It appeared at first to be a crime that made no sense at all.
A man was attacked on the side of a rural road in East Bay Township southeast of Traverse City Aug. 12, stabbed over 20 times and left to stagger to a nearby house to call for help.
The man, Gene Allen Perritt, told police he didn’t know his attacker or why he’d been attacked. He had been walking along Carlisle Road when a car drove up and a man got out and attacked him. He told police he was going to some guy named Ron’s house to fix a tire.
From the start, police knew the case was fishy. Grand Traverse County Undersheriff Nathan Alger, in a press release, said the victim was hiding something.
“Details of the stabbing are limited as the victim has not provided us detailed information,” Alger wrote.
Nonetheless, there were witnesses who enabled investigators to build a case.
The charges, filed almost two weeks later, were based on statements from two women -- one of them watched the stabbing take place and knew the attacker as “Whiz,” a drug dealer; the other could identify “Whiz” as the person charged, Dorian Dionne Lewis.
Lewis, 21, of Westland faces up to 10 years in prison on a charge of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm. He is scheduled for a final conference Oct. 19 and a trial is scheduled for November.
BADLY MADE $100 BILL
By the time of Lewis’ preliminary hearing Sept. 10, Perritt had apparently decided to come clean with police.
By then Perritt, who is homeless, was in jail for unrelated trouble.
Perhaps Perritt, 26, was at first afraid to talk to police while his alleged attacker was free. Perhaps now that Lewis was in jail, Perritt believed he could talk about the person he knew as “Whiz.”
“Were you ever friends with the defendant?” Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider asked him at the hearing.
“I wouldn’t go as far as say friends,” Perritt responded, according to a transcript.
“What was the nature of your connection with the defendant?” “He was my drug dealer.” Perritt said he bought heroin and crack from Whiz. He said on the day of the attack, he tried to buy heroin with a badly-made counterfeit $100 bill.
‘WASN’T REALLY FAKE’
Perritt and a friend had gone to a house on Four Mile Road to see Whiz to buy heroin that day, Perritt testified.
His friend would pay for the drugs and Perritt would go inside and negotiate the deal, he said. His friend gave him a fake $100 to buy the heroin and to settle an earlier debt.
Perritt said he thought the bill was too badly made to be considered counterfeit.
“It wasn’t really a fake, it was more just like a newspaper print, like a hundred dollars on one side and a comic on the other,” Perritt testified.
He handed the note to Whiz and Whiz handed him four bundles of heroin, he said.
Perritt left right away, ran down some stairs into the garage, and went out to the driveway, where his friend was waiting beside his green Jeep. Whiz soon figured out he’d been had and he was right behind him.
Perritt testified that he gave his friend the heroin and told him to get back into the Jeep. He knew they needed to get out of there fast, but he said he was prepared to fight Whiz.
“He (Whiz) appeared from behind, like, wanting to fight, and I turned around, and as I turned around, my friend drove off and left me in the driveway,” Perritt said.
Perritt said he thought Whiz went back inside to get a weapon so he ran off, down the road and through a field to Carlisle Road.
Meanwhile Whiz and two women took off in a car to look for the Jeep -- they drove around for about a half hour before they returned to the neighborhood, one of the women later testified.
Perritt was on foot, walking along Carlisle Road when he encountered Whiz again. A car drove by and then turned around and crept up along side of him. Whiz hopped out.
“I was expecting a physical altercation,” Perritt said. “I didn’t realize I was going to be stabbed.”
‘I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE’
Perritt said Whiz grabbed him by the shoulders and started to jab him in the stomach.
“I thought that he had punched me in the stomach and then I realized he had a knife and was stabbing me,” he said.
Perritt broke free and ran into a field. He hoped someone in the house in the distance could see what was going on.
Perritt tripped and Whiz caught him and stabbed him some more, up and down his back, he said.
“At that point, I just lost all strength, there was really nothing left I could do,” he said.
Perritt said he thought he was dead and a threat to stay quiet seemed preposterous.
“He told me that if I told anybody anything about this, he would kill me,” Perritt testified. “I remember actually laughing. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t think there was any way, I mean, I was stabbed so many times.”
VICTIM’S CRIMINAL HISTORY
Lewis’ attorney, Robert Whims, opened his cross examination of Perritt asking him about his own criminal history, which is extensive.
Perritt has two prior felony convictions -- he spent time in prison after he was convicted of larceny from a building at age 17 and larceny from a person at age 16.
He currently faces a charge from an unrelated case of unarmed robbery.
Whims went after Perritt’s credibility at the hearing in other ways. He questioned Perritt about his admitted heroin use, about the fact that he said he used a counterfeit bill in a drug transaction, and about how he repeatedly told police a different story about the stabbing when he was first interviewed.
“Were you under the influence of narcotics when this happened?” Whims asked him.
“No, I was actually detoxing from narcotics when this happened,” Perritt answered.
Whims did not return a message seeking comment.
‘BETTER NOT TOUCH ME, OR ELSE’
Even as Grand Traverse County Sheriff investigators searched for clues in the stabbing, Traverse City Police had already been at work for three days on the case of an unarmed robbery at Crusted Creations on 14th Street, a case that would eventually land Perritt in jail.
Someone had gone into the pizza store and ordered a pizza. The person attempted to pay with two credit cards which were declined. The person told the clerk a friend would call to pay.
As the customer waited and the clerk went to wash some dishes, the customer lunged over the counter and swiped some cash, around $340, and fled the restaurant, hopping onto a bicycle and telling the clerk who was chasing him, “You better not touch me, or else,” according to the police report.
After several days of investigation, TC Police focused on Perritt as their number one suspect, and on the day he was released from the hospital after being treated for the stabbing, police arrested him on an unarmed robbery charge.
Detectives had checked those declined credit cards used at Crusted Creations and learned they were prepaid cards, which meant there was not a name connected to the accounts.
So they looked into where they had been used. Det. Kevin Gay was on the phone with one of the card companies the Monday after the robbery to get a list of what purchases had been made when the person at the company’s fraud office told him the card had been declined 20 minutes earlier at Ace Hardware on Front Street. Someone had tried to use it for a $4.23 purchase.
Police rushed to the store and soon had a photograph from surveillance footage of the person who tried to use the card. The photo was shared around the department and another detective recognized the man as the suspect he was investigating in connection with a purse allegedly stolen from a hair salon.
They believed it was Gene Perritt. The pizza store clerk later picked Perritt out of a photo lineup.
Perritt has pled not guilty and has maintained he did not rob the pizza store. His attorney, Paul Jarboe, said his client had a final conference on Oct. 12 when his case will either be resolved or he will go to trial.
Things looked quiet on a recent afternoon at the house on Four Mile Road where the events unfolded that allegedly led to the stabbing of Perritt.
A neighbor, who didn’t want to be identified, said things are usually pretty quiet at the house, until they aren’t, and then suddenly there is a lot of people around and commotion and a lot of activity for a little while. He said things have been quiet lately, however.
It appeared no one was home at the house when an SUV pulled up and a resident appeared.
The man did not want to identify himself or be interviewed, though he said the people involved in the drug dealing and stabbing were not his friends; they were friends of friends.
“I sent those people away from my house,” the man said.