UPDATED: September 3, 2013
Press Releases from 2000
92-Year Old Patient
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter advised that THOMAS RICHARD MOSS, 40 years of age, of East Lansing, Michigan, was charged today with Assault with Intent to Murder (a felony charge with a maximum penalty of life in prison). Moss is the Nursing Shift Supervisor at Tender Care West, and was allegedly discovered trying to suffocate a 92-year-old female bed-ridden patient.
Prosecutor Sauter stated, "I am gravely concerned about this situation because our victim was virtually defenseless. I am sure that the community shares my relief and gratitude that the other staff workers responded quickly and appropriately to contact the police. I have encouraged Eaton County Detectives to expand their inquiry to other possible attacks. Any persons with information should contact Detective Dan Prueter at the Eaton County Sheriff's Department, (517) 372-8217 or (517) 543-3512."
[See follow-up press release,
Assistance Given by Viewers of "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED"
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter advised today that two persons were charged on fugitive warrants out of Ohio and Indiana.
THOMAS BENJAMIN HANSEN, 40 years of age of Charlotte, was charged on a fugitive warrant out of the states of Ohio and Indiana for the extraditable crimes of Armed Robbery and Aggravated Robbery.
TONI MARIE OLIVER, 28 years of age of Charlotte, was charged on a fugitive warrant out of the state of Indiana with the extraditable crime of Armed Robbery.
According to information provided by authorities in Ohio and Indiana, the charged crimes all occurred at Meijer stores near the Michigan borders.
The defendants were featured on the television program "America's Most Wanted" recently and viewers had called in with information that assisted in the arrest of Oliver and Hansen.
Prosecutor Sauter stated, "This case reflects impressive cooperation between the police investigators in three states. I am very proud of the effort by our Eaton County Detectives and pleased with the assistance provided by the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad."
Hansen and Oliver are both held on $500,000 bond. An extradition hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, December 28th, 2000.
Possession of Marijuana, Furnishing Alcohol to Minor
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter advises that DANIEL BARRY GOTKIN (d.o.b. 06-20-1966) was charged today on the following offenses:
The Eaton County Sheriff Department arrested Mr. Gotkin on Sunday, December 3, 2000. He was arraigned today before Eaton County District Judge Harvey Hoffman, who set bond at $10,000, with conditions of not having contact with the complaining victim, not drinking alcohol, not taking non-prescribed drugs, and submitting to random urine test.
According to information released during the arraignment hearing, Gotkin is a student at Cooley Law School, and works as an extern in the Michigan Supreme Court.
Gotkin's preliminary examination is scheduled before Judge Hoffman on December 21, 2000.
UPDATE: Daniel Barry Gotkin pled guilty to Possession of Marijuana, Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor, and CSC 2nd Degree (2 counts). He was sentenced on August 17, 2001 by Eaton County Circuit Court Judge Thomas S. Eveland to 365 days in jail, and will be on probation for 5 years. He is also registered as a sex offender.
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced that AIRICK TRAMMEL SMITH (b/m, dob 09-07-1981) was charged today with Open Murder of Michelle Lynn Husband (Felony: life sentence), and Removing Dead Bodies without Medical Examiner Permission (Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $500 fine).
A co-defendant, TEVELL IREECE McCLAIN (b/m, dob 08/28/82), of Lansing, was also charged with Accessory after the Fact to a Felony (Open Murder), which is a felony with a 5-year incarceration and/or $10,000 fine.
Chief Assistant Michael Eagen explained the different charges:
"The investigation by Lansing Police Department established that McClain was present during the murder and assisted Mr. Airick Smith in removing and burying the victim. Mr. McClain has been cooperative with authorities and is expected to testify in the case against Airick Smith."
Michelle Lynn Husband's body was discovered in a shallow grave on November 11, 2000. Eagen advised that the investigation indicates that Ms. Husband was strangled to death.
Smith and McClain were arraigned before Eaton County District Judge Paul Berger. Smith was held without bond, and McClain was given a $5,000 (10%) bond. Their preliminary examinations were scheduled for December 15, 2000 at 1:30 pm.
[See other press releases on this case from 01/03/2001 & 05/16/2001.]
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter advised that the Michigan Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of DON GENE MILLER. In its November 29, 2000 statement, the Supreme Court announced:
"On order of the Court, the application for leave to appeal from the May 30, 2000, decision of the Court of Appeals is considered, and it is DENIED, because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court."
Don Gene Miller had appealed his 1998 conviction for having a Weapon in Prison and his sentence of 20-40 years. He claimed, among other issues, that Sauter and Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings had engaged in "prosecutorial stalking" when they participated in the Sault Ste. Marie trial. That claim was unanimously rejected by Court of Appeals Judges, Harold Hood, Henry Saad and Peter O'Connell, who found that the charges were lawfully authorized.
