Rochester Hills man guilty in beating deaths of parents
Pontiac — After deliberating less than three hours Friday, an Oakland Circuit Court jury returned guilty verdicts of first-degree, premeditated murder for a Rochester Hills man accused of beating his elderly parents to death with a hammer and metal tea kettle.
Jeffrey B. Maurer, 54, was 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 the garage of the home where all three lived. Autopsies determined both died of blunt force injuries to the head, and a broken hammer and a blood-covered tea kettle believed to have caused the injuries were recovered in the home.
Family members fought back tears, grabbed hands and hugged each other as the verdict was read. Maurer, as he has throughout the four-day trial, expressed no emotion and sat staring straight ahead, not looking at the jury.
Judge Colleen A. O’Brien set sentencing for Sept. 1 and remanded Maurer to the Oakland County Jail.
The jury sat through four days of testimony and often gruesome evidence of the grisly killings. In his closing argument Friday morning, assistant prosecutor Ken Frazee summed up events leading to the killings.
“They (Maurers) were getting older and it was time to downsize,” Frazee said in closing arguments. “He was not happy that his parents were going to move on.”
Frazee said both victims died from “violent repeated blows” in the kitchen and then their bodies were dragged to a car in the garage. But disposal of the bodies was foiled, Frazee said, because the Chrysler PT Cruiser had a dead battery. A charger was plugged into the battery when deputies found the bodies.
Maurer’s defense attorney, Michael McCarthy, told jurors in closing arguments he agreed with Frazee’s position that the deaths were a matter of first- or second-degree murder. But McCarthy stressed jurors heard nothing regarding premeditation.
“I suggest there is not any evidence of any kind of a plan (to kill),” McCarthy said. “ ... This isn’t a who-done-it. We aren’t arguing who did it. He’s sitting right over there,” pointing at Maurer.
McCarthy described the killings as a “spur-of-the-moment thing” prompted by arguments with his parents over his drinking, his unemployment and being a disappointment to them.
“This all happened because Jeffrey Maurer had some issues and some shortcomings,” McCarthy said. “ ... Something was said in that kitchen and Mr. Maurer lost control of himself.”
Earlier this year, McCarthy had initially filed his intentions to seek an insanity defense for Maurer. But after his client was examined by psychologists and found mentally competent to stand trial, McCarthy had to drop that tactic.
Maurer adopted some unusual behavior during his trial and incarceration. Instead of wearing civilian clothes normally worn by defendants, he wore an orange jail jumpsuit to court. While the college-educated man has talked with a forensic examiner and jail personnel during his incarceration, McCarthy said Maurer has not talked to him since January.
McCarthy called no witnesses on Maurer’s behalf, nor did his client express a wish to testify. On Friday, Maurer sat with his head bowed or staring straight ahead. He would not verbally respond to several direct questions from Judge Colleen O’Brien on whether he wished to testify in his own behalf.
During the trial, Frazee presented evidence he believed proved Maurer was guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder. That included one witness, Thomas Burns, an old friend of Maurer’s, who told how Maurer had called him to the home to do some work.
Once there, Burns — who thought he was being hired to do some tree work — said Maurer handed him some sweat pants because “this is going to get messy” and proceeded to tell Burns he had killed both his parents and needed Burns’ help in moving his mother from a bathroom to the garage. Burns declined, left the house but did not report the incident because he was traumatized and feared for his own mother’s safety.
Maurer has a history of mental illness and problems with alcohol, according to his sister, Stephanie Rupp. He was convicted of assaulting his parents in 2000.
Rupp testified she had last seen her parents and Maurer at the East Maryknoll Road home Jan. 16 in a visit in which she said her brother said he needed the parents’ income information and Social Security numbers to apply for Medicare benefits.
She said everything seemed fine in the home and the following day, Jan. 17, 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 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, her mother was not at church 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 and made up a story that their parents had gone out of town to help a sick friend. When Rupp and her husband went to the home, Maurer refused to let them inside, instead slamming the door and cursing at them.
Rupp reported 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 bloodstains 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 at an advertising agency. Both were active with their church, did charitable work and volunteered at an area hospital and with a group home.
“He chose to kill these people, he could have stopped,” said Frazee, loudly pounding an evidence-bagged hammer on a court lectern to emphasize his point.
“You hit somebody with this once, you have an intent to kill ... this was a deliberate act.”