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Death of Detroit-area soccer referee ruled a homicide

(Reuters) - The death of a soccer referee who was punched by a player during a game over the weekend in a Detroit suburb was ruled a homicide on Thursday, a step that could lead to more severe charges against the man accused of hitting him.

John Bieniewicz, 44, a long time soccer referee licensed for games at all levels, died on Tuesday from blunt force trauma to the neck, said Mary Mazur, spokeswoman for the Wayne County medical examiner.

The autopsy was conducted Thursday and Bieniewicz's death ruled a homicide, although the full report has not yet been written, Mazur said.

The player accused of striking the referee, Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, was charged on Monday with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder by Wayne County prosecutors and his bond was set at $500,000.

Saad's lawyer has said there were questions about the circumstances of the incident and the cause of the man's injuries. Police have said several people saw the player throw the punch at Bieniewicz during an adult league game on Sunday in Livonia, Michigan, a Detroit suburb.

Prosecutors said after Bieniewicz's death they would review the charge and amend it after appropriate confirmations had been made and documents received.

"We are waiting for the full report before a decision will be made regarding amending the charges," said Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Grant McCool)

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