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December 8, 2012

Charges dropped against trail attack suspect

Cell phone records place him far from location of assault

TRAVERSE CITY — Questions raised by cell phone records prompted prosecutors to dismiss criminal charges against a man accused of trying to drag a woman into the woods along the Boardman Lake Trail.

David Michael Walter, 42, was accused of attacking the woman as she walked her dog along the trail on Sept. 16. The victim gave detectives a detailed description of her attacker, and a composite sketch appeared to be a dead ringer for Walter.

But after his arrest, defense attorney David Clark said Walter was adamant about his innocence. An analysis of cell phone records showed Walter's cellphone was used in Kingsley around the time of the attempted assault.

On Friday prosecutors dismissed a felony count of attempted unlawful imprisonment and a misdemeanor assault count.

"Those records show the phone was being used in Kingsley at the time that this event occurred, sometime before and sometime after," Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider said.

Schneider said investigators tried to confirm Walter was in possession of the cell phone at that time. One call made about an hour after the attempted abduction was made to a person in Wisconsin, and that individual verified she talked to Walter.

"It took a while for the police to track this person down, and they said for that phone call, the only person they were talking to would be the defendant Dave Walter," Schneider said.

Walter spent three months in jail awaiting trial on the charges. Clark, a court-appointed defense attorney, said he quickly became convinced of Walter's innocence. Clark labored for months to investigate the allegations and secure cell phone records. He said witnesses placed Walter at home at the time of the attack.

"David has maintained his innocence from day one, and the trouble with this whole case is he's a Native American, and I hate to say this, but people say they all look alike and he was identified as a Native American with a pony tail," Clark said.

Undersheriff Nathan Alger said the subsequent investigation indicated Walter likely was in Kingsley at the time of the assault.

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