Iron Coffins Motorcycle Club member Matthew Starkweather was arrested Thursday in Battle Creek, Michigan and charged with the murder of former club president Lee J. “Leeroy” Taylor on New Year’s Day 2012. Again.
According to local police, Taylor and Iron Coffin member Matthew Starkweather got into a fight at a club party over a debt of $2,500. Starkweather knocked Taylor down. Another patch holder named John Lindahl III ordered everybody who wasn’t a club member out of the clubhouse. When police arrived at 6 a.m. Taylor was dead of multiple blows to the head and Starkweather had been stabbed in the neck. Police charged Starkweather with murder on the spot. They later also charged Lindahl and another witness named Mario “Paco” Barroso as accessories.
Barroso made a deal to testify in return for immunity from prosecution but he didn’t testify to the satisfaction of the prosecutor who was then a man named Jeff Kabot. Kabot lost. Barroso couldn’t remember anything and all three men, who were the only witnesses to Taylor’s death, walked. The charges were dismissed. Starkweather and Lindahl said that Taylor had attacked them with a knife and a baton and they defended themselves. Police said they defended themselves with a club and the butt of a shotgun.
A new prosecutor named David Gilbert was elected in November 2012 and early this year he decided to go after the three men again. The first man charged was Barroso. According to Gilbert, Taylor was murdered, not killed in self defense, and Barroso aided and abetted that murder by handing either Starkweather or Lindahl the shotgun. Since defending one’s self against a murder charge tends to be economically ruinous, Barroso pled no contest to manslaughter in August with the expectation that he would be sentenced to about three years. Last month a judge sentenced him to a prison term of 71 to 180 months which, because Barroso is now 66, means he may die behind the barbed wire.
Self Righteous Cruelty
Obviously, Gilbert’s prosecution has more to do with a public display of self righteous cruelty than with justice or public safety. Yesterday it was Starkweather’s turn to start the long climb up the pyramid steps to the sacrificial alter.
Starkweather’s lawyer, a man named J. Thomas Schaeffer, told the Battle Creek Enquirer, “I think this charge is ill-advised because the right decision was made before and it is a classic case of self-defense. My guy was on his back and had a knife to his neck.”
“This case had laid dormant for three years and I anticipate the same result will happen. Mr. Gilbert is causing people a disruption in their lives and costing them great sums of money.”
Gilbert said publically, “It is a cold case that has been reopened. I don’t know why it was originally dismissed. The attorney who was handling it is not here anymore. But after a review and upon further investigation it has been reissued.” Gilbert also said his investigation into the case was “continuing.”