Adam Michael Balcer was found guilty of all 17 counts he faced following jury deliberation Wednesday afternoon.
Among the charges were two counts of open murder in the March 30 shooting deaths of Peter Brodick Jr. and Wendy Brodick in southern Tuscola County, meaning the nine-woman, three-man jury could have convicted the 36-year-old Millington man on different types of murder or manslaughter charges.
Wednesday morning, Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene and defense co-council Jessica Riskey – who represented Balcer along with Caro attorney Gregory Bringard – offered their closing statements to the jury in the Tuscola County Circuit Court room in front of Judge Amy Grace Gierhart. Reene encouraged the jury to find Balcer guilty of murder in the first degree in the killing of Brodick Jr. and guilty of both first-degree murder and first-degree felony murder in the death of Wendy Brodick.
The defense asked the jury to consider a conviction of second-degree murder in each killing, arguing throughout the six-day trial that Balcer had not planned to kill the victims, but rather did so in the heat of the moment.
The difference between first- and second-degree murder is premeditation. During the trial, Reene and chief assistant prosecutor Eric Wanink presented evidence that Balcer had planned to kill the victims by, most notably, searching the internet using the phrase “What does a .22 caliber do to a person.”
The jury deliberated approximately four hours before delivering the verdict at about 3:30 p.m. The jury found Balcer guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Brodick Jr., and guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree felony murder in the shooting death of Wendy Brodick.
Conviction of first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the chance for parole.
During his closing argument, Reene pieced together how the events of March 30 unfolded:
At about 7 a.m., Balcer used the internet on his cellular phone to perform a Google search of the phrase “What does a .22 caliber do to a person.” Later that morning, at about 9 a.m., a friend of Balcer arrived at his home, on Boucher Road in southern Watertown Township. The two had been working together tearing down a nearby dilapidated barn and selling the wood for scrap.
Balcer told the friend he’d meet up with him later as he had some “landlord (expletive)” to take care of first, the friend testified. Shortly after, Balcer grabbed his .22-caliber handgun and began walking the approximately quarter mile down Boucher Road to the home shared by 55-year-old Wendy Brodick – Balcer’s landlord – and 44-year-old Peter Brodick Jr. at 9884 Boucher Road.
Wendy Brodick was sitting in her pickup truck and Balcer entered the vehicle from the passenger side. Wendy Brodick began driving, and shortly after, Balcer shot her twice in the head, reached his foot to the driver side to break the vehicle, pushed Brodick’s body over to the passenger seat, then drove her to the 3900 block of Millington Road in Millington Township where he and his friend had been tearing down the unused barn.
Balcer dragged her by her ankles to an area near the barn and covered her body with boards.
Balcer then drove Wendy Brodick’s truck back to 9884 Boucher Road where Balcer shot Brodick Jr. once in the side of the head, killing him instantly, in the front entrance of the home.
When Balcer’s friend returned to Balcer’s rented home, he was given the boots Balcer had worn and asked to dispose of them. Instead, the friend contacted police. After it was discovered that the boots contained human blood, investigators, on the evening of March 30, forced entry into the house at 9884 Boucher Road and discovered the body of Brodick Jr. Shortly after, they arrested Balcer at his home.
“You have to recognize the extraordinary work of law enforcement in this case and what happened,” Reene told The Advertiser following the jury decision. “It got commented on multiple times in closing (arguments) and the rebuttal. Of course, it doesn’t fall into place without one individual, the 30-year friend of the defendant, who was put into the worst position possible. His bringing forth of evidence allowed things to start moving forward step by step.”
Michigan State Police Detective Lt. Andrew Longuski interviewed Balcer twice, on March 31 and April 1. In the first interview, Balcer confessed to killing Brodick Jr.
“The contributions of First Lieutenant Andrew Longuski of the Michigan State Police Department cannot be overstated,” Reene said. He had been out of state training and did not return until Friday evening March 30. He was briefed on the case and made himself available to conduct (interviews). He obtained crucial information from the defendant in regard to his killing Peter Brodick and the location of the murder weapon.”
In the second interview with Longuski, Balcer confessed to the murder of Wendy Brodick, with whom he was having a rent dispute.
“During the time of (the first) interview, Wendy’s whereabouts remained unknown but it was hoped she was visiting her sister in California,” Reene said. “It was of course later determined she had canceled her trip. Lieutenant Longuski then made himself available for a second interview of the defendant during the early afternoon of Easter Sunday during which the defendant also confessed to killing Wendy, described the location of her body and indicated he had shot her while she was driving her truck.
