Effort to seal court records in Maples murder

Ronald Williams is accused of murdering Bobbie Maples

Michigan Department of Corrections' mug shot of Ronald Earl Williams, who was arrested in connection to Bobbie Maples' death.
A mug shot of Ronald Earl Williams, provided by the Michigan Department of Corrections. (March 2016)

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A hearing is expected within the next week on whether the Muskegon County District Court will prevent WOOD TV8 access to a public court record that is part of a murder chase.

Ronald Williams is charged with the murder of 32-year-old Bobbie Maples, who disappeared in December 2014 shortly after the birth of her daughter and whose body was found buried in Fruitland Township in January.

An undated courtesy photo of Bobbie Maples. (Jan. 28, 2016)
An undated courtesy photo of Bobbie Maples. (Jan. 28, 2016)

WOOD TV8 has requested a transcript of the March 23 hearing during which a police officer testified before 60th District Court Magistrate Michael Van Epps. That sworn testimony was used to support the arrest of and charges filed against Williams.

Transcripts of these hearings are routinely made available to the media and public upon request, both in Muskegon County and in courts across West Michigan.

However, in this instance, Chief District Court Judge Raymond Kostrzewa sent a notice to the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office and the Office of the Public Defender advising them that WOOD TV8 and MLive had requested the transcript. Monday, the prosecutor’s office filed a motion asking that the judge review the record and determine if any of it should be sealed.

The prosecutor’s office claims the transcript may contain evidence that has not yet been ruled admissible in court. The motion also cites concerns about the right to a fair trial, pretrial publicity and “protection of the ongoing investigation in regards to other possible criminal charges.”

Attorneys for both WOOD TV8 and MLive have filed briefs seeking to keep these records available to the media and the public. Transcripts of what is often called a probable cause statement provide valuable information about the case, the investigation and the evidence being used to support the arrest and criminal charges levied against a defendant.

A hearing has been scheduled for next week on the matter, but it could be heard sooner.

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