ST. JOSEPH — A Benton Harbor woman will face trial on an assault charge related to the shooting death of a Benton Harbor man in July.
But Berrien County Trial Court Judge Gordon Hosbein did not find probable cause to bind Felecia Lee, 42, over for trial on a first-degree felony murder charge and on Monday dismissed that charge.
Her trial on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon, a 4-year felony, is set for Jan. 21-24. Those are the same dates her sons, Dennis Holbrook, 23, and Eric Holbrook, 21, are set to go on trial on a first-degree murder charge in the July 31 shooting death of Arsenio Jordan, 29. The brothers face life in prison without parole if convicted as charged.
Hosbein heard testimony in a preliminary hearing for Felecia Lee Oct. 29, and issued his ruling Monday. The brothers had been bound over for trial earlier.
It is alleged that Lee and her sons went to a house on Superior Street in Benton Harbor the afternoon of July 31 to confront a woman they said owed money to Lee. Arsenio Jordan and several of his relatives were outside on the porch at the house. Lee approached a woman, carrying a large stick or a log. Shots were fired. Dennis Holbrook was shot and injured and Jordan was fatally shot in the head, according to testimony.
In October Judge Hosbein said the case was complex, and he directed Berrien Assistant Prosecutor Trevor Maveal and Lee’s lawyer, Edwin Johnson, to submit written briefs arguing for and against a bind-over on the murder charge in the mother’s case. Maveal declined Monday to give further oral argument to supplement his brief.
Johnson, offering up a supplemental oral argument, said, “She went over prepared to fight. But she prepared for a fist fight. She was called over there. It was clearly a set-up. They had a mob there, armed.”
In charging Lee with first-degree felony murder, the underlying felony alleged by Maveal was larceny or extortion. Hosbein said that while both lawyers’ briefs were well-written, “the people are arguing extortion as the underlying felony and I never heard any evidence of larceny and I just don’t see extortion.”
Destiny Jordan, Arsenio Jordan’s niece, testified last month that she met Felecia Lee through Lee’s son, Eric. She said she was at their house one day when the two women agreed that Jordan would claim one of Lee’s children as a dependent on her taxes, then give $2,500 in tax return money to Lee. But, she said, her taxes never got filed and she got no money back.
She said Lee began contacting her and sending her text messages that she felt were threatening. Hosbein said Monday he did not find the text messages to be threatening.
“Never once does she say to Destiny that I’m going to beat you up or you’re going to give me money,” the judge noted.
“I have to take all emotion out of it. I know it’s a very emotional case. It was a very close call. But I can’t find a causal link between Ms. Lee setting off these events and Arsenio being murdered. The death that resulted is not linked to the reason she went over there. There is no causal link, and there has to be an uninterrupted chain of events (for a murder charge to stand),” Hosbein added. “Two other men started shooting at each other. There’s a break in the causal link.”
Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa