Murder suspect’s prelim delayed

MANISTIQUE – Garry JC Cordell, one of the three people charged in a triple homicide last month, will have his preliminary examination in August, despite protests from his attorney,

It will be held in conjunction with the preliminary examinations of two other defendants, Schoolcraft County District Court Judge Mark Luoma ruled Wednesday.

Along with Marietta May Carlson and Kenneth Daniel Brunke, Cordell is accused of murdering sisters Heather Aldrich, 25, and Carrie Nelson, 31, both of the Newberry area, and Nelson’s boyfriend, Jody Hutchinson, 42, of Gould City. The victims’ bodies were discovered on County Road 436, also known as River Road, in Schoolcraft County’s Doyle Township on April 17. The bodies were found in Nelson’s 2000 Oldsmobile Bravada, which had been lit on fire.

Cordell and Brunke each face 12 charges related to the murders while Carlson faces eight.

At a probable cause conference on May 20, attorneys representing Carlson and Brunke waived their clients’ right to a preliminary examination within 14 days of arraignment. During the conference, both defendants had their preliminary examinations scheduled for the week of Aug. 3.

Cordell’s attorney, Brian Rahilly, said Cordell wanted to move forward with the trial as quickly as possible and his client’s preliminary examination should have been held Wednesday, as was originally scheduled for all three defendants at their arraignment.

Despite concerns a full preliminary examination could not occur in such a short time, Luoma allowed the examination to remain on the court schedule for Wednesday. However, before any witnesses could take the stand Wednesday, court was adjourned and the examination rescheduled for August.

“Without going too much into the facts … without disclosing too much and starting the rumor mill, I don’t think that would be wise (to have a preliminary examination) at this time,” Schoolcraft County Prosecutor Timothy Noble said.

Noble cited a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that states preliminary examinations for codefendants must be consolidated.

“It makes sense to the people that all of these be held at once,” Noble said. “The last thing that the people want is certain evidence coming out, even here today, that could cause this case to be tried more in the media than it already has been.”

According to the prosecutor, lab reports have not been received on evidence – including DNA testing on the victims’ remains, analysis of tire impressions, accelerants used on the burned vehicle, and blood found at what is believed to be the scene of the murders.

Nobel also noted he is unsure whether a dive team investigation has been completed.

Rahilly objected to the delay, claiming delays would infringe on his client’s rights.

“He has a statutory right to a preliminary examination within 21 days of his arraignment, and it was held approximately 19 days ago, and we’re not prepared to waive that right he has,” Rahilly said. “Also, he has a right to a speedy trial, that’s in the United States Constitution. Any push-backs could jeopardize his potential for having that speedy trial. Just because other defendants in this case have waived those rights does not mean my client should then be required to waive those rights as well.”

While Luoma acknowledged Cordell is innocent until proven guilty and has rights that need protection, he said he believed it was best for the case to proceed with the consolidation of the three codefendants’ preliminary examinations.

“(The case is) not only complicated factually, it’s complicated legally as well, and in order to take a very serious and substantial look at not only the evidence but the legal impact of each piece of evidence, the court believes that it is appropriate to allow sufficient time for both council to be prepared for a preliminary examination of this magnitude,” Luoma said.

Luoma also said only two hours worth of testimony could have been heard Wednesday, but an entire week has been set aside for testimony for Brunke and Carlson.

“We certainly need more than two hours to hear the evidence and make a conclusion,” he said.

Despite Cordell’s preliminary examination being delayed by about eight weeks, once court reconvenes for the examinations in August there is little chance that there will be further delays, Luoma said.

“Absent extremely compelling circumstances, the court is not going to grant adjournment on that date,” he said. “So we’re going to move ahead with all deliberate speed on that date.”

In addition to the preliminary examination, all three defendants will have motions hearings July 22.