Zeeland Man’s First-Degree Murder Conviction Upheld by Michigan Court of Appeals

In February of 2011, 18-year-old Jonathan Dargis died after being stabbed multiple times and struck in the head with a shovel in a wooded area behind his mother’s home in Zeeland Township. Joshua Hambley was charged with first-degree murder in the killing, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

News reports claim that Hambley, who is now 20 years old, lured Dargis to the wooded area under the pretense of an AirSoft battle. Hambley killed Dargis because he had allegedly sexually assaulted Hambley’s ex-girlfriend in the days before the murder, according to news sources.

Hambley appealed his conviction, admitting that prosecutors had proven elements of second-degree murder, but claiming that sufficient evidence to convict him of first-degree murder was not provided. Hambley’s first-degree murder conviction was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals. In the ruling dated January 15, judges found that “the evidence of premeditation and deliberation presented at trial was overwhelming.”

In Michigan, a second-degree murder conviction offers the possibility of parole. Ron Frantz, Ottawa County Prosecutor, presented substantial evidence that the Appeals Court found clearly indicated both premeditation and deliberation in the murder. According to the Holland Sentinel, statements made both through text messages and verbally made it clear that Hambley intended to kill Dargis. Testimony was presented at trial regarding a phone conversation Hambley had with his girlfriend in which she allegedly heard the victim’s plea to “call an ambulance or just kill me.”

The medical examiner testified at Hambley’s trial that Dargis would have likely survived if medical attention had been sought for his stab wounds. News reports reveal that Hambley had also written in his journal about what to do with Dargis, and had told police in a written statement about his anger with Dargis, and how he planned to take his life in the following days.

The Michigan Court of Appeals found all of the evidence, including Hambley’s plan to lure Dargis out into the woods, sufficient proof that the murder was premeditated and deliberate.

Individuals who have been convicted on murder charges or other serious crimes often feel that the sentence handed out is extremely harsh punishment in comparison to the crime committed; other times, those who are completely innocent find themselves sitting in prison. Michigan criminal appeals lawyers know that mistakes are made in the judicial system, which is made evident by the rising number of verdicts overturned in the appeals process.


If you desire to appeal a conviction after being sentenced for murder, homicide, or any violent or serious offense, discuss the possibility with a seasoned Michigan criminal appeals attorney who can determine if there are options, and which would be most beneficial in your situation.