Four women were killed outside of Detroit but their bodies were abandoned inside cars that were left in the city, authorities said Saturday as they filed the first charges since the victims were discovered more than four months ago.
Police Chief Ralph Godbee described James Brown as the "main culprit," but Brown was not charged with killing the women. The Sterling Heights man was arraigned on charges of moving the bodies and arson, and bond was set at $1 million.
Demesha Hunt and Renisha Landers, who were cousins, were found in the trunk of a car in Detroit on Dec. 19. On Dec. 25, the bodies of friends Natasha Curtis and Vernithea McCrary were found in a burning car. All were in their 20s, and three of the women had placed online ads for adult dating services.
Godbee suggested that the only barrier to murder charges is deciding where to file them. He believes the women were not killed in Detroit and possibly not in Wayne County. The Wayne County prosecutor's office handles crimes committed in Detroit.
The office's spokeswoman, Maria Miller, declined to comment.
"We're not anybody's dumping ground for homicides. ... We feel very confident that we've closed this case," Godbee said at a news conference.
The 24-year-old Brown, who was arrested on Tuesday, briefly appeared in 36th District Court via video from jail. He asked for a court-appointed lawyer. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each of the four charges.
Landers' friends and family wore shirts emblazoned with her image in court.
Outside court, Leon Mims, one of Landers' uncles, said the high bond likely would keep Brown behind bars.
"Hopefully, the house of cards will start falling. ... We'll get to the murder part of this," Mims told reporters.