Attorney: Suspect in W. Bloomfield death ‘didn’t do’ it

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Bloomfield Hills — An attorney for one of two men charged in the slaying of a West Bloomfield mother found in the trunk of her torched car said Monday his client is accused of “something he didn’t do” and will eventually beat all charges.

Jaylen Stringer

Jaylen Stringer, 19, of West Bloomfield Township is charged along with Desean Maurice Smith, 18, of Detroit in the Dec. 9 death of Diana Pesserl, 31.

Smith, who denied any wrongdoing at his arraignment, is charged with open murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and arson. He is jailed without bond. Stringer is charged with being an accessory after the fact and tampering with evidence. He remains jailed. Bond was set at $250,000.

“He (Stringer) is charged with something he didn’t do,” Robert T. Smith, Stringer’s attorney, said outside the courtroom.

“He wasn’t aware of anything that happened so how could he tamper with evidence or be an accessory after the fact? He will eventually be acquitted of these charges.”

Desean Smith

Both men waived their right Monday to a probable cause hearing to give their attorneys time to review lab results and other evidence.

Stringer’s charged offenses, presumably involving the hiding of the murder weapon and Pesserl’s vehicle and body, are felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Several relatives and friends at the hearing Monday shouted “We love you Jaylen” and “Tell the truth” as he was led out of 48th District Judge Diane Dickow D’Agostini’s courtroom and escorted back to the Oakland County Jail.

Investigators believe Pesserl was sitting in her car listening to music on Dec. 9 when Smith — who was visiting Stringer’s nearby home — wandered down the street, approached her and asked for directions and a cigarette.

Diana Pesserl

For reasons still unknown, authorities say Smith shot Pesserl, moved her car behind the closed Pine Lake Elementary school and set the vehicle on fire.

Smith and Stringer were allegedly spotted in a VW Passat and questioned near a DNR site on Orchard Lake by a police officer around the time of the fire.

After Pesserl’s body was found, police sought the pair for questioning and both were described as “persons of interest.” Footprints in the snow matched Smith’s shoes and tire tracks matched the VW, police said. Police suspect robbery may have been a motive in the death and said Smith has a pending carjacking case out of Wayne County.

Smith allegedly told Stringer that “the b---- grabbed for my gun so I had to shoot her.”

Pesserl died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. A .38 caliber handgun, believed to be the murder weapon, was later found hidden in a heating vent inside Stringer’s home on Shorecrest Drive. Gas cans from the home were used in the burning of the vehicle, police said.

Attorney Robert Smith said while his client and Desean Smith are childhood friends “Smith showed up unannounced and unplanned” at Stringer’s house on Dec. 9.

D’Agostini refused to consider a lower bond for Stringer despite his attorney’s argument of ties to the community and strong family support.

Both men will return to D’Agostini’s court on Jan. 27.

Stringer’s criminal history includes a 2014 arrest for marijuana possession and driving without a license in 2014 in an incident in which the teenager took his father’s car without permission.

Oakland Circuit Court records indicate Stringer’s case was taken under consideration and he was ordered to write an essay, attend an adult court session and go on an Oakland County Jail tour.

A few months later, he was arrested for retail fraud in Livonia. Stringer’s father declined to pay his son’s $100 bond and instead let him spend four days in Wayne County Jail in an effort “to teach him a lesson,” according to court records.

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