Home — Murder, “cold” cases, and mayhem

This website is intended to deal with murder, brutality, corruption and hatred—all falling under what we call acts of injustice.  We tell the stories of open and unsolved homicides–what are called “cold” cases.  We also memorialize those whose lives have been taken from them in hope that somebody will come forward to tell the truth. So far our efforts center on Michigan.

David B. Schock, Ph.D.

David B. Schock, Ph.D.

“Somebody knows somethin’.  Somebody ALWAYS knows somethin’.”

That’s the way Jim Fairbanks put it when we made our first film, Who Killed Janet Chandler?  Detective Fairbanks (retired) was the lead investigator on the law enforcement team in 1979.  What he had to say then still applies today.  For nearly every unsolved homicide there is somebody out there who could solve it if she or he would come forward and make a contact.

To call an unsolved homicide a “cold” case is chilling in its own right.  Yes, these unsolved cases grow “cold” because there are no new leads; they more or less drop off the social and cultural radar.  But they are NEVER “cold” to the family members and friends, they are never forgotten or out of mind.  And there is always the hope that justice, however delayed, will be served.

We invite you to visit the We Remember part of this site, a place where families and friends of those whose murders remain unsolved contact us and can help to post details of the victims’ lives and the resultant investigations.

We also invite your view of what we are calling a Primary Documentary Investigation as we tell the stories of the murders of Shelley Speet Mills and Mina Dekker.

Our hope in all the cases we chronicle is that somebody who knows something will say something.

From David — A Weblog of investigation:

January 26, 2015 — Malcolm Xavier Jeffries is scheduled for trial on perjury

Malcolm Xavier Jeffries is one of the four arrested on charges of perjury relating to the 1990 beating death of Christopher Joel Battaglia. Perjury in a felony murder case is potentially a life offense in a Michigan prison. Even more daunting, he faces up to twice the penalty because his is a habitual fourth offense offender. He was in prison from March 20, 1995 to October 26, 2013 for unlawful driving away of an automobile, and two counts of unarmed robbery. In the late 1980’s he spent a year in prison for receiving stolen property. So, it seems if he’s convicted, he may face two life sentences.

A perjury conviction was used handily in 1982 to keep Lamont Marshall (no relation to Joel’s alleged murderer, Aurelias J. Marshall) out of murderous circulation until he was convicted first in the attempted murder of attack of Joanne Eggleston in 1980. That conviction in 1991 kept him in prison, but with the possibility of parole. He was subsequently convicted in 2008 of the murder of Laurel Jean Ellis in 1975, and was sentenced to life without parole. (If you want to know more you can read the mLive story about it here.)

Mr. Jeffries is set for trial on perjury March 9 at 8:30 a.m. before the Honorable Mark A. Trusock, 17th Circuit Court, courtroom 11B. Court records indicate that there had been a plea on the table for Mr. Jeffries, but he didn’t take it. (You can read a WZZM story about that deal here.) That doesn’t necessarily mean that he might not still take it if the offer continues, but that I don’t know. Also unknowable for us now is whether Mr. Jeffries might face further charges in the murder. Acey Marshall, Aurelias Marshall’s brother, not only testified last week that he watched his brother assault Joel Battaglia, but that Mr Jeffries also took part, especially kicking the victim when he was down. He also described Quitin T. “ManHowell” Howell, Sr., at the scene, but said Howell played no part in the assault. (Howell was only 41 when he died in Grand Rapids, Oct. 7, 2012. That means he would have been 18 years old at the time of Joel’s death.) Another eye witness to the crime, Sheila Marie Reed, who lived directly across the street, testified that she saw only Aurelias Marshall, whom she recognized as a coworker, beat Battaglia while someone else waited in a car near by. By his own admission, Acey Marshall came to pick up his brother Aurelius after being summoned by a phone call. He said he both waited in the car and stood outside it to watch his brother and Mr. Jeffries beat Battaglia.

For now, according to Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki, the only comment is this: “it is an ongoing investigation.”

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January 23, 2015 — The rationale for the bind-over; the Battaglias express their thanks

Judging is supposed to be a very careful process. In binding over Aurelias J. Marshall for the murder of Christopher Joel Battaglia, 61st District Court Judge Michael Christensen displays the care by which he reached his conclusion. This, along with comments from Gail and Jerry Battaglia make up this segment.

Judge Christensen binds over A.J. Marshall from David Schock on Vimeo.

