Carjacking case bound over to circuit court

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 1, 2016

 Defendant Michael Garrett appears for his preliminary examination at the 42-1 District Court in Romeo March 1.

Defendant Michael Garrett appears for his preliminary examination at the 42-1 District Court in Romeo March 1.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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Following testimony from witnesses called by the prosecution, 42-1 District Court Judge Denis LeDuc agreed to add a third and fourth count against a defendant accused of obstructing a police officer and carjacking. LeDuc also bound over the case to circuit court.

Paul Bukowski, an assistant prosecutor with the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, amended his complaint to add a count of armed robbery and a count of assault with a deadly weapon against Michael Garrett, 30, of Pontiac.

Garrett’s arraignment on the four charges at the Macomb County Circuit Court was set for 1:30 p.m. March 14.

Bukowski called the victim of the carjacking and the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office K-9 deputy to testify regarding the incident that took place near the Macomb Orchard Trail in Washington Township at approximately 11 a.m. Jan. 2.

The victim, 78-year-old Vincenzo Recchia, of Washington Township, said he drove to a parking lot near the trail in his Ford F-150 pickup truck for his daily walk. He said Garrett was in the parking lot and waved at him, so he waved back.

When he exited his vehicle, Recchia said Garrett approached him and asked him for money. He said Garrett also asked him if he wanted to buy a TV.

Recchia said he began to walk the trail heading north, and Garrett walked beside him. He said Garrett repeatedly asked him if he had any dope, marijuana or money and that Garrett did not believe him when he said he did not.

He said Garrett claimed he was an undercover cop and wanted to frisk him, but that Garrett neither produced a badge nor touched him.

After Recchia turned back and the pair was nearing his truck, Recchia said Garrett pulled a folding knife from his coat pocket and once again asked for money. Recchia said Garrett did not unfold the blade, but that he was afraid Garrett would stab him.

Recchia said he pulled his cellphone and car keys out of his pocket, and Garrett took them and walked briskly toward the parking lot, dropping his knife as he left. Recchia said he followed Garrett and witnessed Garrett load a bicycle into the cab of Recchia’s truck and drive off.

He said he flagged down a woman, who told him to get inside her vehicle, and she followed Garrett. The two came upon Recchia’s truck at the end of a dead-end street, Recchia said, and Garrett approached the woman’s car. He said the woman asked for the keys back and Garrett complied. He said he then asked for his phone, and Garrett gave it back.

Recchia said Garrett headed toward Recchia’s truck, but then turned around and pounded on the woman’s car window, demanding money again. He said he told her to keep the windows up, and the woman called 911.

A short time later, Recchia said, Garrett grabbed the bicycle out of the truck and headed toward the trail, and that was the last time Recchia saw him.

Deputy Dan DeGraw said he responded to the area with his K-9, Nitro, and drove his fully marked police vehicle down the Macomb Orchard Trail from 32 Mile Road until he spotted Garrett’s discarded orange bicycle approximately 15 yards east of the trail.

He said he saw footprints in the snow leading away from the bike, and Nitro followed Garrett’s odor to the backyard of a home approximately 75 yards from the trail. A woman later identified as the homeowner, he said, came to the door and spoke to him and his partner.

DeGraw said he entered the home and saw Garrett in the basement. He said he told Garrett to stay where he was or he would release his dog and Garrett would be injured, but Garrett fled outside through a walkout door in the basement.

DeGraw said he pursued Garrett for a little more than a minute, commanding him at least two more times to stop or DeGraw would release his dog. DeGraw said he did release Nitro and the dog performed a “standoff.” Instead of biting Garrett, DeGraw said, Nitro barked at him.

DeGraw said law enforcement officers from the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office and the Shelby Township Police Department surrounded Garrett, and a Shelby Township police officer took him into custody without incident.

R. Timothy Kohler, Garrett’s defense attorney, objected to the charges of carjacking, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

“If anything, (the record) demonstrates an unlawful driving away of a vehicle,” Kohler said. “The witness indicated and directed that he reached out with the keys to his vehicle. … My client took the vehicle a short distance and then returned his vehicle.”

Kohler said the incident could qualify as a “joy ride” and that Garrett never showed the knife’s blade.

Bukowski maintained that all elements of the four charges were met, and Recchia’s mindset of being frightened and threatened qualified the charges, even if Garrett had been holding a pen.

“Mr. Recchia identified it as a knife, and he identified it as a folding knife, and the court considers it absolutely irrelevant whether the blade was out or not,” LeDuc said. “He clearly indicated he was afraid he was going to be stabbed.”

Garrett has been lodged at the Macomb County Jail since his arrest. According to police, he is a parole absconder from the Oakland-Pontiac Parole Office.

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