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Trial begins for man pulled from Lake Michigan following murder in Muskegon County

Ryan Allen Berry, 29, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the shooting death of 28-year-old Evan Yonker in August 2019.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — A trial is underway for a man police rescued while swimming in Lake Michigan near the Grand Haven pier in August 2019. 

Ryan Berry didn't want help that day. His swim started shortly after police learned that 28-year old Evan Yonker was shot to death inside his Dalton Township home in Muskegon County.

Ryan Allen Berry, 29, of Muskegon County was fished from the lake about an hour after police were led to the crime scene on Meeuwenberg Road.

During opening statements on Monday, Muskegon County Sr. Assistant Prosecutor Katie Norton told jurors Berry shot Yonker with a shotgun he removed from a gun rack hanging in Yonker's bedroom.

Berry is charged with premeditated first-degree murder and with unlawful imprisonment.

Defense attorney Andy LaPres said during opening statement to jurors much of the evidence in the trial isn't under dispute. LaPres even conceded that his client is the person who fired the weapon that killed Yonker and requested that after all the evidence is heard, jurors return a guilty verdict.

"We're going to ask for a conviction oddly enough," said LaPres. "That's weird to say as a defense attorney, but we're going to ask for a conviction for manslaughter. His state of mind is really the only thing that's important at this whole trial."

Prosecutors intend on showing jurors that the shooting was planned and intentional and not "on an impulse," as the defense suggests.

The shooting was reported around 11 a.m by Berry's ex-girlfriend Chelsi Allan. Police located Allan at the Grand Haven State Park after she called 911 to report that Berry had shot Yonker and forced her to drive him to the beach.

Members of the Ottawa County marine unit fished Berry out of Lake Michigan a few hundred yards from the state park beach. At the time, police said it was Berry's attempt to drown himself.

Berry's prior convictions include unlawfully driving away a vehicle, malicious destruction of property and second-degree home invasion.

Allan was Prosecutor Norton's first witness. She testified about the difficult breakup with Berry that started about two weeks before Yonker was murdered.

"I was a nice as I knew how to be," said Allan.

Allan testified in the nights leading to the murder she was staying at Yonker's home in Dalton Township to keep her distance from Berry.

The morning of the murder Allan testified she woke to find Berry in the bedroom where she was sleeping, standing over the bed and holding a large kitchen knife.

"He said all three of our lives would be ending that day," said Allan.

Allan went on to testify Yonker wasn't home at the time. An hour later, Yonker did return from work. During that time Allan says she was held by force in a bedroom at the home, and that Berry used some of the time to load Yonker's shotgun with shells.

"I heard his boots on the floor and I yelled 'Evan don't come in here,'" Allan testified. "He opened the door, looked at me and smiled and Ryan shot him. I kept begging Ryan to let me see him, let me check on him, let me call an ambulance. He kept telling me you don't want to see that, he's bleeding out, he's dead."

In 2019 Berry was found to be competent to stand trial following an evaluation at the State of Michigan's Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

The trial resumes Tuesday in Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge Annette Smedley's courtroom.

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