Second-degree murder charges were authorized this afternoon against a 50-year-old Battle Creek man suspected of plowing through nine cyclists, killing five, on Tuesday.
Charles E. Pickett faces five counts of second degree murder, along with four counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment. The charges were authorized by District Judge Haenicke at the request of Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting, who was holding a press conference this afternoon.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said Pickett is “medically unable” to be arraigned, but he could be arraigned on Friday. He declined to give specifics on his condition or to say which hospital he’s in.
Getting declined to elaborate on how his office decided to charge Pickett with the five murder counts.
“We believe the charge of second-degree murder is well-merited,” he said.
More evidence is being analyzed at Michigan State Police crime labs. And more charges are possible in the future.
Pickett has no history of traffic violations in the state, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. State records also show no criminal history in Michigan.
A Facebook page for “Charlie E. Pickett” shows numerous sexually provocative memes and a profile picture with a skull and revolvers that reads, “Never water yourself down just because someone can’t handle you at 100 proof.”
The most recent post, dated May 30: “Pissed because people only care about their bull****. and of course when s*** gets tough the(y) feed ya to the wolves.”
Kalamazoo WWMT reports a news crew that visited Pickett’s home in Battle Creek was chased away:
“Newschannel 3 went to Pickett’s home on Wednesday for comment, but the family threatened to chase us off the property with a front end loader, and followed us in a car before a brief verbal exchange took place,” according to the station’s website.
The cyclists were members of a group, dubbed “The Chain Gang,” that made regular rides every Tuesday evening. The cyclists were riding up a hill on a two-lane road in Cooper Township, north of Kalamazoo, just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when a a blue Chevrolet pickup plowed into the group from behind, killing five of them and injuring four, according to authorities.
The five cyclists who were killed were identified as Debra Ann Bradley, 53, of Augusta; Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, 42, of Augusta; Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo; Lorenz John (Larry) Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo; and Suzanne Joan Sippel, 56, of Augusta. The injured cyclists are Paul Douglas Gobble, 47, of Richland; Sheila Diane Jeske, 53, of Richland; Jennifer Lynn Johnson, 40, of Kalamazoo; and Paul Lewis Runnels, 65, of Richland.
“As members of the Kalamazoo community we have all been dealt a devastating blow by the deaths and injuries of so many innocent people,” Getting said in a news release Thursday. “Our hearts are saddened for the victims, their families and friends who are trying to cope with this tragedy. As a community, we must reach out to them and give them our support as we all struggle to deal with what has happened.”