During a trial in Livingston County last week, convicted I-96 shooter Raulie Casteel testified that he spent time in both Michigan and Kentucky practicing his shot in farm fields.
But on Tuesday in Oakland County Circuit Court, it was the hours that he didn’t spend on his own shooting range that saved him years of prison time, according to Judge Denise Langford Morris.
Although no one was killed in the shooting spree Casteel went on along the I-96 corridor in the fall of 2012, Langford Morris said that was nothing to be proud of.
“Thank goodness you were a lousy shot,” Langford Morris said during sentencing.
Casteel, a 44-year-old MSU alumnus, was sentenced to 6.5 to 10 years in prison on Tuesday on multiple assault and weapons charges, which he pleaded no contest to last October. He will also be required to serve an additional two years on a firearms charge.
The defense and prosecution reached a plea agreement that the judge accepted.
During an 11-day period in October 2012, Casteel shot at 24 cars along the I-96 corridor, causing many school buses to be re-routed and commutes to change.
“The kinds of actions you engaged in … these are the kinds of actions that terrorized a community,” Langford Morris said. “Buses were re-routed. We had a wealth of law enforcement involved in this investigation.”
Casteel entered the courtroom accompanied by police in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs.
His expression remained blank, and he barely spoke during the proceedings.
Douglas Mullkoff, one of Casteel’s attorneys, painted a picture on Tuesday of a person who could not outrun his demons.
“Raulie Casteel was a very troubled person at the time that this offense occurred,” Mullkoff said before the judge issued her sentence. “Raulie Casteel did not choose mental illness, mental illness chose him.”
The conspiracy included perceived helicopter flyovers of Casteel’s home, something that he later testified was “probably imagined.”
The delusions allegedly started when Casteel lived in Kentucky, after he was laid off in 2010.
He testified that they continued in 2012 when his family moved back to Michigan.
For a long time, oncoming traffic would give him anxiety.
He began to think the people in the cars were part of the conspiracy.
“My intent was not to shoot … at my victims but at their vehicles,” Casteel said during his trial in Livingston County Circuit Court. “At the time, I didn’t have any thoughts of murder. Now I deeply regret that it ever happened.”
Mullkoff said during the trial that mental illness can often become prevalent later in life, which he believed was the case in Casteel’s life.
With Casteel’s family looking on, Mullkoff gave an impassioned plea to consider the mental state of Casteel when the judge sentenced his client.
“I’ve often heard in courts that I practice in that people have free will and have to live with the consequences of their choices,” he said. “Mental illness is different.”
Langford Morris agreed, but still said the problem should have been addressed earlier.
“Mental illness is a challenge, but it is something you have to seek help for,” she said.
The prosecution and family members declined comment to reporters after the proceedings.
The defense declined several requests for comment from The State News.
During his trial in Livingston County, Casteel was convicted of numerous similar charges as well as a terrorism charge that holds a life sentence.
Casteel testified that he believed the motorists he shot at where part of a government conspiracy against him dating back to 2010.
Casteel said his mother’s side of the family has a history of paranoia and delusional thoughts.
Last year, he was given a court-ordered independent evaluation and eventually was diagnosed with delusional disorder.
The disorder can carry with it intense delusional thoughts that the victim believes without a doubt are real, according to experts.
Casteel will be sentenced in Livingston County Circuit Court on March 3.