Victim’s family speaks out after murder defendant released on tether

Posted at 10:21 PM, May 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-10 22:21:54-04

YPSILANTI, Mich. (WXYZ) — An accused killer being temporarily set free has enraged the family of a murder victim.

He was released from jail on a tether and ordered to stay home under strict monitoring. But the family says Orlando Whitfield shouldn’t have been let out before trial.

Whitfield, 31, from Ypsilanti Township, faces murder, robbery and gun charges after the shooting death of 25-year-old Marissa Edmunds.

While the incident happened back in Jan. 2018, Whitfield remained locked up at the Washtenaw County Jail awaiting trial after numerous delays.

However, on Wednesday, a judge ordered his release citing a right to a speedy trial, and further delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every delay has been because of him. He needs to be behind bars where he belongs. If this all has to do with COVID-19, open the jail doors and let everyone out.” said Marissa’s sister, Amanda Edmunds.

Amanda added the release represents a danger to society given that Whitfield has previously served time for sex assault and running from police. She went on to say the shooting at University Green Apartments in Ypsilanti has left loved ones devastated.

“(Marissa) loved music. Everything Batman. That’s why I have my Batman shirt on. She loved all of her siblings," Amanda said.

Whitfield was originally denied bond and is now being represented by a third attorney while facing life in prison. Part of a statement from attorney Erika Julien says:

"My client has the absolute right to the presumption of innocence, and he has continued to strongly assert that innocence for the past nearly 2 ½ years that he has been in-custody, while standing accused of these crimes. While the current public health crisis has hampered the jury trial system, there were a number of previous delays which were not caused by my client, but more so directly related to our inability to obtain crucial information for his defense...”

Yet, Amanda insists he’s a flight risk who may not show up for the final pretrial on June 16, nor the trial on July 27.

“He’s been in jail for 28 months. Since he’s been in jail he’s been in trouble numerous times for fighting," Amanda said.

We also reached out to the Washtenaw County Prosecutors Office for comment. They declined an interview, but a spokesman says they do oppose the judge’s decision.