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Man pleads not guilty in dead body case

MANTORVILLE — A man accused of helping move a dead body from his Hayfield apartment to Rochester has pleaded not guilty.

Ernest Rubin Collins, 46, entered the plea Wednesday in Dodge County District Court, where he's been charged with interference with a dead body, a gross misdemeanor. His next court appearance has been set for June 4.

James Floyd Evans, also 46, pleaded guilty to the same charge last month. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail, two years of probation and ordered to write a letter of apology.

Both men were charged in November for their alleged connection to the overdose death of a Rochester man.

The charges stem from the investigation into the Oct. 12 death of Kairo Luke Sotelo, 31. His body was found about 5:50 a.m. in the 600 block of 10th Avenue Southeast, in Rochester, lying on the boulevard. From the start, law enforcement believed Sotelo had died elsewhere and his body dumped.


Sotelo had last been seen alive Oct. 11, when he was gathering some belongings from where he'd been living.

During the course of its investigation, Rochester police investigators contacted area law enforcement agencies to discuss possible suspects, including Collins.

A Dodge County investigator related an incident at Collins' residence on Jan. 20, 2013, when a 31-year-old woman died of a heroin overdose. Sotelo was a witness in that case.

On Oct. 22, Collins and Evans — who lived with Collins and was acting as his personal care assistant — allegedly admitted to Rochester investigators that Sotelo had, indeed, died in Collins' Hayfield apartment.

According to the criminal complaint, Evans said the two had driven to Rochester to pick up Sotelo, who had been kicked out of the Cronin Home, then drove back to Hayfield with him.

Evans said he left the apartment for a while, then got a panicked call from Collins, saying he thought Sotelo had died. When Evans arrived, Sotelo was dead, the complaint says; Collins was nervous because of the past death in his apartment.

Evans said he loaded Sotelo in Collins' wheelchair, put the body in the van and dumped Sotelo in Rochester.

A search warrant of Collins' apartment allegedly turned up Sotelo's Minnesota driver's license, an empty bottle of prescription drugs in Sotelo's name and a black garbage bag with clothing and other personal items.


Further investigation revealed the apartment complex in Hayfield had several surveillance cameras. The video at 7:40 p.m. shows Evans, Collins and Sotelo arriving at the apartment; Sotelo is pushing Collins in his wheelchair.

At 2:52 a.m., three cameras show Evans wheeling Sotelo out of the apartment in Collins' wheelchair, the report says. Sotelo was slumped over and had his chest covered with a black jacket, wearing tan pants that match photos taken at the scene in Rochester. Sotelo also is wearing a light blue hat of some kind that wasn't with him when the body was discovered.

According to the complaint, Sotelo does not appear to be conscious or alive in the video.

At 3:05 a.m., the video shows Evans returning to the apartment with an empty wheelchair; at 3:13 a.m., Evans leaves the apartment again, followed shortly after by Collins, who is now in the wheelchair.

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