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March 6, 2013

Webster headed to circuit court for murder charge

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Anthony Webster, 45, was bound over to circuit court to stand trial for second-degree murder.

EASTPOINTE — Anthony Webster, the 45-year-old Eastpointe man accused in the Jan. 25 shooting death of his wife, Christina Lazzana-Webster, will face felony murder and weapons charges in circuit court.

Judge Carl Gerds, of the 38th District Court in Eastpointe, bound the case over to Macomb County Circuit Court after expert testimony, additional evidence and a spirited exchange of closing arguments in the second day of a preliminary exam Feb. 28.

Gerds was unwavering in his decision but did agree with the defense that the case against Webster was circumstantial.

“I agree with (the defense); this is a case which is clearly circumstantial in that all we have is circumstantial evidence, like in many of these cases, and one or two circumstantial facts doesn’t serve as proof when a murder occurred,” Gerds said.

“But in this particular case, when you compile all the circumstantial evidence … and you take the main facts — that the victim was found in the bedroom of the defendant; that the defendant had numerous guns in the home; that those were all removed from the home; that she was killed with a gunshot; there’s a loaded gun found in the front yard, which is rather unusual in and of itself, on the day after a murder occurred, on the day that the body was found — compiled with the cellphone records, which clearly strengthen the prosecutor’s case that the defendant was at the scene, or certainly near the scene … these are clearly independent observations and facts that support one another, and for that reason I do believe the prosecution has met their burden, and I am going to bind the matter over on the charges as submitted, and as contained in the complaint, second-degree murder and the felony firearm charge.”

Gerds’ ruling was a bitter disappointment for Randall Upshaw, Webster’s defense attorney, who had pleaded with the court to not bind over the case.

Upshaw argued that the prosecution could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his client was at the scene the night of the murder and that they didn’t even know what time the incident occurred. He suggested that, for all the court knew, Lazzana-Webster could have been murdered as late as the next morning and that perhaps the incident somehow involved her ex-lover.

“At 8:46, phone records show my client was on the west side of Detroit, between Seven and Eight mile in the Outer Drive area,” Upshaw said in closing.

“During the crucial time of 6:30-8:30 p.m., when it is alleged that this killing occurred, there is no physical evidence to show that he was involved in a scuffle or a fight or that any shooting occurred or anything of that nature. There is no evidence to show he was there. There is no evidence to show he did it.

“I’m looking up and down trying to (see) where this proof shows my client did a killing, and I don’t see it. The prosecutor has not placed upon a time of death. Judge, you would be guessing as to when this occurred. … Hunches and suspicions are not something you bind a person over for. There has to be facts to support probable cause that, at a certain time, my client did a certain act. There is nothing to show that the victim was even in the house at 8 o’clock, 10 o’clock, 12 o’clock. … There is nothing in this record to even say she was not living the entire day of Jan. 25, so how can you say my client killed her on the 25th?”

In his rebuttal, prosecutor Bill Cataldo addressed the issue of time of death.

“Time of death is seen to be around 7:30 p.m.,” Cataldo said, before reiterating that Lazzana-Webster’s son, William Pearl, had tried to contact his mom multiple times on her cellphone shortly after that time, after she failed to pick him up as planned.

Cataldo next referred to testimony from Lazzana-Webster’s friend, who stated during the first day of the preliminary exam that she had been on the phone with Lazzana-Webster at approximately 7 p.m., but could not get in touch with her about 20 minutes later.

“We’ve identified that, in that 7:30 time period, she stopped answering that phone, and what’s important is the photographic exhibit that her phone is placed on her bed in full sight. If she had gone anywhere, she would have grabbed that phone,” Cataldo continued, before outlining the evidence that indicated Webster had come back to the house, or the area surrounding the house, multiple times on the day in question.

Stan Brue, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who specializes in analyzing call records from cellular phones, testified as an expert witness for the prosecution to analyze Webster’s phone records.

According to maps and accompanying timetables, Webster’s cellphone pinged off the tower that covers the David Street area four times Jan. 25 — at 3:11 p.m., 3:33 p.m., 9:28 p.m. and 10:16 p.m. During his testimony, Brue said that, with the type of cellphone used by Webster, pings occur on all outgoing and incoming calls, even when a phone is turned off.

“It’s funny because the statement is that Mr. Webster left that house walking,” Cataldo said, steadily raising his voice.

“At 10:15 p.m., he’s got her Lexus. Somehow he got it. Somehow he went back. … And of all this vast southeastern Michigan, on one of the coldest days of the year, how come that car is found within two blocks of Mr. Webster’s mother’s home?”

Cataldo spoke to the validity of Pearl’s testimony and repeated the testimony and evidence that indicate the incident was not a random crime, a robbery gone wrong or self-inflicted.

“It’s amazing that Mr. Webster can own 18 guns and none of them are there; certainly a lot of driving (occurred) to whoever this Cassandra Lewis is (per cellphone records), and we’ll certainly know that before we get to trial,” Cataldo said, referencing the name listed on calls made to and from Webster’s cellphone Jan. 25.

“Bottom line being, how come a loaded gun was found in the driveway? I bet as he was walking out with all 18 guns, he dropped one. Yes, it’s circumstantial, but it all points to one person: Anthony Webster.”

Webster is being held in Macomb County Jail pending a $500,000 cash or surety conditional bond. If he is able to meet bond, he must turn over all guns registered in his name to the Eastpointe Police Department within 24 hours. An arraignment is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 11 at Macomb County Circuit Court.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.