CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Seventeen years after Barbara George was found shot execution style in a Clinton Township comic book store, her husband has been arrested for the murder.
Michael Ralph George, 47, was arrested over the weekend in Pennsylvania, where he has lived since the killing.
George has been charged with first-degree murder and felony firearm, and could be extradited to Macomb County within 30 days. Authorities believe he fatally shot his wife in 1990 in the comic book store they owned together.
It’s a cold case Clinton Township detectives have been trying to crack since it was reopened in January. Since then, detectives have been re-interviewing witnesses and potential witnesses for new information.
“Our detectives reviewed some very old cases … and they came across this particular case,” said Police Chief Fred Posavetz. “After reviewing the file, they felt they could get an arrest warrant for their suspect.”
Posavetz said there was no “smoking gun” that finally led to a break in the case. Investigators were able to gain additional information from witnesses, looked at evidence differently and reviewed every detail of the old case, Posavetz said.
“It was like a snowball rolling down the hill,” he said. “We got more and more (information).”
Four township officers were sent to Pennsylvania to interview George before he was arrested. Posavetz said George was cooperative while taken into custody, and that, judging by his body language and facial expressions, he didn’t seem surprised about the arrest.
Authorities declined to comment on whether or not a motive for the alleged killing has been established.
The murder had been made to look like a robbery, Posavetz said, but authorities no longer believe that is the case. A large number of comic books were reported missing from the store after the shooting, but authorities are not convinced the claim is true.
“At this time, our belief is that the motive is not robbery,” Posavetz said. “In talking to witnesses, we have our suspicions that in fact,” there were no comic books missing,
Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Smith added that the victim was found wearing jewelry, and there was money in her pockets and in the store’s cash register.
Relatives of the victim appeared at an Aug. 7 press conference, when the charges against her then-husband were announced, to express gratitude to the Clinton Township Police Department for the development in the case.
“We can’t tell you how good it feels that my sister can find justice,” said George’s brother, Joe Kowynia. Kowynia was joined by George’s sister and the sister’s husband.
Though the case still remains unsolved after 17 years, Kowynia said the family has never given up hope.
“You go through stages. Anger at first, wanting to go after (the killer),” he said. “But you can’t prove it.”
Kowynia declined to comment on details of the investigation because it is an ongoing case, and did not comment on whether or not the family has suspected the victim’s husband to be responsible all along.
Michael Ralph George is expected to appear at a hearing in Pennsylvania this week, and could be extradited within the month, Smith said.
“(George is) charged as a result of tremendous detective work by the Clinton Township Police Department,” Smith said.
“This case is about justice for Barbara,” he said.
Smith said this is the 17th instance of charges being authorized in Macomb County cold cases. The first 15 have led to convictions, and another is currently in trial, he said. Clinton Township has reopened four.
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