Lansing Men To Stand Trial On Murder Charges

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

LANSING -- For the second straight day, 22-year-old Benjamin French and David Marion, Jr. appeared in court for their preliminary examination -- this time to hear the judge's decision that they will indeed go to trial.

The two Lansing-area natives are accused of killing 18-year-old Darren Brown, Jr. and 23-year-old Owen Goodenow last March 25 in Lansing. All four were friends.

"It was a Cal-Tech, 9 millimeter, semi-automatic handgun," said Det. Sgt. Thomas Declercq, from Michigan State Police, called on Thursday to testify about forensic evidence he's analyzed and a statement he took from French back in September.

That gun was a key piece of evidence released by the prosecution in hopes of establishing probable cause that Marion Jr. and French committed the murders.

The firearm belonged to Marion Jr.'s father, and the bullets that killed both the victims (and were recovered at the crime scene) came from that handgun, according to the prosecution.

Authorities say that statements given by French place that gun in Marion Jr.'s hands the day of the murders. Marion Jr.'s statements counter that French was the gunman, according to officials.

"[French] said they had planned it possibly a week," Declercq said Thursday, referring again to a confession he says he obtained from French.

And new details emerged at the hearing about what it is that authorities say those plans were. According to statements from both Marion Jr. and French, the two plotted to kill Goodenow and steal a safe in his bedroom, filled with drugs and about $100,000.

"[French said] once the safe was opened, they would 'take' Owen Goodenow," Declercq testified. When asked what French had meant by 'take,' the detective responded, "They were going to kill him. They knew they were going to kill him when they pulled into the driveway."

Declercq says that when the defendants arrived at 3214 Glasgow on March 25, they also killed Brown Jr. and fled with the safe, which they later opened with a saw -- a saw that was found months later at French's residence.

The defense, meanwhile, suffered a defeat in the case. The judge ruled that he would allow a wire-tapped cell phone conversation between Marion Jr. and French (to which Marion Jr. had consented) as evidence in the trial, saying the FBI had both the jurisidiction and the authority to conduct it.

That conversation and subsequent statements from both French and Marion Jr. amount to what the prosecution would call confessions.

As for each defendant calling the other out as the gunman, the judge said it matters little -- an accomplice to the murders in this case is considered a killer just the same.

On those grounds, the judge declared Thursday there was probable cause to believe French and Marion Jr. committed the crimes, and bound them over to the circuit court for a trial.

They each face the same five charges -- two count of open murder; one of felony firearm; one of armed robbery; and one of conspiracy to commit open murder.

They'll next appear in court March 16 for a circuit court arraignment.

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