Four Detroit residents will face trial in Wayne County for the murder and robbery of a Dearborn man, a judge ruled Friday.
Charles Jackson, 26; Zelda Taylor, 28; Iashia Knox, 28; and Kristen Holmes, 28, are facing charges of felony murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery against Hassan Jaber, who was in east Dearborn on July 15.
Details of what witnesses and police say happened came out over two days of a preliminary exam in the before Dearborn Judge Mark Somers.
The hearing began on Tuesday and continued Friday afternoon, ending with Somers' decision to bind all four defendants over to the Wayne County Circuit Court on the three charges.
Court testimony focused on what roles each person allegedly played in the robbery and murder of Jaber.
Witnesses called over the two-day hearing included multiple Dearborn police officers involved in the discovery of Jaber's body and the subsequent investigation, as well as relatives of Taylor and Holmes and Knox.
Murder Story Unfolds in Court
Testimony and written statements from Knox, Taylor and Holmes wove a story of a plan allegedly devised by Taylor and Jackson in which Knox and Taylor would gain entry into Jaber's house under the guise of offering him sexual acts for money, at which point Jackson would knock him out and they would rob him.
According to the Dearborn Press and Guide, Ebony Collins–a cousin of Holmes and Knox–testified on Tuesday to overhearing a conversation between Taylor and Jackson on July 11 at their home on Burgess Street in Detroit, during which she said they discussed the plan to rob Jaber.
They left with Knox and Holmes just before midnight, she said, leaving Collins at the house and taking her car–they claimed–to the liquor store.
Collins said the four did not return until after 3 a.m. July 12.
Cpl. James Issacs, who has led the investigation on the case, explained Friday that officers were sent to Jaber's house on July 15 and discovered his body, naked and slumped over a bed.
"There appeared to be blunt force trauma to the rear of the head," said Sgt. Derek Greyhouse, who was called in as a special detective on the case to examine the crime scene. He added that pieces of tree bark were found on the bed and on Jaber.
Further investigation, Issacs said, led them to believe that two laptops and a cell phone had been taken from Jaber's house. Cell phone records led police to Taylor on July 17, at which point she agreed to let them search her house and two cell phones.
Issacs said they found nothing suspicious.
But days later, a statement from Knox and corroborating story from Zelda Taylor's cousin, Ocie Taylor, led police back to the home on Burgess Street, where they found men's clothing with blood on it, as well as a large tree branch in a nearby field with what appeared to be blood and hair on it.
Prosecutors said Friday that they believed the branch to be the murder weapon.
Discrepancy Over Conspiracy
Much of the arguments made by each defendents' legal counsel centered on the level of involvement each person had in Jaber's death.
Taylor's attorney argued that it was never her client's intention to kill Jaber; only to engage in sex with him for money.
"Mr. Jackson (was) operating on his own," she said. "Mere talking is not enough to establish conspiracy to commit that act."
Similarly, the attorney for Knox argued that she was never aware of the "plan" to kill Jaber.
Attorneys for Jackson and Holmes both argued that there was not sufficient evidence to place them at the scene of the crime.
Somers disagreed, and ruled that the prosecutor's burden of proof had been satisfied on all counts, for all defendents.
The four defendants will face an arraignment on information before the Wayne County Circuit Court on Friday, Sept. 7.