Iron Coffins Case Ends

November 3, 2016

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Iron Coffins Case Ends

The 58-month long Iron Coffins’ murder case in Battle Creek, Michigan finally found a conclusion yesterday when Matthew Starkweather agreed to a plea deal with a special prosecutor. Starkweather will be sentenced to time served when he next appears before Judge John Hallacy on December 18. In return, Starkweather pled no contest to a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm.

Starkweather had originally been charged with murder in a case that had at least as much to do with political posturing and the place motorcycle clubs hold in the public’s imagination as it did with the increasingly relative concept of justice.

Leeroy Taylor

The twisted case began on New Year’s Day 2012 in the Iron Coffins Motorcycle Club clubhouse in Battle Creek, Michigan. Starkweather got into a fight with chapter president Lee J. “Leeroy” Taylor. Taylor owed Starkweather $2,500 and told Starkweather he couldn’t repay him. After Starkweather knocked Taylor down an Iron Coffin named John Lindahl III ordered everybody who wasn’t a club member to leave.

Starkweather told police that the two men had quit fighting and had apparently reconciled before Taylor went to the bathroom. Moments later, according to Starkweather, Taylor charged out of the bathroom with a collapsible baton in one hand and a belt knife in the other. He knocked Starkweather down and stabbed him in the neck.

The two other Iron Coffins in the clubhouse at the time, Lindahl and Mario “Paco” Barroso came to Starkweather’s aid. Barroso handed Lindahl a shotgun and Lindahl beat Taylor with the butt until Taylor passed out..

Case Dismissed

Within six weeks, Starkweather, Lindahl and Barroso were all charged with the homicide and Barroso quickly made a deal with former prosecutor Susan K. Mladenoff. He was charged with being an accessory after the fact and he agreed to take the stand if the charge against him was dropped. But when he testified, Barroso couldn’t remember anything and Mladenoff dismissed the charges against the only three witnesses to what actually happened that night.

Jeff Kabot, the assistant district attorney who actually tried the case explained about Barroso, “I am concerned Mario would continue to change his story…. I don’t want to go into court crossing my fingers and hoping he will tell the truth.”

So the case seemed settled.

Then Mladenoff lost an election to David Gilbert, who apparently had seen episodes of Sons of Anarchy so he knew the menace to society that motorcycle clubs pose. First thing, in order to save Battle Creek and embellish his own reputation, Gilbert charged Barroso, who had handed Lindahl the shotgun, with murder. Gilbert argued that Barroso had “aided and abetted” Taylor’s “murder.”

Barroso’s Deal

The 66-year-old Barroso foolishly trusted American justice and the plea-bargaining process and he trusted Gilbert so he caved. He pled no contest to manslaughter. Barosso thought he would be sentenced to 38 months and be back home in less than two years

“He never hit the guy, he never did anything,” Barroso’s lawyer Seymour Schwartz told  the judge, a former small town cop and prosecutor named  Conrad Sindt. “Even his own statement says he believed he (Taylor) 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.”

“I am very sorry for what happened to Mr. Taylor,” Barroso said at his sentencing.

From the bench Sindt said “I am struck by the idiocy of grown men acting like children,” and then he sentenced Paco Barroso to 71 to 180 months in prison.

Afterward Schwartz complained to Trace Christenson of the Battle Creek Enquirer, “It was a fight, and a fight in the clubhouse, and everyone was drunk. There was a significant beating but not one that exceeds or is significant that would separate it from any other fight other than a death occurred. It was a mutual fight and one person lost the fight and lost it in a way that none of us ever want to see but tragically that is what happened.”

At his retirement party a little more than a year ago, Judge Sindt bragged to Christenson, “I have spent 40 years with Calhoun County and it has been a wonderful career. There is no place better than a county courthouse where you can have a ringside seat to view the human character and experience.”

In the last year a sad Facebook page titled “Free Paco Battle Creek” has appeared to protest Barroso’s fate and the system that damned him.


Gilbert went after Starkweather next. He recharged Starkweather with murder in October 2015. Starkweather had already spent 197 days in jail after he was arrested in 2012. After his second arrest he spent another 64 days in jail before he was granted a bail hearing. His lawyer, J. Thomas Schaeffer, argued that Starkweather had acted in self defense. Michigan law requires that a defendant who has been held for more than 180 days must have bail set.

