Police: Still awaiting forensics in Helen Gale murder case

Details about suspected killer emerge

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published March 28, 2012


SOUTHFIELD — Southfield police still believe they’ve determined the man responsible for the Nov. 26, 2011, brutal murder of 81-year-old resident Helen Gale, but a warrant has yet to be issued as the department awaits forensic test results from evidence collected.

“We are still awaiting results of forensic testing, and until we get those results we are not releasing any additional information,” said Southfield Police Lt. Nick Loussia, cautious so as to not jeopardize the investigation. “It’s still ongoing, so I have to be very careful about releasing anything.”

What exactly is being tested was not made public, but apparently it’s pivotal to the case, as the suspect was arrested Jan. 16 and held for 72 hours before he was released without being charged.

“Southfield has not presented a case to us for a warrant,” said Paul Walton, Oakland County’s chief assistant prosecutor. “The police have to conclude their investigation, get a full report and then submit it to us.”

On Nov. 26, a 2005 Honda Accord was found ablaze in an alley in Highland Park, a body in the backseat, burned beyond recognition. The investigation revealed that the car belonged to Gale, and Southfield police searched her home and determined that she’d been the victim of a crime. Police said evidence suggested that an assault or struggle took place inside the home, yet they said there was no forced entry into the home.

Gale was a beloved member of the community, and was employed for 31 years by the Southfield Parks and Recreation Department. Her horrific murder sent shockwaves through the community.

In February, the Southfield Police Department announced that an arrest had been made, but refrained from providing much information.

“We don’t believe this to be a random act,” Loussia said at the time, one of very few statements made by police. He said the department wanted the public to know that the suspect had been identified to ease concerns of residents, but also, that police were seeking help from the public.

Detectives believe the suspect was transported somehow from Highland Park, where he left Gale’s car ablaze and her body inside, back to Southfield.

“Someone either picked him up, or he could have gone to someone’s house or he could have called a cab,” Loussia said. “This may jog their memory, (and) we want them to come forward.”

While the suspect’s name has not been made public, the Southfield Sun obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Act request, and learned that the 45-year-old man lives near the victim. He violated his probation from a previous felony conviction when he was arrested Jan. 16, though not charged, in connection to Gale’s murder, during which time he was also found to be in possession of cocaine. His probation was extended as a result of the arrest by Judge James Chylinski of Wayne County’s 3rd Circuit Court Jan. 18.

“He’s on probation right now for fleeing a police officer in May of last year,”
explained Russ Marlan, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections. “Canton police were making a traffic stop — he had no tail lights or brake lights. He didn’t have a driver’s license. The police officer went back to her patrol car, confirmed he was driving on a suspended license. She went back and told him she was going to place him under arrest and he did not comply. The officer opened the door, the defendant shifted the car into drive and started to drive away.”

The officer radioed for backup while pursuing the suspect, and a half a mile down the road his car was found crashed into a ditch. The suspect was found lying on the ground next to the car, complaining of injury. Paramedics were called to the scene, and the suspect was taken to the hospital, treated for minor injuries, and was charged with fleeing and eluding.

“He had an OUIL (conviction) in 1993 in Southfield, which was a misdemeanor, another one in 2004 in Dearborn, and another one in 2005 in Northville Township,” Marlan said.

“He’s not supposed to be driving,” said Mark Procida, the attorney assigned to the defendant on his fleeing and eluding case. “He was sentenced July 27 and placed on 18 months probation. … He’s still on probation for that. If they bring other charges, obviously that would be grounds for another violation hearing.”

Marlan noted that the suspect has been reporting to his probation officer “quite
regularly,” most recently on March 20. He was next scheduled to check in the first week of April, Marlan said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Southfield Police Department at (248)
793-5500 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip hotline at (800) SPEAKUP (773-5500).