Defense seeks mistrial in Niles double homicide case

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Kirk Deeleuw, forensic scientist with the Michigan State Police, looks at a picture of the scene of the crime during testimony Wednesday. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Kirk Deeleuw, forensic scientist with the Michigan State Police, looks at a picture of the scene of the crime during testimony Wednesday. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

CASSOPOLIS — An apparent oversight by the prosecution could result in a mistrial in the Keith Lintz double murder trial.

Lintz, of Niles, is being tried in Cass County Circuit Court on two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Niles couple John and Carolyn Tarwacki, who were found dead in their Howard Township home Feb. 5, 2010.

Defense attorney Greg Feldman filed a motion for a mistrial Tuesday because he said the prosecution did not provide him in a timely manner a report done on a hair sample found at the scene.

Doug Baker, special prosecutor with the state attorney general’s office, said the report was filed May 24, 2012. However, Baker admits he didn’t give the report to Feldman until the morning of Aug. 27, the first day of the trial.

When Judge Michael Dodge asked Baker why he didn’t provide Feldman with the report until Aug. 27, Baker said he didn’t realize Feldman didn’t have it until that morning.

“I never actively withheld it,” Baker said outside of the presence of the jury Wednesday, the sixth day of the trial.

Feldman claims not receiving the report hindered his ability to properly defend his client.

The report has not been presented to the jury. However, Baker said they would allow the report to be entered as evidence to satisfy Feldman.

Dodge said he would rule on the motion for mistrial Thursday morning.

The report contains information about a hair sample found next to a blood drop in footprints leading away from the Tarwacki’s home on Carberry Road. The prosecution hired a laboratory in Pennsylvania to do a special DNA test on the hair to determine if it matched the defendant’s DNA. The report found no match to Lintz, but does show the characteristics of a juvenile hair.

Kelan McKnight, 19, the Tarwacki’s nephew, was living with the Tarwackis at the time of the murder, although police ruled him out as a suspect.

Several state witnesses testified during trial that it is impossible to determine exactly how the hair ended up in the footprint.

Day six

Testimony Wednesday involved several state witnesses who either processed the scene of the crime for DNA or fingerprint evidence, or tested evidence for DNA or fingerprint matches.

Ann Hunt, a forensic scientist with the Michigan State Police, testified that no evidence taken from the scene provided a DNA match to Lintz.

The only DNA samples found at the scene belonged to the Tarwackis or McKnight — all people living in the residence at the time of the murders.

Hunt said it is possible that the perpetrator left no DNA evidence behind.

Jason Sinke, a latent finger print examiner with the Michigan State Police, testified that no prints matching Lintz were found at the scene. Sinke also said it’s possible the perpetrator left no fingerprints behind.

The jury also heard from Michigan State Police Det. Fabian Suarez, the lead detective on the case.

Feldman essentially accused Suarez of doing a poor job managing the case, citing the police not finding the bloody knife in the freezer in the mudroom of the Tarwacki’s home. The knife was found by Carolyn’s mother a couple months after the murders.

“It was embarrassing to say the least,” Suarez said.

Feldman also questioned why police processed some evidence and not others, including a butter knife found in the living room. Feldman theorized that the killer could’ve dropped the knife there.

The jury also heard Christy Allen, an employee at the Mishawaka, Ind., Wal-Mart where Lintz was employed at the time, testify that Lintz did not show up for his shift from 7-11 p.m. on the day of the murders.

Catch up on the rest of the trial:
Day 5: Lintz: State is “too stupid” to catch me
Day 4: Cellmate: Lintz made tearful admission to killing Tarwackis
Day 3: Ex-girlfriend: Lintz implicated himself in Tarwacki murders
Day 2: Witness: Lintz worried about footprints in snow
Day 1: Prosecutor: Tarwackis died in robbery gone wrong