NEW BUFFALO -- Michigan State Police detectives are pursuing attempted murder charges against a Michigan City man suspected of robbing and beating a Grand Rapids truck driver in the bathroom of the New Buffalo rest area last week.
Afrique Yusabbihu, who is also known as Michael Neal, is a suspect in the June 16 beating of Robert Peterson during a series of brutal beatings and robberies at rest stops in Michigan and northern Indiana, police said.
In Indiana, detectives are pursuing murder charges against Yusabbihu following the death Sunday of Kenneth Melick, 54, an Ontario resident.
Melick died while on life support at St. Anthony Memorial Health Center in Michigan City, one week after he was clubbed in the back of the head and robbed in the men's room of the LaPorte County rest area off Interstate 94.
Michigan City police arrested Yusabbihu and another man, Henry Houston, Friday night for investigation of fraud and theft charges minutes after the pair allegedly tried to make purchases at a Michigan City Meijer store with stolen credit cards, police said.
The arrest came hours after Gregg Dale Smith, 42, of Fenwick, Mich., was beaten and robbed in the men's room of the LaPorte County rest stop Friday morning. He remains in critical condition, police said.
But while Houston was cleared of any wrongdoing in the robberies and assaults and released Friday night, detectives in both states are building their cases against Yusabbihu, who is being held without bond on robbery charges stemming from Friday's attack on Smith, Indiana State Police Sgt. Ann Wojas said.
Detectives are trying to link the suspect to the crimes via his the victims' stolen credit cards and the severity and similarity of at least five assaults and robberies reported at rest areas in Battle Creek, New Buffalo and LaPorte County. Reports of recent assaults at the Coloma rest stop do not appear to be linked to the others, police said.
In each case, police said the victims were bashed several times on the head from behind with a blunt object and were robbed of their wallets. In all cases, the assaults took place in the men's room, either early in the morning or evening.
It is uncertain what type of weapon was used to club the victims, but Michigan State Police Detective Willie Mays said police seized a metal ratchet wrench from the suspect's pants pocket at the time of his arrest Friday.
"We're all trying to work together on this to show his modus operandi and the severity of the attacks," Mays said this morning.
"Based on what happened in each of these cases, we think this guy's intentions were to kill and rob."
Mays said he expects to forward reports to Berrien County Prosecutor Jim Cherry either today or Wednesday recommending both robbery and attempted homicide charges.
Mays said it is still unclear whether the suspect worked alone or was aided by another in the crimes.