Autopsy: Soccer ref’s death ruled a homicide due to blunt force trauma

John Bieniewicz (L) died while officiating at an adult league game in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Mich., on Sunday.

Jim Bieniewicz/AP

DETROIT

The local medical examiner says a referee who died after being punched during a soccer game near Detroit was killed during a homicide.

The Wayne County medical examiner’s office says an autopsy was conducted Thursday on 44-year-old John Bieniewicz (BEN’-uh-wits). Office spokeswoman Mary Mazur says the autopsy determined he died from blunt force trauma to the neck.

Police say 36-year-old Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad threw the punch during an adult-league soccer game Sunday in Livonia, a Detroit suburb. Bieniewicz, who lived in nearby Westland, died two days later.

A 911 call released Wednesday stated that a man knocked the referee unconscious with a punch to the head, then ran to a car before ”peeling out.”

TRAGIC SPORTS DEATHS

Prosecutors have charged Saad with assault with intent to do great bodily harm. But they say the charges against the Dearborn man are being reviewed and could be amended in light of Bieniewicz’s death.

Saad, an auto mechanic who has been playing soccer for 16 years in the area, is not guilty of the charges and ”wishes to extend his deepest sympathy to the family and friends of John Bieniewicz,” defense lawyer Brian Berry said.

Berry said Saad has two children and supports two stepchildren.

”Just yesterday, when I visited Mr. Saad at the Wayne County jail, he stated: ‘I just want to go home and hug and kiss my kids,”’ Berry said Wednesday.

Bieniewicz, a dialysis technician at Mott Children’s Hospital, lived in the Detroit suburb of Westland with his wife and two sons, ages 13 and 9. He was a soccer enthusiast who refereed games for two decades.

Two funds have been set up to help with funeral expenses and for Bieniewicz’s family. One, set up by friends, had raised $50,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. The other is through Huntington Bank.