Area judges oppose parole for Alsteens in cop’s death

These letters were sent to Michael Eagen, chairman of the Michigan Parole Board:

As the person who prosecuted Edward Alsteens for the murder of Kenneth Moraska please be advised that I oppose the granting of parole to Mr. Alsteens. The conviction of Mr. Alsteens of second-degree murder was one of my greatest disappointments in my 16 years as prosecuting attorney.

Let me explain to you how the murder in this case resulted in a conviction of second degree as opposed to first. As you are aware, Mr. Alsteens laid in wait for Mr. Moraska after calling him to his home and from a position of concealment behind a wood pile, fired his rifle and killed Officer Moraska while Office Moraska was standing on the Alsteens’ front porch, with the porch light on, awaiting entrance to the Alsteens’ home.

A clearer case for first- degree murder would be hard to imagine. The day after the verdict, two members of the jury stopped at my office to discuss the case and informed me that during the course of jury deliberations, one juror informed the panel that he was aware that a conviction for first-degree murder carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison while a conviction for second-degree murder gave the judge the option of any number of years in prison, up to and including life. Therefore, he suggested they could convict the defendant of second-degree murder and nevertheless the judge would have discretion up to life. As is so often the case, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The timing of this hearing is interesting. The City of Norway, where this accident happened, is just now naming the portion of U.S. 2, which runs through the city of Norway, as the Michael Moraska Highway and has dedicated it to Officer Moraska. What irony.

During my 14 years on the bench, only one instance came before me where a person convicted of second- degree murder was eligible for parole and it was recommended by the parole board. In that instance, I went to the prison and interviewed the defendant (I had not been the sentencing judge, but was his successor).

In that instance, I did not object to the parole because the defendant was dying.

I understand Mr. Alsteens is in good health.

Again, I object to the granting of parole to Mr. Alsteens.

Thank you for considering this letter.

Francis D. Brouillette

Retired Circuit Court judge

Former Dickinson County Prosecuting Attorney

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Judge Barglind has referred your letter of May 22, 2017 (received May 25, 2017) to me for response. I am the successor judge to the sentencing judge, Ernest Brown. I am objecting to the granting of parole.

I have reviewed the materials submitted by you as an attachment to your letter and have reviewed the Circuit Court file including partial transcripts of that trial. Based on my review, it is my opinion that parole should be denied to prisoner Alsteens.

As stated in the presentence report “this was an unprovoked merciless killing with all of the elements of murder in the first degree.”

The victim was a young police officer responsibly carrying out his duties on the evening of the murder. Mr. Alsteens lured Mr. Moraska to his home and laid in wait with a rifle. Mr. Moraska was responding to a domestic disturbance call placed by Mr. Alsteens. He cold-bloodily shot Mr. Moraska in the head and then in the torso. He stole the officer’s gun and patrol car and fled the scene.

This crime was a shock to our small, tight-knit community. Mr. Alsteen’s cold-blooded crime left Mr. Moraska’s family without a husband/father. Mr. Moraska was considered to be a hero by members of the community. In fact, a portion of the highway within Dickinson County was recently dedicated to his memory.

The community in general and Mr. Moraska’s surviving relatives, in particular, would be horrified if Mr. Alsteens was released on parole.

Again, I strongly object to the parole board granting Mr. Alsteens parole.

Judge Richard J. Celello

41st Circuit Judge

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I am one of two Circuit Court Judges in Dickinson County, Michigan, and I have reviewed the materials submitted with your letter advising that Edward Alsteens Jr. is being considered for parole. As a member of this wonderful community and as a Circuit Court judge I feel compelled to write expressing my objection to the release of Mr. Alsteens.

The pre-meditated, cold and calculated murder of Officer Ken Moraska was a chilling event in this small, quiet and safe community. I remember the event when it happened. It was one of those traumatic events that you will always remember where you were when you heard, “A Norway city police officer was killed.”

Members of this community will never forget what Mr. Alsteens took from us that day. Mr. Alsteens was given a sentence of life in prison. Judge Ernest Brown could have sentenced him to a term of years; he did not. He was sentenced to life. Mr. Alsteens should serve his life behind bars just like Officer Moraska’s family is serving their life without their husband, father, grandfather and cousin. Please understand the significance of this event on this community. Releasing Mr. Alsteens to return to this community would be an injustice that this family and this community does not deserve.

Mary B. Barglind

Chief Judge

41st Circuit Court

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