If she hadn’t been driving between 80 and 85 miles an hour to pass the vehicle in front of her on that day in October of 2012, Jennifer Kupiec might not have missed the bullet that came flying toward the front of her car.
Had she passed just a bit slower, she might have been dead.
In his closing statement for the trial of the alleged I-96 shooter in Livingston County Circuit Court, Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townsend focused on the fear that 44-year-old Raulie Casteel left in the minds of witnesses that October, when he allegedly shot at 24 cars along the I-96 corridor.
He said some of Casteel’s victims — spread across Ingham, Oakland, Livingston and Shiawassee counties — likely will live with the story of the incident for the rest of their lives.
“These communities … were living in that state of fear, because they didn’t know what was going to happen until (Casteel) was apprehended,” Townsend said.
In their closing statements, both Townsend and Casteel’s attorney spent Tuesday morning questioning Casteel’s actions, challenging the jury to decide whether he intended to hurt his victims.
On Monday, the MSU alumnus testified that he never meant to hurt anyone. Although he does not argue Casteel’s guilt, defense attorney Doug Mullkoff said his client is a troubled man.
“Mr. Casteel had demons in his mind,” Mullkoff said in his closing statement Tuesday. “He had troubled thoughts. He told you he shot at every one of those cars. Raulie Casteel did something really bad.”
In Livingston County, Casteel is charged with terrorism, assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, felonious assault and five charges regarding the possession and discharging of a firearm. The jury will consider all the assault charges together and decide which one aligns with his actions.
Although Casteel was diagnosed with a delusional disorder through an independent psychological exam in October, Michigan law does not allow the reduction of charges based on evidence of mental illness that could lead to lack of intent. Livingston County Circuit Judge David Reader told the jury to disregard Casteel’s earlier testimony about the history of mental illness in his family.
In his testimony on Monday, Casteel said he pictured the cars following him on I-96 as “demons,” which he needed to eliminate. He said he became paranoid that the federal government was recording his phone calls and surveilling his home.
But Townsend said Casteel understood the gravity of his actions at the time.
“In this case, the defendant shot at people, knew he was shooting at people and just didn’t care,” Townsend said. “He knows bullets go through vehicles, he knows it causes death.”
The jury will continue deliberating on Wednesday morning. If he is convicted, Casteel could face life in prison.