Miller, an admitted killer of four women in the late '70's, was nearing the end of his sentence and was eligible for release. Ironically, Miller's sentences for the killings had already been completed. He remained in prison for his attack on two Eaton County teenagers that occurred two days after his fourth murder. Because of good time and overcrowding reductions, Miller's 30-50 year sentence could have expired in February 1999.
"This latest ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court assures that Don Gene Miller will not be a threat to society,", stated Prosecutor Sauter.
Digital Focus on Domestic Violence
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter gave local police agencies a new tool for fighting domestic violence. Six digital cameras were purchased through a STOP Grant funded by the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board. The Board distributes funds from the Federal Act, VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), that target domestic violence. These cameras were distributed today to six area Police Chiefs at a ceremony in the Eaton County Courthouse.
"Digital cameras will bring our local police agencies into the future of crime fighting," Prosecutor Sauter stated. "The reason that funding was sought for these agencies is their limited financial resources. But incidents of domestic violence in their communities showed a need for this effective tool." The digital cameras will allow the police to memorialize the victim's injuries, and the property damage that were done in the criminal act. "These valuable tools will assist the police, the prosecutor and the victims in seeing that Domestic Violence incidents are brought to a successful prosecution of the perpetrator, " Prosecutor Sauter advised.
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter advises that the Honorable Judge Thomas Eveland sentenced JENNY MERIAH BAKA today. Baka had pled guilty to two counts of Second Degree Murder for the August 7, 1999, killings of John and Shauna Dorman in Charlotte. She received 27 to 50 years on each count, with credit for 447 days served.
Co-defendant RICHARD WILLIAM DORMAN was also sentenced in Judge Thomas Eveland's courtroom. Dorman was found guilty by a jury in September of one count of First Degree Murder and one count of 2nd Degree Murder. He was sentenced to life without parole for 1st Degree Murder, and Life for 2nd Degree Murder in the deaths of his parents.
Note: For more information, see:
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter advises that DIANE MARTZKE (d.o.b. 03/01/1964), of Grand Ledge, was arraigned today in front of 56th District Court Judge Paul Berger on the following charges:
Chief Assistant Michael Eagen credits the work of a multi-agency group of investigators that target child abuse and neglect cases. "The Detectives from the Grand Ledge Police Department and the Michigan State Police worked cooperatively to investigate this case", Eagen noted.
Martzke's bond was set at $5,000, 10% bond with the pre-examination conference set for October 23, 2000 at 1:00 p.m. and the preliminary examination set for October 27, 2000 at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Honorable Judge Paul Berger.
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter advises that the Honorable Judge Thomas Eveland sentenced DONNA LEE HUNTING, of Charlotte, today. Hunting had pled guilty to Solicitation to Murder and she was sentenced to 365 days in the Eaton County Jail with credit for 122 days, $200 in fines, $200 in costs, $60 to the Crime Victims Rights Fund, three years probation and mental health counseling.
This incident occurred on June 12, 2000 and was investigated by the Eaton County Sheriff Department.
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter advises that the Honorable Judge Calvin Osterhaven sentenced JARIS McINTOSH, of Lansing, today. McIntosh had pled guilty to two counts of CSC 4th Degree and two counts of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors. McIntosh was sentenced to 365 days in the Eaton County Jail with credit for 2 days, $2000 in fines, $2000 in costs, $60 to the Crime Victims Rights Fund, three years probation, register as a sex offender, and no contact with the victims or victim's family.
This incident occurred on May 5, 2000 and was investigated by the Eaton County Sheriff Department.
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter released the following "Letter to the Editor" to local newspapers in Eaton County:
Our country's justice system should not mystify its citizens. But it does. This November, we will vote on candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court, and there may be no more important vote on the ballot. Many residents of Eaton County ask for my opinion because it can be difficult to evaluate judicial candidates. Having spent the last ten years as your Prosecuting Attorney, I have seen the impact that individual judges can have on our system of justice. Some, unfortunately, add to the mystery. Good judges provide clear guidance and contribute to a legal system that makes sense and that responds appropriately to the people.
I support our three incumbent justices --- Robert Young, Steve Markman, and Cliff Taylor --- because their common-sense approach provides needed leadership and contributes to a safe community.
Before I give specific reasons, let me suggest that you ignore the TV advertisements about the Supreme Court race. Those advertisements demean the judiciary and insult voters by falsely suggesting that judicial candidates can be scored like a sports contest. One ad pronounces how many times a judge ruled against "families", as though it was the judge's duty to make sure that the family won without considering the facts of the case. Must McDonald's lose because the lady who spilled coffee in her lap has a family?
