CNN U.S. News

Deletha Wordflowers on bridge

Suspect charged with murder in Detroit bridge death

August 22, 1995

From Correspondent Ed Garsten

Martell WelchDETROIT, Mich. (CNN) -- Martell Welch, 19, of Detroit was arraigned Tuesday afternoon on second-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Deletha Word, who jumped into the Detroit River after being attacked and stripped as a crowd looked on. Some of the onlookers cheered.

Word's mother, Dortha

Deletha Word's mother, Dortha, is angry and bitter. "All those people on the bridge and nobody helps."

Lawrence Walker

But at least two people were concerned enough to jump off the bridge after Word, attempting to save her life. Lawrence Walker was one of those people who says he didn't give it a second thought. "Actually, I didn't even think about it before I jumped in. I just looked down... and saw that nobody else was doin' nothing, so I just jumped in."

Bond was set at $250,000. Welch's attorney Wanda Cal entered a plea of innocent on his behalf. She said she was surprised her client was charged with second-degree and had expected the charge to be manslaughter. She said police "overcharged" her client in an attempt to quell public pressure. Cal also claims that media coverage put pressure on police to get a warrant for her client.

Word's father says that the second-degree murder charge is not serious enough. "Why not? Because he just same as killed her." But her mother says the real criminals are the people who cheered as her daughter leapt to her death. "I don't know what kind of hearts these people have just to stand there and look. They should be charged with something for standing there looking."

Welch, a towering young man who weighs about 300 pounds, is a student at Detroit's Wayne State University and is also an employee of Mercy Hospital in Detroit.

Police released two other "witnesses" and say they will continue to gather evidence in the case and say more charges may come as a result of their investigation.

BridgeWord died early Saturday after more than 40 onlookers, some cheering, watched as she was pulled from her car by a group of men who stripped her clothes off and chased her until she jumped off the Belle Isle Bridge.

The attack followed two minor traffic accidents involving Word, a slight of build 33 year-old grocery store clerk and mother of a 13 year-old girl.

Welch's Car Police Comdr. Gerald Stewart said one of the men smashed her car with a crowbar and pulled her from the vehicle, ripping off some of her clothes. He then pushed her against the car and beat her, Stewart said. Word fled and jumped off the bridge into the Detroit River, police said. Her body was recovered down river near suburban Wyanodotte late Saturday morning.

Based on help from some of the witnesses to the incident, police arrested two 20 year-old men and a 19 year-old on Sunday, Stewart said.

Although the two older suspects were released, at least one may still face future charges, Stewart indicated.


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