Christensen, who retired last fall, was back on the bench to finish up matters he had started in this case. Another judge in the courthouse described him as both meticulous and gifted…a really, really good judge. This video clip is a look into the process of what he took into account, weighing evidence from all the witnesses. In doing so, he steered a very fine line among and between confluent and conflicting testimonies. We had two people who testified they were eye Witnesses: Sheila Reed, and Aurelias’ brother, Acey, and their stories differed in significant ways. But both were in agreement when said they watched Aurelias Marshall “beat down” Joel Battaglia in the early morning attack on Lake Drive. And both brothers told others what they had done and seen so there was support.

Aurelias Marshall waived his arraignment in circuit court and is headed for trial. I would suppose there will be motion hearings and the trial is likely to be some time away.

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January 21, 2015 — Yes, A.J. Marshall is bound over

And you all might be wondering where my confirmation of all that is.

If you haven’t otherwise read it, get started here, with John Tunison’s account of Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.

Here is some of Acey Marshall’s testimony of watching his brother, Aurelias (A.J.) Marshall, and Malcolm Jeffries beat Christopher Joel Battaglia to death June 11, 1990. Jeffries has so far been charged only with perjury.

Acey Marshall testimony at prelim from David Schock on Vimeo.

THere is so much more. Tomorrow I will load up 61st Circuit Court Judge Michael Christensen’s ruling binding A.J. Marshall over to stand trial.

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January 18, 2015 — The first day of the preliminary hearing

Just a reminder that the preliminary hearing is for the purpose of convincing a District Court Judge that there is reason to believe that the accused could have committed the crime. If there is enough evidence to believe it possible, the District Court judge, in this case 61st District Court Judge Michael Christensen (retired), will then bind over the accused, in this case Aurelias (A.J.) Marshall, for arraignment in Circuit Court. From there the possibilities include a dismissal of charges, a plea, or a trial.

In Friday’s prelim in the matter of the beating death of Christopher Joel Battaglia we heard first from the officer who responded to the scene, Officer Roland Sherman (retired). He checked for a pulse and found none, but paramedics transported Joel to the hospital where he was pronounced. Sherman described the efforts, finally successful, at identifying Joel (apparently, he had been robbed of his wallet) by the tattoo of a phoenix on the right ankle.

The next witness was Sheila Marie Reed, who lived directly across the street from the assault (which was at 1065 Lake Drive). Under direct examination by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kellee Koncki,she finally admitted–after 24-plus years of denying it–that she was an eye witness to the crime and knew the assailant on sight (they worked together at the 28th Street Holiday Inn). This is some of her testimony:

Prelim Sheila Reed from David Schock on Vimeo.

Joel’s father, Jerry, does not recall Ms. Reed as being welcoming; if anything she was hostile at the time. It was Ms. Reed’s mother, in fact, who urged her daughter to speak with them.

Yes, Ms. Reed admitted under cross examination by defense attorney Charlie Clapp, that she has a distant history as a crack user, was a sometime dealer, has had a stroke, and a mental breakdown, but remained firm in her assertion that she watched A.J. Marshall beat someone in the early morning hours of June 11, 1990.

Finally, we heard from Guadalupe (Lupe) Harwood, a neighbor of A.J. Marshall’s, who said that Marshall once described to him an assault on a young white man, a beating which Harwood said Marshall acknowledged was undertaken with his brother (that would be Acey Marshall, also arrested on a felony perjury charge, as was Malcolm Xavier Jeffries and Reed).

The preliminary hearing will resume on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 8A of the Kent County Courthouse.

Here is Barton Deiters’ report in the Grand Rapids Press.

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January 15, 2015 — Prelim is tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Christensen (retired)

Retired 61st District Court Judge Michael Christensen will make a return to the bench tomorrow for the preliminary hearing for accused murderer Aurelias Jualious (A.J.) Marshall, 56, of Grand Rapids. Marshall faces open murder charges and felony perjury in the June 11, 1990, beating death of 23-year-old Christopher Joel Battaglia as Battaglia walked along Lake Drive near the border between East Hills and Easttown in Grand Rapids.

So far A.J. Marshall is the sole individual charged with murder although three others, including his brother Acey Marshall, are charged with felony perjury, potentially life offenses. The other two are Sheila Reed, who lived across the street from the scene of the murder, and Malcolm Xavier Jeffries.

It will be most interesting to see whether any of the three will testify either tomorrow or next week, when the preliminary is set to continue.

I will be there with my camera; I’ve been granted access. And if you are looking for video tomorrow…you’ll have to wait until I can get to it. Slowly, slowly on this end. It may be Saturday or Sunday.

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