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Police Investigate Role of Tumultuous Divorce in Bloomfield Township Murder-Suicide

The divorce between Kenneth and Susan Jarrell was settled last May, but the legal wrangling continued.

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.

Rudy Meyer January 16, 2012 at 03:19 AM
I agree about Oakland court and FOC....all about money....lawyers and judges in on things together. Shame on them!
Kelly Holden January 16, 2012 at 10:26 PM
THANK YOU, Tracy and Suzanne for your comments. Kenny was the BEST! Great father, smartest and most intelligent many I have EVER known. I could go on and on and on about great he was. No one that has knowledge of the Jarrell's relationship, divorce, court proceedings, etc. should NOT comment on anything re: this situation except to prayer for the children and for both families. Everyone in both families are struggling with this senseless act that no one understands. What is the most important thing here is the Kenny and Susan's children be loved and nourished and this should be allowed by both families not the family with the most money or power. We love you Nick, Ellie and Caroline and what ever you need we will do everything we can for you!
Stephen Fried January 17, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Ken was a friend and a victim of the recession which killed the car industry. He was a sweet mild pannered person, a great mentor and very patient. Ken worked for a web attorney I hired, so I never met him: we communicated on issues related to a patent I had written which was granted last May. Throughout this relationship, he appeared to be calm happy person: he had what the English call a stiff upper lip. More recently, I discovered that a filing he was supposed to have made for me in the EU six months ago, never went through and I then discovered that the European part of our patent, had died. I spoke to another attorney, who told me it might be possible to revive the patent, but I would have to demonstrate the reasons why the fee was not paid. What I discovered logging on to the Oakland country registry is that Ken's income had an IRS lean on it, along with the fact that the Jarrells lost a fortune selling their house. I concluded that Ken was between a rock and a hard place, and attempting to recover anything from Ken, would be impossible: also destroying a man's career who served me well, posed a moral problem, so I did nothing. I heard from Ken just before Christmas, when he responded to my EU problem that his lack of funds created. I subsequently figured out that Ken's real problem was a hard fought divorce. He was a caring well mannered Intellectual Property attorney whose work made it possible for us to eventually turn a single patent into 8. I will miss Ken.
Erin January 23, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Ken was a wonderful, loving and supportive father. His greatest fault was he loved his children too much. Those who say negative things should not believe everything they hear. I applaud the Jarrell family for handling this loss with grace and dignity. Unless you know the entire story you should not judge. I pray for all the survivors to begin to heal and find peace.
Quinn Oconnor January 29, 2012 at 12:26 AM
she was so nice and the last thing she said to me was your much smarter then you think u are after me thinking i failed the test

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