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Special prosecutor Doug Baker shows the jury the murder weapon, a knife, during opening statements Tuesday in Cass County Circuit Court. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT
Special Prosecutor Doug Baker shows the jury the murder weapon, a knife, during opening statements Tuesday in Cass County Circuit Court. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Archived Story

Prosecutor: Tarwackis died in robbery gone wrong

Published 5:59pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CASSOPOLIS — Until Tuesday’s opening statement by the prosecution, the public didn’t know a motive as to why John and Carolyn Tarwacki were brutally murdered in their Niles home in February of 2010.

Special Prosecutor Doug Baker, of the state attorney general’s office, said Tuesday he intends to prove the defendant, Keith James Lintz, of Niles, was high when he murdered the Tarwackis during a robbery gone “sideways” on Feb. 5, 2010.

Defense attorney Greg Feldman, however, said in his opening statement that the prosecution has little — if any — direct evidence tying his client to the scene. He said there are at least 20 pieces of evidence that would give the jury reasonable doubt to conclude that Lintz murdered the Tarwackis.

The prosecution’s case appears to hinge on the testimony of a few people who say they heard Lintz admit to the crime in the years after the murders.

“One person admitted to doing the crime,” Baker said. “In fact, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut about it.”

Feldman countered this point by saying the people Lintz allegedly admitted the crime to are less-than-credible witnesses who changed their stories over time.

Baker said police found no DNA evidence or fingerprints at the scene belonging to Lintz, or any other suspect.

There are three people, Baker said, who saw a white male fitting the general description of Lintz leaving the scene at around 7:30 a.m. — the general time of the murders. None of those witnesses, however, saw the person’s face.

The only direct evidence was a set of footprints in the snow found in the right-of-way behind the Tarwacki’s home on Carberry Road in Howard Township. The footprints were from a single person and led from Yankee Street to the back of the Tarwacki’s home and back to Yankee Street. Carolyn’s blood was found in a footprint leading away from the home.

Baker said the Tarwackis ultimately died of stab wounds inflicted after both were shot twice.

Lintz is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, each carrying a mandatory life sentence without parole.

After opening statements, John Tarwacki Sr., — John’s father — was called as the prosecution’s first witness. He testified to finding his son and daughter-in-law dead in their home around noon Feb. 5. He was the only witness called Tuesday.

The trial will continue Wednesday in Cass County Circuit Court.

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