A jail inmate who fatally shot two bailiffs, injuring two more people at a courthouse before he was killed in an escape attempt Monday, faced sex assault charges carrying up to life in prison, according to state records.
Larry Darnell Gordon, 44, of Coloma was charged in April with armed first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree criminal sexual conduct during a felony, felony kidnapping, felony assault with a dangerous weapon and misdemeanor aggravated domestic violence, according to Michigan State Police records.
At about 2:15 p.m. Monday, Gordon took a gun from an officer who was escorting him to a court hearing at Berrien County Courthouse, shot bailiffs Joseph Zangaro, 61, and Ronald Kienzle, 63, and tried to take hostages before he was killed, according to a news release from Berrien County Sheriff L. Paul Bailey. Sheriff's deputy James Atterberry Jr., 41, and a civilian were injured during the incident.
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Gordon's ex-wife, Jessica Gordon, 39, said Larry Gordon did it because he feared he would never be released and wanted to see his 6-year-old daughter.
"Larry was not a violent person," she said Monday at the home they shared. "The only thing I can think of is that he was completely terrified, and people do things out of character when they're scared. With all my heart I believe he was trying to get home to see Cheyenne (his daughter)."
Larry Gordon was still living with the family on the 300 block of Tannery in Coloma after the divorce was finalized in February. Jessica Gordon said he was living there while finding a place to live. A trailer marked "Auto Spa Mobile Detailing" was parked in the driveway on Monday, and Jessica Gordon said her ex-husband used it to run his business.
The criminal-sexual conduct and kidnapping charges Larry Gordon faced could have resulted in sentences of up to life in prison on conviction, according to the Michigan Penal Code. The circumstances of the allegations, resulting from an incident involving Coloma Township Police, weren't immediately available Monday.
Jessica Gordon said she spoke with Larry Gordon by phone daily, but he didn't give any previous indications he planned to break out.
"He probably found out how much time he could potentially be looking at and wanted to get out to see us," she said. "He thought he would die in prison."
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Jessica Gordon declined to comment on the April charges Monday but said she believes he's innocent of at least some of them. She said she still loves him and that Tuesday would have been their 10-year wedding anniversary. She said they had been a couple for 19 years, and Cheyenne turns 7 on Saturday.
She said he didn't have any specific problems with law enforcement but had been in legal trouble before. State records indicate Larry Gordon pleaded guilty in September 2013 to a second-offense misdemeanor driving while intoxicated or impaired and to felony theft from a building. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to felony fleeing a police officer and misdemeanor operating while intoxicated, and in 1992 he was charged with felony unarmed robbery but took a plea deal for misdemeanor "disorderly person-- jostling," according to state records.