Jury convicts teenager in Mich. homeless killings
PONTIAC, Mich. — A 15-year-old was convicted on Tuesday of beating two homeless men to death in a fading Michigan industrial city and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Thomas McCloud was charged with first-degree felony murder in the deaths of Wilford “Frenchie” Hamilton and Lee Hoffman, two 61-year-old homeless men who prosecutors say were attacked by a group of teenagers in August 2008 in Pontiac, located about 30 miles northwest of Detroit.
The Oakland County jury deliberated for about five hours before delivering the verdict against McCloud, of Pontiac.
A second defendant, Dontez Tillman, also 15, is charged with first-degree felony murder in Hamilton’s death. A second jury deliberated Tuesday without reaching a verdict for him, and they will resume deliberations on Wednesday morning.
McCloud removed the glasses he had worn throughout the trial and wept after the verdict against him was announced. Several jurors also cried as they were polled by the court.
Hamilton and Hoffman were brutally beaten by a group of three or four young people, with larceny as a motive, assistant prosecuting attorney Gregory Townsend said during closing arguments earlier Tuesday.
The attackers had “an intent to harass, an intent to intimidate, an intent to hurt,” Townsend told jurors, “having no respect for human decency, no respect for human pain, no respect for human suffering and certainly no respect for human life.”
Attorneys for Tillman and McCloud said the case against their clients lacked hard evidence and relied on videotaped police interviews that Townsend described as confessions. Instead, Tillman’s lawyer said, the interrogation of her client was confused, “jumbled” and useless as evidence.
“If a waitress makes a mistake at her job, you may get the wrong sandwich,” defense attorney Marsha Kosmatka told jurors. “But if a detective makes a mistake at his job, even an honest one … it can end up being a mistake that affects someone for a lifetime.”
McCloud had rejected plea deals from prosecutors on three separate occasions on advice of his family, said his attorney, Howard Arnkoff, after the verdicts were announced.
Under the proposed deals, McCloud would have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, which carries up to life in prison but would have left him eligible for parole.
“He’s 15 years old today … and probably would have been out by the time he was 30,” Arnkoff said.
Instead, McCloud will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Nov. 13.
Tillman’s jury has the option of convicting him on the lesser charge of second-degree murder, as did McCloud’s jury, if they find that the slaying was not committed during a larceny or attempted larceny.