Joshua VanDeHoef appears for a preliminary examination in the 86th District Court in Traverse City on Tuesday. VanDeHoef faces murder charges in the May 29 death of James Chisholm on the shores of Boardman Lake.

TRAVERSE CITY — Five months after his arrest, Joshua VanDeHoef sits in a jail cell and the murder case against him sits near-stagnant in yet another delay.

Judge Robert Cooney on Tuesday abruptly recused himself from the case, in which VanDeHoef is charged with open murder after the May 29 slaying of James Chisholm, two hours into a preliminary exam that could have moved the matter forward.

It came after the defense, led by Attorney Jesse Williams, contested a slew of search warrants authorized by Cooney and fellow 86th District Court Judge Michael Stepka.

“I do think this is a significant issue that’s been raised as to my ability to sit on this case,” Cooney said Tuesday.

The move delayed the remainder of the morning’s preliminary exam, now likely to be scheduled in December before a special judge. It marks the fourth date change for that hearing, initially slated for Aug. 22, according to court records. The case has also been rife with delays due to discovery, as the Record-Eagle has previously reported.

Eighteen-year-old VanDeHoef, of Traverse City and Carmichael, California, was cuffed and arraigned in July after investigations linked him to Chisholm’s violent murder.

Walkers found the 62-year-old’s body along the shores of Boardman Lake during an afternoon stroll. His throat was slit.

Chisholm, who family members describe as a “nomad,” often traveled and preferred staying in a tent and living simply. The veteran was found a few yards off the TART trail near the lake, just feet from his tent.

Snapchat messages led Traverse City Police Department investigators to VanDeHoef soon after, police reports show.

“We’re just in a non-believable mode right now, you know?” Gail Chisholm, James’ sister, said after the Tuesday hearing. “You never think it’ll be someone in your family.

“We’re going on, day by day.”

For Gail, who has attended every court hearing in her brother’s case, the delays prove tiring.

“I just want it to be over with,” she said. “I want what he deserves coming to him.”

The state court administrator will now assign a judge to the case, Cooney said Tuesday. That could be a retired judge or a visiting judge from another county, a clerk noted during the hearing.

Several pieces of evidence, including testimony from a medical examiner, will wait until then.

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