Suspects in New Year's Beating Death Headed to Trial

By: Lindsay Veremis Email
By: Lindsay Veremis Email

Two men accused of beating a man to death early New Year's Day are heading to trial, facing more serious charges than before.

During a Tuesday hearing, a judge found enough evidence to bind Austin Smith and Donald Suttle over to trial on second degree murder charges. The pair were originally facing involuntary manslaughter in the death of 30-year-old Travis Peterson.

Prosecutors describe the fight that killed Peterson as vicious, brutal and violent.

"We have five men chasing down an unarmed person down the street who is acting in a defensive manner," Assistant Ingham County Prosecutor Bill Crino said.

The prosecution claims those men, including Smith and Suttle, attacked Peterson like a pack of wolves, kicking and punching him repeatedly as Suttle wielded a baton.

"That characterization of it being a pack of wolves came from an eyewitness in this case and that's the words he said to police immediately upon being interviewed the next morning," Crino added.

Prosecutors believe that testimony proves this was not just a bar fight, but a deliberate, intentional act. They asked the judge to increase charges against Smith and Suttle from involuntary manslaughter to second degree murder.

The defense had a different version of events. Attorney's for Smith and Suttle say the cause of Peterson's death is unclear. They point to his .24 blood-alcohol level and say he could have sustained the fatal injury by falling.

The judge sided with the prosecution and ruled there is probably cause to try Smith and Suttle for second degree murder.

"This isn't unexpected unfortunatley," Suttle's attorney, Patrick Crowley said. "But I do think the facts of the case as they continue to come out continue to get better and better with regard to my client."

Peterson's family meanwhile is confident a conviction will come.

"The family's having a hard time and of course," Crino said. "It's a very tragic loss for them. I think they're very pleased with what happened here today, the judge's decision."

Smith and Suttle are facing up to life in prison if convicted. They will be back in court June 27th.

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  • by josh on Nov 9, 2012 at 12:41 PM
    Brannigan Brothers went out of business, thankfully. Hopefully these two animals end up in jail for a long time.
  • by Wish I could warn everybody Location: Lansing on Nov 5, 2012 at 01:02 PM
    Donald Suttle is a very violent man and any woman that gets in his path should fear for her life! He put a gun to my friends head and threaten to kill her for being disrespectful. He punched her in the face repeatedly, her whole face was bruised and swollen and was mad because she went to the hospital. He threatened her repeatedly that he would kill her and her family if she ever left him. This man will smile in your face and make you feel like you are the most beautiful woman on the earth until one day he just snaps and beats the hell out of you or worse!! I am sorry for your daughter Ain't Tellin, I really hope they put this crazy psycho away for life without parole this time! How many times do you get to kill or attempt to kill people before you go away for life! I hope they see through all the bs this time!!!
  • by ain't tellin on Sep 14, 2012 at 04:00 PM
    Suttles is a very violent man. He raped my daughter multiple times, and when he was done, he called his buddy, an LPD cop, to take him home!! My daughter couldn't call the cops on this guy! He also recorded the rape on his phone! I hope he gets put away forever for this 2nd degree murder!
  • by Truth on Jun 13, 2012 at 04:06 AM
    The truth of the matter is both guys played a part in the death of this man. Who was running away from them drunk. Don Suttles is the type of guy to pick on white people to feel tuff, but wouldn't think of fighting a black guy. He's a punk. Second degree murder is uncalled for, because the there was no form of intent to kill the victim. But coward will roam in packs!!!
  • by Chris Location: Lansing on Jun 12, 2012 at 06:48 PM
    This is tip of the Ice berg. There's so much bad down there. I've seen LPD pick up waisted cops in squad cars. I've heard off duty cops gettin high with people that work at the bars. LPD needs to make their Cops do random drug test. I'm telling these Cops are bad. Test them. The bar was well known Cop bar. Now they are at the Tin Can. Watch more people will get hurt. Come on Mayer drug test your people. All of them even you should be tested !!
  • by anon on Jun 12, 2012 at 04:26 PM
    This is so sad. The man died from hitting his head on the pavement. He was a big guy. Many people that were there said only one man chased the guy. And yes there was a fight but he was also a large part of it. Austin is not a violent person by any means. The other guy has been to jail for murder before. Why they are charging both of these men just baffles me. I pray the truth comes out and an innocent man is not convicted of a crime he did not commit.
    • reply
      by Anon on Jun 12, 2012 at 07:44 PM in reply to anon
      If you really know Austin then you would know that it is about time Karma caught up to him with everything that he has done. He may not be violent when sober, but he drank pretty much every night he was working at that bar and I know for a fact he was drunk that night and had been doing multiple shots with many different people. He even admitted to a few people before Travis died that he did hit him. Keep in mind they would not be charging him if they did not have enough evidence and witnesses.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 13, 2012 at 02:01 AM in reply to anon
      ever heard of "guilt by association" makes no difference if he is a violent person or not...he was a part of a fight that someone died as a result of and that makes him as guilty as the other parties involved
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