Detroit serial killer suspect to be tried in sex assault

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Alleged serial killer Deangelo Martin is handcuffed as he is escorted into a Wayne County courtroom

Detroit — A 34-year-old suspected serial killer was bound over for trial on criminal sexual conduct charges Tuesday, as police anticipate he'll soon be also charged with murder.

Deangelo Martin was bound over for trial on four counts of sexual assault and assault with intent to commit murder, following a preliminary examination before 36th District Judge E. Lynise Bryant.

Wayne County prosecutors say Martin sexually assaulted a 26-year-old woman who escaped her attacker.

After the hearing, Martin's attorney Wyatt Harris said he expected the case to be bound over for trial. When asked about an eye patch Martin wore over his eye, Harris said: "(The alleged victim) testified that she stabbed (Martin) below the neck, so the eye injury isn't related to that."

As Martin awaits his scheduled July 23 arraignment on information in Wayne County Circuit Court on charges of sexual assault and assault with intent to murder, Detroit police officials said said they have submitted two warrants to prosecutors seeking murder charges against Martin, and plan to forward two more warrant requests for murder charges.

Investigators say the case can't move forward without official causes of death from the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office. which are expected later this month.

Police say Martin is responsible for the deaths of at least four women whose bodies were found inside vacant houses on Detroit's east side. Sources told The Detroit News their bodies were arranged in kneeling positions, with used condoms containing Martin's DNA left nearby.

Detroit police chief James Craig said Tuesday the murder warrants against Martin are "on hold" until an official cause of death is determined.

"We are still waiting, like many of these cases, on the ME’s cause of death," Craig said. "If you have no cause of death, prosecutors won't sign a murder warrant, which makes sense."

Medical examiner spokeswoman Charli Rose said the wait isn't unusual. "It usually takes a few weeks before a cause of death is determined," she said.

The case started when police on March 19 found a woman's body in an abandoned house on the 2000 block of Coventry. A second woman's body was discovered May 24 on the 13000 block of Linnhurst, about seven miles away. 

The victims were identified as Nancy Harrison, 52, and Travesene Ellis, 53. The third victim was identified as a 55-year-old woman, although police have not released her name.

Investigators also continue to investigate whether Deborah Reynolds of Ferndale is one of Martin's victims. Capt. Mike McGinnis, commanding officer of the Homicide Section, said police are trying to determine if human bones found in another abandoned house on the east side were Reynolds'.

McGinnis said Reynolds' case is not among those for which police have filed or plan to file warrant requests.

"That case won't be included in the warrants we're seeking," McGinnis said. "We're still following up on that case, and I'm not saying it's not related to Martin, but we're going to move forward with warrant requests we know for sure."

McGinnis said the University of North Texas is extracting DNA from the remains thought to be Davey's.

"When we deal with remains that are extremely decomposed, and in this case it was just bones, Michigan State Police don't do those cases," McGinnis said. "We send them to the University of North Texas, which is involved in a missing persons project across the nation. We requested they expedite this case, and hope to have an answer in a couple months."

McGinnis added he expects to have causes of death for the four victims "in a week or two."

As investigators await the causes of death, police continue searching boarded-up structures on the east side. McGinnis said no more bodies have been uncovered during the search.

"We do come across (bodies) in vacant houses routinely, unfortunately, but as far as that particular search goes, we have not found any more (bodies) in those houses," McGinnis said. "That's obviously a very daunting and dangerous job for the officers, and they deserve kudos."

Deputy chief Todd Bettison, who is overseeing the search, said as of Tuesday morning, Neighborhood Police Officers have searched 1,843 houses on the city's east side, and city employees boarded up the dwellings. 

"It's very tough work, under dirty conditions, and especially now that it’s hot," Bettison said. "We're talking about structures that often are not sound, overrun with insects, and the officers are getting bit.

"I went into a couple houses, and my allergies were bad for the next few days; I couldn’t stop sneezing," Bettison said. "You have to watch out for nails, because there are a lot of boards with nails. The NPOs and city employees are working like a well-oiled machine, and they should be commended."

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN