EDMORE— A decade ago, Branden Peterman was a happily married husband and father. He owned his own logging company, was a volunteer firefighter for Day Township and enjoyed going on hunting trips in the woods.
Branden was permanently paralyzed from the waist down by a 14-inch ironwood tree in a logging accident in Mecosta County in 2008, just four days after his wife Carrie gave birth to the couple’s third child. Despite this devastating turn of events, Branden and Carrie remained steadfast, crediting their faith and their community for helping them persevere. Branden and Carrie published a book about their family’s trials, “A Logger’s Nightmare: Accident Forever Changes Family.”
A decade later, the Petermans are divorced and Branden is facing another trial — this time with a possible prison sentence waiting for him at the end.
Branden, 42, of Edmore, is charged with felonious assault and reckless driving after multiple allegations of violent behavior toward his former best friend, who is also Carrie’s friend. Branden is scheduled to go to trial this fall in Montcalm County’s 8th Judicial Circuit Court.
ACCIDENT, LAWSUIT & FIRE
Branden had applied for disability insurance and life insurance in July 2008, just months before his logging accident in December 2008. Both policies were granted by Auto-Owners Insurance.
Branden underwent months of full-time rehab. His church in Stanton raised money to help pay for a specially fitted wheelchair, while the Day Township Fire Department and other community organizations hosted fundraisers for the Peterman family as well.
The Petermans began working on a handicap-accessible home for Branden in 2009, but they were waylaid when Auto-Owners Insurance suddenly revoked Branden’s disability policy, claiming he had misrepresented his medical history on his policy application by not including three prior visits to a chiropractor. The Petermans brought a civil suit against Auto-Owners Insurance, which lingered in court for more than three years.
In 2012, a Montcalm County jury found Branden had not misrepresented himself to the insurance company, which allowed the Petermans to be paid and to complete their work on a new barrier-free home for Branden.
The Petermans went on to purchase the Flat River Saloon in Six Lakes and the old hotel next door, both of which were later severely damaged in a fire in July 2015. The saloon was saved, but the 120-year-old hotel was a total loss, despite the best efforts of four fire departments.
END OF A MARRIAGE
The marriage of Branden and Carrie began to falter. Carrie filed for divorce in May 2016 and the divorce was finalized in December 2016.
Before and after the divorce, Branden allegedly became paranoid about Carrie and her relationships, leading him to accuse multiple friends of having romantic relationships with Carrie.
Todd Papendick, 43, allegedly suffered the brunt of Branden’s anger and jealousy. Papendick testified to this during a preliminary examination in Montcalm County’s 64B District Court on May 15.
Branden and Papendick were best friends. They went to school together as children and bonded as teenagers while playing football. Papendick served as the best man at Branden and Carrie’s wedding.
Papendick testified that in the summer of 2016 — after Carrie had filed for divorce — Branden began accusing Papendick of sleeping with Carrie — which Papendick denied — even going so far as to send him crude and hostile texts, one of which allegedly stated, “You can have my seconds. I already got the best out of her.”
“He said that we were friends for 20 years, so he’s got 20 years to get me back, and he stated that he will get me,” Papendick testified.
Branden allegedly burned down Papendick’s deer stand after telling him he was going to do so. Branden also allegedly tried to use his truck to pin Papendick against a garage wall, but Papendick testified he “bounced off” the truck and escaped before he was pinned.
Despite these violent incidents, Papendick seemingly had compassion for his longtime friend.
“I just stayed away,” Papendick testified. “I knew what he was going through and just left it at that.”
Papendick said he was at the Flat River Saloon on Jan. 25 of this year with a group of local people who were donating money to help make improvements to the saloon.
“Everybody was putting in money that works there, (they were all) friends of Mr. Peterman,” he testified. “We were putting in money to redo the flooring around the bar and the cushions to the barstools. I was there to give money toward it.”
Papendick said when he left the saloon around 4:30 p.m., he noticed Branden’s Dodge Dakota extended cab truck parked under some trees by a trail nearby. When Papendick stopped for the stop sign at M-46 and Derby Road, he said he noticed Branden’s truck pull up behind him.
Papendick said he continued heading toward home in his own Ford F-150 crew cab truck, taking M-46 east to M-66 south to Coral Road with Branden continuing to follow him. Papendick said he was talking to his daughter — who works at the Flat River Saloon — on his cell phone when he was suddenly forced to end the call.
“I looked up in the mirror and I seen him flying up behind me and that’s when he hit me,” Papendick testified. “After that happened, next thing I knew the green Dodge was up beside me, pushing into the side of my truck. At first, I thought he was trying to run me off the road, but my truck was bigger than what his was.”
Papendick said the incident lasted for a few moments before Branden backed off and turned down Peoples Road. Papendick proceeded to his own home and called 911. Michigan State Police Lakeview Post Trooper Benjamin Stadler responded to investigate.
Stadler testified in court that he interviewed Branden and Papendick and both men blamed each other. However, the trooper believed Papendick’s account of events due to video footage of Branden leaving the saloon at 4:34 p.m. the day of the incident and Papendick leaving the saloon at 4:36 p.m. Stadler said Branden’s timeline of events did not match up with the video footage.
“His (Branden’s) story does not make sense as he gives it to me,” Stadler testified.
Papendick’s truck was damaged from the incident and he said he spent $6,000 to have it repaired.
After Branden was arrested and charged with felonious assault and reckless driving, he was ordered by the court to have no contact with Carrie or Papendick.
However, according to court testimony, Branden recently allegedly threatened Papendick again by saying, “A piece of paper is not going to stop me from blowing your head off.”