Battle Creek arson-homicide suspect in court for preliminary hearing

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The man accused of an arson-homicide on October 2nd returned to court for his preliminary hearing Thursday morning. Otha Carroll, wearing an orange Calhoun County Jail jumpsuit, sat next to his attorney and listened to law enforcement officials recall what happened on that day.

“We wanted to find out if there was anybody in the house,” said Battle Creek Fire Department Lt. Richard Teinert on the witness stand. “When we got out of the truck we could hear a lady screaming for help.”

Lt. Teinert said he and his partner firefighter James Melvyn were on light duty that day and were driving back to the fire station on their lunch break when they noticed a house on Washington Avenue engulfed in flames. When they pulled over and heard the woman screaming, they noticed that she couldn’t get out.

“At that time, we forced entry to the door,” Teinert testified.  “We seen a gentleman laying on the floor.”

Lt. Teinert said he didn’t hear anything from the man. He was covered in flames and later died in the fire. However the woman came out crawling. His partner then dragged her out to the front yard and Teinert called for backup and two ambulances.

“From a distance I initially thought that she got burned because I could see that her face was very very red,” said Battle Creek Police Officer Nathaniel Hopkins. “As I got closer I saw that the female had a large gash on her eyebrow area and that the red was actually blood.”

Officer Hopkins was one of the first policeman on the scene, he said. When he arrived he saw that the victim was being tended to by the firemen and then LifeCare professionals. As she was walking to the ambulance, he asked her questions about the incident.

“I asked her directly ‘who did this to her?’" Officer Hopkins recalled.  “And she advised that Otha, pronouncing that correctly, [Carroll] did this.”

Officer Hopkins' colleagues attempted to make contact with Carroll at a nearby apartment complex, said Sgt. Kurt Roth. He and a handful of investigators went there around 8 p.m. in uniform but in unmarked vehicles. However, when they spotted Carroll's vehicle, he fled.

“It actually sped up past our vehicle, past me, hit one of our special investigations vehicles and some other vehicles in the parking lot,” Sgt. Roth remembered.

Sgt. Roth said he noticed that the vehicles windows were down but he could not see who was inside. But Corporal Anthony Gancer did.

“When the suspect was coming at us I was able to ID Mr. Carroll as the driver of the vehicle,” Corporal Gancer testified. “There was also a female in the front passenger street.”

That woman was identified as Mary Beamon. Police said later on that night Carroll appeared at the police staton to check on the status of the victim who died. He was then arrested and taken into custody.

Thursday, assistant prosecutor Tammy Towns asked for a 14-day  recess to give the victim time to recover so that she can later testify. District Court Judge Paul Beardslee granted the request and denied Carroll's bond.

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