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Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Marissa Edmunds Murder Case

     Just before midnight on January 11, 2018 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a resident of the Ypsilanti University Green Apartments looked out his window and saw two men wearing ski masks walking out of another section of the complex and climb into a car. As the vehicle sped off, someone screamed, "They've killed her!" The apartment resident called 911.

     When Ypsilanti police officers responded to the 911 call, they encountered 26-year-old Maxwell Flynn lying in the hallway near the crime scene. He had been shot in the chest, but was alive. Inside the apartment, officers found a 29-year-old man who had been grazed in the head by a bullet. The shooting victims were rushed to a nearby hospital. (They both survived their wounds.)

     Maxwell Flynn's 25-year-old girlfriend, Marissa Joy Edmunds, was found dead in the apartment from a gunshot wound to the head. None of the victims were students at the nearby Eastern Michigan University.

     The day following the shootings, a spokesperson for the Ypsilanti Police Department informed reporters that detectives were looking for two men in their late twenties. One of the suspects, a black male, had been dressed in black and carrying a black backpack. The intruders had left the murder scene in possession of personal items and drugs they had stolen from the victims.

     In February 2018, Ypsilanti police officers arrested 29-year-old Orlando L. Whitfield of Ypsilanti Township. The second suspect in the case remained unidentified.

     Officers booked Whitfield into the Washtenaw County Jail on one count of open murder, one count of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and three counts of armed robbery. At his arraignment, Orlando Whitfield pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

     Orlando Whitfield had a criminal record. In 2006, he had been convicted in Wayne County, Michigan of operating a motor vehicle with an invalid driver's license and fleeing from the police. The judge sentenced him to three years probation.

    In 2008, while still on probation from the Wayne County conviction, Orlando Whitfield was convicted in Washtenaw County of sexual conduct and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration. He was sentenced to ten years.

     Whitfield, a registered sex offender, had been out of prison two months when he was arrested for the murder of Marissa Edmunds.

     In July 2018, while incarcerated in the Washtenaw County Jail, Whitfield was charged with possession of a homemade knife, or shank. At that time, he was scheduled to be tried in February 2019 for Marissa Edmunds' murder, but due to motions filed by his attorneys, the trial had been delayed several times. During his stay in the Washtenaw County Jail, Whitfield had been disciplined numerous times for fighting with his fellow jail inmates.

     On May 2, 2020, a Washtenaw County judge, in response to a motion filed by defense attorney Erika Julien, ordered the release of Whitfield from jail. He was placed under house arrest until his trial. According to his attorneys, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the diminished functioning of the local court system, their client, already behind bars for 28 months, was being denied a speedy trial. The defense team also argued that due to the shutdown, they had been unable to acquire information from the prosecution that would help them with their defense.

     Marissa Edmunds' sister, Amanda Edmunds, responded to Whitfield's release this way: "Every [court] delay has been because of him [Whitfield]. He needs to be behind bars where he belongs. It all has to do with COVID-19, open the jail doors and let everyone out."

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