Police Arrest Two in Manhole Slayings of Four Homeless Men

Two homeless men killed four others they believed had stolen salvaged scrap metal that they had intended to sell, then dumped their bodies down manholes, police said.

Daniel J. Sharp, 56, and Randy Lee Reeder, 50, were being held by authorities Saturday in St. Joseph County and Berrien County, Mich., respectively. Prosecutors said the men would be charged with four counts of murder in the deaths of Michael "Shan" Nolen Jr., 40, Michael Lawson, 56, Jason Coates, 29, and Brian G. Talboom, 51.

All six men were homeless, and police said they all had lived occasionally in an abandoned building near Coveleski Stadium in downtown South Bend.

Police found the bodies in manholes near the building last month while searching for Nolen, whose family had reported him missing after he failed to show up for a Christmas gathering. Nolen and Lawson were found Jan. 9. Coates and Talboom were found three days later.

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"I wouldn't say it's a relief because nothing will bring these men back," said Nolen's father, Michael Nolen. "We knew these guys were working around the clock on this thing and had all the confidence in the world that they would solve it."

The two men were arrested Friday night, authorities said. Sharp was to be arraigned Monday in St. Joseph Superior Court. Reeder was awaiting extradition to Indiana.

Police first interviewed Sharp on Wednesday and noticed that his boots matched some forensic evidence from the building, said Tim Corbett, commander of St. Joseph county's metro homicide unit.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Sharp confessed to police Friday that he and Reeder murdered the other men sometime between Dec. 18-21. Sharp and Reeder allegedly believed the four victims had stolen scrap metal that they had intended to sell. Sharp and Reeder allegedly killed Nolen and Coates in their sleep using a hammer-type instrument and a pipe, then ambushed and killed the other two men when they returned to the building. The men left the bodies in the building for several days and hid them in the nearby manholes on Dec. 26, according to the affidavit.

Forensic evidence in the building confirmed Sharp's account, Corbett said. Investigators said all four men died from blows to the head.

The killings had frightened South Bend's homeless. Saturday at Hope Rescue Mission, a shelter frequented by all four victims, Blackie Fincher said the arrests had lifted a burden off the city's homeless.

"I got real shaky when I heard," Fincher said. "My eyes got real teary. Even me, I get real choked up now and then. Thank God, it's finally over."

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