Edwardsburg murder case to be featured on Oxygen network

CASS COUNTY — In spring 2019, Edwardsburg residents may have the opportunity to see their community and one of its longest unsolved cases put under the microscope and featured on the Oxygen network. Oxygen is a TV network that focuses on crime and murder shows.

According to Edwardsburg native Stephanie Stasiak one episode of an upcoming show about suicides later discovered to be murders will feature the case of her father, Robert Stasiak.

In September 2017, Kathy Hamburge and Stephanie Stasiak, the wife and daughter of deceased Robert Stasiak, finally found justice after four decades of grief, perseverance and uncertainty. For years, the mother and daughter were convinced the death of Robert was not a suicide or accident, but a murder. When the case was finally reopened and new evidence brought forward, Raymond Richmond, cousin of Robert, was charged for murder and given a minimum sentence of 12 years and maximum of 18 years in prison.

As the story goes, Richmond shot his cousin and fled the scene, leaving the case to look like a suicide, but according to Stephanie, as the years went on Richmond not only directly told her and her mother that he intentionally killed Robert, but further evidence was found to back up his private confessions. One notable piece of evidence was a photo taken at the grave site of Robert with a caption on the back that read, “This is where I put Bob nine months ago.” According to Cass County Prosecuting Attorney Victor Fitz, documentation was also procured from a mental facility showing Richmond had also confessed his involvement to others. Second examinations of the body also found the wound to be suspicious.

After years of requests to reopen the case and getting “laughed at,” as Stephanie described the response to their attempts, former Edwardsburg police chief Timothy Kozal agreed to reopen the case.

“I was part of the team that handled it and investigated it,” Kozal said. “I would do it again tomorrow.”

Prosecuting Attorney Fitz’s office also became involved in the case when Kozal came forward with his opinion that the case should be reopened. Fitz has worked in prosecution for 35 years and handled several homicide cases. He believes the country has “an epidemic” of cases like Stasiak’s, which is why the Stasiak murder deserves the recognition of a wider audience.

“Since (Stasiak’s murder), Michigan has accumulated over 11,000 unsolved homicide cases,” Fitz said. “In many cases, a substantial number can be solved. It’s just about having the right personnel.”

For Fitz, addressing the epidemic of unsolved murder cases needs more than TV notoriety. It’s about citizens contacting lawmakers to initiate change and action.

“I encourage average citizens to contact legislators and tell them this needs to be a priority. We need to bring comfort and closure to people like the Stasiaks who have no peace and deserve to have peace,” Fitz said.

Speaking to the notoriety the case may get as a result of being featured on the Oxygen network, Kozal said it was like any other case and that he handled it as he would any other case. It was his duty, and justice had to be served.

“This is just our job,” Kozal said. “I think it’s nice to know you have a police department that serves you.”

Stephanie, however, believes the story of her father and her family should be shared for the benefit of other people who find themselves in similar situations.

“It’s beneficial to give families still fighting hope that justice will eventually come,” Stephanie said.

For the Edwardsburg community specifically, Stephanie sees the feature as another memorialization and expression of closure for her father.

“I think it’s a great way to honor my dad, especially for people who knew him in younger years to know that it wasn’t suicide,” she said.

Regarding the interview process for the show, Stephanie said the Oxygen team came to Michigan in March of 2018 to spend two days interviewing her and her mother. They also interviewed personnel who performed the autopsy, as well as other law enforcement officials who worked on the reopened case. Officials from the Oxygen network who worked on the case feature were unavailable for comment.

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