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Thomas Howard WENDT





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: The three victims were on their way to testify against Wendt when they were shot
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: March 5, 2002
Date of arrest: Same day (suicide attempt)
Date of birth: 1951
Victims profile: His ex-wife Vicki Keller-Wendt, 45; her niece, Brandie Lea Keller, 20; and Keller-Wendt’s friend, Douglas McCoy, 50
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Isabella County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on December 27, 2002

State of Michigan Court of Appeals




Thomas H. Wendt

March 6, 2002

A Michigan man accused of fatally shooting his ex-wife and two other people outside a courthouse was captured at home after taking an apparent overdose of prescription drugs and calling a crisis hot line. 

Thomas H. Wendt, 51, was disoriented but unharmed when police arrested him in his trailer following an hour-long standoff with police in which Wendt came outside twice with a shotgun. Authorities finally entered the trailer when telephone negotiations broke down.

The three victims -- Vicki Sue Keller-Wendt, 44, Brandie Lea Keller, 20, y Douglas McCoy, 50, -- were shot in a parking lot outside the Isabella County Courthouse. They were going to the courthouse to testify at a probation hearing for Wendt. Police said Wendt had been in court before on a domestic violence charge.


Wendt bound over for trial

Charges amended to first-degree murder

By Sarah Leach -


Thomas Howard Wendt was bound over for trial Wednesday on first-degree murder charges in the shooting deaths of three Mount Pleasant residents.

In a preliminary hearing, County Prosecutor Larry Burdick requested that the charges filed against the triple-homicide suspect be amended from three counts of open murder to three counts of premeditated first-degree murder.

If convicted, Wendt faces life in prison for each count.

Wendt also is charged with three counts of a felony firearm violation.

According to police, Wendt used a shotgun March 5 to kill his ex-wife Vicki Keller-Wendt, 45; her niece, Brandie Lea Keller, 20; and Keller-Wendt’s friend, Douglas McCoy, 50, outside the Isabella County Trial Court building, 300 N. Main St.

The Honorable William R. Rush, who presided over the hearing, granted Burdick’s request, and also approved that Wendt be held without bond. Bond had been set at $3.5 million March 6.

A formal arraignment is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. April 5 in front of Presiding Judge Paul H. Chamberlain, said Lance Dexter, the court’s administrator.

The prosecution called five witnesses to testify at Wednesday’s hearing. The defense did not call any witnesses.

In a preliminary hearing, prosecution presents evidence to try to convince the judge there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed it.

Rhonda Young, Wendt’s former co-worker, said she had known Wendt for only one year, but three months into their working relationship, he began to make statements about harming his ex-wife.

“He said he was going to kill the bitch,” Young said.

She testified that Wendt made similar statements about six or seven times during their yearlong friendship.

In late February, Young said she was leaving work when Wendt approached her at her car, visibly upset.

“He was upset and afraid he was going to do jail time,” she said. “He said he wasn’t going to do jail time for her. He was going to kill her first and kill himself.”

Before Keller-Wendt divorced her estranged husband in 2000, she obtained a personal protection order to keep him away. In court records, she said Wendt followed her, slashed her tires and called her dozens of times a day.

On Sept. 19, Wendt pleaded no contest to an obscene phone call charge. He was sentenced to four months probation and ordered to have no contact with Keller-Wendt. In early January, Keller-Wendt notified police that as she was talking on her cell phone in her car, Wendt yelled obscenities at her and Keller, who was with Keller-Wendt at the time.

Because contact with Keller-Wendt was a violation of his probation, a probate court hearing was scheduled for 11 a.m. March 5.

The three victims were on their way to testify against Wendt when they were shot.

Officer Charlie Lyon of the Mount Pleasant Police Department said the four were to give testimony in regard to a probation violation. Wendt had a history in the courts, including a domestic violence charge.

Young said that weeks prior to March 5, Wendt told her he would cause harm to Keller-Wendt during the March 5 hearing.

“In court, he was going to jump over the bailiff, snap her neck and make the cops shoot him,” she said.

During cross-examination by Wendt’s court-appointed attorney Mark G. Kowalczyk, Young said Wendt was a leader at their place of work, PAULSTRA, an Ithaca-based company that makes anti-vibration products for cars.

She said Wendt tried to organize the factory employees to bring in a union.

Young said she believes Wendt was singled out to take a drug test in retaliation for his involvement with union talks. Wendt failed the drug test and was subsequently fired.

Detective William Griffin of the Mount Pleasant Police Department said when he arrived in the parking lot after the shooting, he spoke with Ed Williams, who was to serve as a character witness for Wendt that day.

“He was very upset, bordering on hysterical,” Griffin said of Williams. “He kept saying ‘I can’t believe he did this. I can’t believe he did this.’”