I endorse the current justices because of their common-sense approach to criminal cases and their sensitivity to crime victims. They show common sense by recognizing that appellate judges should not quickly substitute their judgment for that of trial judges and juries. In addition, the incumbent justices have voted to re-instate a number of criminal convictions that had been reversed on mere technicalities. They decided correctly that the errors did not undermine the justness of the convictions. As a result, our criminal justice system is more stable and crime victims and their families are much less likely to be re-victimized by the uncertain prospect of a second trial or the release of a dangerous criminal.
As your Prosecuting Attorney, I can tell you that there are plenty of judges who only look to protect the rights of the criminal. We need judges and justices who, while ensuring due process of law for the accused, also give appropriate respect to crime victims.
Moreover, one of the most important principles underlying our democracy is the separation of powers. No one official or branch of government was intended to control the others. And, it is the role of the legislature, not the courts, to make law and decide policy. In the past, some appellate judges claimed the power to change public policy. This "trust me, I-know-what-is-best-for-you" approach represents a well-disguised abuse of power. Some interests groups want to return to that style of judicial activism. The trial lawyers associations desire it because they hope to obtain remedies from the Supreme Court that they couldn't get from the legislature. Why else would one Detroit law firm donate $225,000.00 to the campaign of a challenger? Conversely, our incumbent justices correctly believe that their role is to interpret the law and not to legislate from the bench.
Retaining Justices Young, Taylor, and Markman, will have a real impact on public safety and increase citizen confidence in our justice system. Please join me in voting to retain them on November 7th.
Jeffrey L. Sauter
(former) Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney
Former Eaton County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Michael C. Eagen announced today that BENJAMIN A. JOHNSON (d.o.b. 08/12/1977) of Dearborn, Michigan, was arraigned on Friday, October 6, 2000, in front of Magistrate Brien Fortino. He was charged with the following:
The offenses are alleged to have occurred between September 9, 2000 and September 15, 2000.
Bond was set at $50,000 cash surety. The Preliminary Examination will be held on October 19, 2000 at 10:00 a.m. in front of the Honorable Judge Paul Berger.
[See a follow-up press release on this case.]
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that HORACE ROBERT MERLINGTON, 67, of Eaton Rapids, entered a "no contest" plea to the charge of Second Degree Murder in the shooting death of his wife, Shirley Merlington, 64.
Judge Calvin Osterhaven entered a plea of Guilty but Mentally Ill for Merlington, based upon records provided to the court. Sentencing is scheduled for September 28, 2000 at 10:00 am. Judge Osterhaven indicated that the minimum sentence would not exceed eight years, given the information he had. The judge did not determine what the maximum sentence would be.
Shirley Merlington's body was found in the family's garage on October 10, 1999. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael Eagen stated, "An autopsy revealed that Shirley Merlington died as the result of a single shotgun blast to the chest."
[Click here for an earlier press release on this case.]
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey L. Sauter announced today that a 3-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed DON MILLER's conviction and sentence.
Miller (W/M, 12/28/1954) had appealed his 1998 conviction for having a Weapon in Prison and his sentence of 20-40 years. He claimed, among other issues, that Sauter and Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings had engaged in "prosecutorial stalking" when they participated in the Sault Ste. Marie trial. That claim was rejected by judges, Harold Hood, Henry Saad and Peter O'Connell, who found that the charges were lawfully authorized.
The trial drew significant attention because Miller, an admitted killer of four women in the late '70's, was nearing the end of his sentence and was eligible for parole. Ironically, Miller's sentences for the killings had already been completed. He remained in prison for his attack on two Eaton County teenagers, that occurred two days after his fourth murder. Because of good time and overcrowding reductions, Miller's 30-50 year sentence could have expired in February 1999.
Area law enforcement officials were convinced that Miller would kill again, if released. Now, Miller's new 20-40 year sentence is consecutive to the term he is serving and Sauter is confident that he will never be released. "He will be very, very old, by the time he completes this sentence", Sauter said.
Miller was entitled to his appeal to the Court of Appeals after his conviction. But, the Michigan Supreme Court will not hear his case unless he persuades the Court to hear it. "The Supreme Court only hears a small number of criminal appeals," Sauter explained. "Miller will have an uphill battle, because he has no significant issue."
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Sauter announced that the National College of District Attorneys has again requested Neil O'Brien, Assistant Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney, to lecture on Prosecutor web pages, E-mail and the Internet. O'Brien will lecture during the last week of March at the NCDA's "Technology In and Out of Court" seminar in Scottsdale, AZ.
