UPDATED: November 9, 2009
Press Releases from 1999
November 8, 1999:
1994 Stabbing of Delta Township Resident
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that the case involving the 1994 stabbing death of Ron Pasko has ended for the second time in a murder conviction.
Today, facing re-trial on the murder charge, LEE MARCEL McDUFFIE, (B/M, 11/04/1969), age 30, entered a no-contest plea to second-degree murder and larceny in the death of Pasko, who was 30 at the time of his death. Mr. Pasko was killed at his residence on Windsong Way in Delta Township of Eaton County. His body was located alongside a roadway in Romulus, Michigan, and his car was found abandoned near Coldwater, Michigan. The larceny charge stems from stereo and computer equipment which had been stolen from the victim's residence at the time of his murder. McDuffie's girlfriend, Stephanie Fisher, pled guilty in 1995 to being accessory after the fact to murder.
McDuffie was originally convicted of second degree murder and larceny in a 1995 jury trial.
"McDuffie was granted a new trial after extensive post-conviction proceedings that focused on whether McDuffie lacked sufficient mental competency during the prior trial", explained Sauter. "This plea is the exact same conviction as before." Sentencing is scheduled for December 10, 1999 at 10:00 am, before Circuit Judge Calvin Osterhaven.
McDuffie has remained in custody since his arrest in 1994.
October 19, 1999:
Man Charged in Murder of Wife
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today the issuance of a felony charge against a Lansing man in the death of his wife.
SEAN D. FRENCH (B/M, 07/04/1968), 31, of Lansing, is facing one count of Open Murder in the killing of his wife Jamie Lynn French, 22.
Mrs. French's body was located in their Lansing, Eaton County residence. Lansing Police officers, along with DeWitt Township Police, Bath Township Police and Clinton County Sheriff's Deputies arrested Sean French in a local motel room.
French was arraigned today by District Judge Paul F. Berger. At the request of Chief Assistant Michael C. Eagen, Judge Berger denied bail to French.
A preliminary examination is scheduled for November 2, 1999.
UPDATE: Sean French pled guilty to Second Degree Murder. He was sentenced on August 03, 2000 in Eaton County Circuit Court to 24-36 years in prison.
October 11, 1999:
Man Charged in Murder of Wife
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that he has charged a local man in the Sunday, October 10th shooting death of his wife.
Sauter stated that HORACE ROBERT MERLINGTON (W/M, 10/06/1932), age 67, of Eaton Rapids is facing one count of Open Murder and one count of Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony in the Sunday murder of his wife Shirley Merlington, 64.
Eaton County Sheriff Pat Hutting stated that his deputies arrested Horace Merlington outside his residence at 8321 Island Highway, approximately seven miles east of Charlotte. Sheriff Hutting indicated that the residence was the scene of the shooting.
Merlington was arraigned today by District Judge Paul F. Berger. At the request of Prosecutor Sauter, Judge Berger denied bail to Merlington.
A preliminary examination is scheduled for October 22, 1999 at 2:00 p.m.
October 07, 1999:
Sauter Elected President-Elect of Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan
The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan recently announced that Jeff Sauter, the Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney since 1991, was elected President-Elect of PAAM. He will serve a one-year term through August 2000.
Sauter was recognized for his long-term commitment to the citizens of Eaton County and his expertise and integrity in prosecution.
PAAM President Brian Mackie said:
"As an association, we need to continue to focus our attention on providing the means for helping local prosecutors do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Jeff Sauter epitomizes the committed prosecutor whose focus is his local county."
"I'm, honored to receive this vote of confidence from my peers," Sauter said. for the past nine years as the elected Prosecuting Attorney, I have strived to make Eaton County a safer place to live and work."
The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan was established in 1929. It is a voluntary association of all 83 of the state's Prosecuting Attorneys, the Attorney General, and the U.S. Attorneys serving in Michigan. Its primary purposes are to promote fair, swift and equal justice in enforcing the state's criminal laws, and the continuing education of Prosecuting Attorneys and other law enforcement officials.