“There is every reason to believe a significantly longer period of time would have passed before she would have been located by investigators absent the extraordinary contributions and efforts of Lieutenant Longuski.”
On March 1, about a month before the killings, Wendy Brodick filed a complaint in Tuscola County District Court to evict Balcer from the rental property at 9676 Boucher Road. As a result, she and Balcer were summoned to a district court hearing on the matter scheduled for March 16, but Balcer didn’t show up.
On March 26, District Court Judge Fred Borchard ruled in favor of Wendy Brodick – by default since Balcer was a no-show – ruling that she had the right to evict Balcer and reclaim the property at 9676 Boucher Road.
On Tuesday, Balcer testified that he had settled the rent dispute with Wendy Brodick on March 29, the night before the killings. In turn, he said, there was no reason for him to be angry with Wendy Brodick, much less want to kill her.
On the witness stand, Balcer said that he simply wished to speak with Wendy Brodick the morning of March 30, and the two went for a drive, with Wendy at the wheel, in her pickup truck. During the conversation Balcer said he got angry and shot her. In a taped interview shortly after the shootings – which was played for the jury – Balcer told investigators that he had shot Wendy Brodick twice while she was driving, moved her body to the passenger seat, and continued driving the pickup. On Tuesday, Balcer said he had exited the vehicle and reached in the open passenger vehicle window, shooting Wendy Brodick twice at close range.
Balcer then said he didn’t return to the Brodick residence to kill Brodick Jr., but rather to inform him that he had killed Wendy Brodick.
Over the course of the trial, the prosecution called multiple witnesses including forensic scientists, crime scene investigators, a cyber-crime unit trooper and Balcer’s friend who contacted police.
Reene told the jury that since Wendy Brodick and Peter Brodick Jr. were not able to tell their stories, “the officers and forensic scientists spoke for the victims, and it was tremendous work.”
“We obviously were going for the lesser offense of second-degree murder,” Bringard said after the trial. “But there was overwhelming evidence the prosecutor had. The jury did not agree with our position and we respect the jury’s verdict.”
Reene told the jury that there was no better example of the definition of premeditated, first-degree murder than what occurred on March 31.
“The manner in which it happened, they were executed, that’s what occurred,” Reene told The Advertiser. “They were defenseless, they were not a threat to the defendant. (Balcer) talked about what he was going to in advance. The morning of he made comments that ‘Wendy was never going to get another dollar for this place.’ He went and got his gun. He could have changed his mind as he walked from his residence to theirs.
“But he didn’t.”
Throughout the trial, Balcer didn’t emit much emotion while sitting with his attorneys, or on the witness stand.
“(Balcer’s friend) seems more affected than the defendant,” said Reene, noting that the friend had lost 25-30 pounds since the killings. “What the (friend) has gone through psychologically is just tremendous, while the defendant just seems to continue to go on his way without an ounce of remorse or regret.”
Additionally, Balcer was found guilty of one count of first-degree home invasion; one count of unlawful imprisonment; three counts of tampering with evidence in a criminal case; three counts of possession of a firearm by a felon; one count of possession of ammunition by a felon; and six counts of possession of a weapon while committing a felony, in this case, a pistol.
The first-degree felony murder charge in connection with Wendy Brodick’s death is the result of Balcer killing her while committing a felony, in this case unlawful imprisonment.
After the trial, Reene gave credit to the jury for sitting through days of testimony, which sometimes included viewing graphic evidence.
“They were willing to go through what they did and they should be commended for it,” Reene said. “They listened, they paid attention to everything, took the time, worked through the case, and delivered a verdict that’s true and just in these circumstances.”
This was the first homicide in Tuscola County since July 4, 2013, when 54-year-old James Edward Garcia shot and killed his wife, Donnieca Garcia. Later that day, James Garcia was killed in a shootout with police near his Reese home.
Less than a month later, the third homicide of 2018 occurred in Tuscola County following the discovery of the body of 33-year-old Neal James Ellis in Vassar Township. Aaron Eby is accused of killing Ellis and is scheduled to go on trial for the crime in April.
This was the first murder trial in Tuscola County since May of 1998, when 23-year-old Timothy David Carter of Mayville was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 13-month-old Cheyenne Lee Irvine. Reene, Tuscola County chief assistant prosecutor at the time, tried that case as well.
John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.