Man pleads guilty in standoff case

By Jenny Lancour

ESCANABA – A Flat Rock man accused of holding his wife hostage at gunpoint this summer pleaded guilty Friday to three counts including unlawful imprisonment, a 15-year felony.

During a plea hearing in Delta County Circuit Court, John Joseph Sarasin, 62, pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment, attempted felonious assault, and interfering with a telephone. He will be sentenced on Nov. 7.

The charges relate to a July 9 incident at Sarasin’s home where he prevented his wife from leaving by holding her hostage and threatening to kill her with a pistol. He also admitted Friday that he ripped a telephone off the wall.

In exchange for the three guilty pleas, County Prosecutor Steve Parks agreed to dismiss the following charges: felonious assault; committing a felony while in the possession of a firearm; and a habitual offense notice, which would have increased the sentencings.

According to the victim’s testimony presented in district court, the couple had been married for 41 years and had marital problems. On the day of the incident, they had argued about her leaving him, she said. When she brought her duffle bags downstairs, Sarasin pointed a pistol at her and told her, “I’m going to shoot you,” she testified.

The wife said her husband was angry and upset and kept asking her where she wants to be shot – in the head or chest. When she tried to call 9-1-1, her husband hung up the phone, she said.

Because her call got through to 9-1-1, dispatchers kept calling their home phone; at one point, John told the dispatcher if the dogs bark, he will shoot her, she told the court.

When their son called, Sarasin went into another room to talk to him. The victim said she ended up with a phone in her possession and talked to her son who told her to get out of the house. When she went outside, police were on the scene. She had been held hostage for three hours before she escaped at around 8:30 p.m.

The Delta County Sheriff Department was dispatched to the home at 5:40 p.m. with other police personnel responding. After a six-hour standoff, a Michigan State Police hostage negotiator talked Sarasin into surrendering. He was lodged in jail in lieu of a $50,000 cash bond.

During sentencing, Sarasin will be ordered to pay restitution to four police agencies which assisted at the scene.