By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.
LUDINGTON — The 65-year-old Ludington man who shot Ludington Police Sgt. David Maltbie has entered a no contest plea but mentally ill Wednesday night in 51st Circuit Court. Lowell Fetters of 707 N. Delia St., was expected to go on trial next week. He faced 32 counts stemming from a June 27, 2012 incident at his home, including shooting Sgt. Maltbie. A no contest plea is considered by the court as a no guilty plea.
Fetters was facing a life sentence for his actions on that day.
In exchange for pleading the plea agreement, the prosecutor will drop all charges with the exception of six of the counts. Those counts include assault to commit murder against Sgt. Maltbie, felony firearms, and felonious assault on Ludington police officers Aaron Sailor and Jason Smith and Mason County Sheriff’s Sgt. Oscar Davila and Dep. Derrek Wilson and malicious destruction of police property.
Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola is recommending sentencing of 13 years to 20 years, he would be eligible for parole after 15 years.
When asked by Judge Richard Cooper if he agreed with the terms of the plea offer, Fetters responded: “I guess I’m going to have to go with it.”
Defense attorney David Glancy said the reason for the no contest plea was that Lowell did not recall all of the events of that day.
As part of a no contest plea, the judge has the right to use other sources, besides court testimony, to determine sentencing. Judge Cooper read police reports filed by Maltbie, Sailor, Smith, Davila and Wilson.
The reports explained the events from the police officers’ points of view. Officers Smith and Sailor were the first two to arrive. Upon arrival,
Lowell and his wife, Kaye, were in the front yard arguing. The argument stemmed from Kaye saying that she was upset because Lowell had damaged her SUV in a local store’s parking lot. Lowell was also upset because Kaye, who had suffered a stroke a few weeks earlier, was not taking her medication, according to their son, Gerry, in an exclusive interview with MCP.
Lowell told the officers to leave, the reports stated. When officers did not comply, he produced a gun. Officer Smith was standing next to Kaye by the couple’s vehicle when Lowell apparently started shooting in their direction, the reports stated.
Officers then returned fire. Lowell then returned fire again. Shortly after that time, Maltbie arrived on the scene and was shot. Maltbie was able to get himself back to his vehicle, parked on Tinkham Avenue. At some point during the exchange, Lowell was shot.
Lowell retreated back into the house and shut the door. Police then made attempts to negotiate with him. Eventually he surrendered.
Lowell had stated that the police had shot first. However, his wife stated that she thought the first shots came from their house. Lowell said he was shot in the back while he was in his house, talking on the phone with his daughter, Erica Duncil.
Fetters will be sentenced on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 at 2:30 p.m.
Fetters’ family would like to see him get mental treatment rather than prison time (See related story). A psychiatric examination from Dr. Steven Miller of Gross Ille, determined that Lowell suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome and episodic depression stemming from his tour in Vietnam in the late 1960s. Gerry Fetters said his dad rarely discussed the war but had a short temper. The diagnoses are considered major mental health disorders, according to Dr. Miller’s report. However, the level of mental illness would not fall under the category of being legally insane.
Lowell told Dr. Miller that while he was a mechanic during the war, his hunting experience meant that he would often serve security duty and also serve as a sniper. He admitted that he had witnessed several soldiers and friends killed and that he had killed himself.
He said he would often have flashbacks and periods of disassociation.
When Lowell’s children were young, their mother, Kaye, would often use a code word when Lowell was in a violent mood, according to a report of the psychiatric exam acquired by MCP. The judge read excerpts from the report.
Lowell had only been charged with one crime prior to the incidence of June 27, 2012, however he had a long history of having run-ins with law enforcement.
He told Dr. Miller that he felt he was acting in self defense on June 27, 2012.
His children told the examiner that Lowell could not be in large crowds. He was not able to attend fireworks displays and his children were not allowed to watch war movies. He also would get upset when seeing people of Vietnamese decent. Dr. Miller described Lowell’s personality as passive aggressive.
The one time that Lowell had been charged, it involved a domestic assault against his juvenile son, Joel in the late 1990s. Sgt. Maltbie was one of the arresting officers during that event, which resulted in police using a taser gun to subdue Lowell.
Defense attorney David Glancy said afterwards that a jury trial could have resulted in a much harsher punishment for his client. “All things considered, when a case goes to jury trial we don’t have any control over the outcome. By accepting a plea of no contest, we can at least be assured that Mr. Fetters will be eligible for parole in 15 years. In addition, by entering the plea of no contest, but mentally ill, Mr. Fetters may very well get the help that he needs. I know that was very important to his family.”
Prosecutor Paul Spaniola said he was pleased that the case has seen resolution. “I believe this outcome demonstrates that we are behind our law enforcement officers. This incidence really shows the types of dangers these folks face every day they are on the job. We are very thankful that the types of injuries Sgt. Maltie sustained were not more serious than they were.”
Spaniola said the outcome of the case was the result of a lot of hard work from many members of the law enforcement community.
Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett said he preferred to hold comment until after sentencing took place. But, Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole said he was happy with the outcome of today’s hearing. “I spoke with one of the deputies involved and he said he was pleased. He also indicated that his partner, who was involved in the incident, was also pleased. If my guys are happy, then I’m happy. It’s good that we have resolution in this case.”