Michael Yates likely will be retried on a felony handgun-possession charge after a jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared.

Yates, 27, who is accused in the slaying of Abby Rethlake, still faces seven felony charges in Howard County, even if his possession of a handgun by a serious violent felon charge never comes back to trial.

In addition, Yates already is sentenced to a 20-year prison term for a 2008 armed robbery in Kokomo.

A Howard Superior Court 1 jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict April 13 on a Class B felony charge that could have added another 20 years to Yates’ jail time.

He remains incarcerated at the Howard County jail awaiting trial on five felony charges related to the Rethlake slaying.

Yates also faces a June 1 trial on charges he attempted to tamper with a jury in his robbery trial.

Reggie Balentine, one of four men charged in the April 5, 2008, homicide of Rethlake, already has been found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison for tampering with the jury in Yates’ robbery trial.

Balentine, 32, and Yates, both of Kokomo, Launden Luckett, 22, and Jesse Harris, 26, both of Chicago, all face felony charges in the shooting death of Rethlake and the injury of her friend, Morgan Vetter.

The robbery at Garden Square Apartments occurred the day before Rethlake was killed. The incident involved the same suspects.

Despite jury tampering, a jury in Howard Superior Court 1 convicted Yates of the B felony. He was sentenced a month later to 20 years in prison.

Yates faces one Class C felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery, and a Class D felony charge of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice.

Judge George Hopkins sentenced Balentine to three years on each charge and ordered the terms to be concurrent with each other and consecutive with any possible sentence in the Rethlake homicide.

In the Rethlake shooting case, Howard County Prosecutor James Fleming charged Harris with murder.

Rethlake was killed while she and Vetter were in Rethlake’s car at Meadowlawn Apartments, 1930 S. Goyer Road. A third person in the car, Mark Matthews, was not injured. Fleming alleges Matthews was the target in the shooting, not Rethlake or Vetter.

In Yates’ mistrial, Kokomo police tried to convince a jury that Yates ditched a handgun when he allegedly ran from police on June 18, 2009.

Earlier that day, KPD Detective Michael Banush was watching a residence Yates was known to frequent when word came that Yates was wanted on a warrant for the April 4 robbery.

Banush spotted Yates a short time later, and followed the suspect to a convenience store at Lincoln Road and Rockford Lane. In a probable cause affidavit, Banush said Yates ran when approached by police.

After a short chase, Yates was apprehended. Police said they found a Hi-Point, .40 caliber handgun in some bushes Yates passed as he was fleeing.

Because of a 2001 Allen County felony conviction, police asked Yates be charged with a Class B felony count of possession of a handgun by a serious violent felon.

The jury, however, could not reach a unanimous verdict on the charge.

Yates’ public defender, Rodney Shrock, said the jury may have considered that another suspect also fled from police that day. He also said the police failed to tie the gun to Yates.

“Jurors in 2010 expect some sort of forensic evidence ... something that ties someone to a crime,” Shrock said.

Howard Superior Court 1 Judge Bill Menges said he expects Yates will be retried on the handgun charge.

• Scott Smith is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He may be reached at 765-454-8569 or via e-mail at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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