United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Steven William Deuman, Jr., has filed a Motion Under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 To Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence
By a Person in Federal Custody. Deuman alleges that, for a
number of reasons, his trial counsel was ineffective. The
Government has filed a response, as well as an affidavit from
Deuman's trial counsel, and Deuman has filed a reply. In
addition, Deuman filed a supplemental reply, to which the
Court allowed the Government to file a response. After
reviewing the motion and briefs, the Court concludes that
Deuman's arguments are without merit and he is not
entitled to relief.
September 15, 2011, a grand jury returned a two-count
Indictment against Deuman, charging him with first-degree
murder and aggravated sexual abuse of a minor child who had
not attained the age of twelve years, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 1111(a) and 2241(c). On September 19,
2012, at the conclusion of an eight-day trial, a jury
convicted Deuman on both counts. On March 8, 2013, this Court
sentenced Deuman to life in prison on each count. (Case No.
1:11-CR-266 ECF No. 157 (the criminal docket will be referred
to herein as “CC”).)
appealed his sentence to the United States Court of Appeals
for the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed in an unpublished
opinion dated June 11, 2014. United States v.
Deuman, 568 F. App'x 414 (6th Cir. 2014). Deuman
filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States
Supreme Court, which denied his petition on October 6, 2014.
(CC ECF No.173.) Deuman thereafter filed this timely motion
under § 2255.
following facts were recited by the Sixth Circuit in its
Deuman and Natasha Maitland had two children: a two-year-old
son, S.D., and 15-week-old daughter, E.D. They lived in a
trailer with Deuman's brother, Silvano Southbird, and
Southbird's family. Deuman and Southbird were members of
the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
Southbird owned the trailer, which was located within Indian
country in Sutton's Bay, Michigan. Ten people lived in
the trailer; Deuman, Maitland, and their two children shared
On the night of August 11, 2011, Maitland and Deuman had sex
using a condom. Afterwards, Deuman tied the used condom in a
knot and tossed it on the floor beside the bed. The next
morning, Maitland woke up early for work and cleaned the
room. She picked up the used condom, its wrapper, and a
soiled diaper off the floor, and threw them away in the
kitchen trash can. Maitland then placed a box of condoms on
the nightstand next to the bed. She did not shower that
morning because the water heater was broken.
Deuman was unemployed and stayed home to care for E.D. He
knew that Maitland was scheduled to work until 7:00 p.m. that
evening. At 6:49 p.m., Deuman sent Maitland the first of two
text messages; both messages asked Maitland where she was.
Deuman called Maitland at 7:05 p.m., and told her to call him
back after she picked up her paycheck from her second job.
Maitland did so at 7:35 p.m., and told Deuman to meet her at
the tribal gas station so that she could pay to fill his
motorcycle with gas. Deuman told Maitland to call back when
she neared the gas station, which was a five-to-ten minute
drive from the trailer. Deuman then went outside to smoke a
cigarette with Southbird and his wife, Veronica Reynaga.
Maitland called back at 7:45 p.m. Deuman answered while
smoking outside the trailer. He asked Southbird and Reynaga
to watch E.D. while he went to meet Maitland at the gas
station. Before he left, Deuman told Southbird and Reynaga
that he was going to check on E.D. (something he normally did
not do). Deuman went into the trailer, quickly returned, and
said that something was wrong with E.D. Deuman led Southbird
to the bedroom, where E.D. lay on the bed, motionless. Deuman
explained that earlier he had left E.D. in the middle of the
bed with a bottle, surrounded by blankets and pillows; and
that when he walked into the room just then, he found E.D. on
the floor, by the foot of the bed. Southbird told Deuman that
they needed to take E.D. to the hospital, immediately.
At 7:47 p.m., Deuman called Maitland and said “get home
now; get home now.” As Maitland arrived home three
minutes later, she saw Southbird's car pulling out of the
driveway, headed towards Traverse City. Maitland pulled up to
the trailer. Deuman exited Southbird's car with
E.D.'s lifeless body in his hands. Maitland checked for a
pulse, but found none. E.D. was blue, cold to the touch, and
had a line of blood running from her mouth to her forehead.
Maitland called 911 immediately after learning that neither
Deuman or Southbird had done so. Deuman grabbed the phone
from Maitland and yelled at the dispatcher: “[E.D.] was
sleeping on the bed, I laid her on the bed to sleep,
she's not at the point of rolling over, she's three
months old, I went to check on her, we were outside maybe ten
minutes. And I go in and she is unconscious.”
Maitland told Reynaga to drive her and E.D. to the hospital.
As they drove there, the 911 dispatcher told Maitland to pull
to the side of the road and wait for an ambulance. Reynaga
pulled over and Maitland gave CPR to E.D. on the side of the
road. A paramedic arrived and also attempted CPR. An EMT then
arrived and directed that E.D. be put into the ambulance. The
EMT then inserted a breathing tube into E.D.'s throat. He
observed that E.D.'s airway appeared deformed: instead of
having a normal V-shape like other infants he had treated
during his 24-year career, E.D.'s throat tissues had been
pulled away, widening her throat to more of a U-shape. The
paramedics drive E.D. to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Deuman had stayed at the trailer. He called out:
“Oh, God, please don't let this happen to
me.” Southbird told his brother that he should have
gone to the hospital with E.D., and gave Deuman $16 to fuel
his motorcycle. Deuman went to the gas station and filled his
gas tank. Then he went inside the gas station and filled out
a tribal-discount form, which saved him 76 cents.
