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Prosecutor says murder suspects ‘took advantage’ of widowed veteran

BALTIMORE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Jimmy Sykes should have witnessed his great-granddaughter’s first steps.

Instead, according to a probable cause affidavit, a 79-year-old Battle Creek veteran is dead, beaten and run over by two young men.

Sykes’ body was found Wednesday, May 29, in a driveway on East Cloverdale Road, 16 miles southeast of Hastings.

But only now is Target 8 learning new details about Sykes’ alleged murder, based in part on an affidavit that justified the suspects’ arrests.

Brandon Mousseau, 28, and Brady West, 29, were charged with murder as a fourth-time habitual offender in Sykes’ death.

Both are being held in the Barry County Jail on $1 million bonds.

Photos of Brandon Mousseau (left) and Brady West (right) from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Investigators say the two men beat Sykes with a blunt ax blade, ran him over and then left him in the driveway of a vacant mobile home in Baltimore Township, 20 miles from Sykes’ home in Battle Creek.

“Deputies arrived and located an unidentified white, elderly male. He was pronounced dead at 12:28 p.m.,” Barry County Detective Sgt. said in a statement. “Deputies observed at the scene the decedent’s injuries, vehicle marks and debris, which indicate the victim had been struck by a vehicle.”

“A STACK OF CLOTHES” IN THE DRIVEWAY

Wayne Morgan lives across the street from the crime scene and said he was leaving on the morning of May 29 to run errands.

“I drove by and I thought I saw a pile of clothes,” Morgan told Target 8, referring to the object on the long dirt driveway leading to the empty mobile home.

When he returned from running errands, Morgan said he noticed tire tracks in the grass on the same property.

“I went over there to see what it was, and there was a body lying there,” Morgan recalled. “When I got here, I was stunned. As I was walking up the hill, I saw tennis shoes, legs… it’s just one of those things you don’t expect. I was shocked when I saw the body. It’s like something you can’t unsee.”

Morgan said it was clear the man was dead, so he backed the vehicle away from the scene and called 911.

“From what I saw, there was nothing I could do for him,” Morgan said. I hope he wasn’t there too long. It worried me.”

Morgan said he couldn’t imagine what would cause such violence.

“It didn’t look like he was going to hurt anyone,” Morgan said of the older man in the driveway.

According to the statement, on the same day, a unit of the Michigan Department of Corrections was searching for a man who had absconded from parole in April.

Mousseau, of Battle Creek, has a criminal history that includes convictions for receiving and concealing a firearm and assault/resisting/obstructing police.

STATEMENT: SUSPECTS FOUND IN VICTIM’S TRUCK

According to the probable cause affidavit, when MDOC’s Asset Recovery Unit located Mousseau on May 29, he was in Sykes’ truck.

Another man wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant was also in the vehicle: West, who was convicted of unlawful possession of methamphetamine/ecstasy, tampering with an electronic monitoring device and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

“Brady West was the operator (of Sykes’ truck) at the time of the arrest,” wrote a detective sergeant with the Barry County Sheriff’s Office. “During the inspection, many weapons were seized from the vehicle, including an axe. … On May 30, 2024, (Battle Creek Police Officer) learned that the owner of this pickup truck, Jimmy L. Sykes… had not been seen since May 28, 2024.”

A motive for Sykes’ alleged murder has not been revealed, although Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt said in court that Mousseau and West took advantage of Sykes, a veteran whose wife died three years ago.

Nakfoor Pratt said the couple convinced Sykes to go to breakfast with them that day.

“VERY EXCITED” TO MEET HIS GREAT-GRANDGRADUCER

Jimmy Sykes with his great-granddaughter, March 2024 (courtesy of the family through Barry County Prosecutors)

Sykes’ family shared photos of the Target 8 and said Sykes was “very excited” to meet his new great-granddaughter in March.

They said Sykes was healthy and should have lived to see her crawl and walk.

The family also shared a photo of Sykes and his wife from a trip to California 11 years ago.

They came from Michigan by motorcycle, one of many trips over the years.

Morgan said he often thinks about the elderly man he discovered on May 29.

“When everything slows down during the day,” Morgan said. “When you’re getting ready for bed. Appears and disappears. I wish it had never happened. I wish it was a pile of clothes… I hope those involved are punished.”

Mousseau’s next court hearing is scheduled for June 19, while West’s hearing has been rescheduled for July 10.