Iron Coffins Motorcycle Club member Matthew Starkweather will be stuck in jail this Christmas.
Starkweather is accused, for the second time, of the homicide of former Battle Creek, Michigan chapter president Lee J. “Leeroy” Taylor on New Year’s Day 2012. Starkweather and two witnesses have all stated that Starkweather acted in self defense after Taylor attacked Starkweather with a collapsible baton and stabbed Starkweather in the neck with a belt buckle knife. The fight, over a $2,500 debt, occurred in the Iron Coffins’ Battle Creek clubhouse after a holiday party.
In addition to Starkweather and Taylor, two other club members were in the clubhouse at the time. When Starkweather called for help, patch holders John Lindahl III and Mario “Paco” Barroso came to his aid. According to multiple statements, Barroso handed Lindahl a shotgun and Lindahl used the butt of the weapon to beat Taylor until he stopped attacking Starkweather.
All three men were eventually charged with Taylor’s death. Barroso agreed to testify against Starkweather and Lindahl in return for a reduced sentence but his testimony did not support a murder case and the charges against all three men were dismissed in July 2012.
A new prosecutor named David Gilbert was elected four months later and in December 2014 he decided to reopen the case. Barroso, who is 67, was arrested last March and charged with murder. In August he agreed to plead no contest to manslaughter and was sentenced to serve between 71 and 180 months in prison. The Calhoun County Probation Department had recommended a sentence of 38 months.
Gilbert recharged Starkweather with murder next.
Starkweather faces life in prison. When he was arraigned in October, Starkweather’s attorney asked that Starkweather be granted bail. Starkweather has already spent 261 days behind bars after his two arrests in the case. He has no other arrest record. He has been gainfully employed and he didn’t try to flee while he was free. But the arraigning judge, a man named Frank Line, agreed with the prosecutor that Starkweather was a flight risk and a danger to the community and refused to grant bail.
Trial In January
Starkweather’s lawyer, J. Thomas Schaeffer, made the same argument again last Wednesday but a judge named Allen Garbrecht refused to grant bail.
Gilbert told the judge, “He said he killed him. He admitted he killed. This is a man who beat someone to death because he owned him money. This is a dangerous individual and he should not be released on bond.” The judge agreed.
Judge Garbrecht will preside over Starkweather’s trial which is scheduled to begin on January 12.