Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, of Dearborn, left, with attorney Ali Hammoud, during his arraignment on Thursday in which charges against him were amended to second-degree murder. (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Redford — Hours after the man accused of fatally punching him appeared in court, mourners at the funeral of soccer referee John Bieniewicz on Thursday remembered him as a devoted family man with a strong faith in God who died a senseless death.
The hour-long service at Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church promoted Bieniewicz’s love of his wife and two young sons Kyle and Josh — who ended the service by walking alongside their father’s draped casket — and how he lived his life as a Christian man who also loved soccer and sports.
“This should never have happened,” said the Rev. Paul Undlin, who gave the eulogy, adding Bieniewicz’s death was “not part” of God’s plan but that comfort for his family and friends “can only be found in the word of God.”
“This the result of sin,” Undlin told the overfilled church of mourners. “We should not be here.”
Following the service, friends of Bieniewicz of Westland say they are still stunned by his death.
“A great, great man,” said John Hollowell, who was a fellow soccer referee. He last remembered seeing his friend on the soccer field saying he was going to cut back to spend more time with his family. “You remember him, his love of the game and you continue to do the best you can. John wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Others such as Christie Swickard, who went to high school with Bieniewicz’s younger sister, called the strong showing “a testament to his life with all the people that came out to honor him today.”
“The community always just valued anything he had to say, especially when it was sports related,” Swickard said. “He was someone that you couldn’t miss in a crowd because of his height and his smile. He was just a presence. And you knew that his family was everything to him.”
An hour an a half earlier, an almost crying Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, a 36-year-old Dearborn father of four, was arraigned in 16th District Court before Judge Kathleen McCann on one count of second-degree murder, an offense punishable by up to life in prison.
McCann granted Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Raj Prasad’s request for bond to remain at $1 million despite defense attorney Ali Hammoud asking for it to be slightly lowered, saying “This is not your typical homicide.”
According to witnesses and authorities, Saad “sucker punched” Bieniewicz in the face after the soccer referee issued Saad a red card, effectively ejecting him from the match at Mies Park on West Chicago in Livonia.
Bieniewicz died July 1, two days after the assault, in Detroit Receiving Hospital.
The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Bieniewicz’s death a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma to the neck.
Hammoud said Saad has two young daughters, owns a business 10 miles from the court and has forfeited his passport and Green Card.
Prasad mentioned discrepancies in Saad’s date of birth on his passport, Green Card and driver’s license as well as his connections to other countries as reason to maintain the bond.
In addition, Prasad noted Saad fled from the scene of the alleged assault on Bieniewicz.
“That is correct, we’re not denying that,” Hammoud said, pointing out his client turned himself in a day later. “He fled because he was afraid the situation was going to escalate more.”
After the court hearing, Saad’s relatives said he is sincerely remorseful for Bieniewicz’s death and he has been calling family members every day in tears about what transpired on the soccer field.
“We didn’t want this to happen. My uncle didn’t want this to happen,” said Saad’s nephew who declined to give his name but attended Thursday’s hearing. “Of course we didn’t want him killed. This is something that happened by accident.”
Two of his nephews said their uncle is “doing terrible” and has been calling them from jail crying on a daily basis.
“He’s been crying about that guy who died,” said another nephew, who also wouldn’t give his name.
Hammoud described the incident and its aftermath as “overwhelming.”
“He’s extremely remorseful,” Hammoud said after the hearing.“One day he’s playing soccer, a week later he’s charged with murder. Our hearts and prayers are with the family”
Saad hung his head at times during the hearing, his face overcome with emotion.
Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday elevated charges against Saad to second-degree murder from assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder.
Saad will return to court for a preliminary exam July 30