Calhoun County, Michigan District Judge Frank Line has ruled that Iron Coffins Motorcycle Club patch holder Matthew Starkweather will stay locked up until he is eventually tried for murder.
Starkweather has twice been charged with the murder of former Battle Creek chapter president Lee J. “Leeroy” Taylor on New Year’s Day 2012. The first time was in 2012 when Starkweather spent 195 days in jail. That charge was dismissed.
He was arrested again on October 1 and has spent the last four weeks in jail. A Michigan law allows defendant’s held for longer than 180 days without trial to be released on a personal recognizance bond. Until his last arrest Starkweather was employed at DENSO Manufacturing in Battle Creek. He has no arrest record except for the murder charge.
Defense attorney J. Thomas Schaeffer told the judge, “He has remained in the county and has family here and property here and employment here and has not been a flight risk.”
Prosecutor David Gilbert characterized Starkweather as a “danger to society” and Judge Line agreed.
Line said he reviewed a “a 26-page transcript of Starkweather’s interrogation by a Battle Creek detective soon after Taylor’s body was discovered in the Iron Coffins clubhouse. The judge said he thought Starkweather’s statements during that interrogation were “not consistent with other testimony presented.”
In his initial interrogation Starkweather said he and Taylor fought over $2,500 Taylor owed the accused man. After Taylor said he couldn’t repay the debt the two men fought. Starkweather knocked Taylor down and after he did a club brother named named John Lindahl III ordered everybody who wasn’t a club member outside.
Starkweather told Detective Aaron Smith that the two men made up with each other, shook hands and laughed before Taylor went to the bathroom. Starkweather thinks Taylor may have been shocked when he looked in the mirror to see the damage the fight had done to his face. Because, according to Starkweather’s statement, Taylor charged out of the bathroom in a rage moments after he went in. Taylor drew a belt knife and produced a collapsible baton, knocked Starkweather down and stabbed him in the neck.
When Starkweather called for help, Lindahl and another club member named Mario “Paco” Barroso came to his aid. According to the police, Barroso handed Lindahl a shotgun and Lindahl used the butt of the weapon to beat Taylor until he stopped attacking Starkweather.
Starkweather, Lindahl and Barroso were all charged with the homicide. Barroso agreed to testify against the other two defendants but when it turned out that Barroso couldn’t remember anything the charges were dismissed.
Eventually a new prosecutor named David Gilbert decided to make examples of the men. Earlier this year he charged Barroso with murder. Expecting mercy, or at least reason, Barroso pled no contest to manslaughter in August. A month later a judge named Conrad Sindt sentenced the 66-year-old Barroso to 71 to 180 months in prison. Barroso’s lawyer, Seymour Schwartz, protested, “He never hit the guy. He never did anything, Even his own statement says he believed he was just unconscious when he left. I just don’t see where there’s a scintilla of evidence to support an open murder charge, or any of the associated charges with open murder.”
The judge was not moved and Starkweather was arrested a few days later. Lindahl has not yet been recharged. Starkweather’s trial date has not yet been set.