Michigan JLWOP cases


Barbara P Hernandez is Michigan inmate # 218771. She murdered Jimmy Cotaling, brother of NOVJL board member Jody Robinson.

She has lied about the facts of her own involvement, and is now, of course, trying to minimize her role in a brutal stabbing. She has now changed her story, and well-meaning advocates such as the ACLU have published her lies: that she was hiding in the kitchen while an abusive boyfriend actually did the horrible crime.

The FACTS, proven in court, and at first confessed to by Ms. Hernandez, are that she and the boyfriend held Jimmy down while she stabbed him with a small light filet knife. Jimmy was stabbed a brutal 26 times while he fought for his life. Ms. Hernandez’s hair was found clenched in Jimmy’s fist. These facts were proven in court. Worst of all, because the knife was so thin, Ms. Hernandez and her accomplice sliced away at his neck so many times that they almost decapitated him, but coroners could not even determine how many slices there were in his neck because it was so brutally mangled. Ms Hernandez was involved with the crime that lasted for several days and was fully aware of what she was doing. She deserves the life sentence she received.

The State of Michigan should not give her clemency. Please write to tell them so. Address for the Michigan Parole and Clemency Board:


Here is a list of the 13 Saginaw juveniles currently serving life without parole sentences for their First Degree Murder convictions since 1980. Saginaw County has sustained over 1000 murder cases in the past three decades of which over 40 were committed by juveniles. Most have pled guilty to Second Degree Murder or lesser crimes but these 13 are those who have been convicted by Saginaw juries of First Degree Murder. All victims have families who live on without their loved one and daily deal with their loss, without any second chance. All convictions have been affirmed on appeal and the survivor families have relied on these convictions and life sentences as Justice in their case. The First Degree Murderers were 16 at the time they killed their victims except for 4 of them as noted below.

1] Richard Musselman was 15 when he and a co-defendant drove to Saginaw on 1/3/80 with the expressed purpose of shooting and killing people of color. Musselman is white. He fired the shotgun shots that killed Alvin Swiney, 36 of Buena Vista, and Ralph Minerd, 40 of Columbiaville who was driving a sanitation truck at the time of his death. Musselman also shot the car windows out of a third victim’s car in the city and they tried to run a fourth victim off the road after chasing his car at 3am on the East Side. The murder/assault victims were chosen at random. The Prosecutor then was now Saginaw County Chief Circuit Court Judge Robert Kaczmarek. The trial prosecutor is current MI Court of Appeals Judge Patrick Meter. Musselman was convicted by a jury of 2 First Degree Murders, 2 Assaults with Intent to Murder and 2 Felony Firearm Possession counts. He was sentenced to life without parole by Circuit Judge Hazen Armstrong on 8/26/80.

2] Henry Hill Jr. and Dennis Lee Johnson were convicted for the First Degree Murder of Anthony Thomas which occurred on 7/16/80 and were sentenced to life without parole in prison on 6/3/80. As I indicated in my earlier e mail, both Hill and Johnson and two others chased Anthony Thomas in Veteran’s Memorial Park in Saginaw and shot 15 times at him, wounding him in the back and head causing him to fall to the ground where he was executed by a final shot from co-defendant adult Larnell Johnson. All were African American men as was the victim. Hill was 16 as was Johnson.                                

3] Michael Jackson, 16, beat his grandmother to death when she wouldn’t give him money for his drug addition.  Jackson is white as was his grandmother. He murdered her on 12/13/1983 and was convicted by a Saginaw County Circuit Judge in a bench trial without a jury and sentenced to life without parole on 5/31/85.

4] Dexter Tolliver was 15 when was convicted by a jury of First Degree Murder in 1984 and sentenced on 1/15/86 to life without parole. He was African American. District Judge Christopher Boyd was the Prosecutor. He is currently incarcerated in Ionia Maximum Prison.

