MUCH OF WHAT FOLLOWS IS GRAPHIC. PLEASE USE DISCRETION AND KEEP CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS FROM THIS.
This part of the story began with the successful prosecution of six murderers: two who pled guilty to lesser than first degree murder and four who were convicted by a jury November 1, 2007, in Ottawa County. The next day, at a press conference, Detective Lt. John Slenk of the Fifth District Headquarters of the Michigan State Police fielded the question about further arrests and prosecutions and passed it to the county’s prosecuting attorney, Ron Franz:
The investigation was not considered closed, but it wasn’t exactly open, either. The word is “inactive.” In the years since the trial it hasn’t been worked. Nor–for now, we have been assured–is it going to be.
But when Mark G. Sands of the Attorney General’s office gave his defense against the appeals of the four convicted murderers he responded to the suggestion that after all that time no one could accurately remember what had happened. Attorney Mary Owens had likened the event of Janet’s Murder to a law-school party. Mark Sands again stated the obvious:
So, if Mr. Sands says there were ten to twelve men who raped her, what about the rest? Why NOT go after them?
Because. Because, according to Donna Pendergast, the lead prosecutor in the case and the Assistant Attorney General, “We charged everyone we had evidence to substantiate a charge.” If there had there been more evidence to charge additional suspects, she said, her office would have charged them. Then, too, there’s a risk with going back to try any additional defendents. The concept had been explained to me this way: IF they made additional arrests, and IF the accused chose to go to trial, and IF many of the same witnesses were called, and IF there were significant conflicting testimony (“I lied last time on the stand.”), there would be the possibility that the four who were convicted could have grounds for appeal. Another appeal. We just went through one; are we ready for another?
The weak link here is the witnesses. There is every indication they would have taken this sordid tale to their graves if they could, and it’s only through the efforts of the members of the investigative team (Roger Van Liere, David Van Lopik, Rob Borowski, Michael Jaffrey, Geof Flohr…under the direction of John Slenk and Matt Messer) that they didn’t.
The prosecutorial team took the top six in terms of culpability and for whom it found sufficient supporting evidence…the worst offenders. The team would attempt the daunting task of convicting six at once if necessary. At the time Attorney General Mike Cox authorized all those arrests there was no guarantee any one of them would plead to a lesser offense, although the prosecution offered deals to several of them (not including Carl Paiva). Mr. Cox’ actions and that of his office in this prosecution were outstanding.
The idea that there are those who participated in the attack on Janet and who have not been held accountable is difficult to comprehend. These are hard issues with which a society has to wrestle, but what makes it simpler in my mind is this: Glenna and Jim Chandler want to make sure nothing–NOTHING–endangers the convictions which took so long and so much dedicated effort to win. In my book their wishes trump everything else.
There are all kinds of justice. When it comes to the ultimate justice, that before God, these folks will have an accounting…at least so the Chandlers and I believe. And there is the justice of a court of law, and that may be missing for the other conspirators, rapists, and murderers Attorney Sands refers to in this case. But there is at least one more kind of social justice: revelation.
In the course of the trial there were a lot of witnesses who named a lot of people. All these witnesses were sworn. The testimony in a court of law is considered privileged and I may report their utterances in good faith without fear of libel. So, that’s what I’m going to do…allow the witnesses to speak the names. Not all these people are linked to the murder; some are in the mix of friendships and some where just THERE where the murder happened (not even necessarily when it happened).
Donna Pendergast put it this way: “The mere presence at a crime is not a crime.” The jury was clearly instructed in that. Some were there who said they didn’t know what was going on at the time or, later, what HAD gone on. Some who knew claimed their lives were threatened and they lived in fear.
And all are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.