Victim says severe beating won’t keep him from Detroit
Joe Kendra describes near-death experience. David Guralnick, The Detroit News
The sidewalk outside Adi’s Coney Island in southwest Detroit was cold, Joe Kendra recalls, as people strolled past him into the restaurant, leaving him prone on the pavement, bloodied from 17 stab wounds and an hour-long crowbar beating.
“I was too weak to yell for help,” said Kendra, 53, of Brownstown Township. “People walked right past me and went in and ate their coneys. I was covered in blood from head to toe; they must have seen it. Finally, someone stopped their car and called 911.”
Kendra’s nightmare began with good intentions. He says he did Roy Abrams a favor Feb. 3 by charging only $20 to fix an electrical outlet in his Detroit home. But authorities allege Abrams accused Kendra of stealing $1,500 in cash, then bludgeoned him, stabbed him and threw him in a pile of garbage behind a dumpster near the restaurant on Michigan Avenue.
Abrams, 46, was bound over for trial March 28 on charges including assault with intent to murder, torture and unlawful imprisonment.
“At the preliminary examination, the victim testified that Abrams locked him inside a house in the 8400 block of Melville for approximately two hours while he was assaulted with a crowbar and stabbed repeatedly with a knife,” Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, said in an emailed statement.
“He said he was attacked because Abrams thought he had stolen money from him. After the assault, Abrams drove the victim to an alley and dumped him there. The victim crawled to a restaurant where an employee called EMS,” Miller said. “In court he testified that he resigned himself to the fact that he was going to die.”
Kendra, an industrial electrician, said about 20 years ago a mutual friend introduced him to Abrams, who needed home repair work done. Kendra said Abrams would occasionally hire him for various odd jobs through the years.
Kendra said Abrams phoned him the morning of Feb. 3 and asked if he could fix the electric outlet in the kitchen of his house on Melville in Delray.
“He had plugged two space heaters into the outlet and melted it,” Kendra said.
Kendra said he finished the job in about 20 minutes, and stepped outside for a smoke and to retrieve a Mountain Dew from his car. “It’s the last cigarette I’ve smoked,” he said.
When he went back inside the house, Kendra said Abrams confronted him, wielding a crowbar.
“He asked me where the money was that was on the dining room table,” he said. “I told him if I’d have taken his money, I’d have never come back in.
“There were only three people in the house: Me, him and his girlfriend,” Kendra said. “I said, ‘your stupid girlfriend took (the money).’ Then we got loud. Then we started swearing. So he started beating me with a crowbar.
“He said, ‘You’re gonna die in this kitchen tonight,’ ” Kendra said. “I had no escape; the back door was dead-bolted. I thought about jumping out the window, but he’s got cast-iron grates over the window. I hid underneath the kitchen table and put my feet out, trying to block the crowbar.
“He would get tired from swinging the crowbar, take a break, and then go back to hitting me,” Kendra said. “I saw Satan in his eyes. I think the more that he hit me, the more that it actually fueled him.”
Kendra said his attacker finally put down the crowbar — and then his ordeal got worse.
“He reached in the kitchen drawer and grabbed a carving knife; something that you’d cut a turkey with or carve roast beef with — a double-edged knife — and then started stabbing me,” Kendra said. “I knew I was in trouble. The blood loss was tremendous.”
“The girlfriend ... I saw her in the kitchen with her jaw dropped,” Kendra said. “I screamed out to her that if she took the money, please, by the grace of God, give it back to him now and save me from this.”
Kendra said the woman left the room without answering.
“The last thing I remember in that house was, I felt totally complacent; I felt totally at peace with myself,” he said. “I saw the blood on the floor, and I finally stopped putting my hands up in defense, and just rolled on my back.
“I really felt like I was going to heaven: ‘This is it, I’m going to die.’ And I accepted it. I was comfortable. I didn’t feel any pain.”
Kendra said Abrams enlisted the aid of a “kid who does odd jobs for him” and they put him into Abrams’ truck and drove about three miles north to the Power Shower self-serve car wash on Michigan Avenue near Livernois.
“They took me to the back of the car wash where the Dumpsters are ... and then dragged me out of the truck and threw me on the cement ... on the trash that was around (the Dumpster),” Kendra said.
Kendra said he couldn’t stand, but was able to roll toward Michigan Avenue near Adi’s Coney Island.
“People parked next to where I was and they walked right past me,” Kendra said. “I wanted to say something to them but I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t scream. I don’t really know why I couldn’t.”
Kendra said a motorist finally stopped and called for help.
Emergency medical technicians rushed Kendra to Detroit Receiving Hospital, where he underwent surgeries on his legs and abdomen. Kendra said repeated blows from the crowbar crushed his intestines. A deep knife wound on his thigh had doctors concerned they might need to amputate his leg, he said.
“I lost two-and-a-half pints of blood,” he said. “I was pretty messed up.”
Detroit Police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said investigators want to talk to the girlfriend and the neighbor, though neither is a suspect.
Defense attorney Carl Jordan, who is representing Abrams, said Monday: “Mr. Abrams intends to aggressively defend himself in court on these allegations.”
Despite his ordeal, Kendra insists his faith in human nature is not shaken — and he says it won’t stop him from riding his Schwinn Paramount bicycle in Detroit with various riding groups, including Ride My Bike and Monday Metropolis Ride.
“People said ‘you better stay out of Detroit now,’ but I love the history; I love the city,” said Kendra, a lifelong suburbanite. “It’s not going to keep me out of Detroit. I’m going to go right back there and ride my bike like I always do.
“It’s not going to change my attitude toward people,” Kendra said. “I’ll be a little more cautious. There’s evil people out there, and I crossed paths with one.”
Oralandar Brand-Williams contributed.