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 story of the murder of 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:

September 3, 2015 — Malcolm Jeffries guilty of felony perjury

As 17th Circuit Judge Mark A. Trusock ordered, the jury in the Malcolm Jeffries felony perjury trial were back on the job but well before 8:30. Sometime around 9:30, jurors sent a message that they wanted to see or hear the recording from the session with Jeffries when he was served the investigative subpoena. After a delay to set up the equipment and files, jurors, the defendant, the prosecution and all others required to be there, trooped in and sat for more than an hour and a half. At select points jurors nodded their heads in affirmation and took notes. Then they filed out of the courtroom and after a short break resumed their deliberations. Then, at 12:50, Dennis Carlson, Jeffries’ attorney, came in and announced “We have a verdict.”

Again, everyone trooped in, but this time instead of two deputies guarding Jeffries–as there had been so far all the way through the trial–there were five. Defendants have been known to grow agitated if the verdict doesn’t go their way.

And this one didn’t. The jury foreman handed the verdict to the court clerk who handed it to the judge who read it out.  ”…All 12 in agreement…find the defendant is guilty of investigative subpoena perjury.” Jeffries gave no outward sign of reaction. He had perhaps expected this; I and anyone else I spoke with did.

Carlson asked on behalf of Jeffries that the jury be polled. Each one answered in the affirmative that the verdict was their true judgement.

Judge Trusock dismissed the jury with his thanks. He asked them to stay until he could come and talk with them in the jury room. With them out of the courtroom he asked Jeffries if he was aware that he had at least three prior felonies. Jeffries at first disputed the number and the way of tallying, but finally agreed. All that will come into play when he is sentenced Oct. 22 at 1:30 in courtroom 11B.

At the conclusion, the judge asked for a moment to express his thanks to Dennis Carlson: “I want to compliment you. This was a very difficult case. You client was frequently derogatory to you. … I thought you did an outstanding job and I want that for the record.”

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September 2, 2015 — In the hands of the jury

Four witnesses, closing arguments, instructions to the jury, and the beginning of deliberations consumed the day in 11B of the 17th Circuit Court in Kent County. At stake is whether or not Malcolm Xavier Jeffries had knowledge of or participated in a June 11 1990 beating that left 23-year old Joel Battaglia dying on Lake Drive.

The first witness, Clifford Cannon, is a prisoner tonight with Kent County. Formerly he was housed in prison courtesy of the Michigan Department of Corrections. After some back and forth about the possibility of the prosecution helping him be moved permanently from prison to a county jail for the rest of his 18-month sentence–or a shorter sentence if the prosecution could arrange it, Cannon reluctantly explained to Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki that in an earlier incarceration in the Kent County Jail, he and defendant Malcolm Jeffries were housed in the same pod in late December 2014. They played chess there and talked. Cannon alleged under oath that Jeffries “told me he basically lied, wasn’t truthful with detectives about the case. And he ended up catching a perjury case.” Further, he told Cannon, that if Jeffries could contact he former girlfriend Tammy Warning, he was sure he could improve his chances. That didn’t happen. [See Warning’s testimony yesterday]

On cross–handled today by Jeffries’ court appointed attorney Dennis Carlson–Cannon agreed that he had something to gain from his testimony. Nevertheless, he explained he faced substantial risk if he had to go back to prison; identified as a snitch, he would likely be attacked, he said, maybe killed.

The most contentious and time-consuming witness was Acey Marshall, the brother of convicted killer Aurelias J. Marshall. Acey’s testimony helped to put his brother away for life. As he had in both the preliminary for AJ’s trail and the trial itself, Acey insisted that not only was Jeffries there, but he took part in the assault on Joel Battaglia. Acey Marshall had rolled up on the scene of the beating in his car. He watched for a while–first from his car and then stepping outside–as he alleged that he watched his brother AJ and Jeffries beat Battaglia to death. Quitin T. “ManHowell” Howell, Sr., was at the scene, but Acey had earlier 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. Jeffries would have been 22 at the time.) Then Acey said, he drove AJ and Jeffries to AJ’s house.

By his own admission and police records Acey Marshall has told many different stories over the years, most of them involving Howell and Jeffries. Earlier on, he tried to involve Ezra “Chill” Ezell in the place of his brother. Police discovered Ezell had been in custody at the time of the attack and went back to Acey for a talk. At last he offered up his brother, but did it quietly because he feared AJ: “He’s crazy.” But Acey agreed that his storied have changed often during the 25 year history of the case. And he wasn’t happy when police showed up Oct. 21, 2014 when he was recovering from a stroke while staying at his sister’s house in Georgia. He first lied under oath, but when confronted with the possibility of jail and/or prison time for perjury, he acquiesced and again gave police the story that involved his brother, Jeffries, and Howell. He has sworn to that repeatedly in court. But defense attorney Carlson, again on cross, highlighted the trail of lies that Acey had told over the years and worked along the lines that Acey and Jeffries had a beef over drugs that involved an assault by Jeffries on Marshall. The prosecution had contended that the attack likely was payback for Acey snitching out Jeffries to police. Everybody agree, though, that there had been the assault.

