GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) - The three shell casings discovered at the scene of a quadruplemurder in Wright Township matched a pair of shell casings found inTroy Brake's pole barn -- and all five were fired by a .40-caliberGlock seized by police from Brake's home, a state police weaponsexpert said.
"I identified that firearm as having fired all five of thecartridge cases," State Police Detective Lt. Jeff Crump testifiedThursday at the trial of Troy Brake.
Brake is facing trial for the Sept. 29, 2008 slayings ofSharmaine Zimmer, 53, her sons, Jeremy, 20, and Tyler, 17, andJeremy's girlfriend, Katherine Brown, 20. He is accused of shootingthe Zimmers so he could rape Brown, and then burning down the home.
Crump, who is in charge of the firearms unit at the Statepolice lab in Grand Rapids, said he test-fired the 40-caliber Glockseized from Brake's home, then used a microscope to examine thetest-fired shell casings. The marks matched those found at thehome.
The tests, he said, have a "very small error rate."
Ballistics is key to the case, allegedly linking Brake to theslaying scene. There is no other known physical evidence of hispresence there -- such as DNA or fingerprints.
The defense says it plans a strong challenge to theballistics testimony, saying that it is not an exact science.
Earlier Thursday during testimony, detectives said they trackedmore than 250 tips -- some about drug sales and debts, one about astalker and one about the Mexican Mafia.
"We investigated every one of them," lead Ottawa CountyDetective Thomas Knapp testified Thursday in the trial of Brake.
Detectives said none of the 250 tips they received mentionedBrake. Instead, detectives tracked down other leads that wentnowhere, he said.
Authorities looked at "hits by the Mexican mafia." They tracked"a number of tips" that Sharmaine Zimmer and her boys were involvedin drugs. In fact, Knapp said, police found a live marijuana plantat the home, as well as marijuana paraphernalia in Tyler Zimmer'sbasement bedroom, on his headboard.
Among the tips -- one of the surviving Zimmer brothers, Charlie,owed a drug debt and that the deaths were "trying to send him amessage," Knapp said.
Another allegation is Jeremy was a "snitch" who led police toraid a drug house in Grand Rapids, and that he had been threatenedjust three weeks before the deaths.
West Michigan Enforcement Team members investigated the drugallegations but found no indication of a "large-scale" drugoperation involving the Zimmers, and nothing to indicate the deathswere drug-related, he said.
Police also investigated another rumor: that Sharmaine Zimmerhad stolen money from the tavern, where she worked, but owners ofthe bar said money was not missing.
They also received tips that a stalker had been callingSharmaine Zimmer."You should know me. You served me at the bar,"Knapp quoted the stalker as saying. But those calls had endedmonths before the deaths, he said.
Then, on Oct. 16, Troy Brake beat and raped a prostitute,leading Grand Rapids police to discover his .40-caliber Glockhandgun in his car -- the same kind of weapon allegedly used in theWright Township slayings, Knapp said. Searches of his home andproperty turned up shell casings that matched shell casings at themurder scene, police said.
Also Thursday, jurors viewed a video of the crime scene, takingthem into the burned-out home where the bodies, bullets and shellcasings were discovered.
Testimony is expected to continue through the end of next week.
GRAM Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in front of a festive downtown crowd at Rosa Parks Circle Friday night.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.
Investigators in Montcalm County are working to determine what led up to a deadly crash.