Sauter has been an elected member of the Association's Board of Directors since 1992 and an officer for the past two years. He represents the Association on the Criminal Justice Information Systems Policy Council and has served on various Association committees related to child support, child protection, corrections and is currently chairperson of the legislative committee. He has lectured and served as a seminar faculty on trial advocacy for the Association. He has also been an adjunct professor of Criminal Procedure at Lansing Community College. In conjunction with his Association responsibilities, Sauter has served on Governor Engler's Task Force charged with setting standards for the treatment of domestic violence batterers. He also served on the Michigan Supreme Court's Task Force on Trial Court Performance Standards and the Judicial Information Systems Advisory Commission.
Sauter is a cum laude graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1978 and received his Bachelor of Science from Central Michigan University in 1975. He is married and resides in Delta Township.
September 30, 1999:
Child Pornographer Sentenced to Probation
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that Wesley Clark Hurd, 32, of Eaton Rapids was sentenced today by Eaton County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Eveland to 3 years probation for Distribution of Child Sexually Abusive Material, a felony charge carrying a statutory maximum of seven years prison. He was also sentenced on two companion misdemeanor counts of Possession of Child Sexually Abusive Materials.
As conditions of probation, Hurd must spend 4 months in jail, with release for employment, and repay investigation costs. He is also prohibited from using the Internet, possessing sexually stimulating materials, and he must enroll on the State's Sex Offender Registry.
Hurd was apprehended by Eaton County Sheriff's Detectives, who were alerted by a Detective from San Bernadino, California. The California detective had posed on the Internet as a person interested in child pornography and received images from Hurd of a 10 year old child involved in various sex acts with an adult. After raiding his home, Eaton County Detectives found over 170 images of child pornography on Hurd's computer hard drive.
Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mike Eagen had asked the Court to sentence Hurd to a lengthy jail sentence. Eagen told the Court that the conduct was dangerous to the community because "Hurd was directly involved in the exploitation of the children shown in the photographs."
September 27, 1999:
Charge Issued in Hit-and-Run Death
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced the issuance of felony charges in the hit and run death of thirteen year old Dustin McClellan on August 28, 1999. Dustin was riding his bicycle on Oneida Road, when he was struck and killed by a car driven by AUGUST W. STARIN (W/M, 08/07/1961), age 38, of Grand Ledge.
Starin was arraigned today in Eaton County District Court, before Judge Harvey Hoffman on two felony charges; Manslaughter with a Motor Vehicle (Felony: 15 years) and Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Felony: 5 years).
A preliminary examination is scheduled for October 28, 1999 at 10:00 am. Starin is free on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond. His bond also prohibits any consumption of alcohol and operating a motor vehicle, except to work or to alcohol counseling.
The crash was investigated by the Eaton County Sheriff's Department. Eaton County Sheriff Pat Hutting stated, " I am very proud of my officers. They conducted a thorough and complete investigation to solve this hit and run case."
UPDATE: August Starin pled no contest to Vehicular Manslaughter and Failure to Stop at Scene of Serious Personal Injury Accident. He was sentenced on January 13, 2000 in Eaton County Circuit Court to 2½-15 and 1½-5 years in prison, respectively.
August 13, 1999:
Second Person Charged in Charlotte Double-Homicide
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that he has charged a second person in last week's slaying of John and Shauna Dorman.
JENNY MERIAH BAKA, (W/F, 06/06/1977), age 22, of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, was arraigned on two charges of Open Murder. Her boyfriend, RICHARD WILLIAM DORMAN, (W/M, 08/08/1980), age 19, was previously charged and arraigned on identical charges related to the killing of his parents on August 7, 1999.
"From the beginning, the investigators knew that she had been in the house during the slayings," Sauter noted, "but Michigan law does not punish a person for merely being present during a crime. They must, at a minimum, give aid, assistance or encouragement toward the commission of the crime, to be culpable."
