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Entries in Michigan (65)

Saturday
Dec222012

Remains in Drain Pipe Raise Fears About Michigan Serial Killer 

WXYZ/ABC News(DETROIT) -- Cops in Michigan have made a gruesome discovery: precisely-cut cubes of human flesh hidden in a drainage pipe. They bear a shocking similarity to other remains found last August in another nearby stretch of drain pipe.

Work crews discovered the remains, described by police to ABC News.com as "chunks of skin and fat and little bit of muscle tissue" cut into 4-by-4-inch cubes. They were found stuck to a grating near Warren, Mich., outside Detroit, after water had been removed from the drain pipe during repairs.

The remains appear to be "almost exact matches" in physical appearance to 10 pieces found earlier this year in Sterling Heights, Mich., according to Detective Mel Nearing.

Police have sent the new remains to a lab in Texas for DNA testing. Authorities said they want to determine if they match the body parts discovered last summer, which belonged to an unidentified obese white female.

Nearing said the remains found this week appeared to have been dumped recently, and would have further decomposed had they been discarded in August with the other parts.

Police said they believe that if the remains are from the same person, the killer likely froze the body and has been disposing of pieces slowly over time.

The precision of the cuts would also indicate the body had been frozen before dismemberment, Nearing said.

If the remains are found to belong to a second victim, police said they might have a serial killer on their hands.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec182012

Valedictorian Murder Trial: Jeffrey Pyne Found Guilty of Killing His Mother

Hemera/Thinkstock(HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich.) -- A Michigan jury Tuesday found Jeffrey Pyne guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his mentally ill mother.

Pyne, 22, a former high school valedictorian, star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, had been accused of killing his 51-year-old mother, Ruth Pyne, in the family's Highland Township, Mich., garage on May 27, 2011.

Ruth Pyne had been bludgeoned and stabbed 16 times.

The trial began on Nov. 16. Pyne never took the stand, and his defense did not call any witnesses to testify.

When the verdict was announced in court Tuesday, Pyne appeared to be taken aback. Reacting to the verdict, he tilted his head slightly and blinked rapidly.

He had been charged with first-degree murder but the unanimous jury found him guilty of the lesser second-degree murder charge.

Pyne was well-liked in the Highland Park community, and many people did not believe he was responsible for his mother's death.

Prosecutors said he had been fueled by pent-up rage after years of abuse at the hands of his mother, who spent time in jail for assaulting him in 2010. Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.

But Pyne's defense had said he was not involved in any way with his mother's death, claiming a stranger or strangers likely attacked Ruth Pyne.

The prosecution's case had been largely circumstantial. There was no physical evidence linking Pyne to the killing, but prosecutors did present photos taken shortly after the killing that showed Pyne's blistered hands.

Pyne has said the blisters came from throwing a wooden storage pallet at his job on a local farm.

Speaking to reporters outside the court Tuesday, Pyne's father, Bernie, said he was surprised by the verdict.

"I believe in my son's innocence and I wasn't able to get him home for his sister for Christmas, so it's not been a good year," he said, according to ABC News Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV. "I have to go tell Jeffrey's 12-year-old sister that it's just her and me now."

Jeffrey Pyne's ex-girlfriend, Holly Freeman, had testified during the trial that Pyne's mother was dangerous, delusional and off her medication. Freeman said Ruth Pyne would often assault her son, adding that Jeffrey Pyne was fearful of his little sister, Julia, being left alone in the house with their mother.

Ruth Pyne's sister said the guilty verdict provided "some justice."

"She was not the monster the media portrayed her to be," Linda Jarvie told reporters. "I am deeply saddened by my sister Ruth's senseless death. This was a heinous crime. Ruth Pyne was a victim."

James Champion, Pyne's attorney, also spoke after the verdict was read, saying: "I told him last Christmas that that was the last Christmas he'd spend in jail, and I had every intention of making that promise come true but we didn't get it done, so tomorrow we'll pick ourselves back up and figure out how to move along."

Pyne will be sentenced on Jan. 29. He faces a possible sentence of 7 ½ years to 12 ½ years in prison.

