RILEY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Manhattan teen convicted in the shooting death of his classmate will learn his fate in prison Monday.
Cole Drake, 16, was sentenced in Riley County District Court at the courthouse in downtown Manhattan at 3:30 on October 29, 2012. WIBW cameras were not allowed inside during the hearing.
In September, Drake took a plea deal with the state just days before he was set to stand trial for the April 2011 murder of 14-year-old Tyler Dowling. The two boys had attended Manhattan High School together.
Drake entered a plea of no contest to Intentional Second Degree Murder, one count of Aggravated Robbery, five counts of Vehicular Burglary occurring on April 12, 2011 and one count of Vehicular Burglary occurring December 24th , 2010. The court then found him guilty of the crimes.
Tyler Dowling’s body was found in a field near the 500 block of Walters Drive in Manhattan on April 13, 2011 near Eisenhower Middle School.
Police say Cole Drake was the last person seen with Tyler Dowling and Drake was questioned by Riley County detectives after Dowling’s body was discovered.
Investigators say Drake admitted to shooting Dowling twice during an interview at the Riley County Police Department and told them where they could find the murder weapon.
According to police, the teens snuck out of their houses and were breaking into cars together or “car hopping” late at night on April 12, 2011 when the deadly shooting occurred.
Drake told police that Tyler Dowling and another friend named Patrick Goodman had been fighting and he thought he owed it to Goodman to kill Dowling and wanted to look tough. Drake claimed he didn’t want to kill Dowling but thought that he had to because his allegiance was more with Goodman. In a recorded statement to police, Drake says he started walking slower across the field, behind Dowling, and pulled out the gun and shot him. As Dowling was bent over holding his head and trying to stand up and walk away, Drake says he shot him again in the side because he was scared Dowling was going to tell someone what he’d done and Drake saw no other way out of the situation.
Drake ran away, throwing Dowling’s cell phone into a nearby pond because it was ringing and tossing the gun under a shed at the Manhattan Baptist Church on Tuttle Street. He also said he washed his clothes when he got home to get rid of any gunshot residue and threw his sneakers away- all because he didn’t want to go to jail.
Drake was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum penalty sought by the state according to his plea agreement.
He had a hard time facing his victim's family during the hearing as Tyler Dowling's mother, Angie Dowling Burnett, delivered an emotional statement, calling Drake a "disgrace" and "cold-blooded killer" who executed her son and left him "like road kill"- alone in a field to die. She told Drake that she hopes her son's last words as he pleaded for Drake's help will haunt him for the rest of his life. Drake took Dowling's cell phone after he shot him twice, leaving him with "no lifeline" and "without any way to call for help," she said. She described the emotional toll her son's death has taken on their family and said she hopes Drake's time in prison will be a "living hell."
Drake, meanwhile, struggled to get through a short letter he wrote to Tyler Dowling which he read out loud during the hearing. He said he was sorry and didn't deserve to be Dowling's friend and that if he could trade places with him, he would.
"It's a sad tragedy for two families- not only the Drake family but the Dowling family and so a lot of regret, a lot of sorrow and hopes that the future will bring some healing and also bring to Cole Drake some measure of change in his life that in a positive way, makes a difference," said Larry McRell, Drake's attorney. McRell is the chief public defender for the region.
"Certainly, there's been a lot of pain inflicted on this family and no one ever wants to bury a child. It's a killing you can't make sense of. Hopefully, the community can start to heal and move forward," added Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson.
"Here in Riley County, we just don't have young people, teenagers, involved in those types of crimes and to carry out a murder, we have not had that happen," Wilkerson said.