Sentencing hearing abruptly adjourned for Crawford County man convicted for murder
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The sentencing for a Grayling man found guilty of second-degree murder for bludgeoning a 46-year-old woman using a can of yams was adjourned on Monday, June 3, to give him more time to review and understand reports pertaining to his case.
A jury of seven men and five women delivered a guilty verdict for John Robert O’Connor, 57, on April 25.
O’Connor killed Michelle Kukulski on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. They had lived together for 29 years, and had three children. The couple was estranged when the incident occurred.
O’Connor was scheduled to be sentenced to serve time in prison on Monday.
46th Circuit Trial Court Judge Colin G. Hunter quickly brought a halt to the sentencing hearing, when O’Connor said he did not have enough time to review and comprehend a pre-sentence investigation report. The reports are written by Michigan Department of Corrections employees working in conjunction with Crawford County staff.
O’Connor seemed puzzled and confused, stating he did not get a copy of the report until that morning.
“I got it at 10 o’clock today,” O’Connor said.
Several other pre-trial conferences, pleas, and sentencings took place on Monday on a busy motion day docket before O’Connor’s case was called.
Hunter said he would not proceed with the sentencing until the point when O’Connor said he had time to review it.
O’Connor acknowledged that he read the report, but did not understand all of the elements brought up in the documents.
“I did review it, but I don’t always comprehend what I read right away,” he said.
Hunter adjourned the sentencing to ensure O’Connor receives a fair hearing.
“That’s absolutely acceptable,” Hunter said. “In a lot of ways in doesn’t matter when we sentence you, but it matters how we sentence you.”
Kukulski went to O’Connor’s home on Dec. 7 to retrieve some items for their daughter. During her time at the residence, she helped fold her daughter’s cloths and cleaned her room.
Kukulski had not been living in the home for several months. A point of contention was Kukulski started dating Larry Farley, who was released from prison in 2016 after serving 28 years for kidnapping. The case involved torturing a woman with a group of other men and chaining her to a tree in January winter weather.
Initially, O’Connor told police that Kukulski tripped over a dog and fell while walking from the home into a garage. He then said he fell on top of Kukulski, which caused her neck to break.
In testimony at his trial O’Connor said he was carrying a bag of food in one hand and the can of yams in the other hand. As Kukulski was walking out, she said that Farley was going to be part of her life, therefore he was going to part of their daughter’s life.
It was then O’Connor hit Kukulski in the head three times with the can of yams.
O’Connor wrapped Kukulski’s body in a blanket and placed it in her van.
O’Connor hid the body off a two-track trail in Oscoda County.
O’Connor left the van by a Big Boy Restaurant near the Baldwin Commons Shopping Center in Clarkston. O’Connor claimed he was downstate to pick up a part for his home, where he said his truck broke down.
Crawford County Prosecutor Sierra Koch asked that Kukulski’s family members be allowed to give their victim impact statements on Monday.
Hunter agreed to let the statements and other letters submitted to him be preserved for the record. However, Koch and Timothy Corr, O’Connor’s defense attorney, can argue their submission prior to the continuation of the sentencing hearing.
Robert Walker, Kukulski’s brother-in-law, served as spokesperson on behalf of the family on Monday. Michelle was among a family of five siblings, three children, three stepchildren, and five grandchildren.
Christine Kukulski said she could not believe the violent actions taken against her sister.
“The crime of murder is incredibly heinous that I cannot grasp what would lead a person to take this action,” she wrote. “It still stuns all of us who knew and loved her.”
Don Kukulski said the case has caused several ongoing hardships for the family.
“The course of my family’s life has changed unmeasurably since John O’Conner took Shelly’s life. We have a very close family, who interacts often, and the feeling of her loss will have a lasting and negative impact on all of our lives as well our family dynamic,” he wrote. “Even more egregious is the impact this has had on the children. He left behind a life sentence of emotionally battered and scarred children.”
Paul Kukulski said that Farley, who Michelle met through counseling and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, was a better man than O’Connor.
“She met someone who treated her like a woman, and not as property and not as an object of disgust,” he wrote.
Walker acknowledged law enforcement, court employees, and the community for getting them through a tough period in their lives.
“It is with your support, the support from family, extended family and friends and the community that gives us strength to close this chapter in our lives and at least attempt to move on,” Walker said. “We have our faith and we can find solace that Shelly has left this earth and is in a better place.”
On April 9, O’Connor pled guilty to disinterment and mutilation of a dead body, a 10-year felony, for moving Kukulski’s body from the location of her death.
O’Connor faces life in prison or any term of years when he is sentenced.