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

Royal Oak homicide suspect reportedly progressing toward competency

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 21, 2019


ROYAL OAK — During a May 17 competency hearing and probable cause conference for defendant Dane Steward at the 44th District Court, his defense attorney waived his appearance due to his reported status as incompetent to stand trial.

Steward, 32, of Royal Oak, is charged with the strangulation death of his 73-year-old father in the home they shared in the 3700 block of Elmhurst Avenue, near 13 Mile and Crooks roads, in January.

First-degree premeditated homicide is a felony punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In February, Judge Derek 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.

According to a report from Steward’s clinician, he remains incompetent to stand trial but has made progress. During a scheduled court appearance April 26, Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Starr requested an adjournment, saying he learned from the forensic center that Steward’s 90-day psychiatric treatment program was set to conclude May 11.

“It does appear we are having some progress. Not to the point where we are able to proceed at this moment, but as his clinician noted in the report, possibly next time or shortly thereafter we should be able to move forward on this,” Meinecke said.

He initially proposed a 60-day extension, but Gracey requested a 90-day extension instead.

“If we get the report sooner, then we can move it up,” she said.

Meinecke rescheduled the competency hearing and probable cause conference for Aug. 16.

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.

During his Feb. 1 court appearance, Steward appeared dazed, kept his eyes trained on the floor and remained mute. Gracey said he remained “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.”

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.