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Man ordered to stand trial in road rage crash that killed father and son

Joseph Richard Hanna will stand trial on two counts of second-degree murder for the Jan. 4 crash that killed a father and son in northern Kent County.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A man accused in a suspected road rage crash in northern Kent County that killed a father and son has been ordered to stand trial on two counts of second-degree murder.

Investigators say Joseph Richard Hanna, 39, deliberately rammed, or “pitted’’ a vehicle on M-57, causing a deadly three-vehicle crash in early January.

After listening to testimony from several witnesses, 63rd District Court Judge Sara Smolenski determined there was enough evidence to move the case to Kent County Circuit Court.

The Jan. 4 crash killed Jerry Lee Kinsey, 48, and his 20-year-old son, Joel Eugene Kinsey, a U.S. Marine.

In addition to second-degree murder, a potential life offense, Hanna is charged with two counts of operating while intoxicated causing death and reckless driving causing death. Both are 15-year felonies.

The crash happened around 5:19 p.m., with Hanna “intentionally ramming (pitting) a vehicle driven by Jerry Kinsey while under the influence of marijuana,’’ an investigator wrote.

The collision occurred when Hanna tried to pass Kinsey’s vehicle on M-57, also known as 14 Mile Road NE. The two vehicles came in contact, sending Kinsey’s vehicle into the opposing lane of traffic, where it was struck by a westbound van.

Two people in the van suffered minor injures; Hanna was not hurt.

After the crash, Hanna got out of his vehicle, kicked a tire and said, “Look what they did to my (expletive) vehicle,’’ a witness testified Tuesday, July 3. Hanna complained that the other vehicle was traveling too slow; he appeared to care more about his vehicle than those involved in the crash, according to testimony.

Joel Kinsey died at the scene. He was a 2016 graduate of Tri-County High School and served as a Lance Corporal with the U.S. Marines. Jerry Kinsey died a little more than two weeks later. The Sand Lake man was a senior tool and die designer in Comstock Park, according to his obituary.

Police investigated the crash as a “possible road rage situation’’ between Jerry Kinsey and Hanna.

In an interview with police, Hanna said the chain of events started when he turned onto eastbound M-57 in Oakfield Township, court records show. Hanna said he initially used the empty westbound lane to accelerate and merge due to the volume of eastbound traffic, court records show.

As he accelerated and merged into the eastbound lane, Hanna said he noticed the driver of a green vehicle in front of him quickly slow down to approximately 20 mph and give him “the finger,’’ court records show.

Hanna told a state police trooper he was “unsure why the driver in front of him was upset because he did not cut him off,’’ Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Denise Bentley wrote in a search warrant affidavit.

“Hanna stated the green vehicle was still going very slowly, so he attempted to pass it on the left,’’ Bentley wrote. “Hanna stated as he attempted to pass the green vehicle, it accelerated to match his speed and would not let him pass.’’

Hanna told police he tried several times to merge back into the eastbound lane, but was blocked by the green vehicle. “Hanna stated when he attempted to merge back into the eastbound lane, he struck the green vehicle due to westbound traffic coming at him.’’

Steven Kurtz, who was driving behind Hanna and Kinsey, said the two were "drag-racing towards Greenville.'' The two vehicles came in contact twice prior to the deadly crash, Kurtz testified.

Michigan State Police Trooper Brandon Davis testified that Hanna's Chevrolet Cavalier was traveling between 67 and 69 mph when he struck Kinsey's vehicle.

An accident reconstructionist “determined from the marks on the vehicles that it appeared Hanna had deliberately turned into Kinsey’s vehicle as they were traveling down the road, which caused Kinsey’s vehicle to spin out of control into the westbound lane where it was struck.’’

Crash data indicates Hanna did not apply his brakes until after the crash occurred “which is contrary to what he reported regarding attempting to merge back into traffic,’’ Bentley wrote in court records.

Bentley learned that Hanna “had been involved in a prior road rage incident in December of 2017 where Hanna was accused of throwing a bottle at another vehicle as it traveled down the highway on U.S. 131,’’ court records show.

The deadly January crash occurred less than five months after Hanna was charged with a drug offense for a butane hash oil explosion that leveled his house in northern Kent County.

In that case, Hanna was “making butane hash oil when the butane ignited, blowing up the residence’’ on Lime Lake Drive NE in Solon Township, Kent County Sheriff’s Detective Todd Butler wrote in court documents.

Hanna was charged with operating/maintaining a laboratory used to manufacture butane hash oil, a 10-year felony. That case is pending.

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