Cop: George contradicted prior statements
Michael George (Submitted photo)
Clinton Township, Mich., Detective James Hall testified Thursday that George, accused of murdering his wife, admitted to an affair he previously denied, suggested the culprit wanted to kill him and lied about his life insurance policy among his statements to him and another detective on Aug. 3, 2007. It was a day before his arrest.
“He said, ‘It must’ve been somebody that hated me more than he her,’” Hall testified in Macomb County Circuit Court. “’It was somebody who wanted to get back at me. I don’t know who it was. I should’ve been there that night.’”
His statements contradict his claim in 1990 that the store was robbed of comic books July 13, 1990, when Barbara George was shot once in the head in the back room of their Clinton Township comic book store. George collected $12,600 in insurance proceeds.
Hall and the detective secretly recorded the interview at George’s comic book store in Windber, where he moved two years after his wife’s death. But the recording was not allowed in the trial because it was illegal. Unlike in Michigan, Pennsylvania law bans one party from secretly recording a second party. Still, Hall was allowed to refer to the transcript of the interview during his testimony.
George admitted in the interview that he and Renee Kotula, now his wife, Renee George, had an affair in 1990, after failing to mention it shortly after his wife’s death. He also had said he and his wife’s marriage was typical, Hall said. But he admitted their marriage was “rocky,” he said.
“An extramarital affair, he said that’s the reason it was rocky,” Hall said. “His wife Barbara found out about it and confronted him.”
Assistant Macomb prosecutor Steven Fox displayed Michael and Renee’s marriage license of April 7, 1992, that showed their address in a home along Patterson Street in Shelby Township, shortly before their move.
George also told Hall that he paid for a life insurance policy on himself worth $350,000, but the policy had lapsed. Meanwhile, George kept up with his wife’s life insurance, resulting in him collecting $130,000.
Hall described several township police investigators traveling to Pennsylvania to simultaneously interview Michael and Renee George, as well as George’s mother, Janet, in Michigan, to prevent collusion.
In response to learning of the reopened investigation, George “got very quiet, not emotional,” Hall said. “He looked down and had nothing to say. He appeared to get flush, pale, a little bit nervous.”
Carl Marlinga, one of George’s defense attorneys, tried to deflate the quality of investigation by Hall and his colleagues, who reopened the probe into the mystery in 2006 upon encouragement of Prosecutor Eric Smith and his new cold case unit.
Hall acknowledged Marlinga’s description that officers were “excited” to work on the case.
“You get a chalkboard and sit around and throw around ideas?” Marlinga said.
“I look at it as justice for the victim and Michael George as well because he was a victim,” Hall responded. “It’s like a puzzle. You put together a story.”
Marlinga said officers “jumped the gun” interviewing George, but Hall said they talked to more than 100 people before talking to George.
Marlinga inferred they targeted his client from the outset and ignored other suspects. He pointed to a couple of leads among those that were found on a police report after George’s first trial in 2008 in which he was convicted of first-degree murder. The new tips were a primary reason for the new-trial order.
The trial is scheduled to continue today in front of Judge Mary Chrzanowski with testimony by the prosecution’s last witness, Craig Keith, who led the cold case probe. The defense is expected to ask the judge for a directed verdict, and, if rejected, will then begin its case.