Peaceful Suburban Rochester Hills, scene of shooting with intent to murder. Man held in shooting of mother's neighbor in dispute over property line. Steven Vondra, 47 in critical condition, in coma. David Deaton in custody faces life in prison. Charges include illegal use of pepper spray and Felony Firearm. The defense begins.
HOW I DID IT.
In late January 2011, while the snow was still on the ground, and the quiet Monday afternoon drifted towards twilight, David Deaton pounded on the door of Steven Vondra, cursed, screamed, sending a shock of fright through Kelly Vondra, Steven's wife, and Betty Jean Russell, Steven's mother in law, and brought them all to their front door. There they saw David Deaton carrying off their snow blower and starting to put it into the back of his truck. Kelly Vondra rushed over to where David Deaton was and asked him to stop, to not take their snow blower, let it go. Still in a rage Deaton told her that the blower was on the property of his mother, that he was going to remove it and take it to the police. To protect his wife Steven Vondra left his porch to see to his wife's safety, and almost died as a consequence. When he came up to Deaton, Deaton turned on him, spraying him in the eyes with an illegal spray, sprayed him again and then a third time, blinding him. Kelly in a panic called 911, but it was almost too late. Take your husband into the house, the 911 operator told Kelly, the police are on the way. Kelly hung up, and within seconds her husband lay critically wounded, shot in the back 20 feet from Deaton as he was walking away from Deaton towards his house. Vondra lay writhing on the ground to the horror of his wife and mother in law, shot before their eyes by Deaton, who now calmly called 911 himself, and told the operator that he had shot Vondra in the ass, and then chuckled, the chuckle is clearly audible on the 911 tape. Within minutes, when the Rochester Hills police arrived, Deaton still was calmly waiting for them, seeming unperturbed by the carnage he had caused. He gave up his gun without a qualm, told the police that he acted in self defense and then refused to say more. He was taken to into custody on the spot.
Those are the facts as given to me when I first got the case, and for a long time they were the facts as presented to the public and the Courts by the prosecution. They are not correct, they are not complete, but a lot of work lay ahead.
The Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the Oakland Press all carried the news. The Macomb Daily said "Bond has been set at $250,000 for the 57 year old man accused of shooting his mother's neighbor in the buttocks. Rochester Hills resident David Deaton charge with assault with intent to murder, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony and the use of a dangerous weapon (pepper spray). The charges stem from a Monday afternoon shooting, in which Deaton is accused of shooting a 49 year old resident of a home in the 2800 block of Grant. The Shooting occurred during an argument about the property line between the victim's home and Deaton's mother's home. Deaton's mother is 85 years old." Dave Phillips of the Oakland Press wrote that, and except for getting David Deaton's residence wrong (Dave Deaton lives in Auburn Hills, the next town over), he got the prosecution's story right. And that was the prosecution story. With minor changes it remained the prosecution story throughout. Its what the prosecutor told Judge Julie Nicholson when Deaton was arraigned, and that's what he told her when Deaton was brought before her at the preliminary examination in this case in the 52-3 District Court, and that's what he told Judge Nanci Grant in the 6th Circuit Court for the County of Oakland, and 14 jurors when Deaton whet on trial for his life. Assault with intent to murder is punishable by up to life in prison, and Felony Firearm carries a mandatory 2 years consecutive to any other sentence imposed. The pepper spray charges were high court misdemeanors and carried a maximum of 2 years. The prosecution said Deaton's victim, Vondra, had been shot in the back at a distance of about 20 feet, going away from Deaton and not towards him, and that Vondra was unarmed, he had no club, no knife, nothing. There were three eye witnesses against him, Vondra, his wife and his mother in law. Deaton had only himself. Vondra had been maintained in a medically induced coma for days, and his life was not out of danger for weeks. The bullet had traveled through Vondra's a foot and a half into his body, cut his gut, cut his large and small intestine, nicked his liver, entered the abdominal area and could not be removed. Vondra had a colostomy and might have to wear a colostomy bag for life. By the time of trial he had lost about 80 pounds. If Deaton were convicted he would have to spend 2 years in prison for the Felony Firearm before beginning to serve the term for the assault with intent to murder count, and that, at a minimum must be between 81 and 135 months before he even became eligible for parole, and the maximum could be up to life. Judge Grant, the trial judge in this case, already showed that she might give Deaton the maximum, and she did not like his defense lawyer either. Other than Deaton himself, there were no eye witnesses on his side.
After a trial that lasted a week, David Deaton was acquitted of assault with intent to murder.
How I did it next time.