Walker murder suspect charged in ‘brutal’ rape

Shawn Jarrett during his video arraignment in Grandville District Court. (June 23, 2014)

WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of raping an 85-year-old Grandville woman has also been named a suspect in the murder of a Walker woman.

Shawn James Jarrett, 50, was arraigned Monday afternoon in Grandville District Court on one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of first-degree home invasion in the Grandville case.

Shawn James Jarrett
(Shawn Jarrett)

The charges stem from a Thursday attack at the 85-year-old woman’s home, police said. Jarrett is accused of talking his way in to the house and then sexually assaulting and robbing his victim.

“This is a brutal crime, a very brutal crime,” Grandville Police Chief Dan Steere said Monday.

A close friend of the victim said she fought the attacker, leaving red marks on his head. The friend said the 85-year-old’s hands were cut and bruised from trying to fight the man off.

“We had some residents in Grandville that came forward as witnesses and gave critical pieces of information. This was truly a community effort that put this individual and got him locked up,” Steere said.

Probable cause documents say the victim described the attacker to police, and witnesses in the neighborhood described a similar man riding a bike up and down her driveway before it happened.

Police put out a description to the media. Soon, a woman riding a Rapid bus saw a person matching the description on the bus in that area and called police. They got security video from the bus that showed Jarrett riding the Rapid in Grandville around the time of the incident — and he had a bike with him, the documents say.

Then, sometime between Thursday and Friday, Walker police — who had already run across Jarrett’s name as they investigated a murder — told Grandville police they may want to look into Jarrett. Jarrett previously served a 30-year prison sentence in Pennsylvania for the rape and murder of his 64-year-old neighbor.

A photo lineup was created and the victim selected Jarrett, according to the probable cause documents.

A search warrant executed at Jarrett’s Grand Rapids apartment turned up a bicycle and clothing matching what the attacker had been wearing, the documents say.

Jarrett was arrested Saturday. He admitted to having been riding a bike in Grandville during the time, the documents say.

During his video arraignment Monday, Jarrett denied any involvement in the rape.

“I had nothing to do with this,” he told the judge.

Also Monday, Walker police said Jarrett had been upgraded to a suspect in the murder of Berta Yolanda Reyes, 42. Police previously considered him a person of interest.

“It’s been a shock for everyone. That’s what we all wanted. We wanted to know who was responsible for this,” family friend Xeomara Montenegro said. “But at the same time, it’s so hard when the reality comes and just to accept that that’s the guy. There are so many questions now, like, why, why would it be her?”

Berta Yolanda Reyes (Family courtesy photo)
(Berta Yolanda Reyes)

Reyes’s body was found in May at a construction site less than a mile away from where she was last seen on April 24 at Neal Mast & Sons Greenhouse in Walker, where she worked.

When detectives re-interviewed Reyes’s co-workers and reviewed employment paperwork at the greenhouse, they discovered Jarrett had also been working at the greenhouse the day Reyes disappeared. He also quit his job there the day she went missing, police said.

Investigators said Jarrett’s criminal history in Pennsylvania also factored into their decision to raise Jarrett’s status to that of a suspect in the murder.

Walker police have not yet brought any charges against Jarrett. They say they do not have any physical evidence tying him to the case. But Walker police will be working closely with the Grandville police forensic unit, according to a Walker police official.

“It’s hard to accept, but we just try to be prepared for the outcome of this. We know it’s not going to be easy just to know the details of everything that is going to come up now,” Montenegro said. “At least there is a start for a new chapter in this investigation. At the same time, we’re hoping for justice to be served for Yolanda — not only for her memory, but for her family.”

Jarrett was denied bond, meaning he’ll stay behind bars at the Kent County jail. He is expected back in court for a preliminary hearing in the Grandville case on July 3.

“Wish he could just talk. The least thing he could do now is just talk and just be able to share why he would do that to her. But if it’s someone that did that in the past, probably just have no remorse whatsoever,” Montenegro said.

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