Testimony begins in hammer deaths of elderly Rochester Hills parents
Pontiac — A Rochester Hills man accused of beating his elderly parents to death with a hammer last January was tripped up by a concerned sister and a dead car battery, an assistant prosecutor told an Oakland Circuit Court jury Monday
Jeffrey B. Maurer, 54, is charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 19 deaths of William Maurer, 87, and Gayle Maurer, 85, whose bludgeoned bodies were found inside their car in their garage. Autopsies determined both died of blunt force injuries to the head. A broken hammer and a blood-covered tea kettle believed to have caused the injuries were recovered in the home.
“These killings were deliberate; this wasn’t an accident like someone falling and hitting their head,” said assistant prosecutor Ken Frazee in his opening statement to jurors. “There was nothing to justify it.”
Maurer, who has a degree from Oakland University, has a history of mental illness and his sister said has had problems throughout his life with alcohol. Court records show he was convicted in January 2000 of assaulting his parents.
Frazee told jurors one of Maurer’s friends will testify Maurer lured him to the house to do some work before learning Maurer had killed his parents and wanted help moving his mother from the bathroom. Investigators believe at least one of the killings occurred in the kitchen.
When the friend showed up at the house Maurer handed him a pair of sweatpants, explaining “this is going to be messy,” Frazee said. The friend refused to get involved and left the house. He never reported the incident, he added, and provided information only when contacted by deputies tracking phone calls made with one of the Maurer phones.
Frazee said Maurer allegedly spent at least a day doing a “thorough job cleaning up” blood in the home but “unfortunately missed some critical spots” and did not have time to put several garage bags that contained bloody clothing, including his own, out for trash pickup.
More importantly, after allegedly moving the bodies into the back seat of a PT Cruiser in the attached garage, Maurer discovered the car’s battery was dead.
“It was hooked up to a battery charger when deputies searched the house and found them,” Frazee said.
The victim’s daughter, Stephanie Rupp, had last seen her parents and brother at the East Maryknoll Road home Jan. 16, in a visit in which she said her brother said he needed income information and the parents’ Social Security numbers to apply for Medicare benefits.
She said everything seemed fine in the home and the following day she talked to her mother on the phone and was told they would meet at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church for Sunday Mass, as they had done for years. The Maurers were active church members for more than 30 years and Rupp’s father sang in the choir.
But on Jan. 18, Rupp’s mother was not there saving her a seat, as usual. When the choir came out and her father was not among them, Rupp became worried.
She called the home and Jeffrey Maurer answered the phone.
“He said they had woken him up early and thought she (mother) had mentioned helping someone who was sick, possibly out of town,” Rupp testified, adding it was something her parents would have done “at the drop of a hat.”
When no one had heard from them, Rupp said, she and her husband went to the East Maryknoll home where her brother refused to let them inside, instead slamming the door and cursing at them.
They reported their concerns to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and on Jan. 19, deputies went to the address where Maurer repeated the account he told his sister. He appeared disheveled and had blood stains on his clothing; deputies searched the house and made the grim discovery.
Among evidence found in the pocket of Maurer’s sweatshirt was a wallet with a large amount of cash, his parents’ credit cards, the keys to the PT Cruiser, pieces of a broken hammer and his father’s false teeth, Frazee said.
William Maurer was a retired elementary school principal and teacher. His wife had worked for the Waterford School District and an advertising agency. Both were active with their church and in charitable work, volunteering at an area hospital and with a group home.
Jeffrey Maurer was found competent to stand trial after a state forensic exam requested by his attorney. Maurer remains in the Oakland County Jail without bond and, if convicted, faces up to life in prison.
His attorney, Michael McCarthy, said he believes that when the jury of 11 men and three women hear all the evidence they will not find his client guilty as charged because there is reasonable doubt in the case that will come out as the trial progresses. He plans to ask the jury to consider “some other crime.” He did not elaborate.
“I believe when the trial has concluded they will not have shown premeditation or deliberation,” McCarthy told jurors.
Rupp’s voice trembled and she wiped away tears when asked to describe her parents.
“My parents were wonderful people,” she said, weeping. “Very loving, caring, thoughtful and generous. They were remarkable human beings.”
The trial, supervised by Judge Colleen O’Brien, continues Tuesday.
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