Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Fletcher: A Simple Case of Murder

Between Acts

Nearly nine months had passed since Leann Fletcher was killed and most of the work on her case was taking place on paper via judicial pleadings. As expected, the local dailies, the Detroit News, the Free Press and the Oakland Press had a field day with Judge Susan Chrzanowski. She had been compelled to testify during Mick Fletcher's preliminary hearing, admitting that she and Mick had had sex the night before he allegedly killed his wife the same night he had gone to dinner with her family to share the joyful news about Leann's pregnancy. Love letters written by Fletcher to his paramour were fought over in the courtroom and their contents revealed to the public. In the end the judge ruled the letters, with such sweet nothings as "keep that chin up, pretty lady" and "you are a creature of true beauty" and photographs of Susan and Mick together were admissible evidence. The newspaper columnists howled for Susan's head, neglecting to mention that beyond her duties as a judge, she was active in YMCA and church camps, had one of the most progressive probation departments in the state and was a champion of children's causes. No, to them she was a woman without morals who was an unindicted coconspirator in Leann Fletcher's murder.

Attorney Brian Legghio queries Judge Susan Chrzanowski about "love letters"
Attorney Brian Legghio queries Judge Susan Chrzanowski about "love letters"

Mick Fletcher was able to reach out from jail, where he was being held without bond, for one final slap at Leann's family. On the day of her funeral, Brian Legghio, his attorney, had convinced a judge that an additional autopsy was necessary by an independent ME. The judge called it one of the most difficult decisions of his career, but ordered the funeral halted to allow another medical examiner a chance to look at the body. The pathologist, working with a body that had been washed and prepared for public viewing, determined that it was possible the wound was self-inflicted, which of course the media played up.

Medical Examiner Dragovic called his counterpart's findings nonsense and said he discounted the self-inflicted wound theory because he "did not put nonsense in his reports."

The state police crime lab had given the prosecution a strong piece of evidence when they found "high velocity mist" patterns on the cuff of Mick Fletcher's shirt. Invisible to the naked eye, the high velocity mist was undoubtedly blood, but the content was so little that DNA matching was impossible. Legghio, who had been trying to get the shirt thrown out as inadmissable evidence it wasn't listed on the search warrant and clearly wasn't a "fruit of the crime" reversed himself and played up the possibility that the blood wasn't Leann's.

"They can't have it both ways," Legghio said. "They say there is blood on the shirt, but not enough blood to profile. That's a scientific impossibility."

The state police also found blood in the bathroom sink, which Legghio said could have been unrelated to Leann's death.

Mick Fletcher led into court
Mick Fletcher led into court

Brian Legghio knew he was fighting an uphill battle in this case, simply because his client didn't seem very sympathetic. As the trial date approached and media interest in the case picked up once again, the lawyers were forced to play some of their hands in the press.

"It's not our job to make him look sympathetic," Legghio told one reporter. "All we need to show is that it is possible he didn't kill his wife." All they had was evidence that Michael Fletcher was unfaithful to his wife and was about to receive a modest settlement in a malpractice case, he added.

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