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:

October 28, 2014 — Bail denial continued, but prosecution requests a 404B hearing

27th Circuit Court Chief Judge Anthony A. Monton continued the denial of bail for accused murderers Matthew (Skip) and Paul Jones during this morning’s preliminary hearing. They are charged in the 1989 death of Shannon Marie Siders. The defendants’ attorneys, Rick Prysock (for Skip) and Paul Stablein (for Paul), argued the men posed no flight risk and had deep familial ties in the community.

William Rollstin, First Assistant Attorney General for the State Of Michigan, argued against it, and spent time going over the criminal charges the brothers have faced over the years. Paul’s record was far lengthier and involved more serious crimes, but Matt had his run-ins with the law for marijuana and domestic abuse. Rollstin argued that they posed first a flight risk “and number two, merely safety for the community.” He urged Judge Monton to read the transcript of the preliminary hearing, newly delivered this morning by the 78th District Court Administrator.

Judge Monton said he would read it before he made a final decision for bail for one or both of the brothers.

Also before the court–in an abbreviated fashion–was consideration of a request for a 404B hearing. That falls under the states Rules of Evidence. Rule 404 in general deals with “Character Evidence Not Admissible to Prove Conduct; Exceptions; Other Crimes.” And it is part B that deals in particular with other bad acts:

Other crimes, wrongs, or acts.

1) Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme, plan, or system in doing an act, knowledge, identity, or absence or mistake or accident when the same is material, whether such other crimes, wrongs, or acts are contemporaneous with, or prior or subsequent to the conduct at issue in the case.

2) The prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause shown, of the general nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial and the rationale, whether or not mentioned in subparagraph (b)(1), for admitting the evidence. If necessary to a determination of the admissibility of the evidence under this rule, the defendant shall be required to state the theory or theories of defense, limited only by the defendant’s privilege against self-incrimination. (Michigan Rules of Evidence)

Judge Monton will review that, too, and the accompanying briefs, but at the suggestion of Rollstin and Stablein, he will hear oral arguments from both sides.

Those arguments and the judge’s further determination of bail is planned for Dec. 15 at 2:30 p.m.

All this, as unemotional as it is, is the necessary business of the court. Justice is to be dispassionate if it is to be just.

I think it was one of the boys’ sisters who asked if I made the film. I said I had. Couldn’t I say something nice about them? she asked. I responded that they were loved by her.

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September 30, 2014 — Trial set for April 20, 2015; preliminary conference for Oct. 28

Both Matthew (Skip) and Paul Jones stood mute today at their arraignment in 27th Circuit Court, and their attorneys asked Chief Judge Anthony A. Monton to enter not guilty pleas on their behalf.  The business with the Jones brothers took very little time, nine and a half minutes, as one at a time, each stood with his attorney before the bench. While the state would be ready to go to trial in January or early February, both defense attorneys had asked for more time to ready their cases. There are likely more than 4,000 pages of reports and more than a hundred hours of recorded interviews and supplemental materials. “Nothing like I’ve ever encountered in my practice,” said Matt Jones’ attorney Rick Prysock.  The judge allowed that beginning the trial April 20, 2015, would be within the allowable maximum to provide what’s called a speedy trial, although pushing against a May 30th deadline. Judge Monton said that the trial is scheduled for two weeks.

The brothers will face trial at the same time, but each one will have a separate jury panel.

The court also set Oct. 28 at 8:30 a.m. as a date and time for his ruling on preliminary motions both the defendants’ and the state’s attorneys will file. This is a way to ask the court to make rulings on inclusion or exclusion of evidence.

Circuit Court Arraignment from David Schock on Vimeo.

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September 29, 2014 — Tomorrow the Jones brothers are arraigned in Circuit Court

The arraignment in 27th Circuit Court is a procedural matter. It marks the formal acceptance by that court of the charges against Matthew (Skip) Wayne and Paul Jones. It’s likely that the defense attorneys will argue for bail. And it will be up to Chief Judge Anthony A. Monton to decide the matter.

