Gun Plain Twp. man sentenced for Kalamazoo crime spree

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

A Gun Plain Township man who admitted to committing a string of violent crimes around Kalamazoo last year has been sent to prison.

Matthew Steppenwolf, 29, was sentenced Monday, March 12, to spend 17 to 32 years in prison, according to court records, for the six felony charges he pleaded to in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.

In February, Steppenwolf entered a plea of guilty but mentally ill to armed robbery, second-degree arson, discharging a firearm toward a building, carjacking and two counts of felony firearms.

Judge Paul J. Bridenstine sentenced Steppenwolf to: 15 to 30 years for the armed robbery; 15 to 30 years for carjacking, seven to 20 years for the second-degree arson; and seven to 15 years for the discharging of firearms toward a building. All those sentences can be served concurrently, but Steppenwolf will have to serve an additional two years on top of the other sentences for his two felony firearms convictions.

In Michigan, the guilty but mentally ill plea is for people who have been proven to be mentally ill but whose illness did not rise to the level where they were found incompetent to stand trial or that they didn’t have the capability to understand the wrongness of their criminal actions. It demands the Michigan Department of Corrections give that person additional evaluations and possibly treatment while they are serving their sentence.

The crime spree happened Jan. 24, 2017, when Steppenwolf started in Comstock Township at gas station, walking into the store and telling the clerk she needed to give him a free $10 worth of gas.

When she refused, he walked back to his car and returned with a shotgun and threatened the clerk until she agreed to give him the $10 in free gas, which he pumped and left, heading to a home on G Avenue in Cooper Township and trying to set it on fire. Firefighters arrived and put the fire out before it caused major damage.

Steppenwolf told police he was trying to burn the house because the woman who lived there was involved in a car crash with Steppenwolf’s mother.

He then drove his red Dodge Caravan to a home in Kalamazoo where he fired seven shots from his shotgun, screamed racial slurs and threw a Molotov cocktail.

Steppenwolf told police that he’d done what was right and it was “God’s way” because he believed his wife was seeing one of the men who lived there.

At the time, a police report noted that Steppenwolf’s wife told them he had been doing methamphetamine and been awake for two days at the time of the incident and that he was always accusing her of cheating on him with random people.

It was a woman, however, Steppenwolf hit twice while she was standing in her kitchen at the home.

Steppenwolf then apparently left and drove to the other side of Kalamazoo where he encountered a woman driving a Blue Chevrolet Malibu, who he punched several times in the course of taking her car.

Steppenwolf then drove to eastern Kalamazoo County’s Climax Township, where a Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office deputy coming in on his day off after he heard the large-scale incident was happening recognized the vehicle.

The deputy was the first to the scene along with his canine partner and, armed with a rifle, ordered Steppenwolf out of the vehicle and onto the ground.

He complied, the officer said, but “While he was laying on the ground the suspect was trying to call my K9 to him for an unknown reason.”

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop charges of ethnic intimidation, two counts of felony firearms and one count of second-degree arson.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

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