The case against a Fraser man accused in the of a 69-year-old Macomb Township woman was always based on circumstantial evidence, but with the death of a key witness for the prosecution, the case has become even more complex.
Hadrian Lewandowski, 49, of Grosse Pointe Woods, who was scheduled to testify against Joseph Reiner on Thursday, died unexpectedly May 26 of natural causes.
Lewandowski, who owns a pawn shop in Eastpointe, helped police link Reiner to the victim, Joann Eisenhardt, by identifying him as the person who pawned jewelry items belonging to Eisenhardt.
With Lewandowski's death, the prosecution has lost a key witness, as the victim, who has thus far been unable to identify her attacker, also remains hospitalized as a result of her original injuries.
"She has been in and out of the hospital for the last few weeks," said Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor William Cataldo, in a with Macomb Patch. "We have talked with the family and there have been many issues."
Cataldo told the The Macomb Daily he plans to use two police officers and a lay witness to replace Lewandowski during Thursday ’s preliminary examination before Judge Douglas Shepherd in 41A District Court.
"It makes the case more difficult, but not insurmountable," Cataldo said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
While there is physical evidence tying Reiner to the crime, DNA testing has not been completed and will not be used in the preliminary examination.
Reiner, 27, faces a charge of first-degree home invasion and assault with intent to murder.
“This is extremely damaging to the prosecution’s case,” said Reiner’s defense attorney, Timothy Barkovic, in an interview with The Macomb Daily. “He’s the only one who can connect the defendant and the shop. My client denies being there or having any involvement in this crime. I’m confident they have the wrong man in the Macomb County Jail.”
The stabbing took place on Fairchild Road near 22 Mile Road on Feb. 23. Eisenhardt was stabbed twice in the neck and taken to the hospital with knives still stuck in her neck.
Reiner is also a suspect in , which took place Feb. 24 and 25 and involved the theft of a 1999 Acura, which Reiner was driving at the time of his arrest.
Reiner’s three-day crime spree came to an end on Feb. 26 when he was arrested by the New York State police on the Tappan Zee Bridge in Orangetown, NY, after an almost 100-mile car chase that started in Roxbury, NJ.