Michigan attorney general levies charges in two high-profile deaths

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday detailed her office's review and charging decisions in two high-profile cases, one dating back nearly 40 years, stressing they should serve as examples for families "not to give up hope."

Nessel has levied open murder charges against Isiah Williams, the father of 9-month-old Olisa Williams who disappeared in 1982 and is presumed dead. And in a separate case, she's charged four former security guards — Lucius Hamilton, John Seiberling, Gaven King and Aaron Maree — with involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of McKenzie Cochran, a Ferndale man guards were trying to restrain during an altercation at Northland Center mall. 

“Every time my office takes on a potential case, we commit to a thorough review to properly evaluate if charges are warranted,” Nessel said during a Thursday news conference at her offices inside Cadillac Place in Detroit. “Law enforcement — though dedicated to protecting the public and securing justice for victims — sometimes falls short. In those instances, my office is ready to give cases another look to ensure the right decision is made. I appreciate the diligence that went into reviewing both of these cases, and it is my sincere hope this step brings some comfort to the victims’ families.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel announces charges for several security guards from Northland mall in the 2014 death of McKenzie Cochran during a news conference  in Detroit on Thursday, October 14, 2021. The defendants are Lucius Hamilton, John Seiberling, Gaven King, and Aaron Maree.

Nessel, who first announced charges in the respective cases Wednesday, said during the Thursday news conference that they should serve as examples for families involved in other unsolved cases “not to give up hope in their pursuit of justice.”

The attorney general on Thursday noted Williams, who had a history of domestic violence and abuse, allegedly took the infant from the arms of her mother, Denise Frazier-Daniel, during a physical altercation on April 29,1982. Frazier-Daniel never saw her daughter again, Nessel said. 

The disappearance was investigated by authorities in Ohio, where the couple lived, and in Ann Arbor where they had family and friends. Ann Arbor investigators had reports of the child twice being spotted with Williams.

Frazier-Daniel never gave up looking for her daughter, Nessel said, and became heavily involved with missing person organizations over the years in addition to maintaining contact with police, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Olisa was never found and is presumed dead, she said. 

“I know of countless no-body cases that have been successfully prosecuted with the right evidence,” Nessel told reporters on Thursday. 

Williams is incarcerated in Chicago and fighting extradition to Michigan, she said.

At the beginning of the year, Nessel accepted a referral from Ann Arbor Police Department to review the investigation. After thoroughly reviewing the years of work done by the officer in charge, she said, Williams was charged with one count of open murder.

"Hopefully this will bring some justice and closure to the family," added Ann Arbor Police Chief Michael Cox who joined Nessel at the Thursday news conference. 

Separately, in the Cochran case, Nessel said, "new interviews and evidence led to charges."

Cochran, 25, died Jan. 28, 2014, after he was wrestled to the floor by security guards inside Northland Center mall in Southfield. The guards had been acting on a complaint from a business that claimed Cochran had said he wanted to kill someone.

Two security guards initially responded to the store. One of the guards, who later died in 2017, used mace to subdue Cochran after he allegedly approached the guard with clenched fists. That action led to two other security guards attempting to restrain Cochran on the ground. Three additional security guards responded and took part in restraining Cochran in order to handcuff him, the attorney general's office noted. 

Video evidence shows Cochran remained face down with his arms under his body while the five security guards restrained him.  

Witnesses at the mall, and subsequent interviews with the guards involved, reported hearing Cochran say he couldn’t breath during the restraint. 

Once handcuffed, the guards noticed Cochran was unresponsive and contacted EMS. Attempts to revive him at the mall were unsuccessful. Cochran was declared deceased at a nearby hospital. 

In September 2014, several months after Cochran’s death, former Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper declined to bring any criminal charges.

Cooper, in announcing her decision, said findings "did not support that any officer tried to restrict (Cochran's) breathing by choking him."

"There was no intent to harm. They didn't hit him. They didn't place him in a chokehold," Cooper said at the time. 

Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren, noted Thursday that he was with the Detroit Police Department in 2014 when Cochran's death occurred and in 2020 he learned Cochran’s family wanted a second look at the case by the attorney general’s office.

“I said I wanted to review it first and talk to the family,” said Barren. “After a couple days it was clear to me it was worthy of a second review by the AG’s office."

Nessel said both the Southfield Police Department and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office requested a review of the incident. 

Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren speaks after Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges for several security guards from Northland mall in the 2014 death of McKenzie Cochran during a news conference in Detroit on Thursday, October 14, 2021. The defendants are Lucius Hamilton, John Seiberling, Gaven King, and Aaron Maree.

Hamilton, Seiberling, King and Maree are each charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and face up to 15 years in prison.

King and Seiberling were both arraigned Wednesday and released on $2,500 personal recognizance bond, GPS tether pending an Oct. 28 probable cause hearing. They were ordered to have no contact with other defendants in the case. 

Hamilton and Maree are expected to be arraigned Thursday afternoon, Nessel said.

Nessel said since both cases remain active, additional information will not be released, including specifics on newly discovered evidence.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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