28 year-old Michael Defrance appeared in U.S. District Court on Monday before Judge Kathleen DeSoto on a misdemeanor charge of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Also in the courtroom were family members of Jermaine Charlo, who went missing three years ago.

Judge DeSoto released Defrance on his own recognizance on the firearms charge after pleading not guilty and he is scheduled to appear again on August 11.

After Defrance’s court appearance, Valinda Morigeau, Jermaine Charlo’s aunt spoke to reporters outside the courthouse and explained why several of Charlo’s family members were present at the hearing.

“I'm here because he was the last person to see Jermaine before she disappeared and our family believes Michael is the one that is responsible for her disappearance,” said Morigeau.

She said that Jermaine Charlo and Michael Defrance were involved in an abusive relationship.

“He's beat Jermaine multiple times and has partner family member assault (charges) and should not have been carrying a firearm,” she said. “If he's caught more than one time carrying a firearm and posting them on Facebook then he should still be behind bars for violating that (order).”

Morigeau expanded on that statement.

“The reason why he was in trouble for carrying a firearm is because he had partner family member assault against Jermaine multiple times, not just once, but multiple times in different counties and he's been charged for it,” she said. “If he's willing to break that, I mean, what else is he willing to break? If you're charged with beating somebody and then you're carrying around a firearm, obviously you're not a very safe person to be in the community.”

Morigeau was asked if progress on the Jermaine Charlo investigation will be beneficial overall to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons movement.

“I think it's a big part of it because initially it wasn't taken seriously,” she said. “If and when somebody disappears regardless of their race, gender or color, it needs to be addressed right away and not to an officer that is going to be on vacation a few days. They need to actually take it seriously. What's the worst outcome that's going to happen? You find them in their safe? This isn't just a new issue. This has been happening since colonization. Our women have been always gone missing and it's finally coming to light and it's still happening all over the place.”

Defrance has not been arrested or charged with Jermaine Charlo’s disappearance, and if he is charged, he would be considered innocent until proven guilty.

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