At the arraignment, according to a State of Michigan website, “You will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, or you may stand mute. After the arraignment, a trial date will be set. The time between arraignment and trial is used to prepare for trial. Often, the prosecutor and the defendant will make a plea agreement.” (http://courts.mi.gov/self-help/center/casetype/pages/felony.aspx.)

Often, there are motions that have to be sorted out before the matter sees a court date. We’ll just see how it goes. It wouldn’t be unusual for a matter like this to take six to nine months before the trial begins. And that trial might take up to three weeks.

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September 20, 2014 — Matthew and Paul Jones bound over for trial

This week I have been videofiling the entire preliminary hearing  in White Could of Paul and Matt Jones, the brother accused of the murder of Shannon Marie Siders in 1989.

Wednesday and Thursday…two full days of testimony, legal arguments, and drama. You can read the excellent reportage of John Hausman of the Muskegon Chronicle (mlive) here. There are several related stories to pick and choose from, chronicling the several days. John was filing at least two stories a day. And then yesterday, Friday, Judge Bradley G. Lambrix handed down several legal opinions concerning admissibility of evidence, paused, and launched into his decision binding over the brothers for trial on first degree murder changes. They are scheduled for circuit court arraignment at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, September 30th, before Chief Judge Anthony A. Monton.

While I have every minute of what transpired during court sessions (and plenty outside of that), I choose to share the judge’s decision, the request for bail from each of the brothers’ attorneys, and his denial of same. As well, there is a correction that Judge Lambrix makes in his language. He mischaracterized the nature of the proceedings and he took pains to set the record straight. Lambrix usually works as a family court judge in Oceana County. (Oceana and Newaygo counties share their district and circuit court judges. Newaygo County’s district court judge, The Honorable Kevin H. Drake, had to recuse himself; he was Newaygo County’s prosecuting attorney at the time of the murder of Shannon Marie Siders and through the subsequent several years of the investigation.) Lambrix was very careful in his judging, allowing a reasonable latitude for  defense attorneys in their lines of questioning that might have fallen outside strict boundaries; if there were any doubt he wanted the benefit to go to the accused. Nor was he hesitant to take time to look up black-letter and case law for application to matters before him.

Bind over for trial from David Schock on Vimeo.

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September 16, 2014 — Tomorrow begins the preliminary hearing In White Cloud

Tomorrow morning the Jones brothers–Matt (Skip) and Paul–are scheduled to appear in 78th District Court in White Cloud, Newaygo County, to hear some of the state’s case against them.

For those who don’t know one court from another, in major cases people are arraigned in district court shortly after they are arrested. That’s where they hear the charges against them for the first time. Then subsequently there is a preliminary hearing. Usually it’s not long after the arrest and arraignment…14 days unless there are other factors. (That’s the keep the state on track so justice can move along.) The Jones brothers were arrested in late June and this is certainly beyond 14 days, but the case file is so voluminous that the defense attorneys needed time, time, time, and asked for an extension.

No one objected because it is in the defendants’ best interests; it’s a more level playing field.

So, the preliminary hearing is scheduled for the next three days. We’ll see how many of them it takes. At the conclusion the judge (I believe it is to be The Honorable Bradley G. Lambrix from neighboring Oceana County) will determine if there is enough evidence for the case to be bound over to circuit court…the court where major cases are tried (either jury or bench trials). If that’s so there will be another wait while both sides prepare for the legal battle. Or, at any time in the process those charged can plead either guilty or nolo contendere–no contest. (Nolo means that a person will accept the punishment as if guilty but will not admit to the charge.) I expect this case will go to trial with a jury.

It might be difficult to find a jury pool that is unaffected by pretrial publicity–including that afforded by the film. You should have independent jurors who are unswayed by anything they may know about the case and will make decisions based solely on the evidence that is presented in court, always with the mandate that the accused are to be held blameless unless and until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

It’s a complicated system of justice. It’s not fast. It depends on good police work, good defense work, able prosecution, and witnesses who will answer truthfully under oath.

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