Man found dead in house fire, 2 arrested

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 3, 2015

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A woman and her stepbrother have been charged with the murder of a Sterling Heights man found in a burning home March 27, police said.

Firefighters arrived at the 37000 block of Andrew Drive after 11 a.m. March 27 and reported seeing heavy smoke emanating from a home. Neighbors had reportedly smelled smoke a couple of hours earlier.

After firefighters put out the flames, investigators found that the home had no functioning smoke detectors, and they also discovered a man’s body. Police determined that the man was Michael Scott Freeland, 57, the home’s only resident.

Police Lt. Dave Smith said an autopsy showed that the man was “most likely” a homicide victim.

“The cause of the death was not the fire,” he said.

Police said they recovered data from Freeland’s computer and cellphone that led to a person of interest, Bria Corrine-Janelle Blackmon, 20, from Madison Heights.

According to police, Blackmon and Freeland apparently found each other on Craigslist and began dating. Police said Freeland’s death happened after Blackmon allegedly tried to rob him.

According to Smith, police had not yet determined at press time whether the suspect was responsible for the fire.

Police arrested Blackmon on March 30, and she was arraigned the next day in 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights. She was charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, armed robbery and illegally using a financial transaction device. Police said she is being held without bond.

In a statement, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said his office will “take every step necessary” to pursue justice for Freeland’s family.

“Sadly, the dangers affiliated in conducting business with a complete stranger through Craigslist has resulted in another tragic loss of life,” he said. “I commend the men and women of SHPD for their unwavering commitment in solving this homicide.”

According to a representative from the 41-A District Court, Blackmon requested a court-appointed attorney, but none had yet been provided at press time.

Just before press time, police said a second suspect, identified as Demonte Marcellus Easterling, 19, from Harper Woods, was arrested March 29. Police identified him as Blackmon’s stepbrother.

Easterling was reportedly arraigned April 2 in 41-A District Court and charged with first-degree homicide, felony murder and armed robbery. He too was being held without bond, police said. A court representative did not have any information at press time on whether Easterling had obtained an attorney.

Smith declined to offer details of Easterling’s alleged involvement except to say that “he was involved with Bria throughout the process.”

Fire Chief Chris Martin declined to comment on the extent of the home’s damage, adding that the incident is under police investigation.

Anyone who has more information about this incident is asked to call the Sterling Heights Police Department at (586) 446-2800.

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