Case dismissed against Mt. Pleasant man accused of killing teen.

July 17, 2021


Case dismissed against Mt. Pleasant man accused of killing teen.

LUDINGTON — Criminal sexual assault charges against a Mt. Pleasant man accused of also killing a 13-year-old Isabella County girl were recently dismissed in Mason County’s 79th District Court. Murder charges, and multiple others, remain in Isabella County. Isaiah G. Gardenhire of 4173 S. Isabella Rd., Mt. Pleasant, is facing 12 felony charges in Isabella County, including open murder, armed robbery, carjacking, first-degree home invasion, and first-degree criminal sexual conduct using a weapon, three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with multiple variables, and two counts each of unlawful imprisonment and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Open murder, armed robbery, carjacking, and criminal sexual conduct charges are all punishable by up to life in prison.

The alleged crimes took place less than 48 hours after Gardenhire bonded out of the Mason County Jail. Gardenhire was arrested May 27, 2021 by the Mason County Sheriff’s Office on a felony charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim age 13 and younger; a charge that is limited to touching and is a 15-year felony. Gardenhire was also charged as a habitual offender, third offense, which would have increased the punishment. The alleged crime occurred May 1, 2015.

Bail was set at $7,500 cash-surety or 10 percent. Gardenhire posted bond through a bonding agency and was released from the Mason County Jail on June 2.

The Mason County CSC case proceeded to a preliminary examination in 79th District Court on Monday, July 12, which saw his alleged victim and her mother testify. The investigating police officer did testify.

At the hearing’s end, defense attorney Douglas E. Stevenson requested a dismissal from Mason County District Judge John D. Middlebrook, stating he didn’t believe there was enough evidence. Middlebrook granted the request to dismiss. 

“I think this prelim is a prime example of the high expectations we place on victims and survivors to remember and recall on the stand precise details of traumatic events,” Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Lauren Kreinbrink told MCP, adding the alleged assault happened approximately five years ago. 

In the early morning hours of June 6, Gardenhire reportedly went on a rampage in Isabella County that began with him sexually assaulting a woman at her residence in the 4100 block of South Isabella Road in Union Township. At some point, Gardenhire turned his attention to the woman’s 13-year-old daughter, Adrie A. Dembowski. The woman fled the scene and when police arrived, they found Adrie suffering from stab wounds. Though emergency personnel attempted to save Adrie’s life, she died of her injuries.

Gardenhire had fled the scene before police arrived. Isabella County Prosecutor David Barberi said Gardenhire hid in a vacant unit at the nearby Jamestown Apartments before taking two residents of an occupied unit hostage. Gardenhire then repeatedly sexually assaulted the female resident, Barberi said.

Gardenhire eventually robbed the residents of money and stole their 2014 Ford Fusion. Amid a large-scale law enforcement manhunt, Gardenhire drove the Fusion to Flint Township, where he surrendered to police the night of June 7.

At his arraignment on June 8, 2021, Gardenhire behaved erratically, interrupting proceedings, guffawing, and flipping off the judge.

Gardenhire has an extensive criminal record. He had been discharged from prison on Feb. 12, 2020, after serving about four years for possessing a firearm conviction out of Mason County; he was setenced in 51st Circuit Court on Jan. 6, 2016 to serve three to 20 years in prison.

He had also been imprisoned for home invasion second degree out of Ingham County and had been convicted in 2000 of assaulting a jail employee/attempting to escape and attempted felonious assault in Isabella County. He was sentenced to three years in prison for each charge.

On Feb. 27, 2020, Gardenhire was arrested by Michigan State Police following a traffic stop on Jebavy Drive near U.S. 10 in Pere Marquette Township. At that time, his address indicated that he was living in the 7000 block of East Stolberg Road in Mason County’s Sheridan Township. He was charged with driving without a license.

On June 23, 2021, Isabella County Judge Sara Spencer-Noggle signed an order to send Gardenhire to the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti where he will be assessed for his competency and criminal responsibility.

Gauging competency means determining if a defendant’s current mental or emotional state is fit enough for trial, to the extent he or she understands the charges against them and their constitutional rights. Criminal responsibility assesses if a defendant should be deemed responsible or not for the alleged crime based on their mental or emotional state when the offense occurred.

Gardenhire remains in custody. The evaluation process could take several months before his next court appearance. 

Murder victim Adrie Dembowski was an eighth grade student at Tawas Area Middle School in Tawas City. Her last day of class would have been June 10, four days after her death. She was a member of the school’s student council and was active in athletic programs such as volleyball and softball. Her obituary described her as having been “a happy-go-lucky and sweet girl.” She would have turned 14 on June 28 and planned on becoming an attorney.

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