CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. — The man who investigators believe is responsible for the death of Alison Sargent went before a judge Thursday afternoon at the Calhoun County Courthouse near downtown Battle Creek.
25-year-old Jose Juarez of Bedford Township was arraigned and formally charged with murder in Sargent’s death.
“For the record we’re going to be amending the date of offense from March 7 to March 5 based on the evidence we have,” Prosecutor Dave Gilbert said during the virtual arraignment. “This homicide occurred on the early morning hours of March 5.”
An hour before the arraignment, the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference at the Marshall Regional Law Enforcement Center detailing their investigation into what happened on March 5, the day Sargent was first reported missing by her fiancé.
Two days later, her body was found on East River Road in Emmett Township, said Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley.
“A citizen who was walking nearby, located the body and alerted public safety officers,” Sheriff Hinkley said at the podium. “That individual was later identified as missing person Allison Sargent from Pennfield Township. Detectives believe that Alison’s body had been placed there at that location and had been burnt at the at location.”
At that time, detectives from Michigan State Police, the Battle Creek Police Department, and the Sheriff's Office joined Emmett Township in their investigation.
Then on March 10, Sargent's vehicle's license plate ‘was captured on a Detroit police car’s in-car license plate reader,’ Sheriff Hinkley said.
“That information was transmitted to detectives and detectives responded and located the vehicle,” Sheriff Hinkley continued. “It was unoccupied. It was parked in downtown Detroit near the Amtrak train station. The interior of that vehicle had been burned.”
During the investigation, detectives learned that Sargent and Juarez appeared on surveillance video on March 5, the morning she was reported missing. In the video, the pair is seen leaving a grocery store on Columbia Avenue around 12:30 a.m.
“As a result of the investigation, detectives believe that Allison was shot and killed in a residence on Timber Lane in Bedford Township,” Sheriff Hinkley said. “Her body was then transported to the location in Emmett Township where she was found by the citizen and the public safety officers.”
Immediately, detectives got an arrest warrant for Juarez, who was already in jail on an unrelated charge, he said.
Thursday, Juarez, who has several prior felonies, was charged with murder, felony firearm and mutilation of a body.
Prosecutor Gilbert also stated in the arraignment that prior to Sargent’s death the pair was seen on other surveillance videos on the morning of March 5.
Gilbert said Juarez is seen holding a handgun in those videos.
“By 2:05 a.m., about an hour and 15 minutes later, he’s ordered a ticket on Amtrak from Detroit to Battle Creek,” Gilbert said during the arraignment. “A vehicle that the victim owned was missing at the time. It was actually discovered next to the Amtrak station in Detroit where it’s on video that somebody attempted to put it on fire.”
Juarez is expected to return to court in July for his pre-examination and preliminary hearings. He faces life in prison if he's found guilty of the charges against him.
“We would like to express our deepest sympathy to Allison’s family,” Sheriff Hinkley said. “And we thank them for their cooperation and their patience with all of the detectives as they investigated this case.”