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec142012

Valedictorian Murder Trial: Dad Defends Son

ABC News(DETROIT) -- Bernie Pyne has publicly defended his son Jeffrey Pyne just as the case against the former high school valedictorian accused of killing his mother is expected to go to a jury on Friday.

"It's a tough thing to go through," Bernie told reporters outside a Michigan courthouse on Thursday.  "All I can tell you is that I know my son, my son would never harm his mother.  He would never harm her."

Jeffrey, 22, a former star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, is accused of killing his mentally ill mother, Ruth Pyne, 51, who was beaten and stabbed 16 times in the family's Highland Township, Mich., garage in May 2011.

The case against his son is not rooted in fact, Bernie told the reporters, despite what prosecutors had said in court only a few hours earlier.  They accused Jeffrey of using a board in the family's garage to beat his mother repeatedly before stabbing her to death.

"When he is going to get that board, you can infer from that he has the intent to kill her, when he goes to get the board, there is no other reason to go and get that board," prosecuting attorney John Skrzynski told the court.

Defense attorneys say Ruth was mentally ill and abused her son for years.  She spent time in jail for assaulting him in 2010.  Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.

"The trail has largely been circumstantial," Lori Brasier, a criminal justice reporter for the Detroit Free Press, told ABC News.  "They don't have any physical evidence."

Prosecutors do have photos taken of Jeffrey's blistered hands, taken shortly after the crime.  Jeffrey says the blisters came from throwing a wooden storage pallet at his job on a local farm.

"They have a lot of medical testimony that his story of how that happened is unlikely," Brasier said.

But the community that has supported the former biology student remains skeptical about his involvement in the killing.

"I still feel very confident that Jeffrey is innocent, and that the jury will see it my way, also," Donna Gundle-Kriag, a family friend and Jeffrey's former teacher, told ABC News.

So does his father, who believes the jury will absolve his son.

"We're going to trust that the system works," he said.  "He has a 12-year-old sister who wants him home for Christmas, and that is our prayer."

The defense will make its closing argument on Friday, maintaining that Jeffrey was not involved in his mother's death.  The jury is expected to get the case Friday afternoon.

If convicted, Jeffrey faces life in prison without parole.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec142012

Police Report Filed in Violent Michigan Right-to-Work Clash

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(LANSING, Mich.) -- The conservative group Americans for Prosperity has filed a police report regarding the destruction of their food tent allegedly by pro-union activists during right-to-work protests at Michigan’s State Capitol in Lansing Tuesday.

The violence took place as Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder put his signature to the state’s "right to work" bill, the 24th state in the nation to enact such legislation.  Snyder signed the measure after the state's GOP-controlled legislature passed it by a 58-51 vote.

The state's powerful unions, led by the auto industry, claim the bill is a political move meant to weaken them and their constituency, which primarily votes Democratic.

The Americans for Prosperity group was at the Capitol to show support for the measure.

Opponents of "right to work" showed up on Tuesday to protest, in what was termed by leaders as "peaceful civil disobedience," by linking arms to block entrances, chanting and singing.

A number of pro-union demonstrators allegedly destroyed the conservative group’s tent along with the food supplies of longtime hot dog vendor Clint Tarver, who says he was caught in the middle of the violence.  The Americans for Prosperity group had hired Tarver as a food vendor.

Tarver claims some protesters used the “N” word towards him during the violence and complained that he was “on the wrong side.”

There has since been an outpouring of support for Tarver.  Lorilea Zabadal, an aide to Michigan state Representative Al Pscholka, tells the Detroit News she started an online fundraising drive to help replace Tarver's damaged equipment.  By late Wednesday afternoon, more than $15,000 had been donated through an account at gofundme.com.

Ray Holman of the United Auto Workers Local 6000 says the majority of pro-union demonstrators did not participate in any violence, and suggests that some Republican activists might also bear some of the blame.

“People on the far right side of the political spectrum had tried to instigate and provoke problems,” Holman claimed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec072012

String of 50 Midwest Church Robberies Believed to Be Connected

SE Michigan Crimestoppers(LINDEN, Mich.) -- Authorities believe that at least 50 church robberies that have taken place across a string of Midwestern states in recent months – with the thieves taking everything from money for the poor to gift cards for seminary students – are connected.

