Man serving life for murder will be released

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm ordered the release Wednesday of a Detroit-area man serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a co-worker in 1988.

Granholm followed the recommendation of the Michigan parole board to commute the sentence and release Matthew Makowski, 43. His conviction remains intact.

Makowski will remain in prison for several weeks until his parole is finalized, prisons spokesman Russ Marlan said.

Makowski was convicted in the death of Pietro "Pete" Puma, 19, although he was not present when the victim was stabbed, Marlan said.

He worked with Puma at a Dearborn health club and knew he carried a lot of cash. Markowski arranged a robbery that was committed by two other people, Marlan said.

"He thought the victim would give up the money. The victim fought one of the perpetrators and was stabbed and killed," Marlan said.

Makowski had only two misconducts during 22 years in prison.

"The fact that he wasn't the individual who stabbed (Puma) probably played into the decision to commute," Marlan said, referring to the parole board's recommendation.

The Wayne County prosecutor's office opposed Makowski's release in an October letter to the parole board.

"The inmate set up a person whom he had considered at least an acquaintance, if not a friend, for a robbery and had caused his death," assistant prosecutor Margaret N.S. Rynier wrote.

"It is of no consequence that he himself did not plunge the knife into the body of the victim," she said.

Granholm's office noted that the parole board found Makowski was not a threat to public safety.

He was represented in his commutation request by lawyer John Schlinker, a former parole board member.

"The governor should be commended for the courage it takes to do this kind of thing," Schlinker said. He declined further comment.

The man accused of stabbing Puma, Johnnie Fleming, is serving a life sentence. Another man charged in the case was paroled in 1993, Marlan said.

Published: Fri, Dec 24, 2010