2007-05-11 / News

Fellow inmates report suspect didn’t deny crimes

Rosemary Arnholt rarnholt@laview.net

By Rosemary Arnholt
VIEW Staff Writer
LAPEER — Witness testimony in the triple murder trial of Rodney Davenport resumed Tuesday after a three-day break with reports from two former jail inmates who said the defendant didn’t protest his innocence during jail conversations.

One inmate told the jury that Davenport was upset when he saw a story about another criminal in a higher position on a newspaper front page.

“He couldn’t believe it,” one inmate, testified about his reported conversation with Davenport.

“His crime was the crime of the decade, the century the year ... I was a small fish, he was the big fish,” the inmate said of his talks last fall and early this year with the suspect in a commons area of the Lapeer County Jail.

Davenport, 40, was arrested days after police found the body of Marie Melzer, 76, at her Pines of Lapeer apartment. An autopsy showed four stab wounds and bruises around her left eye and hands. Her time of death was between 1 and 9 a.m. July 17, experts reported. Davenport also was the chief suspect in the stabbing deaths of Pines residents James H. Hanson, 50, and Hanson’s roommate, Allyn Oesterle, 61, and was charged with those deaths in December 2006.

The inmate said he befriended Davenport for months while the two were in jail so he could interview him about the three murders. He told jurors that they talked in the commons but he wrote up nearly 40 pages of notes on the sly in his one-man cell and turned them over to law enforcement. “It was the right thing to do. It will bring closure to the families,” he said of his subterfuge.

Prosecutor Byron Konschuh asked the inmate, who is serving time in prison for holdups at Lapeer County businesses last spring, if he was somehow profiting from his self-appointed investigation. The inmate denied receiving any benefit, and in fact, said he now has fears.” I fear being killed. People come up to me and say I’m a snitch, but it’s the right thing to do. I know I’m a criminal, but I’ve turned my life around,” he said.

Under cross-examination from Dan Van Norman, who is defending Davenport against the open murder charges for only the two male victims, The inmate acknowledged that he had spent time at a Forensic Center because he was deemed unfit for trial.

“I couldn’t help my attorney, I didn’t know all the procedures,” he told the court. Van Norman also asked the inmate if he was mentally ill and diagnosed with ADHD, citing trial transcripts. He also asked him if he was taking medication during his time in jail and prison. He said he is currently on several medications including a mood enhancer.

Testimony heard earlier Tuesday centered around Davenport’s activities in the time frame after the three murders, including his capture by police while sleeping in a car at the Covenant Hills Campground. The inmate said Davenport told him that he drove Hanson’s truck around Lapeer and then up I-69 to somewhere around the Davison Road exit. Testimony from Hanson’s relative last week said the victim was protective of his truck and not likely to let someone else drive it.

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