O'Brien previously lectured for the NCDA on Prosecutor web pages, brief banks and Internet legal research in 1998. The NCDA has provided continuing legal education and training for prosecuting attorneys since 1970. It is the only institution devoted exclusively to training prosecutors.
O'Brien created a web site for the Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney's office (www.prosecutingattorney.info) in 1997 as a hobby. It was quickly recognized as one of the best Prosecutor web sites in the country, providing useful information to crime victims and others. The site has brought prominence on the Internet to the Office, and all of Eaton County, including hosting an international index of more than 1,000 Prosecutor web sites.
Jeffrey Sauter, Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney, congratulated O'Brien for this latest achievement:
"Neil has really distinguished himself on a national level. His efforts, on his own time, have brought credit to our office and benefited the residents of Eaton County. Our criminal justice system should not bewilder our citizens, but it does. The information that Neil has put on our web site will help people understand the terms and procedures used in court."
O'Brien has also made web site presentations to the National Association for Justice Information Systems, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, and is scheduled to present to the Michigan Victim Assistance Academy in May.
He serves on the Technical Services Committee for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, and its Web Page Subcommittee. On a volunteer basis, O'Brien created a web site for the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council (www.michiganprosecutor.org), including web pages for 70 County Prosecuting Attorneys.
O'Brien is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame in 1980, and Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1983. Prior to joining the Eaton County Prosecutor's office, he worked in the private practice of law, as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Ingham County, and as an Adjunct Professor at Cooley Law School.
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Sauter announced today that he has completed an evaluation of the facts surrounding the January 25, 2000 crash that killed DeWitt Township Police Officer Gary Priess.
Sauter has recommended to Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Sherman that the driver of the semi truck be charged with Negligent Homicide.
Sauter concluded that the semi driver failed to use due caution in approaching Priess, who was outside of his patrol car ticketing a speeding motorist. "The emergency lights were fully activated and she saw the patrol car. She should have been able to avoid striking it and Officer Priess," Sauter said.
Sauter declined to recommend the more serious charge of Vehicular Manslaughter which requires gross negligence or wilful misconduct. "She was plainly negligent, Sauter said, but in authorizing a manslaughter charge I look for deliberately dangerous driving, the presence of alcohol of drugs, or some other significantly distinguishing conduct. No such factors are present here."
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Sauter announced that, at its Mid-Winter conference, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan recognized Mike Eagen, Eaton County Chief Assistant, for his fifteen years of service on behalf of the People of the State of Michigan.
Sauter congratulated Eagen for reaching this historic milestone, and commented on how important Eagen is to the Office of the Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney:
"Mike has served as an assistant with distinction since 1985. He has been my trusted second-in-command since 1992, when I appointed him as Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Mike is recognized as an extremely talented trial attorney, he handles the most serious types of crimes committed in our community.
"Mike is also a good teacher of other lawyers, he sets an example of high ethics, hard work and dedication for others to emulate."
Eaton County Sheriff Patrick Hutting said that from a law enforcement perspective Eagen is a pleasure to work with and we are very glad to have him as the Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. "Mike is recognized for being very professional and dedicated to the pursuit of justice", Sheriff Hutting noted.
Eagen is a 1983 graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in Lansing, Michigan. Prior to joining the Eaton County Prosecutor's office, he served as a judicial law clerk to Circuit Judge Richard M. Shuster. He has served as President of the Eaton County Bar Association and been a member of the Board of Directors of the Charlotte Frontier Days and the Charlotte Country Club. He has lectured at Cooley Law School and Lansing Community College and is a graduate of the National District Attorneys Association's Career Prosecutor Course.
Former Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Sauter announced that APA Brien Fortino will leave the office to become the new Magistrate of the Eaton County District Court on February 21, 2000. Brien will replace retiring Magistrate Dick Hilderley.
Sauter said that Brien Fortino will be greatly missed. "Brien was a stalwart in our office. He worked well on a variety of cases, from juvenile to felonies and misdemeanors. Brien has a unique blend of legal intellect and common sense that served him well as an assistant prosecutor and will make him a good Magistrate. Brien's sense of humor helped everyone in the office deal with the constant stream of misfortune, tragedy and crime that mark our workday. I congratulate Brien on his new position. I know that his work ethic and sense of fairness will continue to benefit the residents of Eaton County."
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mike Eagen agreed that Fortino's strengths are his sense of justice and common sense. "Brien has a strong sense of fairness and respect that will serve Eaton County well".
Fortino served as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Eaton County for ten years. Prior to that, he was an Assistant Prosecutor in Barry County for one year, and practiced for two years with the Lansing law firm of Scodeller, Deluca and Wilson. Fortino is a graduate of Central Michigan University (B.A., 1983) and Thomas M. Cooley Law School (J.D., 1986).