Man claims self-defense in altercation

Published 9:01 am Monday, April 8, 2019

CASSOPOLIS — Two area men who committed crimes in the Vandalia area over the last two years were sentenced to prison in Cass County Circuit Court Friday.

Michael Sean Johnson, 43, of U.S. 12 in Sturgis, was found guilty by a jury in March of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and felonious assault and was sentenced to concurrent terms of six to 20 years and three to eight years in prison. He has credit for 192 days already served and must pay $1,616 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred Sept. 25 at a home in the 57000 block of Kirk Lake Road in Newberg Township near Vandalia. Johnson had an altercation with the victim and stabbed him a number of times. Police found the knife lodged at the base of the victim’s spine when they arrived.

Johnson was sentenced as a habitual offender as he has previous convictions for second-degree criminal sexual conduct and failing to register as a sex offender.

Johnson continues to claim he acted in self-defense and plans to appeal his conviction.

“I didn’t go in with the intent to kill him or do great bodily harm,” he said in court Friday. “I basically was trying to defend myself but I understand I was found guilty by my peers.”

“He could have killed someone, he plunged a knife in the man’s back and it broke off,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz before sentencing. “He actually stabbed a man in the back. His motives were scurrilous at best. … We need to send a message loud and clear that people who do this will be addressed sternly.”

“One thing that did concern the court was that if this was truly self-defense, why didn’t you report it to police and say you were involved and someone was hurt?” Cass Circuit Judge Mark Herman asked.

• A Three Rivers man who stole a vehicle and then repainted it was also sentenced to prison.

Shannon David Kimble, 44, of South Main Street in Three Rivers, pleaded guilty to receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle and unlawful driving away of an automobile as a habitual offender and was sentenced to concurrent terms of three years, 11 months to seven and a half years in prison.

He was given credit for 333 days in jail for lying to police. He must pay $1,516 in fines and costs and $4,425 in restitution.

The incident occurred Aug. 4, 2017, in the 17000 block of Black Street near Vandalia when Kimble stole a truck and other items and then repainted the truck in an attempt to sell it to get money for drugs.

Judge Herman noted in court that Kimble’s first run in with the law came when he was 10. As an adult, Kimble has had 12 felonies and six misdemeanor convictions. He is currently serving a prison sentence from a 2018 St. Joseph County, Michigan conviction for actions done during the same crime spree as this incident.

• A Mishawaka man involved in a 2017 crime spree that involved stealing tools, all-terrain vehicles, guns and other items received the benefit of a plea deal after he agreed to testify against co-defendants.

Peter Allen Wharton, 40, of Mishawaka, pleaded guilty to five felony charges and received sentences of three years’ probation, 365 days in jail with credit for time served, 458 days, on all five charges. He must pay $2,262 in fines and costs and $14,300 in restitution.

Charges he pleaded to were: conducting a criminal enterprise and larceny over $20,000 and conspiracy to commit larceny over $20,000, breaking and entering a building with intent to commit larceny and larceny of firearms as a habitual offender.

The criminal enterprise incident occurred from a November 2017 to January 2018, while the other four charges occurred Dec. 16, 2017, at a location in the 64000 block of Chain Lake Street near Vandalia.

Fitz called Wharton and his two co-defendants a “three man wrecking crew” who had filled a number of storage areas with stolen property. “Because he cooperated, we want to send the message that cooperation can sometimes result in good,” Fitz said.

Judge Herman sentenced Wharton to probation after saying he did not think only credit for time served was enough of a sentence.

“I was prepared initially to sentence you to seven years in prison,” the judge said. “If you violate your probation, come back with open eyes that you could be sent to prison. If you come back, don’t blame me or the prosecutor.”

• A South Bend woman who helped hide her husband when he was wanted for murder was sentenced to probation and jail.

Brooke Marie Lynn, 28, of South Bend, pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive and was sentenced to three years’ probation and one year in jail. Another charge of being an accessory after the fact to a felony was dismissed.

Lynn and her husband, Daniel, were arrested July 13, 2018, at a campground at Juno Lake near Edwardsburg. Daniel Lynn was sentenced to 16 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Christina Woods of South Bend.

Woods went missing in early June, 2018 and Daniel Lynn admitted to killing Woods and burying her on his family’s property in Minnesota. News reports from last summer indicate that Woods and Brooke Lynn were close friends until Woods had an affair with Daniel Lynn.