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Battle Creek woman's family speaks out as suspect charged with her death appears in court

Jerry Harston
Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 18:58:50-04

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The man charged in the death of a Battle Creek woman appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday.

The woman's family spoke to FOX 17 on how they knew him.

Jerry Harston appeared virutally at the Calhoun County District Court. He is charged with open murder in the death of 51-year-old Angela Clear.

"Everybody loved Angie. She loved everybody. Like, she would help everybody," said Ashley Gaw, the daughter of Angela Clear.

51-year-old Angela Clear was found dead at Cherry Hill Manor Apartments on Saturday.

She moved in the retirement community just months before, after suffering a stroke and being put into a wheelchair.

Her daughter called police to do a welfare check after not hearing from her.

"I’m knocking and I kind of can see under the door. There is a crack like that. I can see her wheelchair. Her apartment is really small, but she has one room here and then her bedroom is behind her door. I saw the wheelchair by the sink and I thought that is weird because my mom cannot do anything without that wheelchair," said Gaw.

Gaw said her mother met Harston around five years ago at a rehabilitation home, and they became best friends.

Harston also got to know Angela's family, her kids and grandchildren.

Angela's daughter said Angela referred to Harston as Pacer.

"All of a sudden she called my brother one day and she was like, 'I ran back into Pacer. He is homeless, and can you bring him here to stay with me for a couple of days? He needs to get out of cold.' My brother said, 'Sure.' We all trusted this guy," said Gaw.

READ MORE: Battle Creek police looking into relationship between suspect, woman found dead during welfare check

Battle Creek Police Department is asking the public for help in locating Clear's vehicle, which they believe Harston stole.

It is a 1995 blue Oldsmobile Ciera with the license plate EDB 5744. The vehicle has a large "Rest in Peace" sticker on the back window.

READ MORE: Vehicle belonging to Battle Creek murder victim believed stolen

"We wouldn’t think about my mom with him. No. I mean, nothing. We still don’t want to believe it, but he was the last person who was seen with my mom," said Gaw.

Harston faces a maximum penalty of life without parole.

He has three prior felony convictions. Two of the convictions are out of Barry County and the third conviction is out of Newaygo County. That charge is criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.

His public defender requested a cash bond in court, but the prosecuting attorney put up a fight saying he was a risk to the community.

"The court’s finding given the affidavit of probable cause and given that proof is evident, I am going to deny bond in the case given the charges and that court rule," said Calhoun County District Court Attorney Magistrate David K. Heiss.

Angela's family is now hoping they get more answers and justice.

"I just hope that he will never get out again and be able to do whatever happened. We hope he stays in for a long time and can’t go anywhere. We just want justice for our mom," said Gaw.

Angela leaves behind five children and sixteen grandchildren who are now planning for her funeral.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with healing costs.

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