5] I became the prosecutor in 1989 and tried Michael Perry, 16. He was convicted by a jury of 3 counts of First Degree Murder, Arson and 3 counts of Attempted Murder. He and a 13 year old co-defendant threw firebombs into the home of Willie and Cynthia Rollie at 4am and killed 3 of their children, an 11 year old daughter, a 9 year old daughter and 7 year old son Issac who was burned beyond recognition when he was overcome by smoke and flames on the stairway trying to flee the burning house. Mr. and Mrs. Rollie and their remaining 12 year old son, jumped from 2nd floor windows or they would have died too. Willie sustained 3rd degree burns and scars on his body when he went back inside to try to rescue Nicole, Demetra and Issac. The Rollie children were African American and Michael Perry was white. Perry was sentenced to life without parole on 6/27/91 while the 13 year old co-defendant was tried as a juvenile, the only option in 1991, convicted and released after detention.

6] Willie Debardelaben, 15, was convicted by a jury of 2 counts of First Degree Murder, B & E Occupied Dwelling and Felony Firearm Possession for killing 2 African American men in a house robbery. He also murdered a Hispanic male before that case was solved because the victim would not give him a cigarette outside a local bar. He was on juvenile probation at that time for sodomy of a 6 year old neighborhood child when he killed these 3 men. Debardelaben was 6’2” 200# and also African American. He was sentenced to life without parole in 1994 for the two First Degree Murders and to life on his conviction for Second Degree Murder in 1993.

7] Deon Haynes, 16, shot and killed a 15 year old girl in her home when Haynes and accomplices committed a home robbery. The victim recognized Haynes in spite of his mask, called out his name and Haynes shot her to death. The victim’s younger brother spent years trying to commit crimes that would land him in prison so he could  find Haynes in prison and kill him to avenge his sister’s death. The victim was white. Haynes is African American.

8 I also co-tried Shytour Williams, 15, for killing 18 year old MSU coed Karen King along with his parolee cousin August Williams in 1997. Karen King was home over Christmas to visit her parents who lived next to Covenant Hospital. She was carjacked, kidnapped, raped, armed robbed, shown off as a trophy to the Defendant’s acquaintances and ultimately strangled to death on January 3, 1997 by the Williams cousins. Her body was thrown from the SUV behind a local business and was found after parents spent the night frantically searching for their daughter. He admitted to lying to police during his trial cross-examination but said he didn’t kill Ms. King. Shytour Williams was 6’2” tall and weighed 200 # at the time he and his cousin murdered the slender MSU coed. This kidnapping/murder caused terror in the Kings’ neighborhood and fueled an exodus of homeowners near the Hospital who were moved by the random violence and murder. Williams was sentenced on 11/10/97.

9] On 12/16/97 Elliot Whittington, 16, robbed and killed 2 elderly African Americans in their car in the city. He was convicted by a jury of 2 counts of Premeditated First Degree Murder/Felony First Degree Murder, Armed Robbery, Felony Firearm Possession and Conspiracy to commit First Degree Murder with his 18 year old accomplice and sentenced to life without parole. He is also African American.   

10] On 4/12/98 Oliver Webb IV, age 16, drove to his victim Tommy Ford’s home and took Ford to a city cemetery at gunpoint, made Ford kneel next to a gravestone and beg to live, then shot him dead and left him hidden in the cemetery. Webb later returned to the body and cut out the victim’s teeth to try to prevent identification of the body and actually encouraged his dog to eat the flesh of the deceased to cover the murder up. The victim’s mother Barbara Clark testified along with her son and daughter at the House Judiciary Committee meeting in May that she opposed any parole for Webb even though she forgave him for murdering her son. Mrs. Clark and all parties including the Defendant and victim are African American. Webb was mad at Tommy Ford over a girlfriend.

The Michigan State Legislature passed the Juvenile Justice Act in 1998 in response in part to judicial abuse in sentencing convicted juvenile First Degree Murderers as juveniles in Detroit Recorders’ Court and seldom sentencing them as adults. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office testified last May 7, 2009 in the Judiciary Committee that some of those same juvenile First Degree Murderers sentenced in Detroit as juveniles only, subsequently were released and murdered again, some with multiple murder victims. See testimony of Robert Moran, Wayne County Senior Assistant Prosecutor, 5/7/09, House Judiciary Committee.

