EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Rogg (left) and Michigan State Police Detective /Sgt. Jeremy Hauswirth listen as Judge Robert Jamo speaks Friday at Gary Paul Phillips-Donovan’s preliminary examination in 95-A District Court of Menominee.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Rogg (left) and Michigan State Police Detective /Sgt. Jeremy Hauswirth listen as Judge Robert Jamo speaks Friday at Gary Paul Phillips-Donovan’s preliminary examination in 95-A District Court of Menominee.

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MENOMINEE — A Bark River man charged with the open murder of his adoptive father was bound over to 41st Circuit Court Friday. The preliminary examination began Thursday and concluded Friday morning.

“The purpose of a preliminary examination is to determine if there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and whether there was probable cause to believe the defendant committed that crime,” 95-A District Court Judge Rob J. Jamo said Friday. “The prosecutor is not required to establish the crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt; however, he must provide enough evidence for each element of the crime charged to lead a person of ordinary prudence and caution to entertain a reasonable belief of a person’s guilt.”

Gary Phillips-Donovan, 35, Bark River, is charged with a three-count felony complaint: Open murder, the penalty of which is life in prison; home invasion to the first degree, based on the commission of an assault, the penalty for which is 20 years in prison and/or $5,000; and home invasion to the first degree based on the commission of a larceny, which has a penalty of 20 years in prison and/or $5,000.

The complaint had been amended to include the two counts of home invasion.

Jamo said the prosecution provided sufficient evidence for probable cause that Phillips-Donovan committed the three counts he is charged with.

Currently, Phillips-Donovan is charged with the open murder of his adoptive father, Michael Donovan, 74, Harris Township, who was found dead in the garage at his Harris Township residence Nov. 19, 2019.

Phillips-Donovan was seen at the premises by both his adoptive mother Patrica Donovan and his 9-year-old niece, who is also the granddaughter of Michael and Patricia Donovan.

“I find that the prosecution established probable cause to believe that the defendant attacked Michael Donovan in his garage and with malice, bludgeoned him to death with a shovel,” Jamo said. He added that “malice” is the “intention to kill” or to cause bodily harm.

“Each witness provided important circumstantial evidence that commutatively firmed the bases of my determination,” he said.

 Jamo recounted several pieces of evidence and testimony presented at Thursday’s preliminary examination.

The postmortem report stated that Donovan’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to his head and face and his death was a homicide.

Michael Donovan’s 9-year-old granddaughter testified Thursday that she saw Phillips-Donovan in the house unannounced and he was looking through drawers in the bedroom. She said she told her grandparents what she saw.

“Patricia Donovan’s testimony’s confirmed her granddaughter’s testimony,” Jamo said Friday. 

Patricia Donovan testified Thursday that her granddaughter said she saw Phillips-Donovan in the house going through her drawers. She said Phillips-Donovan was not welcome in the house without permission and it was understood that he would call or text before visiting.

Patricia Donovan said Michael Donovan confronted Phillips-Donovan about the situation.

Phillips-Donovan left the house and Michael Donovan went to the garage to see if he was in there, Patricia Donovan said Thursday.

“Mrs. Donovan testified that Mr. Donovan did not return from the garage, she went to look for him and she found him laying on the garage floor dead, or nearly dead,” Jamo said.

Jamo recounted Michigan State Trooper Kyle Kelley’s testimony, who stated that his K-9 unit tracked a human from the Donovans’ residence to another residence, where a fire had occurred.

Lead detective, Det. Sgt. Jeremy Hauswirth with the Michigan State Police, testified to video evidence he had collected from a neighbor of the Donovans and from the Bark River High School. The videos showed a person heading towards the Donovans’ residence, a person leaving the residence and a person being picked up along Hannahville B-1 Road in Bark River.

Jamo said all three of these videos corroborate with testimonies provided Thursday, including that of a civilian who said he picked Phillips-Donovan up on Hannahville B-1 Road.

He said the prosecution provided enough information for a probable cause to believe Phillips-Donovan entered the house without permission, based on Patricia Donovan’s testimony. Donovan said he was not allowed in the house without permission because she did not trust him.

“The second element of the offense, when the defendant was in or leaving the dwelling, he committed an assault,” Jamo said. “I believe this element is established with the open murder charge I have already described.”

The second home invasion offense relies on a commission of larceny, which Jamo said the testimonies of both the granddaughter, Phillip-Donovan’s hands in drawers, and Patricia Donovan who said she kept cash in those drawers.

“I bind over the defendant Gary Phillips-Donovan to 41st Circuit Court on each of the three counts in the amended complaint,” Jamo said.

After the case was bound over to circuit court, a felony information document was also filed with a habitual offender notice. The document states that Phillips-Donovan has previously been convicted of three or more felonies, or attempts to commit felonies.

The previous felonies Phillips-Donovan has been convicted of are: Breaking and entering a building, weapons-firearms and concealing (attempt) violation and larceny in a building (attempt) violation, all on or about Sept. 3, 2014. He was also convicted of the offense of sexual abuse of a minor, Sept. 26, 2005.

Because of his previous felony convictions, if Phillips-Donovan is found guilty of the current charges against him, he may face greater penalties.

The document states that a habitual offender, if found guilty of the charges against them, could face life in prison if their primary offense has penalty of five years or more; they could face 15 years or less, if the primary offense has penalty of under five years.

“I’m pleased with the judge’s decision, I believe it is well-supported by the evidence,” Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Rogg said, after the preliminary examination concluded. “I especially appreciate the courage of the victims of this case, the widow of Mr. Donovan and his 9-year-old granddaughter, showed immense courage by coming into court and telling the truth about what they remember.”

An arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 9:30 a.m. in 41st Circuirt Court. Judge Christopher Ninomiya will be presiding over the case.