Man faces life in prison for sister’s death

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — The death of a Lincoln Park woman two years ago was a family tragedy that seemed easily resolved, according to prosecution testimony in the trial of a man accused of killing his sister.

Included in last week’s testimony in Wayne County Circuit Court was a videotaped confession which police witnesses said included a confession to the murder.

Last week’s trial to determine if Gerald Eugene Dennis, 45, killed Deborah Seifert in February 2012 included an investigator’s summary of a videotaped confession, a history of mental illness and allegations that others may have been involved in the murder.

Dennis faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Dennis had been taken into custody the day after a resident of the house told police that Seifert had been found dead, likely beaten to death. Dennis had also told investigators where a metal rod was located in the backyard, allegedly the instrument used.

As stated last week in court by defense counsel James Schlaff, Dennis was said to have an acute form of schizophrenia. Last week’s trial start had been delayed several times as both defense attorneys and prosecutors requested competency evaluations. After several evaluations Dennis was determined last year to be competent of understanding the charges against him and participating in his own defense.

Evidence and testimony last week introduced two people who had been involved with Dennis and Seifert: Jamill Jenkins, 33, and Jill Kramer, 57, had shared a basement bedroom in Seifert’s home in the 1500 block of College Avenue. The two reportedly admitted to heavy drug use in the home by Dennis and Seifert; police investigators said that Dennis admitted there had been arguments in the crowded home over money and drugs.

The videotaped statement Dennis gave to police shortly after being taken into custody included an admission that he had beaten his sister and was angry that she’d used his disability checks to buy drugs.

Testimony on Thursday included two Michigan State Police forensic analysts, Alison Riviera-Papillo and lab manager Heather Vitta separately reviewed for the jury what had been established by physical evidence. Blood and DNA samples had been located and presented as evidence that included clothing from Dennis, Jenkins and Kramer.

Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Raj Prasad interviewed the analysts and clarified what could or could not be proven by the evidence. Blood stains on the metal rod were confirmed to have belonged to Siefert.

Prasad told the jury that Siefert had been appointed guardianship of Dennis, and that although his stories varied regarding the involvement of Jenkins and Kramer, that Dennis had admitted to having assaulted his sister.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Denise Lillard reportedly explained to the jury that Dennis had been given an opportunity to plead guilty to second-degree murder and accept a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Dennis declined and faces life without possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

The trial was expected to conclude Friday before jury deliberations began. A ruling is expected this week.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)