Double homicide suspect pleads not guilty ‘temporarily’

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — As a Battle Creek man accused of killing his tenants was arraigned, police were investigating what sparked a fire at the house where the double homicide happened.

The suspect and victims all lived in the home on Post Avenue near Marjorie Street. Landlord Chad Reed, who police say confessed to killing his upstairs tenants, was locked up at the time of the fire early Sunday.

“It clearly wasn’t by luck that this home lit up, so we are looking into that,” Battle Creek Police Department Chief Jim Blocker told News 8 Monday, explaining why the fire was considered suspicious.

Also Monday, Reed appeared in court to be formally charged with two counts of murder. He pleaded not guilty — “temporarily,” he added. The judge denied him bond.

A booking photo of Chad Reed from the Calhoun County Jail. (Oct. 15, 2020)

Police say Reed’s plea was only procedural.

“We are as confident as we could ever be. When it starts out with a confession, that is really helpful,” Blocker said.

Investigators say Reed’s confession led investigators to the bodies of Joey Soule and Jackie Lepird. They were found in the back of Reed’s truck, which was parked in the garage of an abandoned home not far from their home.

Investigators say the landlord was involved in an ongoing dispute with the couple. Police saying Reed confessed to shooting Soule after Soule allegedly pulled a knife during an argument. Reed told police he then shot Lepird as she was running away before beating and strangling her in the backyard.

Courtesy photos of Joseph Soule and Jaclyn Lepird.
Courtesy photos of Joseph Soule and Jaclyn Lepird.

When News 8 asked the chief if the murder weapon was located, he responded, “We have a number of items that we believe were used in this particular crime.”

Still unknown is the cause of the fire at the house. The Battle Creek Fire Department said a Michigan State Police K-9 unit is being used to sniff out whether an accelerant was used. Police are not sharing any leads on the fire, but Battle Creek police say all the evidence inside was collected before the home started burning early Sunday morning.

Reed will be back in court next month.