Hearing delayed for competency report in Royal Oak homicide case

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 30, 2019

 Defendant Dane Matthew Steward, of Royal Oak, stands with his defense attorney, Judith S. Gracey, at the 44th District Court Feb. 1. He did not appear at an April 26 hearing because he was undergoing psychiatric treatment at the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry near Saline.

Defendant Dane Matthew Steward, of Royal Oak, stands with his defense attorney, Judith S. Gracey, at the 44th District Court Feb. 1. He did not appear at an April 26 hearing because he was undergoing psychiatric treatment at the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry near Saline.

File photo by Deb Jacques

ROYAL OAK — On April 26, 44th District Court Judge Derek Meinecke agreed to adjourn the probable cause conference and competency hearing for defendant Dane Matthew Steward, 32, of Royal Oak.

Steward is charged with the first-degree premeditated killing of his 73-year-old father at the home they shared in the 3700 block of Elmhurst Avenue, near 13 Mile and Crooks roads, in January.

The charge is a felony punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On Feb. 1, Meinecke granted the request of Steward’s defense attorney, Judith S. Gracey, to refer him for psychiatric treatment at the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry near Saline.

Prosecutor Andrew Starr requested the adjournment April 26 because he said he had contacted the center and learned that Steward was still undergoing a 90-day psychiatric treatment program there, which was set to conclude May 11.

“So there should be a report prepared at that time,” Starr said. He added that he left a voice message with Steward’s treating psychiatrist, but had not received a response at the time of the hearing.

Meinecke rescheduled Steward’s probable cause conference and competency hearing for 8:30 a.m. May 17.

Gracey did not appear in court, but Starr told Meinecke that he had informed her of his correspondence with the center. 

At approximately 5:52 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, Royal Oak police responded to the Elmhurst Avenue home for a welfare check after relatives reported that their calls to Steward and his father had gone unanswered.

Police entered through a window because the house was locked, and officers discovered the father deceased inside the home with his hands and legs bound. Police said it appeared that he had died at least a few days prior, and a Jan. 18 autopsy determined the cause of death to be strangulation.

The father’s vehicle was missing from the home.

Earlier in the morning of Jan. 17, Berrien County police had contact with Steward because his father’s vehicle had run out of gas on Interstate 94 near the Indiana border.

Following the discovery of Steward’s father, bulletins circulated to law enforcement agencies in and around the state regarding the incident. In Gratiot County, located north of Lansing, deputies were called to investigate a subject “acting erratically at a gas station” later that evening, police said.

Gratiot County deputies identified the subject as Steward and, when they attempted to take him into custody, Steward “violently assaulted” them and fled in the vehicle, prompting an approximately hourlong pursuit through Clinton, Ingham and Livingston counties, according to police.

Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said that Steward’s vehicle became disabled after deputies deployed spike strips and deflated all four tires near Howell.

O’Donohue added that Steward followed orders to exit the vehicle, which had caught fire, but a deputy had to tackle Steward to a safe distance from the burning vehicle.

Steward does not have a criminal history.

On Feb. 1, Steward appeared before Meinecke, handcuffed and clad in an orange jail uniform. He remained mute, kept his eyes trained on the floor and appeared dazed. Gracey said her client had been “catatonic” the entire time she had spent with him, remaining unresponsive except to follow deputies’ commands.

She said jail officials reported that he refused to eat and that she spoke with Steward’s mother, who said he had gone on hunger strikes and had a long history of “psychiatric problems.”

Three of Steward’s friends attended both the Feb. 1 and April 26 court proceedings.

On Feb. 1, Keva and Jill Marcaccio, of Ferndale, and Zack Loos, of Madison Heights, said they had known Steward for approximately a decade or longer, but lost touch the last year or so.

The group painted a picture of Steward as kind and caring, but who began to have trouble sleeping and became more paranoid as he got older, although they never knew him to be angry or violent. They said they were shocked to hear the news.

Keva Marcaccio said Steward took medication while Steward was a student at Michigan State University studying finance, but Steward ended up dropping out and Marcaccio was unsure if Steward had been taking medication recently.

“I want to bring home how much he’s changed,” Loos said Feb. 1. “He does need help. Something is broken in his mind.”