Suspect in deputy’s death competent for trial

Mike Martindale

Clarkston — A Macomb County man charged with killing an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy early Thanksgiving Day morning with his car was found mentally competent Monday to stand trial following a state mental psychiatric review.

Christopher J. Berak, 22, is charged with first-degree premeditated homicide and murder of a police officer in the death of Deputy Eric Overall, 50, after a Brandon Township crash about 12:30 a.m. Nov. 23. His attorney, Stephen Rabaut had requested the competency examination in November after discussions with Berak.

Overall, a 22-year veteran, was the first Oakland County deputy to die in the line of duty in 80 years.

“It is the opinion of psychiatrists, psychologists the defendant is competent to stand trial and if he so chooses, is fully able to to assist his attorney in future proceedings,” said Independence Township 52-2 District Judge Joseph G. Fabrizio after reading the 18-page report of findings from the State Forensic Center.

“…The court finds the defendant competent to stand trial.”

Berak smiled at relatives sitting in a front row when he entered the courtroom but said nothing during the proceedings, other than a whispered conversation with Rabaut. Just a few feet away, Sonja Overall, the deputy’s widow, sat stoically and left immediately after the proceedings.

Rabaut and assistant prosecutor David Hutson told Fabrizio they had agreed on a March 12 preliminary examination on the charges. Both declined comment after Monday’s brief court appearance.

On Nov. 22, about an hour before the deadly crash, Berak had gone to the Lapeer County Jail and adjacent Thumb Correctional facility and described himself to workers as “God” with the intent to break out one of his “sons” incarcerated inside.

He was stopped briefly, then pursued for 22 miles after telling deputies during the stop that he planned to commit suicide by running his car into a tree.

While Berak refused deputies’ orders on Nov. 23 to open his car door or exit the vehicle, he drove within the speed limit at all times and obeyed all driving laws, including signaling for lane changes, deputies reported.

Alerted that Berak was headed into Oakland County, Overall had tossed “stop sticks” across southbound M-15 near E. Seymour Lake Road to disable Berak’s approaching vehicle. Investigators said Berak deliberately left the roadway and steered at Overall, who was standing on the road’s shoulder, striking and killing him.

Berak was arrested without further incident at the scene.

Overall, who is survived by a wife and an adult son, received commendations for saving the life of a high school student and helping to track down a student who had posted Internet threats to kill students and teachers at another school. Following his death, hundreds of residents showed up for a candlelight vigil in his memory.

Berak, who remains jailed without bond, has past convictions for marijuana possession and fleeing and eluding a police officer. Berak, a pizzeria worker who lives with his parents, faces up to life in prison if convicted of either felony charge in Overall’s death.