Charlotte City Police Chief Tom Potter said that "it has been an intensive investigation. I'm proud of my detectives and officers, and I also want to thank the Michigan State Police, especially Det./Sgt. Doug Barrett and Sgt. John Palmatier, for their tireless work in uncovering the facts."
Sauter also released preliminary autopsy results that showed that John Dorman died as a result of wounds from a blunt object or objects and a knife, and that Shauna Dorman was killed with a knife.
District Judge Harvey Hoffman denied bail to Baka at Sauter's request, and scheduled a Preliminary Examination for August 27, 1999.
July 21, 1999:
Charges Issued in OUIL Death Case
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that he has authorized multiple felony charges against a Lansing man who caused the death of a young woman and the serious injury of a young man in an automobile crash on May 22, 1999.
ROBERT EUGENE ALLEN, 43, of 4008 Hillborn Lane, Lansing, Michigan, has been charged with three felony counts stemming from the crash at the intersection of M-43 and M-100, in Grand Ledge:
Sara Jane Schroeder, 24, of Grand Ledge was killed in the collision. Jason Dart, 22, of Grand Ledge was seriously injured and is recovering from a broken neck.
Prosecutor Sauter indicated that Allen was observed driving recklessly and in excess of 90 miles per hour as he approached the intersection heading west on M-43. A Sheriff's deputy had clocked Allen's car with radar at 96 mph and just caught up to him at the time that Allen's car smashed into the rear of a mini-van driven by Sandra Kay Chapman, 21, of Grand Ledge. Chapman's vehicle, also heading west bound on M-43, and containing Ms. Schroeder, Mr. Dart and two other young persons, had just started entering the intersection when Allen's car slammed into the rear of the van without warning.
"There was no physical evidence at the scene to indicate that Allen used his car brakes prior to the collision," Sauter said. "Allen's blood alcohol test showed 0.18%, well over the illegal limit of 0.08%," Sauter added.
A preliminary examination is scheduled for July 30, 1999 in Eaton County District Court.
May 13, 1999:
Charges Issued from False Bomb Threats at Schools
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that he has issued charges arising from several recent false bomb threats at area schools. Making a false bomb threat is a felony that, for adults, carries up to 4 years in prison and/or $2,000 fine.
One adult, MATTHEW A. BUCKALEW, age 18, of Eagle, MI, was charged for an incident on May 5, 1999 at Grand Ledge High School.
Petitions were authorized against several juveniles:
Mr. Sauter stated that "I will aggressively pursue charges against any person making bomb threats. It is dangerous, it is irresponsible, and it will not be tolerated."
Mr. Sauter thanks the school officials, teachers and fellow students, and local police, whose prompt response and assistance enabled these charges to be issued. Mr. Sauter also acknowledges the parents of the youths charged, who fully cooperated with authorities during the investigations.
April 27, 1999:
Internet Child Pornography Charged
Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that he has charged a man in the area's first Internet child pornography case. WESLEY CLARK HURD, 31 years of age, of Eaton Rapids, was arraigned on one (1) count of Distribution of Child Sexually Abusive Material, a felony that carries a penalty of 7 years and/or $50,000 fine. Hurd was also charged with eight (8) counts of Possession of Child Sexually Abusive Material, a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of 1 year and/or $10,000 fine.
A preliminary examination is scheduled for May 12, 1999 at 9:00 am in the 56th District Court. Mr. Hurd's bond was set as a $10,000 personal recognizance bond.
Eaton County Sheriff's Detective Dan Prueter was alerted to Mr. Hurd's activities on the Internet by California law enforcement officials. A subsequent search of Mr. Hurd's home by the Eaton County Sheriff's Department revealed more than 170 child abusive images contained within his computer.
Jeffrey L. Sauter stated that he was pleased with the police cooperation from California. "Unfortunately, people can use new computer technology and the Internet in the sexual exploitation of children. With these new tools, this type of material can be sent across the country in seconds."