MONROE - Jury selection is to begin in northern Michigan today in the trial of a Monroe man and his brother charged with murder this year for allegedly beating to death two Detroit-area deer hunters outside a Mio, Mich., bar nearly 18 years ago.
Donald D. Duvall, 51, of Monroe has spent much of the last five months in a Montmorency County jail cell after he was arrested in May by local authorities in Monroe.
The Michigan attorney general's office issued an arrest warrant charging Mr. Duvall and his older brother, Raymond Duvall, Jr., 53, with two counts each of first-degree murder for the alleged deaths in November, 1985 of Brian Ognjan, 27, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., and David Tyll, 27, of Troy, Mich.
The trial, expected to last 7 to 10 days before Judge Ronald M. Bergeron in Aranac County Circuit Court, will focus not only on the innocence or guilt of the two Duvall brothers, but on whether the two supposed victims are actually dead.
Prosecutors believe Mr. Tyll and Mr. Ognjan were up north on a hunting trip in 1985 and had been drinking heavily in the former Linker's Lounge outside of Mio, when they supposedly got into a physical altercation with another group of bar patrons outside the establishment. Mio is about 235 miles north of Toledo, and about 35 miles east of Grayling, Mich.
Prosecutors said the Duvall brothers were among people fighting Mr. Ognjan and Mr. Tyll, and that the two brothers allegedly struck the two victims in the head with an aluminum baseball bat before putting their bodies into their Ford Bronco and driving away.
Neither the SUV nor the bodies has been found, though Monroe County sheriff's office divers searched a Monroe area pond this year as part of the investigation into the case. The divers found nothing.
Though several people supposedly witnessed the alleged beating, none had been willing previously to testify in the case, prosecutors said. That changed earlier this year when one female witness, who now lives out of state, decided to testify.
But Seymour Schwartz, the Berkley, Mich., attorney representing Donald Duvall in the case, said the Duvall brothers have been wrongly incarcerated for an alleged crime that may never have happened.
“The first thing about this case is that there's no evidence that [Mr. Ognjan and Mr. Tyll] are dead, and the second thing is that there's no evidence, period,” Mr. Schwartz said.
Mr. Schwartz questioned the credibility of the state's main witness, saying she admitted to drinking that night and would have had to overcome several physical barriers, including a quarter-mile walk through thick snow, to have witnessed the alleged altercation in the first place.
“There's no physical evidence at all, no eyewitness, and neither the barmaid nor the owner of the bar that night recall either [the state's new witness] being there, nor do they recall seeing the Duvall brothers being there,” Mr. Schwartz said.
Indeed, Mr. Schwartz said, defense attorneys will present testimony that the elder Duvall brother was in Cass City, Mich., in Michigan's Thumb area and on the other side of Saginaw Bay, when the alleged attack was to have taken place.
Last month, the trial was moved from Oscoda County to Aranac County on a successful defense motion for change of venue because of adverse publicity in Oscoda County, home to only about 9,400 residents.