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Wanted man turns self in, to face 12 charges

Bond from local case draws protest, criticism

Officer Joshua Lator updates the press about recent attacks in Isabella County and the arrest of Isaiah Gary "Zeke" Gardenhire. Left to right: MSP PIO Michelle Robinson, Officer Joshua Lator (at podium), Prosecutor David Barberi, Detective Joe McMillan.

Note: This story was a collaboration between Central Michigan Life and The Ludington Daily News.

Story by Tess Ware, Patrick Bouman, Cheryl Higginson, Justin Cooper and David Bossick

A man was arrested in Flint Tuesday morning in connection with a homicide and more crimes that occurred Sunday and Monday at residences on South Isabella Road in Isabella County’s Union Township near Mount Pleasant.

Isaiah Gary “Zeke” Gardenhire, 40, of Mount Pleasant, is accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend and fatally stabbing her daughter. He also allegedly held two others captive — a man and a woman — and sexually assaulted the woman. He then allegedly stole a vehicle before heading to Flint.

According to the Associated Press, he turned himself into officers in Flint. He surrendered to police Monday night outside a liquor store.

Gardenhire is being held on 12 counts. His arraignment in 76th District Court in Mount Pleasant could not be completed due to Gardenhire’s lack of cooperation, said Isabella County Prosecutor David Barberi during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. It is scheduled to conclude at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday.

The AP reported Gardenhire repeatedly yawned and raised his middle finger Tuesday before the judge in Isabella County adjourned the proceedings until Wednesday.

He is also scheduled to appear in 79th District Court for a probable cause hearing at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday on allegations charged in late May.

The Isabella County Prosecutor’s Office issued a 12-count warrant against Gardenhire Wednesday. The charges include one count of open murder, four counts of criminal sexual conduct, first degree; home invasion, first degree; assault with a dangerous weapon, two counts; two counts of unlawful imprisonment; armed robbery and carjacking.

At the time of the assaults, Gardenhire was out on bond after being arrested in Mason County for sexual assault in the second degree with a person under 13 when he was 17 or older. His bond set at $7,500, which he paid using a bondsman on Wednesday, June 2.

Four days later was when the initial incident occurred in Mount Pleasant, according to the Michigan State Police. Gardenhire fled before police arrived at the residence. He went to Jamestown Apartments in Mount Pleasant where he hid in a vacant apartment until the next evening. From there, he came into contact with two residents of Jamestown Apartments, one male and one female.

He held the two residents in their home and sexually assaulted the female resident multiple times, Barberi said. The next morning, Gardenhire stole money and a vehicle that belonged to the residents and drove to Flint where he was apprehended by local authorities and turned over to Michigan State Police.

The names of the victims will not be released at this time.

The Michigan State Police consider some details of the case to still be under investigation and will not be releasing them at this time.

Barberi said Gardenhire knew the initial two victims, but he was not aware if Gardenhire knew the man and woman he allegedly held captive.

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole confirmed Tuesday that the cases and the victims in the Mason County case were not the same as the victims in the Isabella County case.

“The cases are totally unrelated in the incidents,” Cole said.

Bond from case draws protests, criticism

The bond amount that was paid by an agent on Gardenhire’s drew protesters to the lawn of the Mason County Courthouse and criticism from Barberi. A small group of protesters held signs and picketed along Ludington Avenue, with 79th District Court Attorney Magistrate Glenn Jackson III the target of those protests.

Barberi, during the press conference Tuesday, said it would be easy to criticize Jackson, but speculated there were other issues.

“I think what we’re actually seeing is the byproduct of a kinder, softer, gentler approach to criminal justice. While in many ways when things look good in Lansing, and Lansing thinks looks good for us, does not always translate in (the) real world,” Barberi said. “This is a scenario where this is a bad person, and his bond needed to be set high. But there’s been a lot of discussion of no-cash bails and personal recognizance bonds, et cetera, and unfortunately, this is the byproduct.”

Barberi later said he was surprised the bond in the case in Ludington “was set so low.”

Jackson declined to comment on the protests on the courthouse lawn, and he provided the Ludington Daily News with court documents including the complaint and bond information.

The case in Mason County involved allegations from incidents that allegedly began in May 2015 through February 2016. The charges — criminal sexual conduct second degree (person under 13 when defendant was 17 or older) and habitual offender third offense notice — were authorized for a warrant on April 14, according to the complaint.

He was arraigned on the charges on May 28, one day after his arrest by the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, according to the pretrial release order. Jackson set the bond at $7,500, 10 percent — meaning Gardenhire could pay $750 to get out of jail.

On Wednesday, June 2, Gardenhire bonded out of the Mason County Jail. The bond agency that Gardenhire used earlier this month was Craig’s Bail Bonds of Clare working as the agent.

Before the recent incidents, Gardenhire served time in prison with the Michigan Department of Corrections for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also was convicted of felonious assault, attempted escape from jail or assault of a jail employee and home invasion.

Cheryl Higginson and Justin Cooper are staff writers for the Daily News, and David Bossick is its managing editor. Patrick Bouman is a staff writer for Central Michigan LIFE, the student newspaper for Central Michigan University, and Tess Ware is its editor.