A judge ordered two men to trial Thursday in the fatal shooting of a Lansing-area hunter after text messages showed them apparently joking about the man’s death.
Judge Michael Clarizio said prosecutors had revealed enough evidence to send Thomas Olson and Robert Rodway to trial on murder and gun charges, though there were no eyewitnesses or physical evidence against them.
“If you want to spin it as gallows humor … a jury might buy it,” Clarizio said of the text messages. “I don’t know why any rational person would want to joke about an innocent man being shot in the back of the head.”
Chong Moua Yang, 68, was killed in November 2018 in the Rose Lake State Wildlife Area in Bath Township, northeast of Lansing. Olson and Rodway weren’t charged until December, more than four years later.
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Investigators found text messages on their phones, the Lansing State Journal reported. A 2020 photo showed the men in hunting gear at Rose Lake, along with a message: “A couple of cold-blooded killers revisiting the crime scene.”
Another message in 2020 had a photo of a reward poster and a remark: “They haven’t caught ya,” which was changed to “us.”
Defense attorneys argued that police had no meaningful evidence against the men.
Yang frequently hunted in the area. His headlamp, knife, backpack and shotgun were stolen.