Raulie Wayne Casteel testified Monday in Livingston County Circuit Court in Howell. (Lisa Roose-Church / Daily Press & Argus)
Howell — A jury began deliberating Tuesday in the domestic terrorism trial of a Wixom man who police say opened fire on other vehicles along the Interstate 96 corridor two years ago, terrifying those who live and work in the area for several weeks.
Raulie Wayne Casteel, 44 — charged with terrorism, assault and firearms offenses in 21 shooting incidents across Livingston, Ingham and Shiawassee counties in October 2012 — testified this week in Livingston Circuit Court that he was prompted to randomly shoot at cars after receiving “coded messages” during Detroit Tiger baseball games.
No one was injured in any of the incidents where motorists reported their vehicles were struck by gunfire.
“It was crazy and wrong what happened here, but it wasn’t terrorism,” defense lawyer Doug Mullkoff said during his closing argument Tuesday.
The shootings put the region on guard for weeks before a multi-agency task force of federal, state and local law enforcement announced an arrest.
“Mr. Casteel didn’t have some premeditated plan to go out and hurt people,” said Mullkoff, who called his client “a deeply troubled man.”
Assistant attorney general Gregory Townsend scoffed at the notion that Casteel hadn’t planned the shootings, pointing out that they took place over three days and after Casteel was aware of the media and police attention the shootings had received. He was arrested Nov. 5, 2012.
“If this isn’t a case of terrorism, what is?” said Townsend, who displayed photos of those whose vehicles were targeted, telling jurors that Casteel “was very, very successful at terrorizing the community.”
During his testimony on Monday, Casteel admitted several years of frustration over his inability to find a job and also to being “paranoid” of what he thought was a government conspiracy directed at him and his family since 2009. He said the shootings also came after concern he was being monitored for unknown reasons.
“It was to get rid of the demon, so to speak,” Casteel calmly testified, referring to the shootings.
The married, unemployed geologist, who testified for more than two hours said he returned to Michigan in 2012 after he lost his job in Kentucky in 2009. He said his former employer and the U.S. government were working together to blackball him from other employment.
Additionally, he testified “advance technologies” — possibly satellite signals — were being used to injure his family and caused his wife to have two miscarriages, his three-year-old daughter to experience skin rashes and lesions, and killed his family’s cat.
“It sounds crazy. ... I was paranoid,” testified Casteel, who said since his November 2012 arrest and being placed on medication in jail he has not experienced any of the past feelings.
Livingston County Circuit Judge David Reader told jurors they may not consider mental illness as a defense for Casteel’s actions.
Casteel is charged with assault with intent to murder in one shooting involving a restaurant owner’s vehicle. Investigators recovered two firearms from Casteel after he was taken into custody.
Investigators testified bullet fragments found in the vehicles of seven victims match that of a 9 mm Ruger handgun found in Casteel’s home and a shell casing matching the Ruger was also found in the windshield wiper track of Casteel’s dark gray 2009 Chevrolet Malibu.
Casteel has already pleaded no contest but mentally ill to similar shootings at motorists in Oakland County where he is to be sentenced Thursday.
Under a sentencing agreement with Oakland County authorities, Casteel will face 10-12 years in prison for nine incidents that occurred in Commerce Township and Wixom.
Staff writer Mike Martindale and the Associated Press contributed.