According to a crime bulletin released by law enforcement agencies in southeast Michigan and northern Ohio, authorities are searching for two young white males caught on tape by security cameras. One man, wearing a navy blue sweatshirt, is holding a crowbar in the photos.

That was one of the weapons used to break into the Family Tabernacle Church of God in Unadilla Township, Mich., this fall. In fact, the church has been burglarized twice in the last year, but the most recent incident came on Oct. 30 when the robbers smashed a window and ransacked the church's office looking for money. Fortunately for the church, they had installed an alarm system after a break-in last spring saw over $7,000 worth of musical instruments stolen.

"After that we got an alarm system," Pastor Jeff Howard said in a phone interview Friday. "We're in a rural area, but on a state road with a lot of neighbors in front of us and on one side of us, so we felt pretty safe, but evidently we're not."

Howard's church is just one of many – stretching from Flint in eastern Michigan down into northern Ohio and even west into northern Indiana – that have been victimized, a string of robberies that Howard finds deeply disturbing.

"It shows that we as a society are moving away from God instead of moving towards Him. That concerns me," he said. "The thing that's puzzling is if we're responding to these tough times this way, it means people must be angry with God. That's disturbing. All our blood sweat and tears are in this building. It really hurt to see it torn apart like that, but at the same time it showed us how important what we are doing is for this community that we live in. I told them at church that the folks did this came to the right place for help, but they came in the wrong way and at the wrong time. We would still reach out to them today to do everything we could to help them. I just pray that they get the help they need."

Authorities have now posted security photos of two suspects, a development that sprang from an Oct. 7 break-in at Hope Lutheran Church in Linden, Mich.

"They came in the early morning and used a crowbar to break into the church through our doors. They pried open some filing cabinets and got into our safe. They were apparently only looking for money because they left all our computers and other equipment," Pastor Jim Roth said in a phone interview. "We don't store money here, but they took gift cards from our safe that were for seminary students. One of the gift cards was for Wal-Mart and they were able to get pictures of the guys at Wal-Mart in southern Michigan and it matches the ones we took with our security cameras."

"The police thought that because we got pictures of them here and there that that would be very helpful in catching them," Roth noted.

In a press release Friday from the Lenawee County Sheriff Department and the Michigan State Police, authorities said they are looking for two "people of interest" and they believe the break-ins – which started around Aug. 13 with a robbery in Woodstock Township – "are all related."

"We've got photos of the guys now, so that's good," Detective Jeff Smith of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office told ABC News. "We may get some leads coming in soon."

"The last I heard, there are well over 50 churches that have been broken into," he said. "Here in Monroe County I've got eight reports on my desk. They're mostly looking for money. They're going for small, out-of-the-way churches, not hitting the big churches. I think that is because these churches are out in the country, they may not have surveillance systems, they're usually on dark, unlit roads, and some of these congregations lock up after Sunday and don't come back until later in the week. The robbers know it's going to be a few days before the break-in will even be discovered."

According to Howard, the thieves are not getting away with considerable amounts of money, despite the huge number of churches they have hit.

"These guys are looking at prison time from these break-ins and with us, they didn't get anything. With some break-ins they're getting only $200," he said. "So even though they've broken into over 40 churches, they're not getting that much at all. It's just hard to justify it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov302012

Jurors Watch Interrogation Tape in Valedictorian Murder Trial

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- For the first time in his first degree murder trial, jurors, along with the community that continues to stand behind him, heard from Jeffrey Pyne, the former high school valedictorian who is accused of bludgeoning his mother to death in the family's garage.

Pyne, a former star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, is accused of the murder of his mentally ill mother Ruth Pyne, 51, who was viciously beaten and stabbed 16 times in the family's Highland Township, Mich., garage in May 2011.

On Wednesday, the court first heard from Jeffrey, 22, viewing tapes of interviews with him taken by police after his mother's murder.

"Someone killed your mom.  It's not an accident," Detective Sgt. David Hendrix is heard saying on the tape, as Jeffrey is seen putting his hands over his face.  When Hendrix asks Jeffrey if he did anything that day to hurt his mom, Jeffrey says, "No … no."

