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Investigators: Man hit, killed Van Buren County woman with vehicle to engage in sexual acts with her

Colby Martin in Court
Posted at 7:24 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 20:23:53-04

VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. — A Van Buren County judge has moved a case forward involving the man charged in hitting a Van Buren County woman with his pickup truck last year then moving her body to the woods.

Colby Martin, 29, is facing four felony charges: two homicide charges, including open murder and manslaughter with a motor vehicle, failure to stop at the scene of an accident when at fault, and concealing the death of an individual.

On Tuesday, there were four hours of testimony where investigators said they believe Martin hit 64-year-old Melody Rohrer with his vehicle and moved her body to engage in sexual acts with her before disposing of it in a rural location of St. Joseph County.

The first witness, Melody Rohrer's husband, Richard Rohrer, said Sept. 20, 2021 started like any other. He said Melody would go on a walk near Oak Shores Campground where they were staying.

He said she went for her walk but she never came home. He tried calling her phone, which went to voicemail and then drove the path she would take. After coming up with nothing, he called the Van Buren County Sheriff's Office and his family.

Van Buren County investigators testified saying there was significant evidence that showed Colby Martin hit Melody head-on with his pickup truck. The road also reportedly showed no skid marks or efforts of braking.

Evidence found pieces of a vehicle's grill and a Ford emblem at the scene. A shoe, rain coat and baseball cap were also found within vehicle tracks in the gravel and grass off the road.

Richard gave investigators information to Melody's phone, which he said she had on her every time she went out for a run.

Early investigation found Melody's SIM card had been placed into an unknown Samsung device a short time after the incident occurred.

The location pings from that phone were a large help in associating Colby Martin to the case, according to investigators.

One Van Buren County Sheriff's Office investigator told the court the phone's location placed him at the scene and then moved towards the area where her body was found, but not before stopping in an undisclosed location for a period of time.

A day after the incident, Van Buren County investigators found Martin in a Walmart parking lot and questioned him about Melody's disappearance. Investigators say he eventually led them to her body, which was found in Purgatory State Park in St. Joseph County on Sept. 21, 2021.

Investigators also obtained a search warrant for his phone. They said text messages between friends had him telling them he had hit a deer.

Forensic reports from the phone's web history were also obtained. Investigators say it showed sexual assault and necrophilia searches.

They said Martin also reportedly entered a live sex chat room while he was in possession of Melody's body.

"When were these searches done?" asked the prosecutor for the case.

"Before and after the incident occurred; they vary from dates, some are back in August of 2021 and September of 2021," said Van Buren County Sheriff's Office Detective Dan Frattura.

Evidence was also collected from a car wash in White Pigeon where Martin reportedly cleaned his car.

Video evidence showed him cleaning out the inside of his car and disposing of items in the garbage. Investigators said they found cut articles of clothing and bloody paper towels.

Investigators said the autopsy report came back showing that Melody had died from blunt-force trauma injuries.

The judge made the decision to bind the case over to the circuit court on all four charges. Bond was denied.

Martin is scheduled to be back in court for a pretrial conference on May 2 at 1 p.m.

READ MORE: Man accused of hitting, killing Van Buren County woman in 2021 charged with open murder

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