An interrupted Skype chat with a family friend clued a Chesterfield Township woman's parents into a life-threatening attack, authorities said Monday at a court appearance for Jonathan Elbers in New Baltimore.
Video chat prompts concerns
The 20-year-old woman was chatting with a male friend who lives out of state around 1 a.m. April 5 when authorities allege her ex-boyfriend, Elbers, barged into her home in the 23 Mile and Sass area.
"By virtue of the fact that she was actually Skyping with him ... is one of the reasons she's still alive today," Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor William Cataldo said.
"There was background noise that concerned him when she never came back," Cataldo said, noting that the friend, who lives out of state, contacted his family to find out where she specifically lived.
His family contacted her parents who were vacationing in Florida. The victim's family then notified police who met her sister at the front door and eventually interrupted Elbers as he tried stuffing her into a plastic Christmas tree bag, prosecutors and police said.
Court conference postponed
Elbers appeared Monday for a pre-exam conference before 42-2 District Court Judge William Hackel III. The exam was waived until May 20 at the request of his lawyers who need more time for discovery.
Elbers could face up to life imprisonment if convicted of the felony charges that include assault with intent to murder, two charges of first-degree home invasion, unlawful imprisonment and assaulting an officer causing injury.
"These are very serious charges," defense lawyer Scott Weinberg said. "We want to be able to get all the evidence."
Rifle allegedly stolen from workplace
On Monday, prosecutors said another charge is expected against Elbers for allegedly stealing a rifle—found loaded inside his truck outside the victim's house—from his previous place of work, Thistledown Farms in Sanilac County.
Thistledown Farms co-owner De'Ann Sattelberg declined to discuss criminal charges against Elbers, but confirmed he worked there and was considered a good employee before his arrest.
"We should all keep his family in our prayers," she said.
Defense: violence uncharacteristic for suspect
His emotional family declined to comment to the media Monday outside the courtroom.
"This allegation is completely out of character and that's what it is at this time—an allegation," Weinberg said of Elbers who did not have a violent criminal history before the alleged attack in Chesterfield Township.
Elbers made headlines earlier this month when he led police on a three-day manhunt, eluding them by foot through woods and water, breaking into a house and eventually getting caught hiding in a deer blind, authorities said.