Friends and neighbors in the tightly-knit Highland Township community refuse to believe Jeffrey killed his mother.  But prosecutors say he had motive and opportunity.

"She got home from grocery shopping.  I helped her bring the groceries in," Jeffrey said when being questioned.  Through tears, he later said, "I'm having a hard enough time … She's always been a really nice lady."

Prosecutors suggest that was a lie, and that Ruth had a history of mental illness, and was often violent toward her children.  In 2010, she was arrested and held in jail after attacking Jeffrey.  Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.

"I graduated high school and she just went manic … it was a change … she wasn't depressed anymore, she [was] just crazy," jurors heard Jeffrey say on the tape.

The day of her death, Jeffrey told investigators things had been getting better with his mother, telling investigators, "We didn't even argue today."

Sitting in court Wednesday, Jeffrey showed little emotion -- a stark contrast from the man jurors watched in the police interrogation video that was shot just hours after the murder.  Jeffrey says he was at work at the time of the killing, and maintains he is innocent.

In the tape, police can be seen checking Jeffrey's body for signs of a struggle.  Officers photographed injuries on his hand, blisters Jeffrey said he got lifting wooden pallets at his job.  Jeffrey had explained the wounds to his boss, who testified, was the results of throwing a shipping pallet.

"It did seem odd to me," his boss, farmer William Cartwright said.  "I expected more of a splinter or scrape than what looked like rope burns."

It is still not clear if Jeffrey will take the stand during his trial.  If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov142012

Michigan Twins Conceived After Dad's Death Seek Benefits

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A set of 10-year-old twins from Portage, Mich., who were conceived after their father had died from complications from lupus, are now at the center of a state Supreme Court case to determine whether they are entitled to his benefits.

Attorneys representing the twins' mother, Pamela Mattison, and the Social Security Administration will argue on Thursday in front of the state Supreme Court over whether children conceived after the death of a father -- through in vitro fertilization or other means -- should be entitled to survivors' benefits.

The twins were conceived after their father, Jeffrey Mattison, died from complications from lupus in 2001, according to documents filed in the case.  He had stored sperm in a bank while undergoing chemotherapy, and his wife, Pamela, had been preparing her body for in vitro fertilization months before his death in January, according to Pamela's attorney.

"The basic argument is that we need to look at conception as being a process, which started with preparing the mother for harvesting of eggs (and goes) all the way through conception, almost a year," said Victor Bland, the lawyer representing Pamela.  Bland said Jeffrey Mattison "died with probably 75 percent of the process done."

Pamela conceived the two children at the end of January, weeks after Jeffrey died.  When she tried to claim survivor benefits for them after they were born, however, the Social Security Administration denied her request, saying that they were not entitled to the money.  Bland said the payments come to a "few hundred per month."

Pamela Mattison filed a federal lawsuit against the administration in 2001, because the SSA is a federal agency, according to Bland.  But because Michigan had no prior state law on the issue, Bland said he was asked by a U.S. Attorney if he would let the case go to the state Supreme Court.  He agreed.

On Thursday, the court will hear arguments on the issue, known as a certified question, which will determine the law in Michigan.  It will become one of only a handful of states who have tackled the survivor issue as it relates to after-death conception.

"Michigan intestacy law requires that heirs be alive when the descendent dies, and that heirs survive the descendent," the U.S. Attorney representing the SSA wrote in a brief.  "Children conceived after the death of their father, like M.J. and M.L.M., do not meet these requirements, and therefore, cannot inherent intestate."

The prosecutors pointed to other states -- including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire -- that have ruled that children conceived after the death of a parent cannot inherit.

Bland pointed to a federal district court ruling from the 9th District that supported his position, but acknowledged that he faced an "uphill battle."

Bland said that the Mattisons hope to have finality from the Supreme Court's decision, whichever way it falls, and to remain out of the public eye.

Ryan Cobb, attorney for the Social Security Administration, was not available for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov132012

Valedictorian Accused of Killing Mentally Ill Mom Heads to Trial

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A former high school valedictorian and University of Michigan student is on trial Tuesday for first degree murder, accused of bludgeoning and stabbing his mentally ill mother to death in the family’s suburban Michigan home.

