There is probable cause, and it was allegedly gang-related.
Those are the two key takeaways from a four-day hearing in the Lenawee County case against Austin Richardson, who stands accused of murdering Christopher Dickerson, according to the Daily Telegram.
The 26-year-old Adrian man previously waived his right to a district court probable cause hearing in June of last year, but he changed his mind this April, and Circuit Judge Anna Marie Anzalone heard his argument for that in mid-May.
From last Monday through Thursday, District Judge Jonathan Poer heard testimony from several witnesses, including Lenawee County Medical Examiner Dr. Bader Cassin, Adrian Police Det. LaMar Rufner, and the man accused of disposing the gun, David Taylor.
Each day’s testimony was recorded, then posted online on Thursday, allowing for the witnesses to remain sequestered from hearing each other’s testimony while still satisfying the public’s right to watch the proceedings.
Dr. Cassin testified that Dickerson died of multiple gunshot wounds: one in the lower back — with the bullet traveling upward inside his body — once in the side of his neck, and twice in the back of his head. The shooter’s close proximity was indicated by gunpowder collected from the head wounds, as well as a burn next to the neck wound that indicated heat coming from the pistol’s muzzle.
Rufner described the investigation up to the point that Taylor showed detectives where Dickerson’s body had been dumped; in a wooded area near Morenci.
But the damning testimony, tying the murder to gang activity, came from Taylor.
Taylor testified that he and other local members of the Latin Counts had been trying to figure out what to do about Dickerson testifying against another gang member, Andrew Cecil. Cecil had previously stabbed Dickerson in a fight at an Adrian apartment in May of 2018. Dickerson subsequently testified against Cecil, identifying him as a Latin Count. Cecil was in jail at the time of Dickerson’s murder. Taylor said that testifying against a fellow gang member could have serious consequences.
Taylor added that on the night of January 21st, 2019 — when Dickerson was killed — the pretense had been that himself, Dickerson, and Richardson were going to steal from a deer blind where there were supposedly guns and drugs, among other things. Taylor says he knew that Richardson had brought the gun, which was standard for robberies, but he didn’t know that Richardson had intended to kill Dickerson.
The first shot, Taylor said, came while Richardson was behind him and Dickerson was ahead of him, and he saw Dickerson fall face-first to the ground. Richardson then allegedly moved to stand over Dickerson, who was still moving and making sounds, then shot him two or three more times at a distance that Taylor described as “real close, right by his head.” Taylor says Dickerson went still after those later shots. He also said the pistol jammed due to an attached sandwich bag meant to collect shell casings.
In addition to Dickerson’s testimony against Cecil, Taylor says Richardson’s primary motive was to get back into the Latin Counts, as he had previously been expelled for testifying against a co-defendant in an earlier case, himself. A man that Taylor identified as the local gang leader had told Richardson that the murder would ensure his acceptance back into the group.
Richardson also allegedly had someone else’s phone with him that night, knowing that GPS signals from cell phones could be used to track the owner, and he planned to use it to take a picture of Dickerson’s body as proof for the gang.
Taylor said he and Richardson had discussed throwing the gun into a lake or a pond, but Taylor kept the gun for a few days before trading it for meth. He added that he had been making and using the drug with others in Adrian and Hudon on the night of the murder.
Asked by Richardson’s attorney about claims that he had made on a messaging app about shooting Dickerson himself, Taylor said he was lying to boost his reputation. Taylor added that despite facing up to life in prison in two separate home invasion cases, he had not made any deal with the prosecution in those cases in exchange for his testimony in the Richardson case.
Judge Poer ruled Thursday that there was probable cause against Richardson on five of the six counts brought before him: open murder, gang membership felonies, carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, and felony firearms.
Poer dismissed a count of first-degree murder that had been added earlier this month. The judge explained that the warrant had cited a law requiring the murder to be committed during a major controlled substance offense, but Poer said the prosecution had not shown evidence that Dickerson’s killing fit that definition. However, Dickerson could still be found guilty of first-degree murder due to the open murder charge, which allows a jury to decide the degree of a murder upon conviction. Poer confirmed there was evidence that Richardson’s act was premeditated.
The case will now return to the higher court.