Freeway shooting suspect pleads not guilty

By Mike Householder

Associated Press

NOVI (AP) -- An unemployed geologist suspected of two-dozen random shootings in southeastern Michigan was charged last Friday with attempted murder after police matched his gun to bullet fragments recovered from victims' vehicles.

Raulie Casteel, jailed since Monday, Nov. 5, in connection with a four-county spree that put drivers on edge for weeks, pleaded not guilty while appearing in court by video.

He faces 60 charges in Oakland County, where many of the 24 shootings occurred in October, and could be sentenced to up to life in prison if convicted of any of the eight attempted murder counts.

Lawyers will meet with a judge Wednesday to discuss whether the cases should be delayed in order for Casteel to undergo a psychiatric exam. His mother told the Detroit Free Press last week that she believes he may be mentally ill.

Casteel's wife, father and stepmother were in Novi District Court but declined to speak to reporters.

The shooting spree occurred in four counties on or near Interstate 96, and one person was injured. Casteel, 43, was first charged Wednesday in Livingston County with assault with a dangerous weapon.

Casteel was described in court last Friday as being unemployed for the past two years and financially dependent on his wife, Erin.

Defense attorney Charles Groh asked the judge to set bail, noting Casteel's lack of a criminal record and his role as a stay-at-home dad.

But prosecutor Ken Frazee III said the allegations show a "threat of terror" and a "depraved indifference to the lives of others." Casteel was ordered to stay in jail without bond.

There were 10 shootings reported in Wixom, 40 miles northwest of Detroit, where Casteel lived with his wife, daughter and in-laws.

Wixom police Sgt. Ronald Moore told a judge that bullet fragments recovered from vehicles -- in tires, an engine grill, the passenger side -- matched Casteel's 9mm handgun. Shell casings from the same gun also were recovered near the windshield wiper of his Chevy Malibu, Moore said.

Drivers "heard gunshots and described a dark car traveling southbound as they drove north," Moore said.

Casteel didn't talk about the charges, and the pleas were entered on his behalf, a typical custom at arraignments. He looked impatient at times over the video feed from jail and glanced at the ceiling.

"Let's waive the reading," Casteel said firmly, telling the judge to skip a formal recitation of the charges.

Casteel and his wife returned to Michigan, their native state, last summer after living in Taylorsville, Ky. Police there said they had no contact with him until June when he became agitated and complained about planes flying too low over his house.

Officers were stumped because there were no other reports of low-flying planes, Chief Toby Lewis said.


Ed White in Detroit contributed to this story.

Published: Tue, Nov 13, 2012