Only 33 of the current 159 convicted juvenile First Degree Murderers committed their killings after 1998 when the new law giving prosecutors discretion to waive over juvenile murderers to adult court without a Phase 2 waiver hearing in Probate court first. In Saginaw County only 2 First Degree Murders occurred after 1999 in this decade, 1999-2009, although two juveniles were convicted in 2009 of Conspiracy to commit First Degree Murder in Saginaw when they set fire to a duplex and then shot at the occupants as they ran outside to escape the fire. They missed and no one miraculously was murdered. Conspiracy to Murder is a paroleable crime in MI.

11] Deondre Gaines committed his First Degree Murder on 1/3/08 and was sentenced to life without parole. He and other gang members had stalked victims throughout the night. He was sentenced on 11/8.06. He was convicted of First Degree Murder, Conspiracy to Murder, 2 counts of Assault with intent to Murder, Felony Firearm Possession and Carrying a concealed weapon. He was 16.

12] Dequavious Johnson was convicted and sentenced on 5/15/08 for killing a 14 month old baby girl in a car seat in a car occupied by the intended gang target of Johnson. In a car driven by his gang members to a drive by shooting, Johnson aimed at a 300 # rival in the car and missed but hit the baby between the eyes. In addition to Conspiracy to commit Murder and Premeditated First Degree Murder, Johnson was convicted of 2 counts of Assault with intent to Murder, Carrying a Concealed weapon, 2 counts Discharging a weapon from a vehicle and 7 counts of Felony Firearm Possession. The baby was African American as were the other four co –defendants and victims. Johnson was 16.

The important point to Saginaw’s law enforcement community was that these are the only two juvenile First Degree Murder cases in Saginaw since the 1998 JJAct went into effect. Life without parole is an appropriate and just sentence for First Degree Murder no matter who kills, whether a 17 year old adult or a 15-16 year old juvenile. Life is too precious to permit a convicted juvenile First Degree Murderer in cases like these above to have a second chance to live outside of a prison. The victim and her/his family get no second chance and the family’s survivors are sentenced to life without their loved one for the rest of their lives. Parole is not justice and this law is having some effect in reducing the number of juvenile murders, at least in Saginaw, Michigan. We need to start to focus more on why these juvenile First Degree Murderers killed their victims and what we can do to prevent them from happening in the future.

Oakland Press reports the following JLWOP cases in that area of the state:

“Gruesome history

A look back at the 40 cases from Oakland County reveals that even an affluent area cannot avoid violent bloodshed.

These cases showcase both gruesome cruelty and pure coldbloodedness. Some are revolting, with children stabbed to death; others are stunning in the slight amounts for which victims died.

Michael Kvam, who was 17 when he and another man raped and killed a woman, a teenager and a little girl in Avon Township, now Rochester Hills, in 1984, shook one judge enough to change his stance on the death penalty.

And Sean Sword was 17 when he shot and killed a man working in a Rochester Hills party store in 1994, ending a string of armed robberies. Sword testified at his trial that he didn’t like the tone of the victim, who told him the store was being closed: “The way he said it … I just pulled out the gun.”

Several of the offenders fi t the profile of one who Brater said might deserve a second chance, coming from broken or abusive homes and having mental problems.

Anthony Bonelli’s attorney, James Andary, said the then-17-year-old had “slipped through the cracks” and should have been institutionalized when he drowned a girl who had been his friend in Orchard Lake in 1989. Robert Charles Cook, who was 17 in 1969, claimed that voices told him to climb onto a roof and shoot at people when he killed a motorcyclist.

And several of the cases feature participants who did not do the actual killing, though they helped cover up the crimes and shared in the stolen rewards. Some of these cases include:

Barbara Hernandez, then 16, watched as her 20-year-old boyfriend cut a man’s throat and stabbed him 25 times so they could steal his car.

Jennifer Pruitt, who was 17, watched as her 23-year-old girlfriend stabbed an elderly man 27 times – after they had returned to his home a second time, having already stolen $93, cigarettes and other items.

John Polick was 16 when, during a break-in, he shined the flashlight on a 67-year-old woman as his elder brother beat her so badly that she later died. Polick helped steal a television from the woman’s Waterford Township home. Both brothers were sentenced to life.

All of these cases feature one shared quality, which is why prosecutors believed they belonged in prison for the rest of their lives.

For these killers, life was cheap.

But in Oakland County, generally, these offenders’ rights were well-protected.

Intense legal battles

While poor legal representation sometimes leads to overturned convictions, the cases from Oakland County tend to feature top lawyers.

Prominent defense attorneys such as Larry Kaluzny, Mitchell Ribitwer and Jerome Sabbota tried some of the cases. The late James S. Thorburn, who later served as a circuit judge known to challenge prosecutors, helped represent the county’s oldest teenage offender still in prison, Sheldry Topp, who stabbed a county attorney to death in 1962.

Perhaps the biggest legal fight involved a teenager who shot somebody just because he didn’t have a match to light his cigarette.

In 1980, Ronnie C. Waters, then 17 and with a group of friends acting tough at the Miracle Mile Drive-In theater in Bloomfi eld Township, fi red a handgun into a car, injuring a Clarkston man and killing his wife, 28-year-old Deborah Ann Porcelli.

Waters was defended by one of Oakland County’s top lawyers, the late William Waterman, who went on to sit on the 50th District Court bench and recently had Pontiac’s district court building named after him.

Waterman argued that the shooting was “compulsive, inexplicable, ridiculous” and deserved a second-degree murder charge with a chance at parole. A district judge agreed, but then-Prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson successfully countered that it was a “coldblooded execution,” and two circuit judges and the state’s higher courts agreed.

With the first-degree charge holding up, Waters will not get out of prison without a governor’s signature – as the law stands now.

Given a break

Other teenage killers from Oakland County were given a break, even in some of the most notorious cases.

Michael Anthony Conat, now 23, shot his younger sister to death in Rochester Hills at age 16. After a lengthy debate, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.

Brandon Carnell, who was 14 when he killed his parents and sister in his Springfi eld Township home in 1988, was sentenced as a juvenile and held until he was 19. Since then, he has rebuilt a life without crime and is married and deeply involved with his church.

Ribitwer, who represented Carnell, said the mandatory nature of life-without-parole sentences is the problem when it comes to juveniles.

“It’s something that should be discretionary for the judges,” said Ribitwer, who now is defending a boy who was 15 when he allegedly stabbed his mother in Rochester Hills.

Pointing to the success of Carnell, Ribitwer said: “The problem is the Legislature has authorized prosecutors to decide if a 15- or 16-year-old child will be charged as an adult. The system puts a tremendous amount of discretion into the hands of the prosecutor,” who represent one side of the issue.

Previously, prosecutors petitioned the court to charge a juvenile as an adult, and a dozen different criteria were examined in detail before a judge made the decision. Ribitwer said judges, who stand as the neutral party in a case, should have the authority.

But even judges must weigh the potential political disaster of giving a teenager a break and having him or her kill again.

A blown second chance

One case highlighted the fears that judges, prosecutors and legislators feel when deciding to give someone a second chance.

In 1987, Donyelle Black was a teenage terror awaiting a tragic ending. At age 15, he and another boy raped Wanda Sutherland, 39, repeatedly and, ignoring her many pleas for mercy, killed her. She was shot three times in a wooded area near her apartment off Orchard Lake Road in Pontiac on July 14, 1987, by Black, whose life of crime started at age 11 and included drugs, theft and assaults.

The boy had pulled her from her car at gunpoint after he and the friend, 14-year-old Calvin Hirsch, decided to rob someone. After they raped, robbed and beat her, Black then shot her in the head, Hirsch later testifi ed.

While Black received life in prison upon his conviction, Hirsch pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced as a juvenile. He served five years and was released at age 19.

“There’s nothing worse than watching someone walk down the hallway because you can’t keep them anymore,” said Deborah Carley, chief deputy prosecutor in Oakland County. “It’s not fair to the victims and it’s not fair to the community.”

