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Kent County to hold first murder trial with COVID-19 safeguards in place

Nathan Board is charged with two counts of murder in the Sept. 2018 beating deaths of his in-laws; the non-jury trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Sept. 8.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More than two years after he was arrested in the beating deaths of his in-laws, 35-year-old Nathan S. Board is scheduled to stand trial this week under the backdrop of COVID-19 restrictions and safeguards.

Kent County Circuit Court Judge J. Joseph Rossi will preside over the non-jury trial, which is expected to last two to three days. 

Proceedings are planned to be streamed on YouTube to accommodate members of the public interested in following from home. Space in the courtroom is limited due to social distancing rules.

“This is obviously our first circuit court murder trial, jury or non-jury, and it is interesting just in terms of trying to figure out spectators,’’ Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said. "We have a family that’s very involved.’’

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Live-streaming on YouTube, Becker said, is a way to “make sure everyone can have access that wants it, including the press.’’

Rossi’s ninth-floor courtroom will look somewhat different with COVID-19 safeguards in place.

When circuit court jury trials eventually resume, they will be held in a large fifth-floor conference room laid out to accommodate social distancing.

Board is accused killing Theodore Raymond Syrek and Patty Denise Syrek at the couple’s home on Jordan River Drive SE in Kent County’s Bowne Township. They died from blows to the head.

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The sheriff’s department went to the Caledonia-area home on Sept. 4, 2018 at the request of a family member who asked that deputies check the well-being of the couple, who were in their 60s. 

Detectives interviewed Board the same day the bodies were discovered. During an interview the following day, he admitted to killings the Syreks by striking them several times with a blunt object as they slept in an upstairs bedroom, court records show. Board locked the door as he left the home.

Board was married to the victims’ daughter, Sarah. The couple married in June of 2016 but were separated at the time of the murders.

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Although Board had his initial court appearance two years ago, the case has been delayed while he underwent a forensic exam to determine his competency. He was eventually found to be competent and criminally responsible.

Becker says he expects to call a dozen or so witnesses during the trial.

If convicted, Board faces life in prison. He remains held in the Kent County Jail.


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