MARQUETTE - A Marquette man who remains a police suspect in the shooting death of a local gun shop owner was sentenced Tuesday to serve nine years, seven months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of firearms.
The sentence for Ryan Daniel Saari, 34, also includes three years of supervised release after prison and recommendations for mental health and substance abuse treatment while incarcerated.
Saari pleaded guilty in September under a plea agreement. He had been charged in Marquette County Circuit Court with first-degree home invasion and felonious assault for an alleged knife assault on former girlfriend Jamie Bodnar at her Marquette apartment complex in March.
Ryan Daniel Saari leaves the federal building in Marquette Tuesday after being sentenced to prison for being a felon in possession of firearms. (Journal photo by John Pepin)
Under the plea deal, Saari pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of three guns in exchange for having the state charges against him dismissed.
"I know I messed up. I messed up big time," Saari told U.S. District Court Judge R. Allan Edgar. "And it not only affected me, it affected my family and, most of all, my son."
Defense attorney Karl Numinen said he plans to appeal Saari's federal sentence in hopes of lowering the sentencing guidelines range accepted from a presentence report. In all, the court considered 10 guns found to be in Saari's possession in sentencing. Saari has two previous convictions for felony domestic violence, third offense, dating back to 1999 and 2002. It is unlawful for him to possess any firearms.
Saari told police he was renting a storage unit in Harvey where he said he was storing a Winchester .22 caliber lever-action rifle, a Marlin .22 caliber lever-action rifle and a Browning .44 caliber lever-action rifle. Police recovered those weapons and those guns are the ones Saari pleaded guilty to having in his possession.
In March, FBI agents recovered two shotguns and a Marlin .336 lever-action rifle from Saari's grandmother's apartment in Houghton. Numinen said Saari had given the guns to her eight to 12 years ago to hand down to his son when he reached age 18.
Police searching Saari's Hawley Street apartment in Marquette earlier this year found three guns in the cavity of a speaker cabinet. One of those was reported stolen in Houghton County. After Saari's personal items were removed from his apartment and he was jailed on the assault charges, new residents discovered another gun. That gun was found in a recessed baseboard area behind a cabinet. The weapon was also reported stolen in Houghton County.
Numinen's appeal will object to the guns at Saari's grandmother's house being considered in Saari's possession. Edgar said Saari had access to them.
Numinen will also object to the gun behind the baseboard being assigned to his client. No fingerprints were found on it that were Saari's and it was found after he moved out.
"We don't think he had possession in any fashion," Numinen said.
If the number of guns attributed to Saari falls below eight, the guidelines for sentencing would "drop significantly," Numinen said.
Edgar said he was crafting his sentence for Saari based on the guidelines, Saari's extensive criminal background, the nature of the offense, protecting public safety and deterrence.
"Felons can't have firearms. This pertains in the Upper Peninsula and all other places," Edgar said. "And that is something that needs to be understood."
Edgar said Saari has "a long history of mental issues," which were "no doubt aggravated by his tough upbringing." Clad in dingy, black-and-white-striped Marquette County Jail clothes, Saari stood with his hair pulled back in a ponytail, talking softly to Edgar.
"I just ask for your mercy and I know my family and friends are praying for mercy," Saari said. "I have nothing else to say except I accept full responsibility."
Michigan State Police detectives remain unable to eliminate Saari as a possible suspect in the Feb. 23 shooting death of Robert Anthony Dusseau at the Quik Cash & Guns shop in Marquette Township. Saari was implicated in that killing by Bodnar.
She claimed in court testimony Dusseau was the wrong man targeted and killed by an allegedly jealous Saari. Saari has never been charged in the homicide case.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.