Defendant Dane Matthew Steward, 31, of Royal Oak, stands with his defense attorney, Judith S. Gracey, at the 44th District Court Feb. 1.

Defendant Dane Matthew Steward, 31, of Royal Oak, stands with his defense attorney, Judith S. Gracey, at the 44th District Court Feb. 1.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Lawyer for Royal Oak man charged in father’s death says he is ‘catatonic,’ not eating

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 1, 2019

 Judge Derek Meinecke, of the 44th District Court, conducts a probable cause conference Feb. 1 for defendant Dane Matthew Steward, 31, of Royal Oak, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his father.

Judge Derek Meinecke, of the 44th District Court, conducts a probable cause conference Feb. 1 for defendant Dane Matthew Steward, 31, of Royal Oak, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his father.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROYAL OAK — On Feb. 1, a 31-year-old Royal Oak man charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 73-year-old father at the home they shared appeared before 44th District Court Judge Derek Meinecke.

Handcuffed and clad in an orange jail uniform, Dane Matthew Steward remained mute and did not look up from the floor.

His defense attorney, Judith S. Gracey, told the court that she had been appointed to his case late in the day Jan. 29 and met with him at the Oakland County Jail Jan. 30.

“He was basically looking like how he is looking now,” she said. “He did walk into the meeting room (to meet me); however, he never looked up. He looked down the entire time.”

She said she continued speaking with Steward for 15-20 minutes Jan. 30 and again attempted to speak with him at the court Feb. 1, but, despite following commands from deputies, he remained unresponsive.

“He has just been catatonic,” she said, and added that deputies told her he has also been refusing to eat.

Gracey said she spoke with Steward’s mother, who said he has a history of past hunger strikes and a long history — at least 11 years — of “psychiatric problems.”

“I am very concerned that Mr. Steward, who as you can tell is not that large in stature, that something tragic could happen,” she said.

She requested that the court immediately admit him to the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry to assess his competency to stand trial, as well as his criminal responsibility.

“With regard to the court’s observation of Mr. Steward today and at his arraignment, it’s appropriate he be referred to the forensic center for examination of competency to stand trial, as well as examination for criminal responsibility,” Meinecke said.

He adjourned Steward’s probable cause conference for 60 days to April 5 and continued the denial of bond.

At approximately 5:52 p.m. Jan. 17, Royal Oak police responded to the home Steward and his father shared in the 3700 block of Elmhurst Avenue, near 13 Mile and Crooks roads, for a welfare check after relatives notified police that they were concerned about their father after their calls to him and his son went unanswered.

Officers located the father deceased inside the house with his hands and legs bound, police said. A Jan. 18 autopsy determined the cause of death to be strangulation, and it appeared that he died a few days before.

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

Broadcasts went out to law enforcement agencies throughout Michigan and neighboring states after the discovery of Steward’s father, and Gratiot County deputies responded to a report of a subject “acting erratically at a gas station” that evening. Gratiot County is located north of Lansing.

Police said deputies identified the subject as Steward and learned that he was wanted in relation to a homicide investigation in Royal Oak.

Steward allegedly “violently assaulted” Gratiot County deputies as they attempted to take him into custody, and Steward fled in his father’s vehicle, according to Royal Oak police, which prompted an approximately hourlong pursuit through Clinton, Ingham and Livingston counties, police said.

Other deputies deployed spike strips, which disabled all four of Steward’s tires, and Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said the vehicle caught fire near Howell.

O’Donohue said Steward exited the vehicle, but did not move a safe distance away, so deputies had to tackle him away from the vehicle.

Police said Steward does not have a criminal history.

After the Feb. 1 proceedings, a small group of Steward’s friends spoke with C & G Newspapers. Keva and Jill Marcaccio, of Ferndale, and Zack Loos, of Madison Heights, said they have known Steward for approximately a decade or longer. However, they said they had not had contact with him in the last year or more.

“He was just like the sweetest, most caring person — really generous and just such a sweet guy,” Jill Marcaccio said. “But he was always scared about his situation, not having financial support. He tried really hard to work. He was denied disability, but he tried every kind of job over and over.”

Keva Marcaccio lived with Steward while Steward was a student at Michigan State University studying finance.

“He dropped out the semester before he graduated,” Keva Marcaccio said. “I started living with him in his junior year. He started to have trouble sleeping. His insomnia started, and he started calling me and telling me things that didn’t happen.”

Keva Marcaccio said Steward was taking medication at the time, but Marcaccio was unsure if Steward had been recently.

Loos said he and Steward struck up a friendship in middle school. He described Steward as “trustworthy” and “one of the nicest guys.”

He said Steward later became paranoid and thought people were breaking into his house or car or coming to get him, but that he was never angry or violent. He said Steward also turned to religion in his mid-20s.

Keva Marcaccio said they were all shocked when they heard the news.

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