Starkweather has already spent 261 days behind bars before that hearing. He had no other arrest record. He had been gainfully employed and he never tried to flee while he was free. But the arraigning judge, another former prosecutor named Frank Line, ruled that his intuition that Starkweather was a flight risk and a danger to the community overruled state law and he refused to grant Starkweather bail.

At a second bail hearing, Gilbert told yet another former prosecutor, a judge named Allen Garbrecht, “He (Starkweather) said he killed him (Taylor). 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.” So Garbrecht also denied Starkweather bail in violation of state law.

An End

Last February, a defense lawyer named Matt Glaser who had represented John Lindahl in the original case, before Gilbert was elected prosecutor, testified, “I told Gilbert about the information from Lindahl…. I gave related attorney-client privileged information to Mr. Gilbert.”

Judge Hallacy ordered Gilbert recused from the case and appointed a special prosecutor – Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. But then it turned out that Fitz had also discussed the case with Gilbert. So Hallacy appointed a second special prosecutor, St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough. McDonough and Schaeffer negotiated yesterday’s plea deal.

Afterward McDonough told the Enquirer, “We carefully reviewed all the evidence in the case and the facts and the decisions made prior to us getting the case and felt this is the best decision for everyone.”

Starkweather is now finally free to resume what is left of his life. Lindahl, who actually hit Taylor with the shotgun butt, has never been recharged. Barroso, who handed Lindahl the shotgun, remains incarcerated in the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan. The earliest date he can request parole is April Fools Day 2021.

Taylor’s family attended yesterday’s change of plea hearing. “They (the Taylors) do not agree with it (the  plea deal), McDonough told Christenson. “And my heart goes out to them. I can’t imagine being in their situation. Unfortunately what we think and what we can prove is a lot of the time different. I didn’t feel we could prove the murder charge and at best it was a manslaughter case.”


11 Responses to “Iron Coffins Case Ends”

  1. Angel Says:

    Free Paco!

  2. Ben Says:

    The two who took plea deals wound up serving time. The one most responsible for the death, kept his mouth shut, and stayed free (perhaps he had the the luck not to be offered a plea deal, the prosecutors hoping to use the testimony of others to ram him). It’s not the first time there’s been such an outcome, it won’t be the last.

  3. RLG Says:

    I have to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for them all to have taken the 5th.

  4. chromedome Says:

    sup panhead havent seen you post in awhile hope all is well


  5. Wretched man Says:

    @ Tom Starkweather
    “Matt’s decision to take the deal wasn’t an easy one; it came down to finances.”

    This is probably the saddest aspect of life in this world…

    My heart goes out to every single person whose life is turned upside down by travesties such as this.
    As a man I hope I never find myself in the position where I have to compromise my integrity just breathe the air as a free man…


  6. BMW Says:

    Railroading motorcycle club members because they won’t lie to the demands of corrupt persecutors? Can anything to do with this case be acceptable to normal Americans?

    From everything presented about this case, there is a sad situation between club Brothers that led to an accidental death. The persecutors have been trying to send someone to prison for the accidental death, which was most probably negligent homicide at its worst.

    Condolences to the club Brothers crucified for the political ambitions of slimy persecutors — including one who very clearly violated the Canons by disclosing privileged information for personal gain. Almost sounds as corrupt as that little whacked out whorehouse in Texas…Whaco!



  7. Tom Starkweather Says:

    Thanks Rebel for staying in touch with this case. The very reason that gilbert was recused from Matt’s case is why Barroso’s case should be reviewed. This case has gone on for almost 5 years and believe me it is not about justice but rather can you afford $1000.00 every day you go to court. Matt’s decision to take the deal wasn’t an easy one; it came down to finances. Spend another 20k and maybe end up better. Over the nearly 5 years 5 prosecutors were involved with this case and it Just keeps getting more involved. This is the best system in the world….

  8. Nihilist Says:

    Gerry Spence is awesome. Thanks for adding him here, Rebel.

  9. Panhead Says:

    Free Paco.

  10. Sieg Says:

    Pitiful all around. Each and every one of these whores should at the very least have to get out of the courthouse and peddle their nasty old ass’ out in the street. I can only hope that the People of Michigan wake up enough to get this travesty straighened-out.
    FTF / FTP

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