Prosecutors believe that Raulie Casteel, a geologist, is responsible for the shootings last month that mostly targeted moving vehicles or near Interstate 96. One person was injured.
Casteel, 43, was ordered held on a $2 million bail after being charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and other gun crimes. The charges stem from a shooting Oct. 18 on in interstate in Livingston County's Howell Township, about 45 miles northwest of Detroit.
The driver of the targeted car was able to describe the gunman, his vehicle and a partial license plate number from a Michigan State University vanity plate.
Casteel was arrested Monday at his home in Wixom, about 20 miles away.
"Hopefully we can scratch these senseless shootings off our to-do list," said David McCain, head of the Detroit office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Casteel appeared in court via video from jail on Wednesday and was introduced to lawyers hired by his wife. Judge Carol Sue Reader set the high bail, saying there was a "high probability" that Casteel was a threat to the public. The county prosecutor's office said mental illness may be a factor.
Defense attorney Doug Mullkoff had no comment outside court. Casteel had a license to carry a pistol in Kentucky but not in Michigan, authorities said.
The shootings occurred in four counties - Ingham, Oakland, Livingston and Shiawassee - between Oct. 16 and Oct. 27.
Most of the shootings involved cars near I-96, though authorities said one occurred while a man was taking out his trash. In another incident, a woman said the rear window on her car was shattered. Ten shootings were in Wixom in Oakland County.
Only one person was hit, a man shot in the buttocks.
On professional websites, Casteel described himself as a geologist and soil scientist with experience in environmental cleanup. He's a Michigan native who lived in Taylorsville, Ky., before recently returning to his home state.
His mother, Lana Hunt, of Brooksville, Fla., told the Detroit Free Press that her son might be mentally ill but refuses to see a doctor.
"It's not in his character to go around shooting at people. That's just not him. That's somebody else. That's somebody that's disturbed," she told the newspaper.
Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said Casteel's case in Livingston County gives his department and other police agencies time to build their own cases. He predicted more charges soon.
"There are no time constraints. We have physical evidence in probably seven" shootings, McCabe said.