Eric Boillat was the final prosecution witness and he went through some of the mechanics of phone dumps looking for connections with those close to the crime. He highlighted his attention on the nearly-a- hour-long phone call soon after Jeffries’ investigative subpoena session, between him and his sister Velma Tims. Tims was subsequently the recipient of an investigative subpoena herself.

The final witness, and against Carlson’s advice, was the defendant. He was innocent, he proclaimed and knew nothing about the crime, never did. Further, he contested that he as never served an investigative subpoena, despite yesterday’s playing the entire video session, clearly showing his receiving and acknowledging the subpoena placed before him. the video had been doctored, he claimed, a charge he had leveled in a 1994 concerning an audio recording of his interrogation.

Further, he said, he and Acey only had the beef about drugs, and while he admitted he beat Acey with the small aluminum bat, it was only about drug money. And everybody else was lying…each one with a purpose.

Koncki got him to admit that he had lied, forcefully protesting his innocence in his 1994 conviction for two counts of unarmed robbery and one of unlawful driving away, but now readily agreed that he was guilty at the time.

After closing arguments he case went to the jury, which stepped out to deliberate at 2:49. Shortly thereafter, they asked to see the interview with Jeffries’ sister Velma Tims. The prosecution yesterday forced an admission from her that she had testified that her brother admitted his perjury to her during an earlier recorded interview, but it was a hard-won victory, almost Pyrrhic. Evidently the jury wanted to see and hear for itself that recording that had been placed as evidence should the jury members want to do so. They did, and then kept deliberating until Judge Trusock summoned them at 4:45 and sent them home with instruction to be back at it bright and early.

Maybe there will be a verdict tomorrow?

 

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September 1, 2015 — If you have a lawyer, use her/him

That was the message 17th Circuit Court Judge Mark A. Trusock repeatedly gave to Malcolm Xavier Jeffries, who is on trial for perjury relating to the 1990 beating death of Joel Battaglia. Under oath, Jeffries has repeatedly told investigators that he had no knowledge of what transpired in the early morning hours of June 11, 1990 when convicted murderer Aurelius J. Marshall beat Battaglia to death on Lake Drive in East Hills, just over the border from Easttown. After opening arguments, the trial managed to get through three witness on today, Detective Pat Needham; Malcolm’s girlfriend a the time, Tammy Warning; and Jeffries’ own sister Velma Tims. Another witness, a jail-house informant, was on the stand, but said he needed to talk with his attorney before testifying when Trusock called it for the day.

What made the session most difficult was Jeffries’ insistence that he would act pro se, for himself. At practically every utterance he was halted either by the judge or the prosecutor who filed objections that his rambling interrogation was an attempt at giving testimony, adding comment, or just so far out of the realm of court procedure as to endanger the integrity of the trial. After his opening statement, Judge Trusock told him (after dismissing the jury) that he “had opened the doors to so many things it’s incredible. … You have made an incredibly poor choice, sir. … You are burying yourself.” Jeffries’ response after the admonishment by the judge was to turn around to his brother and give him two thumbs up.

When the trial was resumed with the jury again in the room, Jeffries was warned again and again that he was likely to spend the rest of the trial remotely listening to it while his stand-by counsel, Dennis Carlson, would carry on. For his part, Carlson was disconcerted, contesting that his client is mentally ill. (At an earlier hearing Jeffries was found competent to stand trial.) Only with the last full inquiry of the day did Jeffries turn over the questioning to Carlson. That witness–a most unwilling witness–was his sister, Velma Tims who wanted nothing to do with the proceedings. Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki tried to square Tims’ testimony today with earlier sworn testimony during an investigative subpoena. In the earlier account she said she was told by Jeffries that he had not told police everything. After protest after protest, Tims finally acknowledged the earlier testimony. More evidence had been forthcoming from the first civilian witness, Tammy Warning, who testified that Jeffries told her he learned about the crime during a lockup that began July 29, 1990 in the Kent County Jail. He told Warning in a phone call that an inmate known as Panda told him about the crime and that he was going to try to use that to get out of jail early.

