DETROIT (AP/WZZM) -- A federal appeals court has thrown out a death sentence for a western Michigan man convicted of killing a woman in a national forest.
The court upheld Marvin Gabrion's conviction on Wednesday but said the sentencing phase of his extraordinary 2002 trial in Grand Rapids must start from scratch.
Rachel Timmerman's body was found in a remote lake in Newaygo County in 1997. The appeals court says the trial judge erred when he barred Gabrion's lawyers from telling the jury that he would not face the death penalty if prosecuted in state court.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Grand Rapids said it was reviewing the opinion "considering our options and consulting with the Department of Justice in Washington."
The DOJ could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, or, restart the sentencing phase of Gabrion's case back in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
Kim Verhage of Rockford hopes Gabrion returns to the Grand Rapids courtroom. Verhage is the grandmother of Shannon Verhage, the daughter of the woman Gabrion was convicted of murdering. Shannon, and three other people, all dissapeared around the time of Rachel Timmerman's murder in 1997.
Verhage said Wednesday: "If they do retry the penalty phase again, maybe this time he'll plea bargain to not go through it and tell us where Shannon is."