Former housekeeper's son confesses to killing Hedwig Village woman, police say

Accused killer was on parole at time of stabbing

HOUSTON – An arrest has been made in the death of a 79-year-old woman who was found "brutally murdered" in a home in Hedwig Village, police said.

Janeil Bernard's body was discovered by her maid around 1 p.m. on July 3 inside a home in the 11000 block of Capri Lane. She was found beaten and stabbed to death, and there were signs of a struggle, Sgt. Marvin Collins said during a news conference.

Hedwig Village police said the man responsible for what they call a "callous, senseless murder of a 79-year-old woman" is Michael Glenn Susberry, 55.

The department's police chief said Susberry confessed to last week's killing of Bernard, who had lived in the community for 50 years.

"He's been in and out of the penitentiary his entire life," said Hedwig Village police Chief David Gott. "It doesn't appear as though he has ever done anything worthwhile since he has been alive on this earth."

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According to Sussberry's criminal history, in June of 1985, a jury sentenced him to life in prison for his role in several crimes, including aggravated robbery, auto theft and robbery.

Susberry only served about 20 years of that life sentence before he was released on parole. In Oct. 2015, he spent almost one year in jail after being convicted of aggravated assault.

Susberry's parole was never revoked.

Victims advocate Andy Kahan said the murder shouldn't have happened.

"This was a senseless tragedy; utterly preventable because this individual shouldn't have been on the street to allegedly do what he did," Kahan said.

Susberry knew Bernard his entire life. His mother, Moteel Susberry, had been Bernard's maid for nearly 60 years with Bernard providing her with a monthly stipend even after Susberry retired.

WATCH: Police discuss details about arrest made in death of Hedwig Village woman

Susberry's sons, including Michael Susberry, would pick up the check every month, officials said.

Michael Susberry confessed to police that he went to Bernard's house to rob her and she let him into her home because she knew him, officials said. Police said Bernard even gave him something to drink. Michael Susberry told police he went to her restroom and pretended he had fallen on the floor.

"When she went down to help him up from the floor, that's when he grabbed her, he head-butted her, he hit her, he knocked her to the ground," Gott said. "Then he pulled out a knife and stabbed her several times."

Police said Bernard tried to fight back, but afterward Susberry ransacked her home, stole jewelry, and took her wallet and a red four-door Cadillac.

The vehicle was found a day later after having been abandoned on Houston's south side, investigators said. The Cadillac was taken for evidence. 

Bernard's keys were found about 200 yards from where the car was abandoned.

After identifying Michael Susberry as a suspect with the help of Metro Police and the Houston Police Department, detectives convinced Susberry to sit for a voluntary interview on Tuesday, in which he confessed to the homicide, police said.

Although Gott said he knows he has no role in the decision, he said he would strongly urge the district attorney's office to consider the death penalty for Michael Susberry.

"We are so relieved that the police acted as quickly and as efficiently as they did," said Bernard's longtime neighbor, Dr. Harvey Fodell. "The whole neighborhood was on edge, and it was such a wonderful thing that they made the arrest as quickly as they did."

Residents in the Sunnyside neighborhood, where Susberry lived with his mother and two brothers, said they didn’t know much about Susberry but said they were shocked by the allegations.

“Michael’s a very nice little guy. He would come over every once in a while and ask me to give him a little bit of money, and I would give it. He would pay me,” neighbor Asham Ross said. “I probably wouldn’t be talking to him if he was going to do something like this.”

Michael Susberry is facing capital murder charges and is being held in jail with no bond.

Moteel Susberry was not home Wednesday afternoon.

One woman, who asked not to remain anonymous, said she's been Moteel's friend for 15 years and always checks on her.

The woman said she had no idea about what had happened.

"Oh , how devastating, oh my God," said the stunned woman. “It’s quite devastating, I’m just so sorry that this has happened, and I’m sorry for Ms. Moteel and the rest of her family, I’m deeply sorry and for the family that has gone through the heartache and pain of losing someone.”

The woman said she did not see Michael Susberry often and didn't really know him.

“I know it’s heart-breaking for any mother’s son to do that to anybody and knowing the type of person that Ms. Moteel is, I really feel sorry and have sympathy for her."

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