HULLIHEN TRIAL: Eyewitnesses testify about shooting at Marion gas station
REED CITY – Gabrielle Woodworth and Donald C. Feneis were shot and killed in a gas station parking lot while two small children sat in the back seat of their car. All evidence points to the shooter being Blake Hullihen.
Whether the shootings were pre-meditated murder or self-defense will be the subject of debate this week as Hullihen stands trial in Reed City.
Osceola County Assistant Prosecutor Andy LePres outlined the circumstances of Woodworth and Feneis’ deaths on Wednesday in his opening statement, naming Hullihen as the shooter.
Hullihen’s attorney, Dennis DuVall, said in his argument that he agreed that much was probably true.
“Quite frankly, I agree with everything Mr. LePres said,” he told jurors. “What we need to figure out is the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the shootings.”
Hullihen is charged with two counts of open murder and two counts of felony firearm possession. If jurors decide Hullihen is guilty of murder, they must decide whether it was in the first or second degree. First-degree murder is premeditated and deliberate, often with time enough for the suspect to reconsider their actions. Second-degree murder is unplanned, and can come as the result of an assault the aggressor knew was likely to cause serious injury or death.
A few weeks before he shot Woodworth and Feneis, Hullihen lost custody of the daughter he shared with Woodworth, said Carey Adrience, a Child Protective Service employee. Woodworth was a mother of three, and shared one child with Hullihen.
Adrience worked on a CPS case for about four month in 2011 with Woodworth. For years, Hullihen had primary custody of his daughter, she said, but Woodworth won custody in November 2011 after a filing in a Clare County court.
Adrience and Woodworth spoke on Dec. 7, 2011, a few hours before Woodworth was killed. Adrience called Woodworth to ask if she could conduct a home visit, but Woodworth said she was going to meet Hullihen to make the court-ordered custody exchange.
“I asked her how Blake was doing, and she said he was not very happy,” Adrience said.
Penny Savage stopped at Chuck’s Corners to refill her coffee and use the restroom around 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2011. She was the first eyewitness to testify on Wednesday.
Savage parked her car at a gas pump and went inside. As she exited the store to return to her vehicle, she heard a popping sound in the parking lot. She turned to the clerk, Jamie Kocur, and said, “Who would be lighting firecrackers at this time of year?” As she walked toward her car, Savage heard more pops, and then ducked when she saw a flash. She turned to see Feneis drop to the ground.
“I turned around and looked again, and saw (the shooter) drop the barrel, look straight at me, put the new clip in, and very methodically emptied it … into the body laying on the ground,” she said. “He had already shot him twice, and as he emptied the gun, he emptied the rest of it into his chest. … I said to myself, ‘OK, this is real.’”
After Hullihen finished shooting Feneis, he got into his truck and drove over another body as he left the parking lot, Savage said. This was the first time Savage saw Woodworth’s body, and as she went over to check on her, she said she saw tire tracks across her body.
“I wasn’t believing that I was seeing what I was seeing,” Savage said.
Carl Asher also was present at the time of the shooting, parked at the gas pumps near Savage. He was replacing the fuel nozzle when he heard the gunshots, which he also believed to be firecrackers until he looked over and saw “muzzle flashes.” Asher ducked between his and Savage’s vehicles, then heard what he described as another clip being loaded into the shooter’s gun before another round of shots were fired.
Asher watched as the shooter’s truck pulled out of the gas station parking lot onto M-115, make a right turn onto M-66 and stop at the stop sign.
“He let all the traffic go through before he proceeded to cross,” Asher said.
Chuck’s Corners employee Jamie Kocur also testified to seeing the truck leave the parking lot in what appeared to be an unhurried manner.
By the time an ambulance arrived, both Woodworth and Feneis were dead, said David Turner, a paramedic and medical examiner investigator with Osceola County Emergency Medical Services. Turner and his partner were the first responders to arrive to the scene, but instead of providing treatment, they began securing the crime scene for police.
Evart Police Officer Michelle Gevvin was the first law enforcement officer to respond to the shooting. Upon arrival, she saw two people lying in the parking lot and two small children in the backseat of the vehicle near the bodies. She helped paramedics secure the scene before searching the victims’ vehicle. She reported finding no weapons. She then removed the children from the vehicle and sat with them in her patrol car until a DHS worker arrived to take them.
Michigan State Police Trooper Joseph Allen arrived shortly after Gevvin and began photographing the scene. Numerous shell casings were recovered from the ground, he said, along with a handgun magazine and a bullet that bounced off a van parked near the victim’s car. He also photographed the victim’s bodies. Much of Allen’s testimony was spent describing different aspects of his crime scene photographs to the jurors.
Proceedings will resume at 9 a.m. today in Osceola County’s 49th Circuit Court.