PONTIAC (WWJ/AP) - A teenage boy upset about getting a fake $10 bill in exchange for marijuana led to a 52-year-old woman and her friend being gunned down and left to die in their suburban Detroit residence, authorities said Tuesday.
“It’s unfortunate that a counterfeit $10 bill used to buy marijuana … directly or indirectly led to the killing of two people,” District Judge Michael Martinez said as he ordered 15-year-old Semaj Moran and 22-year-old Arnold Howard to trial on murder and robbery charges. “That is a shame. (It’s) unconscionable.”
The shackled defendants appeared in court Tuesday, dressed in jail jump suits. About two dozen family members belonging to the victims and defendants filled every available seat in the small court room and remained largely quiet for much of the hearing.
Authorities say Moran fatally shot Loretta Fournier and 58-year-old Luann Robinson Feb. 17 in the two-apartment home they shared on Pingree, northwest of downtown Pontiac. Moran was charged as an adult and faces eight related charges. Co-defendant Howard faces three charges.
Moran and Howard went to see Fournier – who the defendants called “Auntie Loretta” and “Mama Lo” – to smoke marijuana with her and exchange the bogus $10 bill she’d given them earlier, according to police statements read in court. Moran told police that Fournier went to get the money and Howard told him to shoot the woman when the co-defendant flushed the toilet.
Moran hesitated momentarily, police say, then shot Fournier three times, including once in the back and once in the head at close range. The defendants’ statements also say Howard raced upstairs to Robinson’s apartment, where Howard admitted to breaking in, taking her purse and pushing her down the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, police said, Moran shot her once in the head and the defendants fled. His statement says that Howard told him to shoot her.
The defendants’ lawyers objected to the way their clients were interviewed by authorities and read their rights. Moran’s appointed attorney, William Mitchell, called the events “tragic,” but said police “took advantage of” his client’s age when he voluntarily went with his mother to the police station and was questioned alone by investigators.
“I believe (Moran) was not properly advised of his rights,” Mitchell said. “He’s 15 years old. He’s not legally able to consent to anything.”
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