Alcona County murder trial back in court

HARRISVILLE — Alcona County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Weichel will be going back to court Sept. 17 in hopes of securing a conviction for an 18-year-old murder case.

In 2000, Patricia Lenee Leeper of Flint was found dead in a ditch on Tower Road, located in Mitchell Township in Alcona County.

An autopsy determined she had experienced physical trauma before she was drowned to death.

Police collected DNA from Leeper’s remains and the crime scene in effort to find the person or persons responsible for her death. The DNA samples were put into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) by the Michigan State Police Crime Lab, but no match was found. For 16 years, the DNA remained on file, where it was compared to other known and unknown DNA profiles, with no matches.

It wasn’t until April 2016 a match was finally made.

Nathaniel Jermaine Ballard was arrested in 2016 while driving under the influence, and police took a DNA sample. That sample matched the DNA profile in the Leeper case.

Ballard was charged with open murder on Sept. 1, 2016 for Leeper’s death, and he was held on a bond of $2.5 million cash.

The case went to trial earlier in January 2018, but ended in a hung jury. A retrial was set to take place in March before being pushed back to May and then pushed back again.

Now, it is set to start in less than two weeks.

Weichel said this will be the first murder trial he has had to retry.

After the first trial, Weichel said it was going to be difficult for Leeper’s family to have to relive the details of losing their loved one.

“It is unfortunate that the family will have to go through this again because it was very difficult for them,” he said. “Particularly for her mother, who is old and not in very good health.”

Ballard’s attorney, William Pfeifer, could not be reached for comment.

The retrial is set to begin Sept. 17 at the Harrisville courthouse. Weichel will be the prosecuting attorney and 23rd Circuit Court Judge Laura Frawley will oversee the trial.

Kaitlin Ryan can be reached at kryan@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 989-358-5693.