Mistrial declared in mock trial when sister confesses

Published 1:14 pm Monday, August 18, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- It was a Perry Mason moment, the defendant's sister confessing on the witness stand to greedily killing her grandmother in cold blood for a valuable recipe. Friday's mock murder trial was also the first jury trial to take place in the new Cass County Law and Courts Building.
Observers included state Rep. Rick Shaffer, R-Three Rivers, who called it a "wonderful opportunity" resulting from community collaboration.
The culmination of Dowagiac Police Department's week-long, fourth annual Junior Detective Academy is a realistic trial presided over by Judge Susan Dobrich and teams coached by Prosecutor Victor Fitz and Public Defender Dale Blunier.
A pool party at Blunier's house in Edwardsburg followed. A mistrial was declared by Dobrich after the outburst by "Penelope Wacked" (portrayed by Central science teacher Jennifer Donovan, who instructed an afternoon on entomology and forensics).
Junior detectives completing the academy included Caitlin Higgins, Tim Rutkowski, Matt Kremer, Charlie Kremer, Ashley Kremer, Sean Kremer, Chris Beavo, Donald Beck, Yasmine Chambliss, Kate Hein, Meg Hein, Jessica Neumaier, Natalie Collett, Allissa Wright, Brittany Munson, Ryan Juroff and Blaine McGowan, all attired in "Police Line" T-shirts. Don't cross them. Cass County Youth Committee donated the shirts. Four participants came from Niles, the rest from Dowagiac.
Prosecutors published dozens of exhibits to the jury, from photographs documenting the crime scene and the body's placement in its surroundings to physical evidence, including bagged plastic cups and a "blood"-spattered book, "Saving the Whales," which implicated the "tree-hugger" sister, Moonlove Wacked.
Another colorful witness was "Gladys Kravets," who called Dobrich "Judge Judy" and gushed, "I love your show."
Moonlove Wacked's alibi, testifying in her own defense, was that she had been freeing lab rats at the time of her grandmother's death. "No, man, I love every living thing." She had no use for money because "I use my sister's cred it card. I wouldn't kill a tree to write my grandma a note." Moonlove said she lost the book at her sister's house before she swore off books and paper money as a political statement against capitalism. Twirling her purple feather boa, Moonlove insisted she was "high on love" -- not drugs -- although she also professed her secret identity as the princess of the frog people in Berkeley. Penelope freely admitted hating Moonlove, a "parasite." In fact, "I've been silent long enough." After her incriminating rant, Penelope invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to answer further questions and was taken into custody to await further proceedings in the case.