Expected on the stand tomorrow is Acey Marshall, the brother of convicted murdered Aurelias J. Marshall. Acey testified earlier in a preliminary hearing for his brother that he saw Jeffries at the scene. Further, he said Jeffries administered a kick to the head of a figure lying on the ground, probably Joel Battaglia. There may be other witnesses. Yesterday I said there were three civilians; I now think there are four.

We’ll see tomorrow whether Jeffries takes Judge Trusock’s advice to pass over the duties of interrogation and trial management to his attorney. …All this in the effort to find out whether Jeffries perjured himself…told the police and the prosecutor something–almost anything–that wasn’t true. As Koncki stated in her opening statement, “We’re not here to prove he’s a murderer.”

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August 31, 2015 — Malcolm Jeffries begins his trial for perjury

Oh, man! Sometimes court appointed attorneys don’t get much respect. In motions before the start of his perjury trial, Malcolm Xavier Jeffries tried to bounce his attorney, Dennis Carlson. Seventeenth Circuit Court Judge Mark Trusock finally convinced Jeffries to keep Carlson at least close by and at the defense table. But Jeffries wasn’t happy about it; he wanted some other attorney. And because that was not forthcoming he says he’s representing himself.

Malcolm Xavier Jeffries

Malcolm Xavier Jeffries

Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki had a few motions of her own…those covered under 404 (B) and 403 (B) dealing with prior bad acts. Those are coming in and may show the relationships between Jeffries, convicted murderer Aurelias J. Marshal, and Marshal’s brother, Acey, who is expected to be the prosecution’s main witness. (There are only two other civilians in addition to three officers.)

This is expected to be a relatively short trial, but the way thing got underway…well, it could be interesting. Jeffries will represent himself as much as possible and he started off with asking Trusock to recuse himself…he knew too much. So, down the hall defendant, attorneys, a law officer, and this reporter went to appear before the chief judge of the circuit, Judge Donald A. Johnston. After a ramble seeking not only Trusock’s recusal, but a dismissal of charges, and allegations of evidence tampering, Johnston send him back to Trusock: No joy. Said Judge Johnston, if Trusock knew a lot about the case it would work for the benefit of justice AND Trusock came by that knowledge properly: in the courtroom.

Jeffries also faced disappointment when he was denied witnesses he’d sought to have testify. Jeffries–on his own last week–faxed the request and reiterated it today. Too little, too late, said Trusock; the six people Jeffries wanted to appear in the court were excluded. Trusok repeatedly recommended that Jeffries pay close attention to Carlson, and to consult with him.

With all the motions dealt with, prospective jurors were brought in. It took 28 tries to seat all 14 (two will be eliminated at the end of the trial, assuming no one drops from the jury). There are eleven men, three women, no Blacks.

After surviving for-cause and preemptory challenges the empaneled jury heard instructions, and then left to return tomorrow morning. The trial begins at 8:30 with more instruction and then witnesses, Courtroom 11B.

Jeffries is interesting and in any other setting might be taken light-heartedly. But no. Malcolm Xavier Jeffries was one of the four arrested on charges of perjury relating to the June 11, 1990 beating death of Christopher Joel Battaglia. Perjury in a felony murder case is potentially a life offense in a Michigan prison. If convicted, he may face up to twice the penalty because he is a habitual fourth 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.

He is intelligent, has tried to do his legal homework, and appears mercurial. He owns his past bad behavior, noting a really rough coming up at the St. John’s Home, Starr Commonwealth, juvenile detention, jail, and prison. But, he maintains, he would not have stood by while Joel Battaglia was being beaten. In fact, he said, he would have called the police.

Acey Marshall in the preliminary exam for his brother, Aurelias, not only said that Jeffries was at the scene of the crime, but participated in the beating.

 

 

 

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August 7, 2015 — Sheila Reed sentenced for her lies

A year of house arrest and five years of probation for the woman who witnessed Joel Battaglia’s June 11, 1990 murder on Lake Drive in Grand Rapids. She was questioned, both by police and Joel’s parents, Gail and Jerry. She knew nothing, she maintained, until she was caught out in perjury last year. Then she risked life in prison if she didn’t tell truth. So, she testified to what she witnessed: Aurelias J. Marshall beating a white boy on the other side of the street from her bedroom window.

She now expresses sorrow that she didn’t tell what she knew 25 years ago. You can read one of the many stories here by WZZM reporter John Hogan. So, the trial of Malcolm Jeffries begins August 31. I heard Jeffries was described during the preliminary hearing as one of the assailants in Joel’s murder. Acey Marshall (who had come to pick up his brother, Aurelias) testified that he watched Jeffries kicking Joel in the head. Perhaps we’ll learn a lot more.

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