Two men have to wait for opinion in their cases involving the murder of Frederic man
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A defense attorney for a teen accused of murdering a Frederic man opted not to make arguments on additional charges brought against his client during the continuation of a probable cause hearing last week.
At a hearing held in Crawford County District Court on Wednesday, Jan. 9, Grayling attorney Michael Brown Jr. did not call for any witnesses in the hearing for Dylan Ziegler, 18, of Romulus.
Ziegler and Matthew Franklin Smith, 37, of Canton, are accused of killing Dennis Everson, 64, from Frederic, who was reported missing by family members on Friday, July 6. The family told Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies that Everson had not been heard from since Monday, July 2.
Both Smith and Ziegler face a charge of open murder, which is a felony that carries up to life in prison.
Additional charges, filed at the beginning of the probable cause hearing which started on Oct. 18, include conspiracy to commit homicide-open murder torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, which carry a sentence of life or any number of years in prison. Other charges added include unlawful imprisonment and conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment, which are 15-year felonies and a $10,000 fine. The men also face a charge of third degree arson, a five-year felony. In addition, Smith faces a charge for being a third-degree habitual offender.
At a pretrial hearing held with Chief Crawford County Probate and District Court Judge Monte J. Burmeister on Tuesday, Jan. 8, Kevin Hesselink, a Gaylord defense attorney hired to represent Smith, said neither he nor Smith did not have to appear in court for the continuation of the probable cause hearing because he would not be further addressing the case.
Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Sierra R. Koch and the defense attorneys stipulated to the introduction of 29 exhibits, which included the autopsy, which indicated Everson died from blunt force trauma.
Last week, Koch argued that those exhibits and surveillance videos from Frederic area businesses provided a clear timetable that the two men were together around the time the murder was committed.
“Mr. Ziegler and Mr. Smith were never separated before or after these crimes,” Koch said. “Everything they did prior to, and everything they did after, was together.”
In addition, Koch said photographs of Everson’s body, the site where he died and images captured at his home could be used to bind the men over to Crawford County Circuit Court for jury trials.
In previous testimony Detective Sgt. Ryan Swope, from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, said Ziegler asked to talk with him two times after his arrest.
Swope said Ziegler and Smith were drinking in a pick-up truck following a day of scrapping metal on July 2.
Everson and Smith exchanged blows outside of his home. Ziegler told Swope that Smith asked him to grab Everson by the legs and load him into the back of a pick-up. Smith said they were going to set Everson on fire or dispose of his body in a lake, Swope testified.
Swope said that the men drove to a remote area about three miles from Everson’s home. Swope testified that Ziegler told him Smith tried to light a piece of clothing on fire in a camper at the site where scrap metal was stored. The fire did not ignite.
Ziegler told Swope that Smith used a two-by-four board to block the door of the camper and confine Everson inside.
Ziegler told Swope that Smith retrieved something from the back of the truck and went back to the remote area and hit him with the blow that killed Everson.
Koch argued that the recovery of the two-by-four board and a burnt leather bag from the crime scene could be considered as evidence to bind the men over for jury trials.
Everson’s eye glasses, a hearing aid, a shoe and a rug collected outside of Everson’s home were sent for DNA testing. The results of the tests, which are done at the Michigan State Police Forensics lab in Grand Rapids, are still pending.
Brown conceded that some of the crimes may have occurred, but further argued that Ziegler was not actively engaged in a conspiracy to assault, torture and murder Everson.
“My client was in shock as the co-defendant assaulted Mr. Everson,” Brown said.
Burmeister said he was still reviewing testimony from the previous hearing. He questioned if evidence presented to bind Ziegler over for trial should be considered since he did not verbalize he was going along with the events that took place.
Brown responded that Smith and Ziegler were involved in a “power-dynamic relationship.” He further argued that Smith was in control the whole time that they were in the region to scrap metal, before things turned violent.
“My client, I would tender, was under duress at that time,” Brown argued.
Burmeister said he would issue a written opinion on his decision regarding the probable cause hearing, or he would schedule a hearing where he would give an oral opinion.
Both men were denied bond due to the seriousness of the offense and the violent nature of the crime.