Judge orders Mays to serve full sentence in murder case

Shane Mays
Shane Mays(WIBW)
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 6:36 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shane Andrew Mays, 22, the last of five defendants charged in the brutal 2017 slayings of two men and one woman in a North Topeka bungalow, had pleaded guilty earlier this year to reduced charges, then sought probation on his remaining prison time in the case.

But on Thursday, a judge noted Mays aided in the deaths of two victims to save his own life and ordered Mays to finish the remainder of his sentence in prison.

On Thursday, Mays was the last of five defendants to be sentenced in the triple slayings.

Mays, who has been in jail for more than 41 months since he was arrested on March 13, 2017, was asking Shawnee County District Court Judge Steven Ebberts to depart downward to place Mays on probation.

Mays originally was charged with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of Nicole Fisher, 38, and Matthew Leavitt, 19, according to court records.

The third victim was Luke Davis, 20. The victims were Topeka residents.

On February 20, 2020, Mays pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and to aggravated battery, which carried combined sentences of 104 months, which is eight years and eight months.

The three slaying victims were smothered or strangled to death, all on March 12, 2017, in a house at 115 N.W. Grant.

The judge ruled Thursday that Mays aided in the deaths of two victims to save his own life and that he made a choice to save himself at the cost of others.

Ebberts also ruled that Mays' conduct wasn't passive or minor

Mays defense attorney John Ambrosio wrote in the motion seeking the lighter sentence for Mays that his client shows "clear signs" of having empathy for the victims, is experiencing anxiety, distress and "pronounced discomfort" from depression and distress linked to events tied to the case.

Mays might experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, Ambrosio said a psychological evaluation of Mays showed.

After Mays saw his captors brutally murder one victim, he was told he would be killed if he didn't participate in the violence, Ambrosio wrote seeking a downward dispositional departure on Mays' sentence.

“On threat of his life, Mr. Mays was forced to perform acts he found an absolutely morally repugnant and never would have performed otherwise,” defense records said.

Mays reported the triple slayings to police and "fully cooperated with the police throughout the entire investigation and prosecution of all defendants involved," Ambrosio wrote.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Dunbar wrote that Mays chose to join two other defendants in the killing of Leavitt and Fisher “for his benefit. Although he did not commit as much violence as those two, his behavior was not passive,” Dunbar wrote.

Mays “fully cooperated with the state in its prosecutions of the co-defendants,” Dunbar wrote, adding that Mays’ cooperation “has already been incorporated into the terms of his plea agreement.”

Mays doesn't face punishment as a murderer, which would have exposed Mays to prison terms of 25 to 50 years per offense, Dunbar wrote.

Before Mays was sentenced on Thursday, survivors of Matthew Leavitt, 19, and Nicole Fisher, 38, told the judge the impact the deaths of their loved ones have had on them.

"The victims didn't just die," Shari Leavitt, Matthew's mother, said.

"We parents didn't 'lose' our children. Their lives were stolen through cold-blooded, vicious choices by the defendant in this case."

“If the defendant had been fighting alongside of Matt, instead of against him, they could have both escaped with their lives,” she said.

Andrew Fugate recalled Matt, his best friend.

"Although I was born before him, Matt always felt like a big brother to me," Fugate said. "We were the same kind of weird, we shared a ton of inside jokes, none of which ever failed to make me laugh."

Matthew's sister, Samantha Brown, told the judge that her two young daughters -- Matthew's nieces -- suffer nightmares due to his death.

"How do you explain all of this to a child?" Brown said.

Karen Fisher, Nicole Fisher's mother, wants Mays to remember her slain daughter.

"I want you to think every day about the life you stole from Nicole," Karen Fisher said. "Even though she fought battles with her own demons, she was still a loved daughter, sister, mother and aunt."

Of the other four defendants:

Co-defendant Kora L. Liles, 33, and Joseph P. Lowry were convicted of three counts of first-degree murder. Mays testified during their trials. 

Lowry also was convicted of two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count each of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault.

Jurors also convicted Liles of three counts of aggravated assault; three counts of aggravated kidnapping; and one count each of cultivating, distributing or possessing methamphetamines and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia.

After pleading no contest to three counts of first-degree murder, Joseph Aaron Krahn, 35, was sentenced in November 2017 to three consecutive 50-year prison terms.

Brian Joseph Flowers, 35, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to two consecutive 25-year prison terms.

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