Downs man arrested in connection with Salina’s 1st homicide of 2018


On Friday, November 30, 2018 at approximately 3:43 a.m., officers were dispatched to 703 State Street reference a call of shots fired. Upon entering the residence, officers found 30-year-old Justin Willingham of Salina had been shot. Willingham was pronounced dead at the scene by Salina Fire Department EMS.

Detectives began interviewing witnesses who were inside the residence at the time of shooting. Through the course of the investigation detectives were able to develop a suspect, Mika Lee Thille, a 25-year-old male from Downs, Kansas. Late Friday afternoon, Thille was brought to the police department by an acquaintance.

At approximately 9:15 p.m. on Friday night, Thille was booked into the Saline County Jail Friday evening on the following charges.

  • Murder in 1st degree; In the commission of felony
  • Murder in the 2nd degree; Intentional
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Agg Burglary; Dwelling for felony, theft, sex

According to reports from Salina Police, Thille was one of two persons of interest in the shooting incident. The other person of interest was Valerie Ann Vogel, who was not listed on the Saturday morning booking report. This was the first homicide in Salina in 2018, according to Salina Police Captain Paul Forrester.

Mika is the younger brother of Matthew Thille who people in our listening area may remember as the suspect who was shot and arrested following an eight hour police standoff in Downs from March 21 of 2012. Matthew Thille had run from a courtroom in Jewell County, and led police on a chase from Mankato to Downs where the long, tense standoff took place.

Matthew was charged with four counts of attempted murder, but in July 2012 he pleaded no contest to one attempted murder charge as part of a plea agreement. He is currently serving time at Lansing Correctional Facility with an earliest possible release date of March 6, 2021 according to the Kansas Department of Corrections.


Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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