2 brothers found guilty of murdering hunters Wednesday, October 29, 2003 BY HUGH MCDIARMID JR. FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER STANDISH - For almost two decades, the mystique shrouding the Duvall brothers' involvement in the disappearance of two metro Detroit hunters mushroomed like an urban legend. The legend crashed down on top of the pair Wednesday in the 120 minutes it took jurors to find them guilty of first-degree murder in the bludgeoning deaths of Brian Ognjan of St. Clair Shores and David Tyll of Troy. Raymond (J.R.) Duvall, 52, and Donald (Coco) Duvall, 51, now face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for the 1985 murders on a cold, dark, rural road near Mio. For the families of the murdered men, it was a bittersweet moment. ``They took my son. It doesn't bring him back, but it's something,'' said Tyll's father, Arthur Tyll. He quivered with emotion outside the courtroom as he leaned unsteadily on a silver metal cane. ``I was glad to see them cuffed, and I can't wait to see them in chains.'' The jury's quick verdict stunned many observers who had settled in for a long stretch of deliberations over mountains of evidence presented in the 7-day trial before 23rd Circuit Judge Ronald Bergeron. Police escorted jury members, who declined comment, to their cars after the verdict. As the word ``guilty'' came from the jury foreman, Raymond Duvall dropped his head on the defense table briefly. Donald Duvall sat stoically. Some of their family members wept quietly as the pair left the courtroom in handcuffs. The family members declined comment as they hurried from the building. The hunters' disappearance 18 years ago - over the weekend of Nov. 23-24 - sparked an intensive manhunt that attracted national publicity and examinations of the case on TV shows like ``Unsolved Mysteries.'' Dozens of lakes and rivers were searched, fields dug up, cadaver dogs called in, aerial searches conducted and ground-penetrating radar employed. Police even acted on tips from psychics, but no trace of the men, their belongings or their truck was found. The investigation, spearheaded by the Michigan State Police, eventually focused on the Duvalls, two of a tightly knit clan of seven brothers who were known as hard-drinking, hot-tempered brawlers. Donald and Raymond Duvall spent much of the 1980s living in a succession of trailers and small houses in the heavily forested woods of northeast Lower Michigan. They cut firewood and dealt in junk cars for a living, supplementing their incomes with poached fish and game. According to testimony at their trial, the Duvalls bragged of the murders to family members and friends, who seldom told police because they feared retaliation. The brothers told several people they disposed of the bodies by feeding them to pigs. The testimony painted Raymond and Donald Duvall as ruthless men who were quick with fists and threats, brawling frequently with their brothers and sometimes with their wives and girlfriends. More than a half-dozen witnesses cited terror and threats as factors in not coming forward with information. ``Their human faces are nothing more than masks for monsters,'' said Donna Pendergast, assistant state attorney general, in her closing argument Wednesday. She shot frequent glares in the Duvalls' direction as she lobbied jurors. The crime ``is an evil so dark your worst nightmare pales in comparison,'' she said. ``There is no understanding of pure evil, only the recognition of what it is.'' Despite the campaign of fear, witness statements trickled out over the years, including sealed testimony from the Duvalls' own brothers at a 1990 Oakland County grand jury hearing. The final piece to the puzzle came in 1999, when a tip led State Police Detective Sgt. Robert (Bronco) Lesneski to the doorstep of Barbara Boudro. For several years, she refused to fully cooperate out of fear the Duvalls would kill her, she said. Finally, under oath at a special hearing this year, she admitted to being a witness to the beating in a field near her home. There, she said, she watched as Donald Duvall crushed Tyll's skull with a baseball bat before the two brothers beat Ognjan to death with punches and kicks. ``I've never had a trial quite like this,'' Pendergast said. ``We had a witness who had some problems,'' she said, referring to Boudro's nervousness and hard-drinking lifestyle. ``But I'm glad after all these years we went for it. I thought the family deserved closure after 18 years.'' Defense attorneys said they planned to appeal the convictions. ``Certainly,'' said Seymour Schwartz, Donald Duvall's attorney. ``It's a murder conviction. You can't let it lie.'' He said he was unsure on what grounds he would challenge the verdict, but said he thought the trial and judge were fair. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said he is confident the verdict will stand if the case is appealed. ``We have the best prosecutor in the state doing the case,'' he said of Pendergast. Pendergast is married to Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson. Both Pendergast and Lesneski choked back tears after the verdict, accepting praise from dozens of Tyll and Ognjan family members who had sat through the trial. The men were both 27. Helen Ognjan, 84, spoke softly after the verdict. Brian Ognjan was her only child. ``I'm glad,'' she said. ``I'm just glad.''