Hearing adjourned after homicide, arson suspect refuses to appear

By: Brian Wells | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 29, 2022

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ROSEVILLE — A man facing charges for allegedly murdering his ex-girlfriend and setting her mobile home on fire in April 2021 had a hearing adjourned last week after he refused to appear.

Robert Marcell Walton, 37, of Garden City, refused to be transported to Macomb County Circuit Court from the Macomb County Jail during the morning of June 23, when he was scheduled for a hearing.

When officers at the jail attempted to get Walton to participate in the hearing via Zoom, he refused.

“Mr. Walton has refused to come over from the jail to court and actually refuses to Zoom from the jail,” Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Michael Servitto said. “I’m not saying he’s waiving his presence, because I think there needs to be some discussion between he and his attorney, but he has decided not to appear for today’s date.”

Walton’s attorney, Kenneth Vernier, said Walton had not only been refusing to cooperate with him, but had been refusing to participate in the court process and had put “a lot of things on the record in regards to that,” he said.

The hearing was initially to be held to review the results of a competency evaluation and to discuss a motion to suppress evidence. However, because Walton had refused to cooperate with the Center for Forensic Psychiatry, a report was written without any information.

“When the forensics center tried to evaluate him, he refused to go over and he refused to participate via Zoom,” Vernier said.

The doctor wrote a report without any information, Vernier said, even though he had been notified that transcripts from prior hearings were being delivered and the doctor agreed to look at them to learn about Walton’s behavior.

But since the report was produced, Vernier said he had been leaving voicemails to try to figure out if the doctor would write a new report if the transcripts were delivered.

Servitto agreed to adjourn the hearing for one week so the attorneys could contact the center to learn if a new report would be written.

Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Dena Keller said that a motion was also going to be argued during the hearing. Vernier said he couldn’t argue the motion without Walton being present.

Because the court hadn’t ruled on his competency, and because Walton wasn’t present, Servitto said it would be inappropriate to argue it.

A new hearing was scheduled for Thursday, June 30, at 8:30 a.m.

According to court records, Walton failed or refused to appear for several hearings prior. At a Feb. 3 hearing, after Walton made an oral request to dismiss the case, which was denied, he was ordered to have a criminal responsibility and competency evaluation, according to court records.

A note in his case file states that a competency evaluation was ordered by the court “due to (defendant’s) conduct in court.”

Walton is facing charges of first-degree murder and second-degree arson for allegedly killing his ex-girlfriend, Janisa Sumpter, 39, of Roseville, and setting her home on fire in April 2021.

Walton was arrested after he was seen on surveillance video walking away from the home before the fire started, according to police.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Walton faces life in prison without parole.