Detroit man gets life in nephew’s slaying over debt

Calling it “one of the biggest tragedies I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ a circuit court judge this afternoon sentenced a Detroit businessman to life in prison for killing his nephew over a debt.

“It was really unnecessary, really needless,” Oakland County circuit court judge Rae Lee Chabot told the packed courtroom as Hayes Bacall, 51, stood shackled and surrounded by deputies, his head down. In August, a jury convicted Bacall, owner of the Dexter Cash Checking in Detroit, of first degree murder in the July 2010 shooting death of Saif Jameel, 33, in Jameel’s BP gas station in Troy.

Prosecutors and police contend Bacall was angry because Jameel had stopped making payments on $400,000 Bacall had loaned him to build a Starbucks in Troy.

Bacall, a Chaldean immigrant, spoke through an interpreter today. “I am very sorry about it,” Bacall said in Arabic. “I wish I could go back and correct what happened. But I have God, and God knows everything.”

The killing had deeply divided the large Chaldean family, with those supporting Bacall’s claim that he was acting in self defense, pitted against those who believed Jameel was killed in cold blood. During the sentencing some of them cried quietly.

Assistant prosecutor Ken Frazee told the court none of the family members wanted to speak, but noted that Jameel left a young widow and several small children. “The family is present,” Frazee told the court. “They want to thank the court. … They want the court to know how deeply this has affected the family.”