Source: Homicide victims moved to Detroit to elude person of interest in their killings

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Before their killings this week, the victims of a double homicide had moved to Detroit from Ypsilanti to get away from the man who's been named as a person of interest in their deaths, according to a Detroit Police Department source familiar with the investigation.

Orlando Whitfield, 32, turned himself in at the Washtenaw County Jail this week after police said he was a person of interest in the homicide of a 27-year-old woman and 31-year-old man whose bodies were found Monday in their home in the 18000 block of Northlawn on Detroit's west side.

Police have not identified the couple, whose infant son was home during the killings. The baby was found unharmed, but was alone in the house with his parents' bodies for hours, police said.

Orlando Whitfield

Detroit police detectives are investigating whether the male victim was sexually assaulted because his body was found with his pants and underwear around his ankles, the police source said.

The female victim's clothing was intact, the source said.

The source said Whitfield knew the couple in Ypsilanti, and that they became afraid of him and moved to Detroit to avoid him.

Whitfield already faces murder and armed robbery charges in connection with the Jan. 11, 2018, shooting death of 25-year-old Marissa Edmunds in Ypsilanti. Whitfield was charged days after the killing, but his case languished in the court system. Washtenaw Circuit Judge Carol Kunkhe released him on a tether in May 2020.

Whitfield's attorney, Erika Julien, said her client recently cut off his tether and fled because he and his family had received threats. But she insisted during a Wednesday interview with The Detroit News that Whitfield had nothing to do with the Detroit homicides.

Police outside of 18003 Northlawn where two adults were found dead in Detroit, Michigan on June 21, 2021.

Julien could not e reached for comment Thursday.

Police have not submitted a warrant package seeking charges against Whitfield, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller said Thursday afternoon.

Whitfield was convicted in 2008 for assault with intent to commit sexual penetration and served the maximum of a 2- to 10-year prison sentence. He was released in November 2017. Two months later, he was back behind bars.

In January 2018, Whitfield was charged with Edmund's murder, which occurred during a robbery at the University Green Apartments in Ypsilanti, according to prosecutors. Kunkhe initially denied bond, and Whitfield was sent to the Washtenaw County Jail.

A memorial of teddy bears and candles adorns the doorstep of a Detroit home in the 18000 block of Northlawn in Detroit on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 where a man and woman were killed and their baby left alone inside for hours on Monday.

But his case languished. Court records show there were 25 hearings adjourned, and his trial date was rescheduled five times. After the delays continued into the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kunkhe ordered Whitfield released on a tether.

A woman who answered the telephone in Kunkhe's chambers Wednesday said the judge would not comment on the ongoing case.

John Nelson, who lives two doors down from the scene of the Detroit double homicide, said he occasionally chatted with the male victim and learned he'd moved from Ypsilanti late last year.

Nelson and his wife Carla placed teddy bears and candles on their neighbors' doorstep to honor their memory.