BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) - Calhoun County deputies are upset after they were forced to release the suspect in a violent murder over an apparent courthouse mistake.
Larry Denniston, 63, was found dead after being shot five times in an apparent land dispute on March 31.
Lauren O'Melay, 64, was arrested on April 2 after Denniston's body was found dumped in the woods in Branch County's Butler Township on April 1.
The two co-owned property in Marengo Township in Calhoun County, where the crime allegedly occurred.
O'Melay was charged with open murder and using a rifle in crime. If convicted on both charges, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
O'Melay was allowed to walk out of the Calhoun County Jail this week -- though not exactly a free man.
Calhoun County sheriff's detectives said he was considered a danger and a flight risk when he was ordered to jail without bond and say that hasn't changed.
Omelay's release is all about timing. In May, the court set a trial date for Nov. 6 -- more than 200 days after his arrest.
But his attorney recently filed a motion that prosecutors were violating the state's speedy trial law, which requires a trial within 180 days for defendants held in jail.
Despite a protest from prosecutors, Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge James Kingsley let him go.
Calhoun County sheriff's deputies say they've never had this happen in a murder case. They wonder why it happened, especially since they gave their case to prosecutors months ago.
On Wednesday, 24 Hour News 8 tried to contact O'Melay, but it appeared nobody was staying at his family's farmhouse near Marshall.
A neighbor who has known the suspect for years hadn't seen him, either.
"They released him? Oh my gosh. Good. ... As far as I'm concerned, it's good," said neighbor Marilyn McNeil. "I think he might have done it, but I don't know. I just don't think he's that type of person. I don't know if he was pushed too far or what."
She said O'Melay was a good neighbor.
The suspect is still facing a murder trial scheduled for Nov. 6.
Calhoun County Prosecutor Susan Mladenoff did not return requests for comment on Thursday.
Dennis Eugene Shepherd, 50, from Bellevue, also faces charges of being an accessory after the fact for the crime of murder.
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