Jeffrey Pyne, 22, was arrested in October 2011, five months after Ruth Pyne was found dead in the garage of the family’s Highland Township, Mich., home.  Ruth, 51, was found dead by her now 11-year-old daughter.

Jeffrey was indicted by a secret grand jury as so little is known about the evidence linking him to the murder.  Court documents filed by prosecutors do refer to wounds on his hands hours after the murder.  Jeffrey says he was at work at the time of the murder and maintains he is innocent.

His father, Bernard, tells ABC News that his son is innocent.

Court records show that Ruth had a history of mental illness dating back 14 years and was allegedly often violent.  In 2010, she was accused of attacking her son, allegedly beating him and attempting to strangle him.  She was placed in jail for two weeks.

“Her own psychiatrist actually recommended that she become an inpatient because of her mental illness.  The question is, did this violent history with the mother provide a motive for the son to then commit murder?” said former prosecutor Dan Schorr.

The murder and arrest shocked residents in Highland Township.  By all accounts, Jeffrey was the perfect son who was named valedictorian at West Highland Christian Academy.  He was a star athlete who was majoring in biology at the University of Michigan.

“The whole thing really upset the neighborhood.  I really don’t think Jeffrey did it,” said neighbor Walt Hickok.

As the trial begins Tuesday morning, many of Jeffrey’s neighbors where he grew up agree that he is innocent and wrongly accused.

“We don’t feel that the real murderer has been caught.  We feel that there is someone out here that did it, other than Jeffrey,” Hickok said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov012012

Cops Look for Gunman Randomly Firing at People on Michigan's I-96

ABC News(DETROIT) -- Police in Michigan are frantically searching for a shooter who has been randomly firing at people in their cars on a stretch of highway near Detroit.

On Saturday afternoon, a baseball fan driving along the interstate 96 corridor en route to a World Series game in Detroit was shot in his left hip.  
Emily Roll, a gas station employee who witnessed the aftermath of the shooting, said that at first, the victim came limping into a gas station looking for help.

"First he said to call the cops," she said.  "I thought he got robbed, but then he said I just got shot off the highway."

Only 30 minutes earlier and a mile away, another car on the interstate was hit with a bullet entering through the back window and slicing through the car.  That driver was not injured.

"If somebody would have been sitting in the rear seat of the first vehicle, they'd have been hit," Livingston County Sherriff Bob Bezotte said.

Since mid-October, 24 vehicles have been hit by bullets along a stretch of I-96.  Until Saturday, no one had been hurt, but authorities fear there's a serial shooter out there with deadly intentions.

Former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett said the seeming randomness of the shooting is perilous.

"We don't know why, but the big concern is he is anonymously shooting at cars and eventually someone is going to get killed.  It is a very dangerous situation," Garrett said.

A federal and state task force has been formed to catch the shooter, and police have released a composite sketch of the suspect.

"Somebody knows this individual is out there doing this," Bezotte said.  "And we encourage them to call us so we can put him in jail where he needs to be before somebody actually gets killed."

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI and Crime Stoppers are offering $102,000 for information leading to an arrest of the suspect. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct032012

Teamsters Boss Jimmy Hoffa Is Still Missing

Siri Stafford/Thinkstock(ROSEVILLE, Mich.) -- Wherever Jimmy Hoffa is, he's not under a driveway in Roseville, Mich.

The mystery of what happened to the controversial Teamsters boss lives on as Roseville Police Chief James Berlin confirmed on Tuesday that no signs of human composition were found after the driveway was dug up last Friday.

Authorities were acting on a so-called "credible tip" that the remains of Hoffa, who disappeared without a trace in July 1975, might be buried on the property.

However, soil samples tested by the forensic and anthropology department at Michigan State University turned up zilch.

While most everyone assumes that Hoffa vanished under nefarious circumstances, no one has ever been accused of bumping off the powerful union leader, who was 62 when he was last seen outside the Detroit-area Machus Red Fox restaurant on July 30, 1975.

For years, it was speculated that Hoffa was buried around the end zone at the former Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio