Victim: Nancy Faber
Murderer: Machelle Pearson, 17 & Ricardo Hart
Crime date: November 23, 1983
Crime location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Hart and Pearson robbed and murdered Nancy after she left an Ann Arbor Kroger.
Nancy, 39, was a speech therapist. She was also a wife to Ann Arbor News columnist Dan Farber and a mother to two children.
Most murders are committed by someone the victim knows. When a stranger murders someone, it only seems to make the crime that much more unbearable. This occurred on November 23, 1983, as Nancy Faber was leaving the Kroger store on Green Road.
Faber had left the store and was found in the 1900 block of Green Road in her Ford Fairmont. A passerby thought she was having a heart attack and when police arrived it was apparent she had been shot in the neck and was the victim of a robbery. Faber was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital and died two days later, never regaining consciousness. Faber was a speech therapist in the Plymouth-Canton School District and wife of Don Faber, columnist for the Ann Arbor News.
Faber’s groceries were still in the vehicle but her purse was missing. Investigation found that she had checked out of Kroger’s at about 8:00 p.m. and was traveling the short distance to her home. Detectives theorized that she was robbed as she entered her vehicle and the killer forced her to drive the short distance down Green Road, where she was then shot. They also believed the killer could have been from out of town, due to the close proximity of US-23.
Investigating the crime, detectives were stumped and had no leads to go on. They searched the city landfill in the hope Faber’s purse was discarded in a trash can near the scene and then taken to the dump. This search was fruitless however.
The break came in mid-December, when Machelle Pearson contacted Trooper Henry Tyler of the Ypsilanti post and began talking about the Faber shooting. He became convinced she was involved with the shooting and turned this information over to Ann Arbor Detectives. Guilt possibly made Pearson contact the police, who without this contact, may have never solved the case.
Detective Richard Anderson obtained a full confession from Pearson and she was charged with the murder. Pearson stated she had approached Faber in the parking lot of Kroger’s and asked for a ride to the 1700 block of Green Road. Faber agreed and while they were enroute, Pearson robbed and shot Faber.
In Pearson’s taped confession, she stated she was forced to rob someone by her boyfriend Ricardo Hart, who threatened to beat her if she did not. She also stated she did not mean to shoot Faber but the gun just “went off.”
According to Pearson, on the day of the shooting she was driven by Hart to Ann Arbor in his Ford Maverick. This vehicle was seen near the scene of the crime right before the shooting. Pearson placed the blame on Hart stating that he slapped her in the parking lot of Kroger’s, gave her the gun and ordered her to rob Faber who was exiting the store.
Pearson stated she walked up to Faber and asked for a ride to the Green Road housing complex. “I got in the car with her and he (Hart) was right behind us. We were talking and she asked my name, she thought she knew me…..and then we started riding and got about a quarter mile away from Kroger’s.
“Then I kind of glanced back at the rear view mirror and I seen Ricky back there and I pulled the gun out. I said look, I’m being forced to do this. I said I don’t want to, all I want is your money.
“And then she started getting excited and started reaching and I had the gun, but I didn’t have my finger on the trigger, it wasn’t even cocked and it just went off. I didn’t even pull the trigger.”
On January 6, 1984, Ricardo Hart was arrested and charged with armed robbery and felony murder for the death of Nancy Faber. The gun that was used to murder Faber had been given to Hart by his step-brother. This step-brother also implicated Hart in the planning of the robbery as did Pearson.
At the preliminary exam for Ricardo Hart, his half-brother’s girlfriend testified that Hart and Pearson celebrated when they heard the news of Faber’s death and gave each other high fives stating, “Now there won’t be any witnesses.”
Hart’s half-brother also testified implicating Hart.
Our review indicates that ample circumstantial evidence apart from the admission was introduced to indicate that the murder occurred during an armed robbery. The victim, Nancy Faber, left her home in the early evening hours of November 22, 1983, to run some errands and to do some grocery shopping. She was carrying a purse. Nancy Faber bought groceries at a nearby Kroger store and paid for them with a check. The cash register receipt indicated the purchase was made at 7:56 P.M. At 8:11 P.M., a passing motorist noticed the victim’s car parked on the side of a road a short distance from the Kroger store with the victim slumped over the wheel. She had been shot once in the head at close range. No purse, checkbook, or identification was found in the car or in the victim’s coat. This evidence amply justified the conclusion that the victim had been shot and robbed during the brief interval between the time she left the store and the time she was discovered by a passing motorist. This is not a situation where the felony element of the felony murder conviction was established solely by a statement made by the defendant.
In the instant case, there was evidence that defendant instructed Machelle Pearson, the codefendant, to ask the first unaccompanied woman to come out of the Kroger store for a ride. Defendant supplied Pearson with a loaded .38 caliber gun, which she was to use to take the woman’s purse once they had driven away from the store. Defendant followed in his car. Once the victim’s car came to a stop, defendant pulled up behind and he and Pearson made their escape. We conclude that defendant acted with a sufficient criminal intent to sustain his conviction for murder. His actions in planning the robbery, supplying the loaded weapon, and providing a means of escape indicate that the criminal enterprise was cooperative in nature. Kelly, supra, p 280. More importantly, his actions may be characterized as a wanton or wilful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of his behavior was to cause death or serious bodily injury. The very essence of armed robbery is the procurement of another’s property through threat of death or bodily injury. The jury could infer that, by creating the inherently dangerous situation, defendant was aware that there was a likelihood Pearson would harm the victim if she resisted the robbery attempt.
The first thing Machelle Pearson, 52, did when she was paroled in August was cry. She cried on her brother for about three hours that day, she estimated.
Her nieces and nephews had greeted her at home with “Welcome home” signs, she said. A friend took her to buy new shoes, eat out and walk along the Detroit waterfront, she said.
“I just stood there looking into the water, because I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was, how blue it was, how peaceful it was – so serene – just standing there,” she said. “I remember crying, saying ‘I’m really free.'”
Pearson was convicted in 1984, at 17, in the shooting death of Nancy Faber, 39, during a robbery as she left a Kroger on the west side of Ann Arbor the previous year.
Faber, a speech therapist and wife of Ann Arbor News columnist and chief editorial writer Don Faber, died at the hospital after being shot in the neck, according to News accounts.
When Pearson was convicted, the now-late Don Faber said he felt he jury did the right thing, News accounts show.
“It doesn’t get a wife and mother back, but it helps,” he said.
In a statement read by Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie at Pearson’s resentencing in June 2017, one of the two children Nancy Faber left behind recalled a mother who made dollhouses and hand-sewn book bags.
“I feel uncomfortable and less safe at the thought of either of these people roaming free,” Faber’s daughter said of the two convicted, according to the statement included in court transcripts.
Pearson was released from prison in and has since become an advocate for other juvenile offenders with the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY).