ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) - The U.S. Attorney's office plans to argue Harold Ordway killed two men in 2011, an argument they hope will lead to a longer prison sentence next week in federal court.
In November, Ordway pleaded guilty to federal firearm charges. He admitted that he was in possession of a weapon he was not allowed to have due to a previous felony conviction. He will be sentenced June 24 in Western District Federal Court.
At that time, federal prosecutors plan to introduce evidence showing that it is likely Ordway used that gun to kill Paul Atchley, and that his likely murder was committed to cover up the death of another man, Michael VanBuskirk.
"I mean there's already proof of that -- with DNA, blood proof, et cetera," said Ordway's sister-in-law Kelly Ordway. "A confession would be nice...for his family."
She told 24 Hour News 8 that she hopes Ordway is in prison for a long time.
24 Hour News 8 obtained federal court documents that lay out evidence that Atchley, 53, was staying with Ordway at Ordway's parents' house -- a home very close to Kelly's home. They say Atchley had been sleeping there on a mattress in the back of Ordway's pickup truck.
"The times that he was up there in the house behind us we didn't visit we did not have him come here," said Kelly. "In fact when he was there that weekend [his parents] didn't even have him sleeping in the house, he was sleeping on the front porch, and Paul [Atchley] was sleeping in the back of a truck - the truck that we now know had a mattress in it. So [his parents] did not feel safe either I believe or he would have been sleeping in the house."
VanBuskirk, a homeless man prosecutors allege was Ordway's first victim, had been living at Ordway's home on Woodward Avenue in Battle Creek to help with a remodeling project.
Documents said the last time anyone spoke to VanBuskirk was on August 27, 2011. His reamins were found in a field near 34th Street and Y Avenue in Kalamazoo County's Brady Township in October of that year.
"I think about Michael VanBuskirk's children," said Kelly. "I don't know them, I think about them a lot and I think [10 years in prison] is just not good enough for the restitution of the death of their father."
On Sept. 2, 2011, Ordway called police, saying he had been in a crash on M-89 near Plainwell. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a gun, ammunition and a bloody mattress in his pickup truck. The mattress had what authorities call "copious" amounts of "fresh-flowing" blood on it. The gun also had blood splatter on it, and there was blood on Ordway's clothes. Documents say all of the blood came from one person -- neither Ordway or VanBuskirk. Documents also go on to say that if one person lost that much blood in one incident s/he would die within an hour without any medical attention.
Documents also state the blood appeared to start at the head of the mattress, and the spatter was consistent with someone shooting a human from the back window of the pickup truck's cab. The trail of blood then made it look like someone had dragged the blood source out of the truck while it was still bloody. Ordway's pants and shoes were also dirty and muddy, and his truck was also covered in mud and "vegetation."
Prosecutors say Ordway admitted to killing both men to others while in jail. They have already scheduled at least one of those men as a witness in next week's hearing. Those witnesses allegedly said that Ordway killed Atchley because that man knew Ordway had killed VanBuskirk.
Ordway's defense attorneys wrote that not only does Ordway deny killing anyone, but that prosecutors cannot prove that Atchley is dead.
"I think that's totally not true and it's pretty obvious that he has [killed them] he's just not admitting it," said Kelly.
Ordway has long been a person of interest in both cases, but has never been charged. Federal prosecutors say the burden of proof is different in sentencing than it would be in an actual trial. If charged with the crimes, prosecutors would have to prove Ordway's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, at sentencing, they only have to prove the crime by a preponderance of the evidence, convincing a judge that it is more likely than not that Ordway committed the murders.
Ordway's attorney is objecting to use of this evidence at sentencing. He argues the government is trying to send his client to prison for more years than his actual crime may deserve based on a crime he has never been charged with or convicted of.
Ordway faces up to 10 years in prison on the firearm charge. However, prosecutors hope the evidence of the other killings will convince a judge to exceed those sentencing guidelines.
Defense documents said that when and if Ordway is released from prison he will be welcome to go back and live with his parents. That's something Kelly hopes never happens.
"The rest of the family will have concerns for their safety, and those around - they just live around the corner - so I just
hope that doesn't happen," said Kelly. She also had a message for her brother in law.
"Please confess. Confess if you're gonna do what's right right for you. You know, if you're confessing to be a Christian then confess buddy, because that's what God would want you to do."
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