The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ironwood man's trial begins


September 20, 2018

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

DEFENSE ATTORNEY Michael Korpela makes his opening statement to the jury Wednesday in Gogebic County Circuit Court in defense of his client, Michael Zupan. Zupan is facing charges of accepting stolen firearms.


Bessemer - The trial of an Ironwood man accused of receiving stolen firearms began in Gogebic County Circuit Court Wednesday.

Michael David Zupan, 32, is charged with two counts of receiving and concealing stolen firearms, felony firearm and tampering with evidence.

The most serious of the four felonies - the receiving and concealing charges - each carry a potential maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Gogebic County Prosecutor Nick Jacobs alleges Zupan received a number of guns taken from an Erwin Township house in January.

The jury heard from seven prosecution witnesses over the course of the day's testimony, including the victim and co-defendants in the case and officers involved in the investigation.

The day ended with Det. Sgt. Jorge Cruz, of the Gogebic County Sheriff's Department, testifying regarding his Jan. 19 interview with Zupan while his Norrie Street house was being searched a day after the break-in.

Two of the stolen guns were found at Zupan's property, according to the testimony of several witnesses, one in a chest with other weapons and one in his truck.

Cruz said Zupan initially denied knowing several of the other defendants charged in the case, but later acknowledged he knew them and they had been in his house. Cruz testified Zupan said one of the defendants - Aubrey Dean Cummins - owed him money and he accepted the two guns as payment for the debt.

"Mr. Zupan indicates to me that Aubrey walks in and hands over two firearms to him and says, 'I have these, take this,' or something very similar to that," Cruz said.

Cruz further testified Zupan told him he didn't want to inquire about the origin of the guns and didn't know they were stolen.

"At one point he says he didn't know the guns were stolen," Cruz said.

He testified he didn't believe this was consistent with the other statements Zupan made.

"If you don't think they're stolen, why wouldn't you ask where they came from? Why is it better left (unspoken)," Cruz said. "There were several things that stuck out to me - the value of the debt versus the value of the firearms received."

He said Zupan indicated he believed the pair of guns was worth around $800, while the debt was $140 and Zupan called the trade "too good to be true."

Cruz also alleged Zupan erased the contents of his phone during the interview, which serves as the basis for the tampering with evidence charge.

Earlier in the day, Steve Sizemore - the owner of the Erwin Township house the guns were taken from - took the stand.

He testified he came home the afternoon of Jan. 18 to find his door left open and his dogs in the yard. Upon entering the home, Sizemore said he noticed several things out of place.

"The first thing that caught my eye was a spatula laying on the couch ... a metal spatula," Sizemore said. "I was dumbfounded, so I started looking around and I saw my gun cabinet was wide open. I proceeded to the gun cabinet and noticed ... all my guns were gone. Then I called 911."

He said over 10 guns were taken in the break-in.

Along with Cruz and Sizemore, the jury heard from two of the three people who were allegedly involved in the break-in at Sizemore's house - Donald Wayne Lollar and Jenelle Elizabeth Tadgerson.

Both said they took the guns from the house to Zupan's residence, and either told him or implied to him they were stolen. Lollar testified they left all but one gun at there - that other gun was found during a simultaneous search of an Ironwood motel room where Lollar and Cummins were arrested.

Tadgerson also testified she got high on methamphetamine with Zupan at various times in the past.

Cummins declined to testify Wednesday, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Justin Paul Orlich also took the stand Thursday, testifying he got involved in the situation after the guns were at Zupan's residence.

Orlich said he informed the others Tadgerson had been arrested and testified he helped Zupan move most of the stolen guns out of his house in case the police came.

Cummins, Orlich and Lollar have also been charged in the case, and their cases are at various stages in the judicial system.

Cummins, 19, pleaded guilty in June to receiving and concealing firearms and second-degree home invasion. He is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.

Lollar, 32, was sentenced in July to between 3.5 years and 15 years in prison for one count of second-degree home invasion and time served for one count of larceny of a firearm.

Orlich, 32, is facing charges of receiving and concealing stolen firearms, being a felon in possession of a weapon and felony firearm. His next court date is scheduled in October.

The trial is expected to continue today with Cruz continuing to testify before the defense has an opportunity to call any of its witnesses.


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