Share this article

print logo

3 FROM MICHIGAN ATTEND HEARING FOR SUSPECT TIED TO RAPE, MURDER

Timothy Timmerman and Kim and Richard VerHage traveled six hours from Michigan to attend a federal court hearing in Buffalo Wednesday.

The three came to watch a detention hearing for Marvin C. Gabrion Jr., the prime suspect in the rape and murder of Timmerman's daughter, the kidnapping of their baby granddaughter and the disappearance of two witnesses to the rape.

"I wanted to be here to make sure the judge didn't give this man bail and put him back out on the street," Mrs. VerHage said. "I've been up all night. We drove six hours, and we have to drive six hours back, so my husband can go to work at 6 a.m. But I wanted the judge to see us."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carol E. Heckman did not release Gabrion on bail. She ordered him transferred to Michigan to face a felony Social Security fraud charge.

The three grandparents had a hard time controlling their anger as Gabrion, 43, of Altona, Mich., walked past them, escorted by two marshals.

"I wanted to kill him, but I promised my wife I wouldn't," Timmerman said.

"I felt rage," added Mrs. VerHage. "It's lucky my husband was standing between me and him. I wanted to grab him and say, 'Where's my baby?'"

Police said Gabrion is the prime suspect in a series of crimes that began with the August 1996 attack on Timmerman's daughter, Rachel. Ms. Timmerman, then 18, was beaten and raped by a man who nearly bit her nose off and threatened to kill her if she ever went to police.

Gabrion, who has a lengthy criminal record, was arrested in the rape case. He was supposed to go to trial in late June. But shortly before the trial date, Michigan prosecutors received a letter from Ms. Timmerman, saying she no longer wanted Gabrion prosecuted and would not testify.

About two weeks after that, she disappeared and her body was found in a lake in early July. Police said her eyes and mouth were covered with duct tape, and cement blocks were tied to her body. She was still alive when her killer dumped her into the water.

Ms. Timmerman's 16-month-old daughter, Shannon VerHage, was with her when she disappeared in late June. Her father was among the last people to talk with her.

"Rachel told me she had a dinner date with a guy named John, and the guy the rape case. Both men have been missing for months.

Police said Gabrion is also suspected to have kidnapped Shannon, possibly selling her on the black market.

A national manhunt for Gabrion ended last week, when FBI agents, State Police and Chautauqua County Sheriff's deputies arrested him at the Town of Sherman Post Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Rogowski said Gabrion had gone there to pick up a Social Security check in the name of Robert James Allen, a Michigan man who is also missing.

"We do not know where Mr. Allen is at this point. It's part of the investigation," Rogowski said.

Joseph Mistrett, a federal public defender assigned to represent Gabrion, said it is important for reporters to remember that, at this point, Gabrion has not been charged with any murders or kidnappings.

"There have been a lot of things linked to him in the media that he is not charged with," Mistrett said. "Remember, there is a presumption of innocence."

There are no comments - be the first to comment