MARQUETTE - A Marquette Police Department detective who interviewed accused assailant Suranit Imsumran testified Tuesday the 44-year-old defendant confessed to using duct tape, rope, his hands and a knife in an attempt to bind and scare love interest Autumn Ballas, likening his exploits to those from a James Bond movie.
Imsumran - on trial for three felonies including assault with intent to murder - reportedly told Det. Lt. Michael Wasie, that Ballas had shunned his romantic overtures and he wanted to confront her after an earlier argument to find out "why she hated him."
"He knew he was going to have to restrain her to get her to listen to him," Wasie said.
Defense attorney Scott Brogan stands to question alleged assault victim Autumn Ballas Tuesday in Marquette County Circuit Court. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Wasie said Imsumran referenced the James Bond character saying, "Sometimes when you are a spy you have to do things the hard way."
A Marquette County Circuit Court jury of seven women and six men heard testimony from 10 prosecution witnesses Tuesday, including Ballas, who tearfully described being attacked by a masked intruder at her Whetstone Village apartment on Feb. 26.
"I woke up to a dark figure next to my bed holding a flashlight," Ballas said. "At the time, I just assumed it was a man."
Ballas said the figure clothed in long underwear, no pants, a hat, ski mask and dark shirt was looking at the wall and didn't notice she was awake. When he turned and saw her she sat up.
"The figure ran up on top of me and started choking me holding me down by my neck and covering my mouth and nose," Ballas said. "Every time I'd scream he'd say, 'Shut up or you die.'"
Wasie said Imsumran told him he'd violated a Whetstone Village trespass order and used a key he'd duplicated without Ballas' knowledge to gain entry to the main door of her apartment building. Inside, he found her door unlocked. He entered the apartment and took his shoes off, according to Thai custom.
Imsumran reportedly told Wasie he shut off lights in the apartment and used his flashlight to see. He said he watched Ballas sleep for several minutes. He then went to the living room and cut open packaging of items he'd bought earlier including zip ties, clothesline and duct tape. Wasie said Imsumran then went to the bathroom and took off his pants before returning to the bedroom to again watch Ballas.
This is when she awoke and reportedly screamed "Oh my god."
Wasie said Imsumran admitted grabbing Ballas by the throat and covering her mouth, trying to keep her from screaming. Imsumran told Wasie he had held the knife in his hand while watching Ballas sleep, but had dropped it on the bed when he attacked.
Wasie said Imsumran laughed during the interview saying he didn't expect Ballas to fight.
"It turns out she was a pretty good fighter," Wasie claimed Imsumran said.
A violent struggle followed. Ballas said Imsumran groped her breast and when he prepared to rape her, she grabbed a knife from him, stabbing Imsumran in the thigh and side before they fought over a baby gate, through a hallway and into the livingroom.
She thrust the knife toward him until he left the apartment.
Wasie said Imsumran also laughed about Ballas being a pretty good stabber too. Imsumran said Ballas knew it was him after a short time and he feared she might cut his penis off with the knife.
Police crime scene photographs and videotape depicted carpeting, doors, walls and a baby gate smeared in blood, with dark pools that seemed to be clotting found settling on the bed. Photos also showed rope, a disabled telephone, duct tape, damaged drywall and the wounds to Imsumran and Ballas' blood-stained legs.
Ballas estimated the attack and struggle lasted five to 15 minutes.
Marquette Police Officer John Inch testified when he arrived at Whetstone Village he found a knife and blood next to the door to the main entryway of Ballas' building. He said Ballas came up a stairwell toward him.
"She was completely naked. She was covered from head to toe in blood and carrying her 12-month-old baby. She was very upset," Inch said. "She said the blood that was on her was not hers."
Police testified they followed a blood trail in the snow from the apartment building through a wooded area to where Imsumran had left his car, which tracks showed was headed north. One officer had seen such a black sports car driving away along Vandenboom Road as he headed toward Whetstone Village. A police bulletin was broadcast for Imsumran and his car.
Northern Michigan University Campus Safety Officer Greg Carrier said with police at Imsumran's house and the hospital, he decided to go to Walmart on a hunch.
"Where would you go if you had to get fixed up," Carrier said. "Walmart's open 24 hours."
Meanwhile, cashiers at Walmart testified a man they identified in court Tuesday as Imsumran came through their checkout lines, first buying a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide and bandages and later, new shoes.
"When he handed me the money, it was covered in blood," said late shift cashier Kierstyn Squier. She saw blood elsewhere.
"It was all over his pant leg and all over the jacket he was wearing," Squier said.
Imsumran had gone into a bathroom to apply the peroxide and bandages. Police later found bloodied items in the bathroom trash can. He had come to the store barefoot and put the shoes on after paying for them, witnesses said.
In the Walmart parking lot, Carrier had found a black Mazda sports car with blood on the outside. He spotted a man later identified as Imsumran.
"He was limping, he was walking east across the parking lot," Carrier said.
Imsumran told Carrier he was cut with a glass at Upfront & Co. earlier in the evening. He said he didn't need an ambulance. Carrier told him to wait for Marquette police. Arriving officer Christopher Aldrich testified Imsumran told him he was upset he had been rebuffed by Ballas, had jumped on her bed with an unopened knife, wanting to find out why she hated him.
"He lifted up his shirt and I could see a bloody area on his left side," Aldrich said.
Police testified they towed Imsumran's car for evidence processing. They later found a letter inside describing Imsumran's feelings for Ballas and reasons why she should choose him over her on-again, off-again boyfriend.
Imsumran was taken to the hospital where he talked to Wasie at about 6 a.m. saying he'd spent about $1,000 on Ballas and wanted to know why she wasn't reciprocating his feelings.
"Toward the end of the interview he did say he loved her," Wasie said.
At the Thai Bistro where Imsumran and Ballas had worked together earlier that evening, she had shunned a pronouncement of his affection for her. They argued and his boss later reprimanded him for the incident, witnesses testified.
After work, while Ballas got her daughter from a babysitter and returned home to sleep, Imsumran went to two bars and had three drinks before going to Walmart to buy the restraints, scissors and personal lubricant, Wasie testified.
"During the time at the bars he was very angry," Wasie said. "He felt he had to do something or else he was going to explode."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.