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4 teens charged with throwing rocks at cars on I-696 in Warren maintain innocence

Father of accused teenager says video supports claim of innocence

WARREN, Mich. – Four teenagers who were arrested and charged with throwing rocks at cars on I-696 in Warren believe they've gotten a break in the case to prove their innocence.

On Monday, four college honors students, ages 18 and 19, were charged with throwing rocks and dangerously damaging four vehicles on the highway.

Local 4's Jason Colthorp stayed in contact with the families all week, and they feel like they've gotten a break in the case.

Johnathan Pendell, Nicholas Hewelt and Joseph Rossi, all 19, and John Portalski, 18, were charged with malicious destruction of property and throwing objects at a vehicle. Their families said they've been friends since they were in the first grade.

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Drivers traveling on I-696 in Warren around midnight were hit with rocks. One driver, named Marina, said she heard a bang when a rock hit the roof of her car, just missing her windshield.

"If there was a passenger in my seat, it could have killed them or hurt them really bad," she said. "I feel like it's almost like attempted murder. You're really out to hurt somebody or kill somebody."

The father of one of the boys charged in the case dug up video that might prove they're innocent.

"These guys have been falsely accused of something they didn't do," Robert Rossi said.

When Robert and Lucia Rossi's son got out of jail Monday with his three friends, they went to work trying to prove their innocence.

A neighboring business has cameras showing the area, and when the owner went through the video, he found something very interesting.

The owner was legally advised not to show Local 4 the video, but he did confirm two sets of boys can be seen on the tape, just minutes apart.

The business on the other side of the road has had big problems for more than a year with children vandalizing the property.

"Kids are out here all the time," said Jim Russell, of Trudel Flooring.

Warren police picked up the video Thursday. They didn't respond to a message from Local 4, but it appears they are looking at the new evidence.

Roseville police took four reports that night about rocks hitting cars. The first 911 call came at 11:45 p.m. and the last came at 1:08 a.m., an hour after the four men were taken into custody.


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