MUSKEGON, MICH., NOV. 28 -- A man accused of killing his two young sons by putting them inside a foundry ladle and heating it had become increasingly morose as he struggled to keep his life in balance, relatives and friends said.
Bartley J. Dobben, 26, of Muskegon was arraigned Friday in 60th District Court on two open counts of murder in the Thanksgiving Day deaths of Joel Dobben, 2, and David Dobben, 13 months.
District Court Judge Edward Farmer Jr. ordered Dobben held without bond pending transfer to the state Center for Forensic Psychiatry at Ypsilanti. There, Dobben will undergo psychiatric tests to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.
The Detroit Free Press reported today that court records showed Dobben has been diagnosed as being paranoid and a schizophrenic and once was treated at a state psychiatric hospital in Kalamazoo.
His father, David Dobben, confirmed the diagnosis and said his son had refused to take medication.
Bartley Dobben, his wife, Susan, and the two children had stopped Thursday at Cannon Muskegon Corp., a foundry in suburban Norton Shores where Dobben had worked about nine years, Muskegon County Prosecutor Harold Closz said. The plant was closed for the holiday and staffed only by security guards.
"Apparently they were on their way to Thanksgiving dinner with his parents," Closz said.
The boys' badly burned bodies were found inside a transfer ladle, used to move molten metals and apparently heated after the boys were put inside, said Dr. Henry DeLeeuw, Muskegon County medical examiner. He said they suffocated.
Friends and neighbors described Dobben as quiet and deeply religious, but involved in a strained marriage. In June, a judge enjoined Dobben from entering the family home, The Muskegon Chronicle reported. The injunction was to expire Jan. 6.