Suspect in Tarwacki murders linked to bloody footprintsPublished 5:39pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013
CASSOPOLIS — If the prosecution has direct evidence linking Keith Lintz to the brutal killing of Niles couple John and Carolyn Tarwacki on Feb. 5, 2010, it hasn’t revealed it yet.
Prosecutors did, however, provide circumstantial evidence in the form of two witnesses linking Lintz to bloody footprints found outside the scene of the crime during Tuesday’s preliminary examination in Cass County Fourth District Court.
It was enough evidence for Judge Stacey Rentfrow to bind Lintz over for trial on two counts of first-degree murder. In a preliminary examination, Rentfrow explained, the court only needs probable cause to bind someone over.
Patricia Wilds, a 23-year-old Niles woman who was dating Lintz’ cousin, Keith Bigham, around the time of the incident, said Lintz came to their Niles trailer one night shortly after the incident took place acting “jittery” and saying police were going “to catch him” because of “footprints coming from the back door.”
Several officers testified Tuesday to finding one set of footprints in the snow heading to and from the backdoor to the Tarwacki’s home — where the slayings took place — on Carberry Road in Howard Township.
Wilds also testified Lintz pulled out a small silver revolver with a black handle and said “don’t bring a knife to a gun show” the night he came to the trailer. She said Lintz’ right hand was broken and he had “fresh” scrapes on his knuckles.
Although police interviewed Wilds in June 2011, Wilds did not tell police what Lintz’ did that night because she said she was “asked not to” by members of Lintz’ family.
However, one year later — in September 2012 — Wilds told police what happened after she was arrested for driving on a suspended license. Although her case was thrown out, Wilds said she didn’t ask police for any favors and said wasn’t promised anything by police for providing information about Lintz. She said she changed her mind because “my mom told me to do the right thing.”
‘I’m the No. 1 suspect’
Lintz’ girlfriend at the time of the slayings — 21-year-old Karessa Warner — testified Tuesday that Lintz told her he was the No. 1 suspect in the case because his footprints were found going through the Tarwacki’s yard. When Warner asked Lintz why his footprints were found in the yard, Lintz told her he was going to his grandfather’s house and cut through the Tarwacki’s yard.
Warner said Lintz explanation didn’t make sense because the Tarwacki’s home was not between Lintz’ home (located on Carberry Road five houses south of the Tarwacki’s home) and Lintz’ grandfather’s home. Warner said she told police this information in an interview May 2011.
Warner said she did not see Lintz in possession of a gun.
Knife found in the freezer
The prosecution called 10 witnesses Tuesday, including Carolyn Tarwacki’s mother, Sharon McKnight, who testified to finding a bloody knife in the freezer section of a refrigerator located on the back porch of the Tarwacki’s home. McKnight, the executor of the Tarwacki’s estate, said she found the knife on April 2, 2010, when someone inquired about buying the fridge. The knife was hidden behind a bag of frozen vegetables.
Special prosecutor Doug Baker said an expert would testify that DNA found on the knife belongs to Carolyn and John.
An autopsy revealed John was stabbed 10 times in the back and shot twice — once in the head and once in the chest. Carolyn was stabbed five times, shot twice and beaten severely about the head and neck.
Police said all bullets were believed to be .32 caliber and fired from the same gun.
Blood in the snow
John Tarwacki Sr., John’s father, was the first to find them while doing a welfare check after both didn’t show up for work Feb. 5. He said he entered the home around 11:45 a.m. and saw his son lying face down in a hallway.
“I knelt down beside him and took his arm — it was ice cold,” said John Sr., who then found Carolyn dead and propped up against a couch in the living room.
John Sr. said he called 911 and police arrived a short time later.
Michigan State Police Detective John Moore, one of the first on the scene, testified the knife found in the fridge was similar to knives found in the Tarwacki’s kitchen.
MSP Tpr. Duane Shears testified that a single set of fresh footprints was found leading to and from the back door of the Tarwacki’s home to a place on Yankee Street, which is north of the Tarwacki’s home. He said blood spots were found in or near the footprints.
Prosecutor Baker said an expert would testify that DNA from the blood spots matches Carolyn Tarwacki.
After Judge Rentfrow bound Lintz over for trial an arraignment was held and Lintz pleaded not guilty.
He will be scheduled to stand trial in Cass County Circuit Court at a later date.