The Bloomfield Township man who police believe before shooting himself outside his residence Tuesday night was scheduled to face an Oakland County Circuit judge and possible jail time Wednesday for violating conditions of their divorce, records show.
Kenneth Jarrell, 46, was set to appear before Circuit Judge Joan Young in her Pontiac courtroom at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to challenge a contempt of court motion for failing to pay four months of child support and violating other conditions Young ordered in August.
Police officers responding to reports of multiple shots fired found Jarrell’s body with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was found on the lawn of his home in the 2200 block of Bedford Road shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday. They also found the body of his ex-wife, Susan Pawlecki Jarrell, 45, inside her vehicle parked in the driveway nearby.
The initial investigation showed Jarrell shot his ex-wife with a rifle before turning the weapon on himself, said Bloomfield Township Police Lt. Phil Langmeyer. Investigators had not yet released autopsy findings or a motive Wednesday evening, but Langmeyer said they were looking into the ongoing legal dispute between the couple and still trying to interview family and friends Wednesday.
A contentious split
Wednesday’s hearing would have been the latest step in a long legal battle that seemed to intensify since the Jarrells' 15-year marriage was dissolved last May, court records show. The couple shared joint custody of their three children, who are between 10 and 14 years old, but retained physical custody and lived in Bloomfield Hills.
Attorney Keela Gracey was appointed a guardian ad litem for the children in August after a series of legal motions in which the parents accused each other of not complying with aspects of the divorce settlement. A guardian ad litem is a court-appointed adult who represents the interest of the minor children in a divorce case.
On Wednesday, Kenneth Jarrell would have had to pay Gracey more than $2,800 in legal fees by the end of Wednesday’s hearing, or present a compelling argument as to why he shouldn’t, to avoid at least 10 days in jail, recent court filings show. He was also four months behind on child support payments.
But the post-divorce issues went beyond money.
, had concerns about her ex-husband’s “parenting time, decision making and mental wellness,” according to court records. Gracey investigated those concerns and reported to the judge that Kenneth Jarrell did not comply with several aspects of Young’s orders, including the child support and paying for health insurance.
In September, Kenneth Jarrell tried to have Gracey removed from the case for failing to investigate some of his allegations and sought sole legal and physical custody of the children. Young denied the requests. She also suspended some of Jarrell’s parenting time and ordered him to start counseling, along with parenting education classes that focused on raising girls.
Gracey did not return a message left at her Rochester Hills office Wednesday. However, court records indicate Kenneth Jarrell did not meet with the court-recommended counselor or take the classes.
“New problems arose and already existing problems worsened,” attorney Lorne Gold wrote in a motion to Young on Susan Jarrell’s behalf after the September ruling.
“All of the concerns related to the father’s mental health and ability to effectively and safely parent the children.”
Gold declined to comment Wednesday on Tuesday’s shooting or the divorce proceedings.
Kenneth Jarrell, a licensed attorney who specialized in intellectual property, represented himself in the post-divorce proceedings. Records show he argued for multiple evidentiary hearings so the court could “confirm that the mother has submitted false allegations to support her justification for eliminating the father’s parenting time.”
The Last Trip
Records show that Gold stepped up efforts in December to enforce the prior judge’s orders by filing multiple motions and affidavits.
Susan Jarrell’s concerns about her children’s safety heightened after her ex-husband took the couple’s two daughters to Tennessee to visit his parents the week before Christmas. In court documents, she alleged having only same-day notice of the trip and that the children objected to visiting there because the conditions were unsanitary. She said the children were unhappy and one of Jarrell’s adult relatives made them feel “uncomfortable.”
“The father’s recent behavior has been so poor that it rises to the level of near neglect, and cannot be tolerated,” Gold alleged in court documents filed before the end of the year.
On Jan. 5 – five days before the shootings – Young formally denied Kenneth Jarrell’s motion to alter custody and ordered him to pay all attorney fees within a month, records show.
Langmeyer said he would not comment on financial issues or matters related to the divorce until the police department's investigation is complete.