Police release names of victims stabbed on Amtrak train; Suspect held

NILES, Mich. - Police have released the names of the victims who were stabbed Friday on an Amtrak train in Niles, Michigan.

Police say 40-year-old conductor Dontrel Bankhead was cut and stabbed two times in the head, two times in the neck and several other times on his body. 

The three passengers stabbed were identified as 59-year-old Bonnie Cleasby, who was stabbed in the abdomen, 56-year-old Dan Stewart who was stabbed in the chest and 47-year-old Gail Vanhurst, who was stabbed in the chest.

The suspect has been identified as Michael Darnell Williams. He allegedly used a 5-inch hunting knife.

After his arrest, Williams allegedly said he was on the train talking to a guy when the man turned into a demon. Williams said he had to fight the demon.

Williams allegedly said he didn't remember exactly what happened but did have a knife in his hand.

Williams appeared in a Niles court Monday via video on four counts of assault with intent to murder.

He told the judge someone robbed him.

"Someone took all the money out of my wallet and my cards," said Williams.

He never said if that happened on the train.

He told the judge he has been working as a truck driver for the last few months.

Williams: I was a truck driver
Judge Wiley: Are you currently working?
Williams: Yeah, but I am in here

Williams is being held on $1 million bond.

Amtrak has released another statement regarding Friday's stabbing:

Amtrak is assisting the Niles Police Department in an investigation of an incident that happened on Dec. 5. At about 7 p.m. ET, an incident disrupted service on Amtrak Train 364 in Niles, Mich., and it required a police and emergency medical assistance response. Four people were assaulted including an Amtrak employee, a conductor. All were transported from the scene for medical attention. The Niles City Police Department has one person in custody and the investigation is ongoing. 

Train 364 is the Blue Water service and it travels daily between Chicago and Port Huron. The train was heading to Port Huron at time of the incident. Train service was delayed and some passengers were accommodated on another train. 

The safety of our passengers and employees is Amtrak's highest priority. Amtrak has a robust and layered approach to safety that involves multiple measures including the presence of the Amtrak Police and K9 at hubs and partnerships with local and federal law enforcement to respond and assist along our routes. The APD conducts random and periodic train rides and works with federal and local intelligence groups to ensure our passengers' security. Knives are specifically prohibited on Amtrak trains and the APD perform random screening and inspections of passenger baggage and other personal items to further ensure safety.

The company, Amtrak Police, and the Union will assist local law enforcement as the investigation into this act of violence moves forward.

The event on Dec. 5 doesn't occur regularly on Amtrak, however we encourage passengers to be aware of their surroundings and if they see something suspicious to notify the Amtrak Police by calling  911, 1-800-331-0008 or texting to APD11 (27311).

Kind regards,
Kimberly Woods
Amtrak Media Relations

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