Man charged with second-degree murder in soccer referee's death

36-year-old Dearborn man faces murder charge after 44-year-old soccer referee's death

LIVONIA, Mich. - A 36-year-old Dearborn man now faces a second-degree murder charge in connection to the death of a referee who was punched during an adult league game in Livonia.

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office says Bassel Saad will be arraigned on the amended charge on Thursday. He originally was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm. That lesser charge will be dismissed. The preliminary examination will be adjourned and a new date will be set by the court at the arraignment.

John Bieniewicz, 44, of Westland, died this past week from injuries he sustained June 29 when authorities say a player, who objected to being ejected from the adult men's league game, hit him. That player is alleged to be Saad.

An autopsy revealed Bieniewicz died of blunt force trauma to the neck. His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Hosana Lutheran Church in Redford Township. An online fundraising drive for the referee's family had raised $111,000 by Monday.

Meanwhile, Saad is being held on a $1 million bond.

"The entire soccer world mourns with the family upon the death of John Bieniewicz. This is especially tragic because it happened as the World Cup dominates our television screens," said Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy in a news release. "The alleged actions of this defendant cannot be tolerated and there must be action taken in our legislature to make sure that there are stronger penalties when a referee is the victim during organized sport."

-- John Bieniewicz

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