In 1996, at age 23, Hirsch shot a couple over a $13 drug debt owed by someone else. The man was injured and his 35-year-old fiancee, Dora Lisa Shaw, was killed. A friend of hers owed Hirsch the $13. Hirsch finally was sentenced to life in prison.

“With two homicides to his credit in the past 10 years, Calvin Hirsch has dug his own grave,” said Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor John Pietrofesa at the time. “We just put him in it. Prison did nothing to rehabilitate him.”

Whether incarceration can save a young offender is the question remaining with the county’s youngest killer.

A killer at 11

Nathaniel Abraham, the area’s most infamous young killer, was 11 when he shot 19-year-old Ronnie Green Jr. in 1997 in Pontiac. He will soon be freed because he was sentenced as a juvenile by Oakland County Probate Judge Eugene Arthur Moore.

No matter what, Abraham will be released in 14 months, and the judge, social workers and prosecutors have closely monitored his progress at the W.J. Maxey Boys’ Training School near Ann Arbor.

Abraham, who turns 20 in January, wants to go to a halfway house for his last year of custody. He is to be in court Monday for a regular review hearing, a public examination into whether a child killer can be rehabilitated.

“He is the reason why we should have life in prison without parole,” said Carley, who regularly presses social workers and state offi cials to present all information on Abraham’s status, which has been marred by problems, including assaults, slow progress and a recent investigation into whether he fathered the child of a worker there. DNA tests showed he wasn’t the father.

One woman hates seeing the continued stories about Abraham, finding the attention paid to him with such a public upbringing hurtful instead of helpful.”

Note: this article was excerpted from a larger article from the Oakland Press that had an undertone somewhat along the lines of this argument: “JLWOP offenders from more prosperous areas of the state have had plenty of opportunities and if they kill, they are just evil. But the killers from the poorer areas need more protections.” NOVJL is concerned about the validity and propriety of this argument.

DOWNLOAD THIS LIST OF ALL JLWOP OFFENDERS IN MICHIGAN and help us find their victims families!

PARTIAL LIST OF MICHIGAN JLWOP OFFENDERS with links to their personal stories
Please, help us find the victims families of these cases to include them in Michigan Legislation!

ADRIAN, James Earl


ALLEN-BEY, Herbert Lee

ARMSTRONG, Thomas Janarvis


AYALA, Alexis

BAKER, Daryle Demetrius

BEY, Kyle D. Daniel

BLACK, Amy Lee

BLACK, Donnyelle Michael

BONELLI, Anthony Joseph

BROWNLEE, Trevor Tremaine  

BUCK JR., Norman D.

CAMPER, Omair David

CARMICHAEL, Karlos Antonuous

CLARK, Timothy Demetrius

CLEMONS, Willie Terrell

COLSON, Gerald R.

COPELAND, Cornelius Cortez

DAVIS, Scott Bruce


DUPURE, Nicole Ann

EDWARDS, Michael

ESPREE, Antonio


EVANS, Ramon

FERRELL, Maurice

FIELDS, Frederick Jerome

FINCH, Charles D.

FOSTER, Leander



HALL, Chavez D.



HAYWOOD, Lamar Anthony


HO, Ming

HUFFMAN-KING, Derone Allen

IRVIN, Larry


JONES, Daniel F.

LASHUAY, Jerry Warren

MACHACEK, Christopher Thomas

McLEMORE, Patrick James




OSTERHOUT, Stephen Alan

PATTERSON, Sharon Elaine Moore

POWELL, Cordell Sanjuan

PRUITT, Jennifer M. RICHARDS III, Tommy Edward

ROBINS, Darryl

SAMEL, David Anthony

SCOTT, Cortez T.

SHARP, Jenard Edward

SHUMAN, Douglas Suwannapak

SIMPSON, Yolanda Elaine

SMITH, Mario

SMITH-EL, Bosie Lee

STEWART, Deangelo


THOMAS, James Dion

TOBAR, Christopher

WARE, Gameliel

WATERS, Charles


REYES, Tyrone Lee