Murder trial to resume next Tuesday

Published 12:05 am Friday, March 10, 2006

By By NORMA LERNER / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - A neighbor and her husband were home on the morning that a Pokagon Township man was found dead at the kitchen table of his camper trailer on March 7, 1990, with a .22-caliber bullet through his head.
Thursday morning in Cass County Circuit Court, Carolyn Goodman, who lives on M-51, testified in the cold case reopened by state police in the murder trial of Michael Dunnuck, 34, a former Niles man.
He is charged with open murder and felony firearm in the death of William Whittaker, 42, of Niles.
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said Michigan State Police reopened the case upon hearing statements by Dunnuck that he allegedly shot Whittaker.
Goodman was at home with her husband, Skip, when Dunnuck knocked on her door March 7.
She said Dunnuck was a friend who did odd jobs for them to help her husband, a truck driver, keep his semi clean. She said she had known Whittaker about 40 years.
Dunnuck asked her to go to lunch, but she was busy that day.
She said he was going over to see Whittaker and Major Thomas, her neighbor, now deceased.
Dunnuck wanted to see Whittaker because he was going to his sister's house soon in Washington state. He came back hysterical.
Goodman said she called police while her husband went over to Whittaker's. “I was in shock,” she said. She then went into the trailer and saw Whittaker lying with his head on the table. He was wearing his hat and a jogging suit.
She picked up his head and saw the hole in his forehead. She kissed him and laid his head back down and backed herself out of the trailer.
Goodman said she got into a discussion with Major Thomas when he came home. She said she didn't get along with him over the years, but made up with him before he died. Earlier testimony indicated the dispute was over property.
Goodman told Fitz that police came and Dunnuck continued to cry and act upset. Fitz questioned if Dunnuck was in college and Goodman said yes. She would send him money once in a while although he didn't ask for it. She wasn't sure, but thought he went to Central Michigan University. She said she liked him.
In cross examining, defense attorney Jonathan Jones of Southfield asked if Goodman knew Dunnuck was coming over for lunch, and she didn't know. She didn't know he was on spring break She said she didn't know Major Thomas wasn't home. After police came and Thomas came home, he told Goodman and her husband to go home.
Goodman said the altercation with Thomas was because she wasn't supposed to be on his property. Her husband broke up the argument. She said she wanted to see what was going on.
She said she didn't see Dunnuck with a gun. She said she only heard rumors that Whittaker had possession of some silver. When asked if she went to Whittaker's funeral, she said she went to the viewing but couldn't remember if her husband went along.
Fitz also called James Uebler, a retired Michigan State Police detective sergeant, to testify, saying he was called March 7 to a suicide case with no weapon. He said he looked for the weapon but couldn't find one. He told Dunnuck to sit in the squad car for questioning since he found the body. Several police agencies and the ambulance showed up and since Uebler was busy in his investigation, he told Dunnuck to go home. He said he would interview him later. Uebler said he went back to the scene often to look for a .22- caliber rifle and for silver bars.
Uebler found out that Dunnuck knew Whittaker four years and worked for him doing odd jobs.
Dunnuck told him that Whittaker made a sexual advancement toward him, but he put an end to it.
He said he continued to work for him because he felt sorry for him, and he needed extra money.
In cross examining, Jones asked if Uebler contacted pawn shops in regards to any silver turned in. He said he contacted all pawn shops. Uebler said he was told there were silver bars and money in the trailer, but nothing was found.
Uebler said he interviewed Dunnuck March 10 and thought they had a suspect, but he was not charged. He said police taped the funeral to see who showed up and for anything significant. He said the case went inactive in about 1997.
Michael McKie, who worked for Parritts in Benton Harbor in 1990, testified that his shop bought and sold jewelry, guns, gold and silver.
He said he received a call from a college student who was trying to sell 100-ounce-silver bars. The trial resumes at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.