FIFE LAKE — A man faced accusations of modifying semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones — and five other felony charges in the wake of a July investigation.
Karl Wayne Kegley, 64, pleaded not guilty all charges in 86th District Court Tuesday.
The list includes receiving and concealing firearms; possessing a short-barreled shotgun/rifle; possessing equipment used to convert a semiautomatic weapon; altering ID marks; possessing a dangerous weapon and felony firearm possession.
Court records note Kegley is charged as a third-time habitual offender, stemming from felony convictions he collected in the late 1980s.
The charges carry maximum sentences ranging from two to 10 years in prison.
Kegley stood before Judge Michael Stepka Tuesday morning for a preliminary examination. He’s been lodged in the Grand Traverse County jail after violating bond by breaking a no-contact order.
Kegley entered a “not guilty” plea for each of the six charges at the hearing.
Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department deputies jumped on the case after a tip from a former co-worker of Kegley’s. He told deputies in early July the Fife Lake man had tried to gift him a muzzleloader firearm. He said he “had a bad feeling” about it because Kegley declined any trade or payment for the gun, according to court records.
Investigations revealed the firearm was stolen several years earlier out of a parking garage in Grand Traverse County.
That theft investigation, started in 2011, ended without any leads.
“That cold case turned not so cold after that,” said Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Randy Fewless.
The find wasn’t enough to link Kegley to that theft, he added — but it was enough to file a search warrant.
Deputies searched Kegley’s rural home and discovered a short-barrel “sawed off” shotgun, according to court records. They also found an AR-15 rifle that had been converted to fully automatic.
Kegley admitted to converting the rifle during interviews with law enforcement, court records show. Investigators are still tracing that gun — its serial numbers were filed down, Fewless said.
Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said investigators found several other firearms on the scene as well, which her office plans to look into.
“At this time, (those main three) are all still of questionable origin,” she said Tuesday.
All of the guns will be forfeited for now, Moeggenberg added.
“I would be shocked if he was able to get his gun rights back after this,” she said.
Fewless said investigators don’t suspect Kegley had any greater scheme in mind regarding the weapons.
“There’s nothing to indicate anything like that,” Fewless said. “We really don’t know what his intent was.”
Kegley told the court Tuesday that he had no other access to firearms.
Fewless said the other gun’s original owner will eventually have his firearm returned, though it likely won’t happen until the case concludes.
Kegley was initially levied a $50,000 personal recognizance bond. It jumped to $75,000 cash/surety after he violated the terms, but Judge Michael Stepka opted to reduce that amount to $25,000 personal recognizance Tuesday at Kegley’s request.
He told the court he raises cattle and also rats, which he sells to pet stores, and needed to be home to care for the animals.
“My guess is the prosecution will be watching this very closely, and if there’s a violation they’ll take that to a circuit judge who probably wouldn’t give you a second chance,” Stepka told Kegley in court Tuesday. “These are very serious weapon charges.”
Kegley’s Attorney Jacob Graff did not return a call for comment Tuesday afternoon.
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