Jury convicts Kevin WilliamsPublished 10:30am Tuesday, December 22, 2009
CASSOPOLIS – On Feb. 7, 2009, a Dowagiac couple was literally stabbed in the back by a 41-year-old, drug- crazed career criminal.
As 78-year-old Robert Kirkland lay near death on the floor of his Thickstun Street home, his 50-year-old girlfriend Clara Peters stumbled bleeding onto the streets of Dowagiac.
Their assailant, leaving the couple for dead, fled west in a car he stole from his own brother.
Only an alert Herculaneum, Mo., police officer prevented Williams from a long-term disappearance into the heartland of America’s Midwest.
Miraculously, both victims survived the defendant’s bludgeoning.
But it could have been worse.
On Monday, Dec. 21, a Cass County jury in Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge’s courtroom found Kevin Williams guilty as charged of two counts of assault with intent to murder in the brutal stabbings of Robert Kirkland and Clara Peters.
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz stated, “This verdict insures that a cocaine-fueled predator is off the streets of Dowagiac for many, many years.
“Nothing good has ever come from the introduction of this blood-letting substance into our society. It comes with a terrible and permanent price,” Fitz said.
Assault with intent to murder is a capital offense carrying a potential sentence of life in prison.
Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle, who tried the case, indicated that since his Missouri arrest, Williams has coldly and repeatedly threatened to kill other persons, including his jail guards, if he gets out.
The defendant is a four-time habitual felony offender.
His prior convictions include: escape prison, home invasion third, uttering and publishing and receiving and concealing over $100.
Testimony at trial revealed that Williams, a cocaine user, lived with his brother at 204 Allen St., Dowagiac, a short distance from the 309 Thickstun St. residence of Kirkland and Peters.
The couple acknowledged on the stand that they were also long-time cocaine addicts.
On the almost-fatal date, Williams walked to the couple’s home during the evening hours, apparently motivated to get cocaine.
After using his familiarity with the couple to gain entry, Williams eventually bludgeoned them with their own kitchen knife.
Williams had the immediate size advantage in the assault, weighing 280 pounds to Kirkland’s 195 pounds and Peters’ 160 pounds.
But he waited until the odds were even more in his favor.
An unsuspecting Peters indicated that Williams did not strike until Kirkland left the room.
But when that happened, the defendant grabbed a five-inch kitchen knife and immediately thrust it into Peters’ back .
When Kirkland re-emerged, Williams administered a similar knife blow to the back of the elderly man.
Williams followed that surprise assault with several more knife blows, including a hard incision into the chest of the senior citizen.
After the stabbing spree, Williams ran into the darkness of the night.
The defendant jumped into his brother’s Chevy Celebrity and drove to Missouri.
Meanwhile, Peters stumbled to a neighbor’s house, where a 911 call summoned police and an ambulance.
Peters and Kirkland were flown by air to Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, where medical professionals treated the life-threatening wounds and saved them from death.
Doctors who testified at trial indicated that both Peters and Kirkland were lucky to be alive.
If any of the entry wounds had been in slightly different locations, they could have been fatal.
Medical experts indicated that the stabbings just missed vital organs, including the hearts of both victims.
Peters suffered a collapsed lung from her injury.
Upon securing the scene, Dowagiac Police Chief Tom Atkinson put a nation-wide all-points bulletin out on Williams and the suspect vehicle.
The effort paid dividends.
Based on that information, an alert Herculaneum police officer, Cpl. David Coffey, observed Williams at a gas station in the small Missouri town.
After confirming the tip and requesting back-up, Cpl. Coffey approached and apprehended the suspect.
Williams was still wearing bloodstained clothing from the incident.
At trial a Michigan State Police DNA expert called by Vohwinkle confirmed that the blood on the clothing of Williams was that of Robert Kirkland.
At the conclusion of the trial, Vohwinkle praised the Dowagiac Police Department and other assisting agencies for a professional effort to bring Williams to justice.
Also singled out for plaudits was Herculaneum Cpl. David Coffey for his timely collar of an extremely dangerous would-be killer.
Lead investigator Jarrid Bradford and other officers testified at trial regarding their successful investigation.
Forty-one-year-old Dowagiac native Kevin Williams was also convicted of the five-year felony of unlawfully driving away an automobile
The jury trial began Dec. 15 before Judge Dodge and lasted five days.
Sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 19, 2010, at 8:30 a.m.
The defendant remains in jail pending sentencing.