BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — A neighbor says he happened to be outside when he witnessed the fire and attack a Battle Creek man is accused of, in addition to murder.
“I was just on my way taking out the trash and then next thing you know, I just look over and I see the house is just on fire,” Robert Dickinson said Wednesday. “And then I hear screaming. I see the woman getting beat.”
Detective Sgt. Todd Elliott with the Battle Creek Police Department says a medical crew was passing by around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when they saw smoke rising from the home on N. Washington Avenue near Parkway Drive. They rescued the woman, but couldn’t reach a 64-year-old man inside the burning house.
Investigators say an autopsy will determine if the man was dead before the fire started. Police say it’s possible a hammer was used as a murder weapon.
“So, at this point, that’s the weapon that we’re looking for,” said Elliott. “As of yet, we haven’t found it. However, with a fire-damaged house, you’re digging through a lot of rubble and if it’s still there, it can be very difficult to find.”
Elliott says it was an apparent robbery, and the two victims and the suspect somehow knew one another.
Dickinson says it looked as though the man assaulting the woman was trying to drag her into the burning house.
“When I first seen it happen I was like, ‘Wow.’ I’m like, ‘Does anyone see this right now?’ I didn’t have my phone on me or nothing so I couldn’t do anything real quick,” said Dickinson.
Elliott said the woman, a 37-year-old from Bellevue whose name wasn’t released, had injuries to her face, cuts, burns and broken bones. She was taken to a hospital, where her condition was stable Tuesday night.
“Yeah, it was shocking,” said Dickinson. “It really touched me, though, because I ain’t never really expect anything to happen.”
The woman told investigators she was assaulted and the house was set on fire. She pointed them toward a suspect and they started looking for him.
Police went to the suspect’s apartment in unmarked cars Tuesday night. That’s when the 47-year-old man drove away, crashing into cars on his way out of the parking lot. Although police lost track of the suspect, he later drove himself to the police station around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
“(He was) inquiring in a roundabout way about the death of the man on Washington, and we were able to get him into custody right away, bring him in for an interview,” said Elliott.
The 47-year-old suspect is in the Calhoun County jail on charges of open murder and assault with intent to commit open murder. He should be arraigned Thursday, according to Elliott.
A second person is in custody in connection to the case. Elliott says an unnamed woman has been charged with being an accessory after the fact. Police says she was helping the suspect get away from police.
Detectives are withholding the victims’ names until their family has been notified.