Attorney to mount insanity defense for Rode


TRAVERSE CITY — The attorney representing a man accused of murdering his wife during a dispute about an unpaid bill will mount an insanity defense for her client.

Michael Rode, 51, faces murder and assault charges after he called 911 on June 6 to say he killed his wife, Sandra Rode, 72. Rode's attorney, Janet Mistele, said she will file a notice of intent to claim insanity defense, a move that will kick off a forensic exam of her client and evaluation of his mental state.

"Truly the entire Rode family are broken-hearted by this tragedy and the devastating effects of long-standing mental illness," Mistele said. She declined to disclose Rode's mental health diagnoses.

Michael Rode's father, Joe, said his son, who he saw often, was not violent.

"It was a great shock because Mike and Sandy got along well together," he said. "Mike was a very kind person."

Joe Rode said he and his son were close and lived less than 5 miles apart. They played chess, walked, swam and hunted together. He said the family gathered in the week before Sandra Rode's murder to celebrate Michael Rode's brother's birthday.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney said a defendant must meet a high standard to be considered legally insane. The defense would have to prove the defendant didn't understand his or her actions were wrong.

"For example, you go to the grocery store and (you) start shooting people because (you) think they're aliens," Cooney said. "It's not, 'I got upset and I was angry and I couldn’t control myself.'"

Michael Rode is charged with murder, assault by strangulation, and two counts of assault with dangerous weapons. He told authorities an argument about an unpaid bill sparked the June 6 incident in the couple's apartment. Rode is accused of choking his wife, striking her with a frying pan and stabbing her with a knife in their Tradewinds Terrace apartment.

Michael Rode was born in Grand Rapids but moved to northern Michigan. He attended Traverse City High School in the early 1980s, moved back to Grand Rapids and eventually returned to the Traverse City area about 20 years ago, his father said.