New Baltimore Three

Macomb County, Michigan
Date of Crime:  October 21, 2000

Jonathan Kaled, 18, Matthew Daniels, 16, and Frank Kuecken, 19, were charged with murdering Justin Mello, and with armed robbery and with conspiracy to commit murder. Mello was a teenager who was found shot dead in Mancino's Pizza and Grinders in New Baltimore, after a robbery. Mello's murder shocked the New Baltimore community, which had not had a fatal shooting in 30 years. Kaled and Kuecken initially confessed to the crimes, but later recanted, claiming that the police coerced them. Other individuals claimed that the three suspects had been present at a party miles away from New Baltimore at the time of the crime. In light of the suspects' confessions, police did not take these alibi witnesses seriously and threatened them with obstruction of justice charges if they persisted in providing alibis.

After a preliminary hearing, charges were dropped against Daniels for lack of evidence. The testimony of two witnesses who were to implicate Daniels fell apart on the stand as one claimed that police coerced him into giving false testimony while the other took the Fifth Amendment. After freeing Daniels, the case judge, Paul A. Cassidy, stated, “I personally find that (Daniels), too, is guilty.  After today, Matthew Daniels and his supporters will be free to claim his innocence and the injustice of his arrest, but we who have been here present throughout the testimony will know the truth to be otherwise.”

As prosecutors prepared to try Kaled and Kuecken, two other suspects emerged, David Baumann, 20, and Dennis Bryan, 19. Both had once worked at another franchise of Mancino's and both had purportedly engaged in a 37 state crime spree. One of the crimes they were charged with was a Subway restaurant murder in Florida in which the victim was forced to kneel in a walk-in freezer and shot in the back of the head. This murder was identical to the manner in which Mello was killed. Ballistics established that a gun used by the alternate suspects had killed Mello. It was also established that the alternate suspects had stolen this gun in Virginia.

Police still refused to admit that and Kaled's and Kuecken's confessions were false. They advanced the theory that the alternate suspects had brought the gun to Michigan, transferred it to Kaled, and then retrieved it from him after Mello's murder. Both Kaled and Kuecken denied knowing the alternate suspects.

In April 2001, the mothers of Kaled, Kuecken, and Daniels traveled to Kentucky and Virginia where the alternate suspects were charged. Attorneys and law enforcement in both states assured them that their children were not guilty. Two weeks after the mothers' trip, one of the alternate suspects, Baumann, confessed to the murder of Mello. It was only then that local Michigan authorities decided to drop charges.  [1/08]


References:  Detroit Free Press, Drizen & Leo

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Michigan Cases