Five-day cold case murder trial ends in mistrial
Published 1:14 am Friday, March 17, 2006
By By NORMA LERNER / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - After five days of testimony in Cass County Circuit Court in the cold-case murder trial of Michael Dunnuck, 34, accused of killing a Pokagon Township man in 1990, the jury began deliberations Wednesday afternoon.
The jury was sent home at 5:15 p.m. by Cass County Circuit Judge Michael Dodge. On the sixth day in the cold-case murder trial for William Whittaker, 42, who was found dead with a bullet through his head at the kitchen table of his camper trailer in Pokagon Township, Cass County Circuit Judge Michael Dodge declared a mistrial.
Michael Dunnuck, 34, a former Niles man, was charged in the murder that happened March 7, 1990.
A jury of seven men and five women were deadlocked in their decision to convict Dunnuck of either first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
Deliberating since late Wednesday afternoon, the jury came back to the courtroom three times on Thursday, each time deadlocked.
This means Dunnuck is still charged in the murder, but it is up to the prosecutor to decide to reschedule another trial.
Prosecutor Victor Fitz said he will reset the trial.
It is likely the trial will be reset this summer.
After the people rested the case by Fitz Wednesday morning, Dodge dismissed count two of the open murder and felony firearm charges against Dunnuck. This was upon motion of defense Attorney Jonathan Jones. Jones stated that the statute of limitations had run out on the felony firearm charge.
After closing arguments by both Fitz and Jones, Dodge instructed the jury on the various aspects in considering first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
Jurors disclosed to Det. Sgt. Fabian Suarez of the Michigan State Police Niles post, who investigated the case, that the overwhelming consensus was that the defendant was guilty.
He said they could not reach complete unanimity. The final count was 9 to 3 guilty. Seven men and five women served.
Dunnuck remains jailed on a $500,000 bond pending retrial.
Whittaker was found dead at the kitchen table of his camper trailer on March 7, 1990, in Pokagon Township. He had a bullet hole through his head. His trailer was parked at the home of Major Thomas, now deceased, at 3136 Michigan-51 North.
Michigan State Police re-opened the cold case after hearing comments that Dunnuck, a former Niles resident, allegedly had shot Whittaker in 1990.
Missing silver bars and coins were never located from Whittaker's home nor was the gun. Whittaker had been living temporarily on the Thomas property before moving to Washington state to live with his sister.