When Deuman arrived to [sic] the hospital, he yelled at the
paramedics, “[y]ou killed my fucking mom and now you
killed my baby, too.” An emergency room doctor asked
Deuman to explain what happened to E.D. Deuman responded that
he had gone back into the bedroom after a smoke “and
the baby was on the floor with blood around its nose.”
At 8:50 p.m., a doctor pronounced E.D. dead. Soon after, the
hospital allowed Maitland and Deuman to see E.D.'s body
in the trauma room. As they sat alone with their dead baby,
Deuman whispered to Maitland that he had found a condom in
E.D.'s mouth. He had not told this fact to Southbird, the
911 dispatcher, or the paramedics and doctors.
The next day, Dr. David Start performed an autopsy on
E.D.'s body. He concluded that the cause of E.D.'s
death was asphyxiation from a foreign object blocking her
airway. Start found no evidence that E.D. had fallen from the
bed; and he determined that it was “not a reasonable
possibility” that the three-month-old E.D. could have
grasped a condom, placed it in her mouth, and sucked it in
far enough to block her airway. Start concluded that
E.D.'s death was a homicide. He further determined that
E.D.'s death was consistent with an adult penis having
been put in her mouth and blocking her airway, and that the
oral penetration would not necessarily have resulted in
physical trauma to E.D.'s mouth.
Twenty-eight hours after E.D.'s death, the FBI searched
the trailer. On the bedroom floor, the FBI found a used
condom beneath a dirty diaper and several condom wrappers.
The box of condoms was on the bed. A forensic scientist
discovered a sizable blood stain on the carpet next to the
head of the bed, which later proved to be a mixture of bloody
fluid from E.D.'s lungs.
Later that day, FBI agents Robert Birdsong and Larry Stewart
interviewed Deuman. He told them that E.D. had been healthy
the day that she died. Deuman also said that E.D. was unable
to hold a bottle by herself or grasp an item unless it as put
in front of her. According to Deuman, he put E.D. in the
center of the bed with a bottle, and surrounded her with
blankets and pillows so that she could not roll off. Then he
went outside to smoke a cigarette. Two-to-seven minutes later
he heard E.D. cry. He got a “bad feeling, ” and
went to check on her. He found E.D. lying face down on the
floor by the head of the bed. He picked her up and found an
unrolled condom in her mouth and blood on her lips. At that
point, Agent Birdsong asked Deuman how E.D. could have ended
up on the floor with a condom in her mouth. Deuman responded:
“if you're accusing me of sticking my dick in her
mouth, then you're a sick mother-fucker.” At that
point, no one had yet suggested to Deuman that he had done
anything of the sort.
On August 16th, Birdsong met with Maitland and Deuman.
Birdsong told them that E.D. died of asphyxiation. Deuman
then asked whether there was any damage to E.D.'s mouth.
Birdsong responded that there was none. Deuman placed his
head in his hands, and exclaimed, “[t]hank God.”
Deuman also asked whether any fluids had been found in
E.D.'s mouth. Birdsong responded that they were still
awaiting the test results.
Later that evening, Deuman and Maitland visited Deuman's
aunt, a member of the Grand Traverse Tribe. Deuman told his
aunt that E.D. had rolled off the bed and that Deuman had
found her unconscious. His aunt said that the story did not
make sense, and that perhaps E.D.'s death could be
explained by “bear walking”-i.e., there
were good families and bad families, and the bad families
were bear walkers, who could shape-shift into bears. Bear
walkers could also take a person's DNA and become that
The next day, Agents Birdsong and Fred Berry, and Detective
Richard Campos (Tribal Police) drove Deuman to Flint for a
polygraph examination. During the drive, Deuman told the
agents that E.D. had communicated to him when he saw her body
at the funeral home. E.D. supposedly said that everyone
should leave the trailer because it was haunted by evil
spirits. On the drive home after the polygraph, Deuman said
that he thought it as possible that he had killed E.D. while
being bear-walked by one of the evil spirits. Deuman also
said that there was a “50 percent” chance that he
would be able to tell them what actually happened to E.D., an
estimate he revised to “70 percent, ” and
ultimately to “80 percent.” But first he wanted
to talk to Maitland. The agents dropped Deuman off at the
hotel where he and Maitland were staying.
Deuman took Maitland out to the hotel's golf course for a
talk. He told her that he blacked out the day that E.D. died,
and that he thought he had been bear-walked.
A forensic analyst tested the used condom found on the
bedroom floor. On the outside of the condom she found DNA
only from E.D. On the inside was DNA from both Maitland and
Deuman. A forensic expert later explained that Maitland's
DNA could have been transferred to Deuman's penis when
the two had sex the night before.
The FBI arrested Deuman on August 18.
Deuman, 568 F. App'x at 416-18.