TRAVERSE CITY — A man who brutally beat his neighbor to death won’t get a new trial.
The Michigan Court of Appeals on Thursday shot down a request from Dallas David Walker, who in early 2018 was convicted of second-degree murder in the bloody death of Christopher Kleehammer.
“I think it’s the correct decision,” said now-Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Attwood, who handled Walker’s case and the subsequent appeal. “Their reasoning was appropriate.”
Kleehammer, 48, was described by family at trial as “frail,” disabled and unable to work after a series of strokes.
He was found in a pool of his own blood on the morning of Sept. 20, 2017.
Medical examiner testimony showed Kleehammer died of blunt force trauma to the head and face. Appellate court records note the beating flattened Kleehammer’s nose and caused extensive bleeding beneath his scalp and on the surface of his brain.
Investigations revealed an early morning confrontation with Walker, then 23, as the culprit.
Courtroom testimony showed Walker had confessed the crime to his girlfriend, telling her “I did it with my elbows.” The pair had been up late the night prior drinking vodka, according to previous reporting.
Walker was charged with open murder days later.
Testimony from 20 witnesses and more than eight hours of deliberations convicted the man, and in May 2018 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer sentenced him to 20 to 50 years in prison. He also got 11 months for evidence tampering — prosecutors argued Walker tried to dump his bloody clothes in the wake of the murder.
Walker’s Attorney Craig Elhart argued his client killed Kleehammer in self-defense after the man attempted to sexually assault him, but it proved unconvincing to a jury.
“I think the jury missed this one,” Elhart said. “I think that it was a self-defense or manslaughter conviction — that’s what it should have been.”
Walker filed a request with the Court of Appeals days after his sentencing. He argued the evidence against him was insufficient and that Elsenheimer erred in considering the crime’s “excessive brutality” in sentencing.
But the appellate court affirmed Walker’s sentence, backing up Elsenheimer’s ruling.
“I would’ve liked to see him prevail on the appeal,” said Elhart, who did not handle the appeal.
“It’s very hard for the family of a very young man … to understand they may never see him outside of prison again.”
But Attwood calls it a win for the victim’s family.
“I’m glad for the victims. I think this provides them with a certainty that was lacking there,” he said. “To give them closure and finality, I think, is a good thing.”
Attorney Timothy Doman, who represented Walker in the appeal, did not return a call for comment.