Trial of murder suspect Myron T. Williams begins

Attorneys paint different portraits of man accused of killing Sabrina Gianino

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 19, 2014

 Murder suspect Myron Tyronne Williams listens to testimony from witnesses March 12 in 3rd Circuit Court. Williams is accused of murdering his former Grosse Pointe Park neighbor, Sabrina Gianino, last spring.

Murder suspect Myron Tyronne Williams listens to testimony from witnesses March 12 in 3rd Circuit Court. Williams is accused of murdering his former Grosse Pointe Park neighbor, Sabrina Gianino, last spring.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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DETROIT — It’s hard to believe that someone with as gentle a nature as Sabrina Gianino would have met such a violent end.

The 36-year-old Grosse Pointe Park woman was discovered strangled in the flat she shared in the 1300 block of Wayburn with her boyfriend, Bruce Hunsinger, shortly after midnight May 16, 2013. Her mother, Verona Gianino, fought back tears and wrung her hands as she was the first witness to take the stand March 11 in 3rd Circuit Court in the trial of the man accused of killing her only child. Verona Gianino recounted how her daughter still maintained her own, second apartment on Beaconsfield in the Park to care for six rescue cats she nursed back to health and sociability.

“She was a cat lover,” Verona Gianino said of her daughter, who was working as a receptionist for an animal hospital at the time of her death.

Sabrina Gianino’s former neighbor, Myron Tyronne Williams, 42, is facing first-degree murder, felony murder and unarmed robbery charges in the case. In their opening statements March 11, Williams’ court-appointed attorney, Charles Longstreet II, and Molly Kettler, an assistant prosecuting attorney with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, painted very different pictures of the man who lived with his wife and their four children in the attic of the second-floor flat next door to Gianino.

Kettler said Williams — a Louisiana native who had worked for a time as a truck driver — “had a hard time keeping a job” and was unemployed at the time of the murder, with unemployment benefits that were about to expire.

“But the defendant liked to drink, and he liked to smoke crack, and those things cost money,” said Kettler, who is arguing that Williams stole items from Gianino and killed her to cover it up.

“Because she would be able to identify him, he couldn’t leave her alive,” Kettler said.

Sometime between 10:55 p.m. and midnight May 15-16, Kettler said, Williams took the stolen items — a laptop computer, cellphone and iPod — to the home of his alleged crack dealer on Alter in Detroit and reportedly exchanged the laptop for crack — something Williams has denied. He also has denied having had anything to do with Gianino’s killing, and the prosecutor admitted Williams didn’t leave any of his DNA behind at the crime scene.

Witnesses in the case include people who’ve allegedly sold drugs and have been involved in the sale of stolen property, but Kettler asked jurors to keep an open mind with regard to their testimony, despite the somewhat questionable reputation some of them might have.

“You are going to hear testimony from people who are not what you’d call upstanding citizens,” Kettler acknowledged. “You wouldn’t want to leave your kids with them.”

But Longstreet, in his opening statement, said there are “a lot of unanswered questions that don’t point to my client being a murderer.” He urged jurors to pay attention not only to the evidence police uncovered, but also to “what they missed … (and) what they ignored.” Longstreet has suggested Hunsinger could have killed Gianino, although police ruled him out early in their investigation, and witnesses place him elsewhere at the time Gianino was beaten and strangled.

“Being a crackhead and being poor does not make you a killer,” Longstreet said of his client.

Mike Kusluski, a civilian employee who works in the forensics laboratory of the Michigan State Police crime facility in Sterling Heights, testified March 13 that he looked at Hunsinger’s 2005 Ford Focus but didn’t see anything like blood that would have raised concerns with investigators.

“There was nothing that stood out,” Kusluski said.

The forensic investigator said he found a small amount of bloodstains on the bed and light switch in the room where Gianino was found, and there was some blood on the metal plate behind the front doorknob, but the majority of blood was where Gianino’s body was discovered.

Michigan State Police Sgt. Cynthia Edwards, a latent fingerprint examiner at the Sterling Heights crime lab, testified March 13 that she tested but didn’t see any apparent fingerprints on the exterior or interior of the front door to the flat. Edwards was able to lift four prints from inside the back door and the storm door window. She compared them to the victim, Hunsinger, Williams and three men who, at one point, were in possession of Gianino’s missing cellphone after her death, but Edwards said the prints didn’t match any of them. A person might not leave behind a fingerprint if the person touches something too lightly or if the item is too hot or too cold, and if a person is sweating too much, Edwards said, they might produce an unusable smudge.

“There’s a lot of variables that go into whether a fingerprint is left behind,” she said.

Robert Patrick Toole, who lived next door to Gianino at the time of her death, recalled seeing her briefly and saying hello to her when she arrived home from work around 6:45-7 p.m. May 15, but although he was awake that night with food poisoning and went out onto his porch periodically throughout the evening for fresh air, he said he didn’t hear any screams or noise that might suggest a violent struggle at his neighbors’ home. He said the primary back door to Gianino’s flat was open, but the storm door was closed that entire warm evening. Toole testified that he didn’t see Williams when he stepped outside around 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Likewise, Dwan Golden, who lived in the flat above Gianino and Hunsinger, testified March 13 that she didn’t hear any disturbance the night of the murder. She said she got home around 10 p.m. May 15 and went to bed around 11 p.m., but said she’s a light sleeper. Golden did remember hearing the back door to the downstairs flat slam at around 11 p.m.

Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Department Sgt. Joseph Srebernak said that although the room where Gianino’s body was found “was in disarray,” it “didn’t appear to be the site of a violent struggle. … It didn’t appear that anyone had searched (it) frantically or violently.”

As to Hunsinger’s whereabouts that evening, Marsha Clark — who was living at a Corktown apartment at the time of the murder — said Hunsinger stopped by briefly May 15 around 11:35-11:40 p.m. to obtain a small amount of marijuana.

“He wanted to go home and wind down,” Clark said.

Hunsinger’s boss at Marge’s Bar and Grill, James DePuys, said Hunsinger worked the entire evening of May 15 — Hunsinger’s shift was from 5-11 p.m. — left briefly around 11:15-11:20 p.m. to stop by the Corktown apartment, and then came back to the bar around 11:50 p.m. and had a non-alcoholic beverage before leaving for the night around 12:05-12:10 a.m. May 16.

“I know they were in love,” DePuys said of Hunsinger and Gianino.

Meaghan Allor, a co-worker and friend of Gianino’s, remembered that Gianino and her colleagues at work “were all very happy” the day of the killing. Allor, one of Gianino’s Facebook friends, as well, said Gianino’s last Facebook post came in around 10:30 p.m. May 15.

Whether Williams is found guilty or not guilty will come down to how a jury of Wayne County residents interprets the evidence presented. After a jury of five men and nine women were seated the afternoon of March 11 — two of them are alternates, but the final jury won’t be determined until the end of the trial — Boykins explained the gravity of their role.

“As jurors, you are the ones who will decide this case. … You must think about all of the evidence,” he told them. “It is your job to decide what the facts of the case are.”

At press time, the case was expected to continue for another week or two, as attorneys call close to 50 witnesses to the stand to testify.

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