The trial of a man accused in 2018 of killing a fisherman in Bath Top. Delayed by situation takes an unusual turn
street. JONES — The trial of one of two men charged in connection with the death of a hunter in the Rose Lake State Wildlife Area nearly five years ago has been delayed for three months while prosecutors and defense attorneys work out issues in the case.
Among the issues, according to the defense: whether someone else killed Chong Mua Yang of Lansing.
29th Circuit Court Judge Shannon Schlegel agreed this week to postpone Thomas Olson’s trial after the state attorney general’s office and Olson’s attorneys determined they needed more time to prepare “in the interest of justice.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that Olson should be released on personal bond with a GPS tether under home confinement while Discovery continues the case, but Schlegel denied the bond.
“We are working collaboratively with prosecutors and police to determine who killed Mr. Yang,” Michael Manley, one of Olson’s attorneys, said Wednesday.
Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office declined to comment.
Olson, 34, of Grand Blanc Township, and Robert Rodway, 34, of St. John’s, are charged with killing Yang, who was shot in the back of the head during a state land chase in the town of Bath on November 16, 2018.
The two men admitted to hunting in the general area where Yang was killed that day but denied any involvement in his death. Police said they didn’t learn the men were fishing in Rose Lake that day until years later, and Rodway and Olson weren’t charged until late 2022.
There are no eyewitnesses or physical evidence linking either man to the murder, and police used GPS location data and a series of text messages between Rodway and Olson to tie them to the murder.
Searches of the men’s phones turned up several text messages between them indicating an investigation into Yang’s death, including an April 2020 photo showing the two men in fishing gear at Lake Rose, along with a message that read: “Couple of cold-blooded killers revisiting Crime scene “.
Another message from September 2020 included a photo of a reward poster that Yang’s family had put up in the area and read, “They didn’t catch ya,” updated to “us,” according to the affidavit. There were also messages referring to a “killing field”, people being chased, shooting noises and explicit racial epithets.
In a preliminary examination in March, Nessel’s office argued that the letters showed an awareness of guilt and constituted confessions. Defense lawyers argued that the letters were nothing more than dark humor.
Rodway and Olson have been held without bail since their arrests late last year.
During a hearing in late June, Manley demanded a speedy trial for Olson and argued that they had new information that cast doubt on the GPS location data police used to place Olson in the general area of the body.
He also said that a shoe print found in the snow near Yang’s body matched a shoe worn by a local man who was cleared by the police as a suspect. He said that this evidence was not presented in the preliminary examination.
In their written stipulation to adjourn the trial, attorneys for Nessel and Olson said they had been meeting since the hearing ended in June.
“Experts from both sides met,” she said. “Additional discoveries are being shared and the parties are moving closer to resolving the critical issues in this case.”
Discovery cases include information discs that were not turned over to defense attorneys and “are not the fault of either party as well as additional discovery that has come to light since June 2023.”
Nessel’s office withdrew its earlier argument that Olson was a flight risk and a danger to the community and requested his release on personal bail. The condition depended on Olson giving bail, but Schlegel did not sign the proposed order and refused the bond.
Olson and Rodeway are charged with first-degree murder, with an alternative charge of second-degree murder, along with one count each of firearm possession.
Rodway’s trial is set to begin in late September. Olson’s trial was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, but is now scheduled to begin in mid-November.
Contact Ken Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KBPalm_lsj.
This article originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal: The trial of a man accused in 2018 of killing a fisherman in the town of Bath has been delayed