Williams told Griffin he was in the parking lot at the time of the shooting, but did not see it happen. He only heard the shots.

The shots, Griffin said, came from a 12-gauge shotgun that fired 32-caliber, buckshot pellets. Buckshot differs from regular bullets, or slugs, in that it is comprised of several small steel bearings that spray in a fan-like manner when fired.

Sgt. Scott Hrcka of the Michigan State Police Lansing Forensic Laboratory said one shotgun shell was found in the parking lot. Because it was snowing that day, tire tracks also were found at the scene exiting the lot.

Hrcka said police tracked Wendt to his home in Weidman and found a shotgun shell in a gold-tan Suburban registered to Wendt.

After Wendt’s arrest, authorities found a shotgun in his home at 7820 Wilderness Drive. The weapon was loaded with one round still in the chamber.

Police also found a notepad containing a four-page letter, signed by Wendt, addressed to his mother and sister. Burdick asked that Hrcka read the letter in full for the record.

“‘Vicki will never bother you again,’” Hrcka read. “‘I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me for what I have done.’

“‘The whore has taken it out on you. ... I promise no one will look at the whore’s face again. She won’t have one. ... You will not have to live in fear of the junky whore.’

“‘If I went to jail, the whore would still be alive to torment you,’” Hrcka read. “‘After today, have no fear, she will be dead and I will be free of my pain and suffering. ... Please don’t grieve for me.’

“‘If I still had my job, I might be able to get through this. ... I can’t fight it anymore. ... The court system can’t do anything to her, so I will.’

“‘I would give anything to start over, ... but I can’t.’

“‘Hopefully, I will be able to kill Doug McCoy,’” Hrcka read.

Other witnesses included CMU Police Officer Leo Mioduszewski and Mount Pleasant Police Detective David Tuma.


Wendt claims insanity

By: Heather Bell - Central Michigan Life


Thomas Wendt has entered a notice of insanity defense in response to three first-degree homicide charges and three felony firearms charges.

Wendt is accused of killing his ex-wife, her sister and her friend March 5 outside the Isabella County Courthouse, 300 N. Main St.

Filed May 1, the notice will probably delay the trial until the fall, said County Prosecutor Larry Burdick.

“He will be examined at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti. They will evaluate him for competency to stand trial,” Burdick said.

Psychiatrists at the center also will decide whether Wendt was competent at the time he allegedly committed the crime, and if he should be responsible for his actions.

Following the evaluation, Burdick said both the prosecuting attorney and Wendt’s defense attorney, Mark Kowalczyk, have the option to request a “second opinion” on the results of the evaluation.

Kowalczyk did not return repeated phone calls from CM LIFE for comment.

“If (a second opinion is requested), it will take some time (to begin the trial),” Burdick said.

Although Kowalczyk has not filed a motion to change the venue, it still may play a factor, Burdick said.

One of the things court officials will try to do is find an impartial jury, and if one can’t be found in Isabella County, the trial may be moved elsewhere by the State Court Administrator’s Office, he said.

“It would not be in a neighboring county; it would be further away,” Burdick said.

If that happens, the trial will be put off for much longer.

Police said Wendt used a shotgun to kill Douglas Alan McCoy, Vicki Sue Keller-Wendt and Brandie Lea Keller outside the Courthouse, then fled to his home in Weidman and surrendered after a stand-off with police.

The four were scheduled for a probate hearing the morning of the shooting, to hear a case concerning Thomas Wendt’s probation violation.

During the preliminary hearing, witnesses testified that Thomas Wendt had made threats on Keller-Wendt’s life and that he had a history of domestic violence, as well.


Jury finds Wendt guilty in triple slaying at Isabella County courthouse


A man accused of gunning down three people in front of the Isabella County Courthouse in March was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder.

Thomas Howard Wendt, 52, testified last week that he didn’t remember killing his ex-wife Vicki Sue Keller, 45; her niece, Brandi Lea Keller, 20; and Vicki Keller’s friend, Douglas McCoy, 50.

The jury delivered the guilty verdict on all three first-degree murder counts after less than a day of deliberations.

Wendt faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Police said Wendt shot the three Mount Pleasant residents at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun as they walked to the courthouse to attend a hearing March 5 in which Wendt was charged with violating a personal protection order Vicki Keller had filed against him.

Wendt told jurors Friday that he tried to end his life by overdosing on prescription and illicit drugs the morning of the shootings and didn’t remember anything from that point until two days later.

Prosecutor Larry Burdick said in his closing argument that Wendt’s explanation was nonsense.

Defense attorney Mark Kowalczyk said Burdick had not proved premeditation needed for a first-degree murder conviction, especially in the death of Brandi Keller.



Thomas Wendt of Weidman sits stoically as he listens to testimony against him in preliminary hearing at the Isabella County Courthouse.



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