Vehicular homicide case bound over to circuit court

December 6, 2023

Mark Casterman

Vehicular homicide case bound over to circuit court

Argument led to man allegedly running wife over with car

By Allison Scarbrough, News Editor

LUDINGTON — An argument during a ride home from the casino led to the death of 45-year-old Melissa Casterman-Medacco, who the prosecution alleges was run over by a car driven by her husband of 16 years, Mark Casterman, on Sept. 15, 2023 on US 31 near Freeman Road in Free Soil Township.

Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Lauren Kreinbrink said “the fight, the anger and the drinking led to the crash” during a preliminary examination in Mason County’s 79th District Court Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Casterman-Medacco

Following three-and-a-half hours of testimony by half a dozen witnesses Wednesday, Judge John Middlebrook bound over charges of homicide – open murder, operating while intoxicated causing death, operating while license suspended causing death and third-offense operating while intoxicated to 51st Circuit Court.

The testimony “paints a picture of a defendant who was drunk and angry at his wife,” said Kreinbrink. “He was pissed off.”

Witness Patrick Wiese

Several supporters for both the victim and Casterman sat on opposite sides of the courtroom.

Judge Middlebrook said Casterman’s blood alcohol content was .165 at the time of the crash, which is twice the legal limit. 

Casterman’s attorney, Horia Neagos, argued that there is reasonable doubt that Casterman was driving the white 2013 Lincoln MKX SUV that ran over Melissa Casterman-Medacco. “There is not a single individual who can put Mr. Casterman in the vehicle and behind the wheel of the vehicle,” said the defense attorney.

“She was crossing back and forth to be on the opposite side of the road from where the vehicle was,” said the judge as he handed down his decision. “I am satisfied the people (the prosecution) have met its burden.”

The first witness called to the stand was Patrick Wiese, a retired law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service who lives near the scene of the crash. “I was driving down the highway, and I saw a car go across the centerline into the other lane,” Wiese testified. He then observed “a cloud of dust,” followed by “a shoe in the highway” and then saw “a man and a lady in the ditch.” He immediately called 911.

The crash occurred shortly after 11 a.m. in clear conditions and dry roads.

The witness said he observed “a distraught man with a lady across his lap.” He identified the man as Casterman. The witness also observed “a big dent” in the front of the Lincoln MKX. “She wasn’t moving,” he said of the victim. “She looked lifeless.”

Witness Sharon Stakenas

The second witness called to the stand was Mason County sheriff’s deputy Lucas Postema. “I was dispatched to the scene for a vehicle/pedestrian crash,” said Postema. “I was approached by a witness and began performing lifesaving measures. She was unresponsive with no pulse.

“He was lying next to the victim and uncooperative with us and wouldn’t allow any space for us to work on Miss Melissa,” said the deputy of Casterman.

Casterman was placed in a patrol vehicle and then transported to Corewell Health Ludington Hospital for a blood draw. “He made a statement that he was coming back from the (Little River) Casino where he was drinking all night.”

Postema said he observed “bloodshot eyes” on Casterman and could “smell an odor of alcohol from his person.”

“I live in the vicinity of where an accident had occurred,” said the third witness Sharon Stakenas.

As she headed south on US 31 toward her home, she noticed a woman walking alongside the road. “She was on the west side of the road in the southbound lane. I thought she was in imminent danger.

“I just had a feeling come over me. I wanted to stop and ask for help, and I didn’t, and I feel guilty about that.”

The fourth witness called to testify was Det. Stephen Hansen with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, who is a certified accident reconstructionist. 

“I observed damage to the front where the hood meets the grill,” he said of the Lincoln. 

Weeping could be heard among Casterman-Medacco’s family members as Hansen stated that he observed that the victim’s neck was broken. Testimony indicated that both of her shoes were knocked off her feet from the impact of the crash.

Det. Kyle Boyd

Det. Kyle Boyd of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office was the fifth witness called to the stand.

Boyd said he observed “heavy damage to the front of the vehicle” that looked like the shape of a body. He observed a buttocks impression on the hood — an impression of being struck from behind. 

Det. Boyd noted the vehicle’s lower portion of the hood had a distinct crush pattern, which were the same unique marks pressed into the victim’s body. He observed the victim’s left leg was broken. 

Inside the Grand Rapids couple’s car, he found a cooler which contained Michelob Ultra Light beer and bottled water. He also observed “plant material” on objects inside the car.

Video obtained from Freeman Creek Equipment, which is located near the crash scene, shows what appears to be Casterman’s car pulling off the road and a female walking on US 31 and then crossing to the other side. A black male exits and gets in the driver’s side heading south, and the video shows him coming back heading north. 

Det. Sgt. Mike Kenney from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office was the last witness called to the stand. “He was visibly upset, crying,” said Kenney. “He indicated that she jumped out in front of the car.”

When asked if he would be willing to consent to a blood draw, Casterman told him that he would be over the limit, said Kenney. “As he stood up to walk, he swayed. He needed assistance maintaining his balance a little bit.”

Casterman told Kenney that he and his wife had been together for about 20 years and they had been married for 16 years. “On Sept. 14, they traveled up to the casino and stayed the night and were on the way back home. They went up there to gamble, and they were drinking alcohol. He indicated that he had been drinking. He said that Melissa wanted to drive home, on the way home they got into an argument. It ended up being over sex, but he didn’t elaborate.”

He stated that he was going to “leave her ass,” Kenney said. “He said he drove off; drove by her; turned around; drove by again; and then she jumped in front of the car.”

Prosecutor Lauren Kreinbrink

During redirect questioning by Kreinbrink, she asked: “Did he mention any other vehicles?” Kenney answered: “No.” The prosecutor asked: “Did he mention anyone fleeing from the scene?” He answered: “No.” Kreinbrink asked: “Did he say he was driving?” Kenney: “Yes.”

Kreinbrink introduced 11 exhibits, including photographs of the crash scene, Casterman-Medacco’s autopsy report and Casterman’s driving record.

Judge Middlebrook noted Casterman’s previous drunk driving convictions in 1990, 1998 and 2005.

Homicide is punishable by up to life imprisonment; operating while intoxicated causing death carries a 15-year maximum; operating while license suspended, revoked, or denied causing death also carries a 15-year maximum; and third-offense operating while intoxicated is punishable by one to five years in prison.

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole previously said Casterman-Medacco was killed instantly and was declared dead at the scene.

Neagos said his client stands mute to the charges and entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Casterman remains lodged in the Mason County Jail on a $1 million bond. 

Editor-in-Chief Rob Alway contributed to this article.

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