Articles Posted in Violent Crime

Over the past two or three years heroin has made a strong comeback in West Michigan, resulting in not heroinonly countless deaths due to overdose, but a substantial rise in criminal charges. HIDTA, or high intensity drug trafficking areas, include Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Detroit, among others. Not too many years ago, Flint became a city that ranked continuously as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. for several reasons, one being a sharp increase in heroin use. How does the increase of heroin addiction relate to the increase in crime in the state?

In regions where heroin addiction is high (particularly HIDTA regions), violent and property crimes are quite common. Heroin addicts often know no boundaries when it comes to getting their “fix,” and those who distribute or traffic heroin will go to almost any lengths to protect their distribution operations. Some of the most common criminal offenses committed by addicts who seek the funds to support their addictions include burglary, robbery, retail fraud, and other theft crimes.

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On Wednesday, April 13, 27-year-old Juan Enrique Reyes was sentenced to life in prison by Judge George Buth for the second-degree murder of Douglas “Ryan” Pollok who was killed in 2007 at a party in Grand Rapids when shots were fired into a crowd of 20 to 30 people. iStock_000008551433_Large-2-300x200

It took eight years for Reyes to be convicted and sentenced for the murder, as he and his brother, Eric Santiago, fled to Mexico following the shooting. Reyes did not know Pollok, and fired the shots in connection with another feud resulting in Pollok being struck in the chest by a bullet. According to news reports, Reyes and Santiago were featured on “America’s Most Wanted” in 2009 and again in 2012. The two men apparently had a grudge with a neighbor, who they were attempting to shoot at when Pollok was killed. Another man was also injured in the shooting.

In addition to life in prison, Reyes was sentenced to 20 to 50 years for assault with intent to murder and two years for felony firearm.

At about 10 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, police responded to a domestic violence call in Hampton Township. Upon arriving at the residence, police found a 21-year-old woman with injuries sitting on a friend’s porch. The woman alleged she had been beaten, choked, and kicked by Bryan E. Smith, her 29-year-old boyfriend. iStock_000024124827_Full-2-300x200

The beating allegedly took place inside Smith’s mobile home at the Saginaw Bay Estates mobile home park. Police say the woman was crying and hysterical when they arrived at her friend’s house.

Police went to Smith’s home, where he did not answer the door. Court records revealed that there was blood on the porch and steps of the home. Police found Smith on a bedroom floor after forcing entry, then handcuffed him before putting him in a patrol car, where he reportedly had to be sprayed with Mace after kicking and bashing the doors of the vehicle.

On Thursday March 10, 49-year-old Andre Hatchett was released from prison after spending nearly a quarter of a century behind bars for the beating death of a woman in 1991.  Hatchett was serving 25 years to life for the murder of Neda Mae Carter, who was strangled, beaten in the head, and left in a park in New York.

Hatchett went to trial twice in the alleged murder; the first ending in a mistrial after Hatchett’s defense attorneys were thought to be “inept,” according to news reports.  At the time of the murder, Hatchett was on crutches and had several injuries after being shot in the trachea and legs just months earlier.  The injuries Hatchett had at the time he allegedly killed Carter went unmentioned at trial.  Hatchett was hardly able to read or write at the time of his trial due to intellectual disabilities that had plagued him all his life, so he was not able to give his defense team support.
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On Monday, February 7, 30-year-old Dante L. Johnson was found not guilty of open murder in iStock_000006818663_Full-300x200connection with the 2014 shooting death of Orlando Walker in Kalamazoo.  Walker was shot on July 6, 2014; three people were charged in the shooting incident.  While Johnson was acquitted of the murder charge, he was found guilty of firearm possession by a felon and on one count of felony firearm.

Johnson was charged with open murder in June of last year, after another person charged in the case identified Johnson as the shooter.  Murder charges against Kenneth Langston were dismissed, however four other individuals supported his version of events and accusation that Johnson was the shooter.
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In August of last year, 33-year-old Martez Terrill Gardner of Ypsilanti Township reportedly shot a man at a Citgo gas station as the man was trying to run away after the men had become involved in an argument who one witness said was over a woman. Gardner was charged with first-degree premeditated murder initially, but has now accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded no contest to second-degree murder.

