A jury has found a 28-year-old Fraser man guilty of first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder and home invasion related to the stabbing and subsequent death of a Macomb Township woman.
After two-and-a-half hours of deliberation Sept. 14, the 12-member jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts for Joseph T. Reiner, the man accused of breaking into 69-year-old Joann Eisenhardt’s Fairchild Road home, stabbing her in the neck with two steak knives and stealing $2 worth of jewelry on .
For the victim’s family, this verdict was met with tears, hugs and a sense of relief in knowing that justice had at last been served for the woman they affectionately knew as "Mrs. Pinky," a mother, grandmother, sister and dedicated Red Hat lady.
When asked for his reaction to the verdict, Eisenhardt’s eldest son Howard said, “It’s like a ton of bricks just got lifted off.”
The Eisenhardt family has been a fixture in the courtroom since the first charges against .
“Today was a good day in court,” Howard Eisenhardt said, speaking on behalf of his family. “One thing is for sure. Joseph Reiner can’t do this anymore. This cycle of behavior is broken, hopefully forever.”
Although Reiner covered the pair of devil horns he had tattooed on his forehead prior to the trial, Howard Eisenhardt said he believes the $60 worth of make-up used to mask them couldn't "cover what he’s done.”
“There’s only one place those horns will take him and that’s a one-way ticket to hell,” he said. “My mom did not deserve to die the way she did. She was an angel in people’s lives and she’s been surrounded by angels her whole life.”
Reiner will be sentenced on Oct. 31. He could face life in prison for his crimes.
Prosecution uses time, jewelry and motive of operation to prove guilt
The prosecution and defense delivered their closing arguments Friday morning, with Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo beginning by showing a graphic CT scan of Eisenhardt’s neck shortly after her attack. The image, submitted as evidence, provided jurors with a multidimensional view of the two steak knives lodged in her neck.
“(These images) depict the savagery of this offense and what happened in the house and what happened to her,” Cataldo said, going on to remind the jury that after Reiner plunged the knives into Eisenhardt’s neck, he stole approximately $2 worth of jewelry, including a ring from her finger.
“$2 – the value of Ms. Eisenhardt’s life. Bus fare.”
While Eisenhardt did heal from her wounds, Cataldo asked the jury to realize that “she never recovered.” After the attack, Eisenhardt never lived independently again, living in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and relatives’ homes until her death in September 2011.
Although Macomb County Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Spitz initially ruled her death natural, he later testified that the injuries sustained in the attack did contribute to her progressive decline in health and eventual death.
It was on this point that Reiner’s attorney, Timothy Barkovic, argued that Eisenhardt had a history of health conditions and was a “walking time bomb (whose) vital organs could have given out at any time.”
He further argued that unless Reiner was Superman or a character on Star Trek, the crime’s timeline suggests he could not have been in Eisenhardt's home at the time of the attack, as a neighbor of Eisenhardt's had already driven him several miles down the road when the 911 call was made.
“The eyewitness is the most reliable evidence and none say they saw Reiner do anything,” Barkovic said, adding that because Reiner “had the unfortunate circumstance of being in the area at or near the time, they want to pin the tail on the donkey and claim he was in two places at one time.”
While no DNA evidence was found to link Reiner to Eisenhardt, an Eastpointe pawnshop owner, , did identify Reiner to police as the man who pawned two pieces of the victim's jewelry.
As his final piece of evidence, Cataldo reminded jurors of Reiner's previous home invasions, all of which mirrored Eisenhardt's – save the attack – and one of which provided him with the car he was driving when arrested on Feb. 26, 2011 by New York State police after an almost 100-mile car chase through New Jersey.
"We brought in all these items to show he's a murderer," he concluded.