PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) - A judge ordered Junior Beebe Jr. to trial for brutally killing two women, but not before police revealed new details about the case.
Among them, that Beebe told detectives he waited almost two days to bury Amy Henslee and his girlfriend, Tonya Howarth, whose bodies were found in a shallow grave near a small trailer.
"After he explained that they were shot, he said that he covered them up with a blanket, locked the camper door with a padlock on the outside, and he left them there for a day and a half, which he estimated to be Wednesday, then he went back and he dug a hole and buried them," State Police Detective Sgt. Diane Oppenheim testified.
Also, police confirmed Friday that they found the bodies only after being led there by private citizens. A tracking dog and handler hired by the Henslee family led them there, police said.
Judge Robert Hentchel ordered Beebe, 34, of Bangor, to stand trial on two counts of open murder for the Jan. 24 shotgun slayings in Van Buren County. The trial will begin June 14, 2011.
The judge made that ruling despite Beebe's claim that it was Howarth who shot Henslee and that he shot Howarth in response.
Amy Henslee, a mother of two, disappeared on Jan. 24 from her home. Her husband, James, who was working at the time, searched on his own before calling police.
James Henslee testified today that he spoke to Beebe, his second cousin, twice on the day of the disappearance -- after a neighbor told him she had seen a black pickup truck, similar to Beebe's, in the Henslee driveway that morning. The neighbor said she saw a woman, whom she believed was Amy Henslee, walk willingly into the truck.
That's the last time anyone else saw Henslee.
Beebe told James Henslee a different story -- that he'd knocked on the Henslee door but that nobody answered, so he left, Henslee said.
Beebe called James Henslee later that day to see if Amy Henslee was still missing, the husband said.
Three days later, Sgt. Oppenheim was planning to meet with Beebe to discuss the case, when she got a call about the discovery of blood -- pooled on the ground, smeared on a tree -- near a trailer on land owned by Beebe's uncle -- about three miles from Henslee's home.
Oppenheim was among the police officers in the woods, near the trailer, when she saw Beebe, "walking through the middle of the woods, toward our location."
At first, Beebe told her he'd gone to Henslee's home with Howarth, knocked on the door and left. At the time, Howarth, his girlfriend of about five years, hadn't been reported missing.
When Oppenhem asked if he knew the source of the blood, "I noticed a change in his behavior," she said. "His breathing increased. He lowered his head and he responded no and was shaking his head yes. That's when he said, 'I know what happened to Amy.'"
He told them where to find the bodies, she said.
State Police Sgt. James Campbell said the bodies were buried so close to the trailer, police had to move it with a forklift and chain.
Police first found blood and snow mixed together at the gravesite, then discovered a shotgun shell about two feet deep. Another foot down, they spotted the hand of one of the victims. They found both of the women together. He said they also found latex gloves, a padlock and a hacksaw. Police believe he used the hacksaw to cut the padlock from the trailer door before burying the bodies.
Oppenheim said she interviewed Beebe, who said he was a cage fighter who had recently won a bout. Beebe told her Henslee went willingly with her to the trailer that morning to watch a videotape of that fight and "also engage in smoking a joint," Oppenheim said. He said she knew she had to return home by 10 a.m., when her husband would be calling from work.
But, at 9:45 a.m, he told the detective, Howarth flung open the trailer door, "screaming at them, yelling, 'I knew this was going on." The detective said Beebe's story continued this way: That Howarth grabbed a loaded .410 shotgun near the door, and that it "went off," striking Henslee. "Then Tonya shot another round point blank into her chest," she quoted him as saying.
When he jumped up, Howarth went to rack another round into the shotgun and told him, "You're next," the detective testified. After the gun jammed, they started wrestling and the gun went off.
He wasn't sure if that shot hit her, so "he cocked another round and shot her down," Oppenheim testified.
An autopsy showed Howarth was shot once in the back of the head -- from about 6 inches away -- and once behind the ear with a shot that came from no more than 3 or 4 feet away. Both shots were fatal, Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle testified.
Henslee was shot once in the leg and once in the chest -- that fatal shot coming from about 3 feet, Cohle said. Evidence indicates Henslee raised one of her arms to defend herself.
Defense attorney David Hunt agreed that Beebe should face trial for killing Howarth, but argued there wasn't enough evidence to charge him in Henslee's death.
"His statement is pretty
much all we've got," Hunt said.
However, Prosecutor Juris Kap said the evidence shows Beebe's version is nothing more than a story.
"We've got two females who each have two gunshot wounds who are then buried by the defendant, who then hides the gun, who then proceeds to lie about any knowledge about the disappearance of Amy Henslee," Kap said. "So we know that he's a liar."
Prosecutors also laid out on the courtroom floor a taped lifesize outline of the trailer where the shootings took place. They claimed the trailer is too small for the shootings to have taken place in the manner Beebe claims.
Family and friends of both victims packed the courtroom. Howarth's family said the testimony was difficult to hear.
"They're scrambling, trying to get anything, you know," her stepfather, Mike Alsup, said. "Of course, he's going to be a long time in jail, and we hope he is. He's disrupted two lives and it's terrible. You see my wife is upset. We want this to be over."
One person is dead after firefighters found the victim's body inside a condominium complex in Kalamazoo Township that was on fire Wednesday afternoon.
11 fire departments from several counties were called out to a fire at an adult entertainment club Wednesday afternoon.
Holland police were searching for 28-year-old Mark Steven Randall Harris, who was considered armed and dangerous, but arrested him late Wednesday night.