Gardner was also charged with carrying a weapon with unlawful intent, possessing a firearm as a feloniStock_000008551433_Large-2-300x200, possessing ammunition as a felon, three counts of felony firearm, and illegally carrying a concealed weapon.

Gardner is a habitual offender, having served time for unarmed robbery, malicious destruction of fire or police property, and probation for other criminal charges. Under the plea agreement his habitual status and first-degree murder charge will be dismissed at sentencing. After pleading no contest, he will serve 30 to 55 years for the death of 25-year-old Derius James.

In December of last year, Michael Robert Young, 27 and a former supervisor at Aramark was found guilty of solicitation to commit assault with intent to cause great bodily harm. Young, of Kincheloe, was recently sentenced and now faces up to five years in prison for the felony conviction. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

According to news reports, Young was employed by Aramark at Kinross Correctional Facility when he allegedly solicited an inmate to assault another inmate who Young said was incarcerated for murdering one of his relatives. The inmate Young allegedly wanted to harm was located at a different correctional facility. An article at The Detroit News stated that Young gave the inmate the other inmate’s name, location, prisoner number, and other details.

State officials revealed in a statement that the inmate Young was attempting to solicit told the Michigan Department of Corrections about Young’s plot. Young was charged in May of 2015, and was sentenced this month.

For five months, authorities in Louisiana had been searching for a suspect in an attempted murder case. On Tuesday January 26, 29-year-old Curtis Obraine Scott was spotted by a Muskegon police officer as he walked down Allen Avenue, according to news reports. Scott has now been arrested, more than 1,000 miles from Ferriday, Louisiana where the alleged attempted murder took place last August.  iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

Scott had been at a nightclub in Ferriday, where Darren Curry and his girlfriend had also been. Curry had reportedly become involved in a fight with Scott and two other men, and left the bar with his girlfriend. As they were heading home in Curry’s vehicle, someone yelled which got his attention. He saw the three men, and shots rang out. Curry claimed to have heard five shots, one of which struck him in the side according to a Ferriday police officer’s affidavit. Police said two of the bullets landed on the passenger seat while three penetrated Curry’s vehicle.

Scott’s girlfriend reportedly has family in Michigan, according to a Ferriday police dispatcher. His location was tracked through credit card use. At last news reports, Scott was awaiting extradition to Louisiana where he will face two counts of attempted second-degree murder. He was arrested without incident, and held in the Muskegon County Jail.

In 2001, Richard Masterson was found guilty of the February strangulation of 35-year-old Darrin richard-mHoneycutt in Houston, TX.  Masterson is scheduled to be executed in less than three weeks, however his lawyers are now arguing that Masterson’s conviction was based on a questionable confession and botched autopsy, according to an article at the Houston Chronicle.  The victim was a female impersonator, according to reports.

According to Masterson, the two were engaged in sexual activity when Honeycutt accidentally died.  However, Masterson’s attorneys contend that the Harris County medical examiner erroneously classified the victim’s death as a homicide, even though while the death was attributed to strangulation the medical examiner suggested the victim’s neck had not been subject to deadly pressure.  Masterson’s lawyers claim that at the time he confessed to the crime, he was suffering from mental illness.
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Recently, a 55-year-old Macomb Township man was charged with first-degree murder after lynnallegedly strangling his 89-year-old father.  According to a news article at, Gregory Lynn Nieman called 911 after he “discovered” his father dead in the home they shared.

Neiman reportedly called authorities after he came into the home on Sunday morning and found his father cold to the touch, and not breathing.  Following an autopsy, Donald Nieman’s death was ruled a homicide; the medical examiner determined he had been strangled.  On Tuesday, Greg Nieman was charged with first-degree premeditated murder.

Nieman is currently held without bond; his next court appearance is scheduled for January 7.
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