BAY CITY, MI Oct 31 2016 — An 18-year-old Rhodes man is accused of stealing golf carts with some buddies, then damaging them in an impromptu demolition derby.
On Monday, July 4, a Bay County Sheriff's deputy responded to Green Hills Golf Course, 1699 N. Huron Road in Fraser Township, for a larceny complaint. The course's owner, Dan Courtemanche, told the deputy several of his carts had been stolen and returned damaged.
The carts were in position where they should be, but they had scuffs, dents, and tree limbs on them. Several were missing their batteries as well, court records show. Courtemanche estimated it would cost $6,000 to $9,000 to repair the damage.
Courtemanche speculated a 19-year-old former employee, along with others, was the culprit. He said the former employee knew where to access keys to the carts.
The ex-employee's great-grandmother lived on nearby North Kitchen Road. The deputy followed cart tracks through nearby woods to the woman's house, noting several small trees appeared to have been run over or struck. On the property, the deputy found three golf cart batteries, court records show.
The elderly woman told the deputies her three great-grandsons and some of their friends had been at her place the previous night, court records show. The deputy later spoke with the three brothers' mom, who said she didn't doubt they were to blame for the carts' theft as they were frequently up to something bad, court records show.
The deputy's investigation led him to interview a 17-year-old friend of the brothers, who said they had been having a bonfire at their great-grandmother's house on July 3. They had been drinking before the three brothers and friend Eliseo M. Friebe walked off to the golf course, the friend said.
A short time later, the friend heard the others hooting and hollering as they came into the card driving golf carts. They proceeded to crash the carts into one another in a game of demolition derby, the teen said.
"He stated a couple of them were damaged so bad the boys had to tie a rope to them and pull them back with other golf carts," the deputy wrote in his report, contained in court files. "He said when the boys started smashing the golf carts into each other, he knew it was a bad thing to do."
The deputy later interviewed the three brothers, all who denied any wrongdoing related to the carts, court records show.
Authorities on Thursday, Oct. 6, issued warrants for Friebe and the three brothers. Friebe on Wednesday, Oct. 26, voluntarily appeared in Bay County District Court for arraignment on one count of malicious destruction of property between $1,000 and $20,000. The charge is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000 or three times the value of the damage.
The three brothers have yet to appear for arraignment.
Friebe is to appear for a preliminary examination before District Judge Mark E. Janer at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10.