A young man who died after falling almost 60 feet into Lake Superior last year during an outdoor party was pushed, Bayfield County authorities said Monday.
District Attorney Craig Haukaas said he will file a criminal complaint charging 22-year-old Cass A. Corbine of Ashland with second-degree reckless homicide and felony murder in the death of Marvin B. Charette III, 18, of Washburn.
The Bayfield County Sheriff's Office submitted a criminal referral to the Bayfield County district attorney on May 10 alleging that Corbine pushed Charette over the edge of a cliff facing the lake.
"We don't think it was preplanned," Bayfield County Sheriff Paul Susienka said Monday afternoon. "We think it was just a disagreement, the sort of thing that happens when people are drinking."
Charette and Corbin were at a gathering of about 20 people near the cliffs along Lake Superior on the Red Cliff Reservation on July 3, 2010. About midnight, the Red Cliff Police Department responded to a report of an underage drinking party at the location. When police arrived, a number of people left the area in different directions.
Authorities originally believed Charette may have gotten too close to the cliff's edge while running from police and accidentally fell almost 60 feet. A kayaker found his body on the shore in a small sea cave south of Schooner Bay on the Red Cliff Reservation on July 5. An autopsy determined that Charette drowned and that he had been drinking.
But authorities didn't write off the case as an accidental death.
"We had gotten information from an informant that the suspect had made a comment fairly early on that he may have been a cause" of Charette's death, Susienka said. "We had some information from people at the party that suggested that it may have been something other than what it appeared."
The department spent hundreds of hours on the case over 10 months, Susienka said, with help from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the Ashland County Sheriff's Office, the Red Cliff Police Department and the FBI.
Corbine is in custody at the Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility on unrelated charges. A search of Wisconsin Circuit Court System records found 15 cases against him. They included charges of sexual assault of a child, tattooing children, battery, theft, criminal damage to property and resisting an officer.
A search of Wisconsin Circuit Court records for Charette found several cases, including a felony battery case in which he was scheduled to appear at a hearing in Bayfield County Circuit Court on July 20, 2010. Other court cases included theft, traffic violations, operating while suspended and bail jumping.