11/21/2018 - Judge requests pathologist expert witness in Dowagiac homicide case

CASSOPOLIS - The preliminary hearing for Rolandis Russell, charged with killing a man outside a bar was adjourned abruptly after it began when the defense challenged the first witness' expertise.

Dowagiac police Detective Jason Rutkowske had barely started testimony when defense attorney Tat Parish objected to the officer testifying about the results of the autopsy done July 30 at Western Michigan University on victim Fabian Wesaw's body.

Cass Probate Judge Susan Dobrich, handling the case because District Judge Stacey Rentfrow had a conflict, sided with Parish that either the autopsy report should be submitted or the pathologist called to testify.

Dobrich said the autopsy results or pathologist testimony are important because it is a case in which the degrees of homicide could come into play. Russell, 24, has been charged with first-degree murder under the 'transferred legal intent' theory as he intended to shoot someone else and materialized shooting Wesaw, who was a bystander.

After a short recess, Dobrich returned to the bench and announced that the preliminary hearing would resume when a pathologist would be free to testify.

Before the hearing was adjourned, Rutkowske said he usually is on the drug team but helps with major crimes. He was called into service after the July 29 shooting and interviewed Russell before arriving at the crime scene outside the Beeson Street Bar.

Cass Prosecutor Victor Fitz said in late July that Russell got into a verbal dispute with another individual, Michael Smith, inside the bar and then went to his vehicle to get a weapon. The gun initially jammed before Russell came back and started shooting. At least several bullets were fired.

Russell is being held without bond and faces a total of eight felony charges, including assault with intent to murder Smith, carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, possession of a loaded firearm in or upon a vehicle and four counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Assault with intent to murder carries a maximum penalty of life or a term of years, carrying a weapon with unlawful intent carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle carries a two year maximum penalty. Felony firearm carries a mandatory penalty of a consecutive two years in prison.