Prosecution Awaits Autopsy to Push for Murder Charge in Stabbing Case
Pending the results of the Macomb County medical examiner's autopsy report, Joseph T. Reiner could face a felony murder charge in December. Reiner is the suspect in the Feb. 23 stabbing of a Macomb Township woman.
When stabbing suspect Joseph T. Reiner, 27, appeared in 41A District Court Wednesday, members of the courtroom found it hard to ignore Reiner's newest facial features, namely two tattooed devil horns on his forehead.
"It's surprising to me," said prosecuting attorney William Cataldo. "He definitely chose to appear in court with devil horns on his forehead ... I've never seen this before, someone try to create the persona of evil. It presents a negative appearance."
Reiner, who is currently facing charges of home invasion and attempted murder stemming from the Feb. 23 stabbing of a Macomb Township woman, could soon find his charges upgraded to felony murder.
With the Sept. 20 death of the victim, Joanne Eisenhardt, 69, Cataldo is awaiting the results of an autopsy from Macomb County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz to give him the support he needs to push for a felony murder charge.
The results will be presented in court Dec. 7 and the case will be moved to circuit court for trial.
Meanwhile, the prosecution continues to wait for the results of DNA evidence obtained from Reiner at the time of his arrest. This evidence, consisting of blood stains on a shirt and boots found with Reiner at the time of his arrest, has been with the Michigan State Police for eight months.
"We're told it's being processed at this point," Cataldo said.
However, until that evidence returns, Cataldo must use eyewitness reports and a timeline to build his case against Reiner.
During Wednesday's preliminary examination, Cataldo called three witnesses to the stand to further cement Reiner's presence in the area of the attack and link Reiner to the victim through jewelry it is alleged he stole from her during the attack.
The prosecution alleges that it was Reiner who broke into Eisenhardt's home on the morning of Feb. 23, stabbing her twice in the neck with two steak knives before stealing two pieces of jewelry–a ring and pendant with a magnifying glass–and fleeing the scene.
During a previous court date, Eisenhardt's neighbor, Thomas Kosciolek, was able to place Reiner in the area of the attack and identify Reiner in court as the man he drove from the area of Eisenhardt's home at Fairchild and 22 Mile Road to 15 Mile and Gratiot on Feb. 23.
On Wednesday, a second neighbor, Allen Pauli, testified to seeing Reiner along Fairchild Road at approximately 9:45 a.m. on Feb. 23, about 20 minutes before Kosciolek said he picked Reiner up. Pauli maintained that he saw Reiner's face clearly at that time and was able to identify him in court as the man he saw on the road.
Although both Kosciolek and Pauli have placed Reiner in the area of Eisenhardt's home around the time of the attack, the prime evidence linking Reiner to Eisenhardt remains his possession of her jewelry, which he is alleged to have taken to an Eastpointe gold shop to sell on the day of the attack.
A third eyewitness, Hadrian Lewandowski, who owned the gold shop, passed away of natural causes May 26. On Wednesday, Judge Douglas P. Shepherd moved to allow the testimony Lewandowski gave to police as evidence in the case.
A receipt dated Feb. 23 and signed by Reiner indicates that Reiner sold two pieces of jewelry to Lewandowski and received $2 in return. Lewandowski later confirmed in statements to police that this jewelry consisted of a ring and pendant with magnifying glass.
Brittany Burton, 23, the fiancee of Eisenhardt's grandson, who was with Eisenhardt days before the attack, was able to positively identify the ring obtained by police from Lewandowski as that belonging to Eisenhardt.
Reiner will remain housed in the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven despite efforts by his attorney, Timothy Barkovic, to have him placed on personal bond.
"This was a horrific crime," Cataldo said in response to Barkovic's request. "It was a reckless act of depravity and nothing should allow the grant of bond."
Cataldo went on to note that the last time Reiner was sought by police, he fled the state and lead New York and New Jersey police on a 180-mile chase before being arrested.