Two northern Michigan men were arraigned Monday on open murder charges in the death of Brodrick (Brock) Ward, an African-American man from Inkster who was found shot to death at a home in Kalkaska County earlier this month.
Terrance Jordan, 36, of Traverse City and Jason Ray Morgan, 35, of Kingsley, Mich., were arraigned Monday in Kalkaska Circuit Court and charged with open murder and armed robbery. Judge Lynne Buday originally set both their bonds at $1 million but raised them to $10 million at the urging of Prosecuting Attorney Mike Perreault. The men are due back in court in December.
While the court proceeding — which lasted about 15 minutes — did not get into the details of the investigation, following the arraignment members of the Kalkaska Sheriff's Office spoke with the Detroit Free Press. Discussing the case, they strongly disputed the family's suggestion that the slaying was race-related, saying evidence points to drugs, and not fishing, as the purpose of Ward's trip up North.
On Nov. 21, 42-year-old Ward was discovered fatally shot in the chest at a rental home in Fife Lake. He was found by family members, who said they went up north looking for him after he stopped answering his phone. Samuel Ward, a younger brother of the victim, said that Ward went up north to go salmon fishing with Morgan on Nov. 16.
The following day, according to Samuel Ward, his brother called anxious about racial comments people had made and asked for help getting back to Inkster. Samuel Ward and the rest of the family said this conversation and other clues — such as the Confederate flags that pepper Mogan's Facebook page — made them believe Ward's death was racially motivated.
"When you look on Jason's page, that's the only thing that hurts my heart," Samuel Ward said in a phone interview Sunday, asserting that he believed the police have been covering up the motives of the crime.
Police on Monday, however, said that the crime was not race related. Jordan, one of the suspects, is African American.
"There is frustration. The indications or implications that this is racially motivated, there is no evidence to support that right now, to support any racially motivated crime," said Kalkaska Sheriff Pat Whiteford.
"This was a homicide where there was a disagreement between multiple parties and at this point, unfortunately, Mr. Ward lost his life in this," he continued. "We'll do everything we can to make sure all the evidence and all the supporting documentation is there for the prosecutor's office to support the charges that were read today."
Police were called to the scene at around 5 p.m. after the family found Ward's body, Whiteford said. Morgan and Jordan were arrested a few days later, along with a woman. She has been released but still may face charges.
Whiteford said that preliminary interviews have indicated that drugs — either the sale or use — were involved in the murder, but he is hesitant to speculate on an exact motive.
Ward had been on probation for drug charges at the time of his murder. In October 2016, he was arrested for the manufacturing/distribution of under 50 grams of cocaine. According to court records, since the late 1990s, he has been in and out of trouble with the law for similar offenses.
"There are things we know that we're not going to discuss, but he wasn't up here fishing," said Undersheriff Harry Shipp, who expressed frustration over the allegations by Ward's family that the murder was a hate crime or that the department wasn't taking the investigation seriously.
"Don't insult my intelligence, don't accuse me of racism. We're out to get justice for this gentleman, but we're not going to sugarcoat it, we're not going to b.s. the family, he wasn't up here fishing," Shipp said.
He noted that Kalkaska does not have salmon fishing and that Ward did not have any fishing equipment with him or a license to fish.
"I seriously know their loss and they're looking for answers, I get that. I'm not telling them something to drag their brother through the dirt, I'm telling them what's going on — the truth," he said. "They don't want to accept it. The family is looking for answers and we're telling them what they don't want to hear."
Whiteford said he understood why the family would want to paint their loved one in the best possible light.
"The undersheriff and I don't know Mr. Ward, we've never met him, so we have a lot of empathy for the family in that yes, they don't want to believe that their loved one was involved in something that was wrong, criminal activity," said Whiteford. "At the same time ... if that's what we find through the investigation, that's what the truth is and that's what we're going to report.
Whiteford says the investigation is ongoing.
Neither Jordan nor Morgan has posted bail. Both men are being held at the Kalkaska County Jail.
Ward's aunt, Mary Ward Carter, who works in Cobb Superior Court in Georgia and has been following the case, expressed gratitude at the high bond in a text message.
"Drugs related, race-related, whatever related, it does not matter when I see justice done," she wrote. "I believe in our American justice system. I am waiting."
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