Murderer escapes Saginaw jail after canceling credit card payment for bond, police say

SAGINAW, MI – Convicted of murdering a man in Tennessee years ago, a Bay City man is newly accused of escaping from the Saginaw County Jail. He did not make his getaway through violence or force but by a novel and bloodless avenue – credit card fraud.

Thomas E. “Big Tank” Kotewa, 50, on May 10 was arrested by Saginaw County Sheriff’s deputies on charges of third-degree retail fraud and resisting or obstructing police. Before that, in January, he had been charged in Saginaw County District Court with possessing narcotics, felon in possession of ammunition, and having an open alcohol container in a vehicle.

On June 1, a $ 450 bond was posted on Kotewa’s behalf, after which he walked free.

“He used a credit card to bond himself out,” said Undersheriff Mike Gomez. “When he got out, he promptly contacted his credit card company and said there was a false charge. They nullified the payment. He basically used a financial transaction device to escape from jail without a bond. “

Someone acting on Kotewa’s behalf made the payment at one of the jail’s lobby kiosks, run by a third-party vendor. After Kotewa contacted his credit card company, that company did not pay the kiosk vender.

“When they were doing their calculations for the month, they discovered it and got ahold of us,” Gomez said. “For just over a month he was out.

“He knows he nullified that charge,” the undersheriff continued. “It’s not like he didn’t have enough money on it.”

Gomez on July 8 contacted his counterparts in Bay County, who found and arrested Kotewa. Saginaw County District Judge Terry L. Clark on July 14 arraigned Kotewa on new counts of escape while awaiting trial on a misdemeanor and false pretenses between $ 200 and $ 1,000. The former is a two-year felony, while the latter is a one-year misdemeanor.

As of Wednesday, July 20, Kotewa remains in the Saginaw County Jail on a $ 10,000 or 10% bond.

Back in December 2005, the 33-year-old Kotewa was in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, when he shot and killed 26-year-old LaShawn T. Mims outside an apartment building. Kotewa claimed he shot Mims while arguing with another person. Mims was trying to break up the argument when Kotewa reached over a woman at the scene and shot him once in his head at close range, Oakridger.com reported.

Kotewa in November 2006 pleaded guilty in Anderson County Circuit Court to second-degree murder and received a 15-year prison sentence.

He later appealed his conviction, arguing there was evidence to support his claims of self-defense. You appeal courts denied Kotewa’s appeals.

Kotewa’s Tennessee prison sentence ended Sept. 12, 2018.

Kotewa was on parole in Michigan when he killed Mims, having been imprisoned on a conviction of uttering and publishing from a crime that occurred in Tuscola County in 1994.

Kotewa is next due to appear in court on his recent escape charge at 11 am on July 25.

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