Gunshot intent ruled less than murder in shooting of pregnant woman

Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK – The question of intent was debated before a Detroit man accused of shooting a pregnant woman in the stomach was bound over to Wayne County Circuit Court on felony charges.

A pre-trial examination before 25th District Court Judge David Zelenak determined that murder was not the intent when Nathaniel Keith Thornton, 45, allegedly shot a woman following an argument about money. Thornton was bound over to circuit court on five counts, including assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder.

Thornton remains charged with assault causing miscarriage, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Zelenak agreed to a reduced bond: $10,000 cash representing 10 percent of $100,000; when Thornton was first arraigned the charges included assault with intent to murder, for which a $1 million bond was set. Bond conditions would include having no contact with the woman and that Thornton be monitored by a tether.

Prosecutors said that Thornton went to the woman’s home in the 800 block of Mill Street at about 11 a.m. Nov. 26. The woman testified Tuesday that she knew Thornton well, and although she tried to help him they argued that day about money including the price of a gift card.

“I wasn’t afraid of him,” the woman said.

The argument escalated and Thornton allegedly began waving a handgun around. Police reports taken at the time
indicated the woman was shot once in the stomach and that other rounds were fired that may have hit her in the legs. During last week’s testimony the woman recalled just the one shot to the stomach.

Defense attorney Daniel Reid argued that there was no evidence of repeated gunshots, and that there was confusion as to what happened up until, “at some point in time she was shot.”

Testimony was limited, Zelenak said, to one shot being fired but that there was no prior threat or medical records of additional wounds. Absent additional evidence of intentional gunshots or declared motive, Zelenak dismissed intent to murder and charged Thornton with intent to do great bodily harm.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Jamil Khuja argued, and maintained that a shot in the stomach was proof enough
to merit the more severe charge.

“She was shot in the stomach, that’s the intent,” Khuja said. “That’s the evidence.”

Thornton is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Wayne County Circuit Court; additional charges include felony firearm, possession of a weapon by a felon and felonious assault.

(James Mitchell can be reached at