leg, Mitchell found no bullets in the victims’ bodies.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Former Douglas County coroner Erik Mitchell explains gunshot wounds that killed three people to jurors at the murder trial of Anthony L. Roberts Jr. on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in Douglas County District Court.


Police knew the Glock 26 belonged to Roberts because officers pulled him over about 10 minutes after the shootings, while he and three friends were driving west out of Lawrence.

During that traffic stop, detailed previously in the trial, officers temporarily confiscated the gun Roberts was openly carrying in a holster on his hip. Police recorded the gun’s serial number and confirmed it was not stolen.

Police didn’t yet have suspect descriptions from the chaotic downtown shooting scene. Roberts and his group complied with the stop, claimed they hadn’t been downtown and were released at the time — along with Roberts’ gun.

When police arrested and interviewed Roberts a few weeks later, he claimed he sold that gun before the Massachusetts Street incidents, according to video of his police interview played at trial.

More coverage from trial

• June 24 — Jury deliberating intentional murder versus self-defense

• June 21 — Defendant says he fired wildly in fear, ‘wasn’t thinking at all’

• June 20 — Defendant: ‘I been shot twice’ in Topeka, came to Lawrence to party without fear of violence

• June 18 — Witness says defendant told her, ‘I shot Colwin’

• June 17 — Shooting survivor, friend of defendant testify reluctantly

• June 14 — Eyewitness testifies he saw triple murder defendant, second man shooting on Mass. Street

• June 13 — Witnesses at trial describe immediate aftermath of triple homicide

• June 12 — Prosecutors say defendant came to ‘settle a score’ and murdered 3 in melee; he argues he fired in self-defense

In the video, Lawrence police detective M.T. Brown reminds Roberts that officers pulled him over with the gun on Oct. 1, 2017.

“Well,” Roberts then says. “I sold it on the fifth … yep, yep … sure right.”

Roberts says he sold it to someone in Topeka whose name he didn’t remember and that the exchange was at “an abandoned place somewhere.”

Police eventually did obtain the gun, enabling them to submit it to the KBI for testing.

In April 2018, the gun was recovered from the car of a man who fled from law enforcement in Johnson County, M.T. Brown testified. He said that man, who wasn’t connected to the Lawrence incident, wouldn’t say when or where he got the gun.


Prosecutors contend there were two men shooting at 11th and Massachusetts but that Roberts fired the first batch of shots, the ones that were deadly.

Two of Roberts’ friends were charged with less severe crimes in the incident. Ahmad M. Rayton, 23, and Dominique J. McMillon, 20, both of Topeka, have since entered pleas and been sentenced.

In addition to former KBI firearms examiner Amanda Gibson confirming they were fired from Roberts’ Glock 26, 9 mm shell casings from the scene also were tested for touch-DNA.

KBI DNA analyst Jena Sparling said those tests were inconclusive, which is not unusual because casings have gone through a hot gun and aren’t usually touched at length while being loaded in the first place.

“It is somewhat rare in our field to get a DNA profile that is usable off of cartridge casings that have been fired,” she said.

Police said they recovered just one distinguishable 9 mm bullet slug from the incident, in the clothing of Dean-Rayton.

Forensic testing on it failed to conclude what specific gun or model of gun it was fired from, Gibson said. She said testing on bullet fragments also was inconclusive.

The KBI also tested a second group of shell casings found at the scene: six .40-caliber casings police said fell in a cluster a few feet away from the 9 mm casings.

Those casings were all fired from the same gun and did have touch-DNA on them, that of Ahmad Rayton, scientists testified.

In a plea deal, Ahmad Rayton was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter for shooting at Robert Wheeler, the Topeka man who initially got into the fistfight that preceded the gunfire.

Ahmad Rayton was originally charged with three felonies from the incident: two counts of attempted second-degree murder — for allegedly shooting Hunt and trying to shoot Wheeler — as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Lawrence police Detective Gary Pruett holds up an evidence bag containing a bullet slug officers said they found in the clothing of shooting victim Tre’Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, during the murder trial of Anthony L. Roberts Jr. on Friday, June 14, 2019, in Douglas County District Court.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd

Previous coverage: Downtown Lawrence triple murder case

• June 11 — Jury selection will continue for third day in Massachusetts Street murder trial

• June 10 — Massachusetts Street triple murder trial begins in Lawrence

• May 31 — Witness, evidence issues addressed at pretrial hearing in Massachusetts Street triple murder case

• May 13 — After plea deals in downtown Lawrence triple-murder case, DA wants co-defendants to testify against friend

• May 8 — Topeka man sentenced to 10 years in prison for role in Massachusetts Street shootings

• April 3 — Second co-defendant convicted following plea deal in Massachusetts Street murder case

• March 8 — Judge rejects Lawrence triple-murder defendant’s self-defense claim

• March 5 — One co-defendant in downtown Lawrence triple murder case now free after pleading to misdemeanor

• Jan. 11 — Massachusetts Street triple murder trial pushed back until June

• Dec. 4 — After attorney drama in Lawrence triple murder trial, new defense team ready to move forward

• Nov. 20 — Citing ‘incompetence,’ judge kicks attorney off downtown Lawrence triple murder case

• Nov. 16 — Defense attorney tainted jury pool, causing mistrial in downtown Lawrence triple murder case, transcript reveals

• Nov. 15 — Judge: Defense attorney’s demand to disqualify DA from triple murder trial was ‘totally misplaced’

• Nov. 9 — Each defendant in downtown triple murder case will now have his own trial; family of shooting victim ‘devastated’

• Nov. 8 — Mass. Street triple murder trial called off: Judge declares mistrial before jury is picked

• Nov. 7 — Still no jury after 3 days of jury selection for downtown Lawrence triple murder trial

• Nov. 6 — Jury selection spills into third day for Massachusetts Street triple murder trial; media coverage of high-profile case factors into questioning

• Nov. 5 — About 170 potential jurors fill courthouse to begin selection process for downtown Lawrence triple murder trial

• Nov. 1 — Murder defendant’s attorney, DAs clash in ‘cringeworthy’ final hearing before Mass. Street trial

• Oct. 31 — In last-minute filing, Mass. Street triple murder defendant wants DA disqualified from upcoming trial

• Oct. 19 — Lawyer says Massachusetts Street triple murder defendant plans to argue self-defense, slain men shouldn’t be called victims


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