By Rosemary Horvath
Clare County 80th District Court Judge Joshua Farrell found probable cause to bind over Oanh Kieu Bass to Circuit Court where she will be arraigned on open murder and felony firearm charges Nov. 18.
Bass, 33, is charged with the Jan. 18, 2013 shooting death of Floyd Dennis, 68, well-known in the Harrison community as a longtime member of the Harrison Board of Education, and supervisor of the school district’s transportation system. He owned and operated Kern’s Grocery of Dodge City.
Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis said she was pleased with the judge’s ruling. She embraced Dennis’s widow Cynthia and her support group gathered in the hallway. They had sat behind the prosecution in court.
Bass remained in court, consulting with criminal defense Attorney Jan Napp, who substituted for Todd Flood of Royal Oak, Bass’s attorney. Bass is in custody of the county jail in lieu of $2 million bond.
In his oral ruling Wednesday, Farrell highlighted 80 pages of written arguments Ambrozaitis and Flood filed in motions following conclusion of a preliminary examination three months ago during which time the court heard three days of testimony from four witnesses.
The prosecution asked that Bass be charged with first- degree premeditated murder or open charge of murder. But Farrell ruled a jury can decide on a degree and whether they believe Bass should be convicted of premeditated murder.
In his motion, Flood argued against sending the case to circuit court because the prosecution had not established premeditation, or that the charge should be nothing more than voluntary manslaughter.
Flood in his motion called for suppression of physical evidence officers had removed from the Bass home without a search warrant. Although police had time to secure six warrants overnight from Jan. 18 to Jan. 19, not one was for the Bass home.
Farrell however disagreed officers had violated Bass’s Fourth Amendment rights of unreasonable search and seizure.
The warrantless entry was permissible, the judge said, because investigators believed they had probable cause that Bass was a potential suspect. Officers found a gun in a home safe and stopped a washing machine containing clothes she had presumably worn at the time of the crime.
“No further evidence was seized until a proper warrant was obtained,” Farrell said, adding that the defendant could not expect a reasonable right of privacy.
Searches had been executed for the Bass residence, her phone registered in her husband’s name, Dennis’s home and cell phone, and screen captions taken from Soaring Eagle Casino, where police believe Bass had visited following the murder.
The body of Floyd Dennis was found with a single gunshot wound to the back of the head by his wife, who called Clare County Central Dispatch around 5:30 p.m. Jan. 18. She had gone to a cabin in Redding Township where she suspected her husband was meeting a woman for a rendezvous.
Sheriff’s deputies, state police detectives and the Michigan State Police Crime Lab gathered evidence at the crime scene through warrants that led them to the home near Remus that turned out to be the home where Bass lived with her husband.
Farrell acknowledged a degree of probable cause surfaced to view Bass as a potential suspect. Tire treads at the Bass home matched those found at the crime scene.
Testimony given during the preliminary examination suggested Bass and Dennis had a sexual affair and were habitual gamblers at the casino in Mount Pleasant. Bass at one point allegedly told police she had wanted to end the relationship and took a firearm with her when meeting Dennis.