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Tag Archive | "cold case"

Suspect charged in 36-year-old cold case homicide


Richard Atwood disappeared from White Cloud, Michigan nearly 37 years ago.

Nearly 37 years after 25-year-old Richard Atwood disappeared from White Cloud, Michigan in Newaygo County, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel along with Newaygo County Prosecutor Worth Stay have jointly charged Roy Leando Snell, 55, with his murder. Atwood’s body has never been found.

Snell, 55, was arrested in Minneapolis by the Minneapolis Violent Criminal Apprehension Unit. He is being charged in Newaygo County with one count of homicide felony murder, punishable by life without parole, and one count of weapons felony firearm, punishable by two years in prison to be served consecutively and preceding any term of imprisonment imposed. Snell was in custody in Hennepin County Jail in Minnesota and was extradited last weekend.

Atwood was last seen on Aug. 10, 1983; his brown 1975 Pontiac Trans-Am was recovered in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area two months later. Snell was reported as the last person to be seen with Atwood.

Roy Leando Snell

Snell and another man, Walter Sanders, were reportedly driving around with Atwood that day. While Atwood was out of the car, Sanders told police that Snell showed him a gun and said, “Let’s rob Ricky.” Sanders said Atwood dropped him off and that was the last time he saw Atwood. Snell was still in the car.

When police recovered Atwood’s car, they found blood and tissue belonging to him on the seat, center console, and in the trunk.

Snell later told another man he killed Richard Atwood, and he told a cell mate about killing a guy and putting him in the trunk, which is consistent with the blood/DNA evidence police found. 

“Working cold cases would be an impossible task without all hands on deck,” said Michigan State Police Detective First Lt. Mike Anderson. “I’m very proud of the persistent determination shown by the Detectives and Prosecutors over the last two years. The Michigan State Police are proud to once again partner with the Newaygo County Prosecutor, Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan Attorney General to seek justice for the family of Richard Atwood. The arrest of Roy Snell is a very gratifying first step.”

Newaygo County Sheriff Mendham concurred. “The Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office is pleased to help bring some relief to the Atwood family. The hard work and dedication of all officers and agencies involved throughout the years should be commended.”

“I would like to thank the Michigan State Police, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor Stay for all their hard work on this,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “Cold cases are difficult cases to investigate, which makes good teamwork that much more important.”

MSP Detective F/Lt. Anderson thinks there are still people out there that might have information helpful to this case. “Sometimes an arrest and the passage of time gives witnesses with information about a crime the courage to come forward,” he said. “Although 36 years have passed, we feel there are still people in West Michigan who have information about this case that could benefit both the detectives and prosecutors; we would like to hear from them. Even though the information may seem insignificant, it can be the missing piece of the puzzle investigators are looking for.”

Information about the murder of Richard Atwood or any West Michigan cold case can be given in a variety of ways including:

  • Speaking with a detective in person or by phone at the Michigan State Police Hart Post at (231) 873-2171 or the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office at (231) 689-7303. 
  • A call to the Michigan State Police Cold Case Tip Line at (989) 775-9302. 
  • An anonymous tip can be left at Silent Observer of West Michigan by calling (616) 774-2345 or online at silentobserver.org http://www.silentobserver.org

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Arrest made in Pagel murder


It’s taken more than a decade, but it looks like there may finally be justice for Renee Pagel. She was brutally murdered in August 2006, in her Courtland Township home, while recovering from donating a kidney to the father of one of her students.  A news conference was held in the cold case on Thursday afternoon, February 6, that revealed that police have arrested her husband, Michael Pagel, and have charged him with her murder.

Renee Pagel and her children in an undated photograph. The children were ages 3 and 8 when she was killed. Photo from the Justice for Renee Pagel Facebook page.

More than 13 years ago the Kent County Sheriffs Office responded to 9050 13 Mile Road NE in Courtland Township on a report of a deceased person. On August 5, 2006 first responders located Renee Beth Pagel deceased with obvious trauma to her body. There were no signs of forced entry into the home and valuables in plain sight were left behind. The medical examiners office completed an autopsy and ruled the death a homicide.

Through the course of the investigation, detectives learned Renee Pagel was nearing the end of a contentious divorce with her estranged husband Michael Pagel.  Following Renee’s death, the initial investigation had run its course with no charges filed and was eventually classified as a cold case. The couple’s three children went to live with their father.

Through the years, the KCSO alongside the Kent County Prosecutor’s office continued to allocate resources to this case, which included a joint presentation of the Pagel investigation to a cold case review team in Lansing in the fall of 2018. The review team made up of Michigan prosecutors looked at the case file for the purpose of providing feedback on possible investigative leads that might help the investigation.

Recent interviews and investigations provided valuable evidence that resulted in the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office charging Michael James Pagel, 55, with the murder of his estranged wife in 2006. With the assistance of the Michigan State Police, Michael Pagel was taken into custody in the Bay City area and transported back to Kent County to face charges related to the murder of his wife.

Michael James Pagel

Michael James Pagel was arraigned on Thursday, February 6, in 63rd District Court and charged with first degree premeditated murder. His bond was set at $2 million cash or surety. He is currently in custody at the Kent County Jail.

“Justice for Renee wouldn’t be possible without the countless prayers and unending advocacy by her friends and family,” said a spokesperson in a news release from the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. “We would also like to commend the hard work and dedication of those who never gave up on this investigation and who are responsible for taking the case to this point. Those people include Lt. EJ Johnsogn, Lt. Jack Smith (Ret.), Sgt. Randy Kieft, Captain Mark Fletcher (Ret.), Detective Sgt. Bill Marks, Prosecutor Kellee Koncki, Prosecutor Dan Helmer Prosecutor Chris Becker, and many more.”

The Post will update this story as we learn more.

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Cold case solved


Andrew Jackson Greer

DNA confirms that “John Doe” buried in Georgia in 1979 is missing 15-year-old from Addison, Mich.

On Feb. 12, 1979, 15-year-old Andrew Jackson Greer left Addison High School and failed to return home. Greer’s whereabouts have been unknown for the past 39-plus years. The case remained cold after early investigations by the Michigan State Police in 1979 and the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department in 2000. The cold case was re-opened in 2014, and with developments in technology and resources, the mystery of Andrew’s whereabouts has finally been solved.

A forensic analyst from the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas confirmed on Tuesday, August 14, that DNA from a “John Doe,” who was buried in a pauper’s grave in Macon, Ga. in 1979, matches Greer’s DNA.

In December 2017, a retired Bibb County Sheriff’s Department deputy made the connection between the “John Doe” and Greer. The retired deputy notified MSP detectives, who then traveled to Macon, Ga. in April 2018 to exhume the body of “John Doe.” With the assistance of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department, Macon District Attorney’s Office and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, detectives were able to successfully recover the body to send for additional testing.

A DNA sample was taken from “John Doe” at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and sent to the Center for Human Identification for comparison. The results concluded that it was 1.9 trillion times more likely that the DNA from “John Doe” was that of Greer than not. Together, the DNA results and police reports conclude they are one in the same.

All indications are that Greer ran away from home on Feb. 12, 1979, and was killed two days later, on Feb. 14, 1979, when he was struck by a semi-truck while hitchhiking down I-75 near Macon, Ga. Greer’s identity has been a mystery to Georgia authorities until now, and the Michigan State Police had no information on his whereabouts until the connection was made in December 2017.

Arrangements are currently being made to bring Greer’s body back to Michigan.

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Michigan couple identified in multi-state cold case homicide investigation 


 

James Hendricks and Kimberlin Mills before they were killed.

Remains Found in Missouri and Arkansas in 1978 

Human remains discovered nearly 40 years ago, miles apart in two separate states, have been positively linked to a Michigan man and woman. Police believe the pair, identified as James Hendricks of Flint, and Kimberlin Mills of Millington, was murdered by the same suspect. 

The Michigan State Police (MSP) Missing Persons Coordination Unit credits, in part, new fingerprint matching technology that allows for comparison using lower quality or even single digit samples. Previous technology required higher quality prints from both hands, which were not available in this case. 

The remains of Hendricks and Mills were both found on June 17, 1978, both with gunshot wounds, but 12 miles apart in Missouri and Arkansas respectively. Neither was reported missing from Michigan at the time. Hendricks, a parole absconder, was thought to have fled the state with his girlfriend Mills. He escaped in November 1977, two days before his 21st birthday.

The first investigative break came in May 2017 when Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators re-ran samples from their case using the new fingerprint matching technology, which associated with Hendricks’ fingerprints on file with the Michigan Department of Corrections. 

The Wexford County Sheriff’s Department notified the Hendricks family, now living in the Cadillac area and learned of Mills. Members of the MSP Caro Post contacted the Mills family and a new missing persons case was opened. Family reference DNA was collected from a brother in Maine and sent to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) lab at the University of North Texas to be uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and compared against the Arkansas unsolved human remains case. The Arkansas State Crime Lab, State Medical Examiner confirmed Mills’ identification in December 2017. 

Police have not yet found who murdered the couple.

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Hart Post detectives receive meritorious service award 


 D/Sgt. Michael Stephens

D/Sgt. Michael Stephens

D/Sgt. Scott Rios

D/Sgt. Scott Rios

D/Sgt. John Forner

D/Sgt. John Forner

At a special ceremony held in Lansing, Michigan State Police (MSP) Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue presented D/Sgt. John Forner, D/Sgt. Scott Rios and D/Sgt. Michael Stephens of the Hart Post with the MSP Meritorious Service Award for their diligence during a very complex, 26-year-old cold case investigation involving the homicide of Ms. Shannon Siders.

After failing to return home one evening in July 1989, Siders was reported missing to the MSP Newaygo Post by her father.

In early September 1989, identification and other items belonging to Siders were found in the national forest and brought to the Newaygo Post. The area was searched where the items were found, but no evidence was located. Unfortunately, in October 1989, Siders’ remains were recovered in the national forest and her cause of death was ruled a homicide.

Investigators established a timeline and learned that Siders was last seen alive in the company of two brothers. As the investigation continued, additional leads were submitted and multiple suspects and theories were explored, but tips became sparse over time and the investigation grew cold.

In 2011, a cold case task force comprised of Forner, Rios and Stephens, along with officers from the Newaygo Police Department and the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Department was formed to reexamine the case. Detectives examined all available evidence, collected missing documents and compiled a list of suspect theories.

After the task force indexed the report of over 2,000 pages and conducted over 500 interviews, the original suspects were again identified as prime suspects in the case.

In June 2014, homicide warrants were obtained and the suspects were arrested. The case went to trial in April 2015 and in May 2015 one suspect was convicted of first degree murder and the other suspect was convicted of second degree murder.

In awarding Forner, Rios and Stephens with the department’s Meritorious Service Award, the MSP Board of Awards recognizes that without their dedication and expert investigative skills, justice may have never been obtained for Siders.

Forner joined the department in 1998, graduating as a member of the 117th Trooper Recruit School. Prior to being assigned to the Hart Post, he served at the Grand Haven and Rockford posts, as well as the Sixth District Headquarters.

Rios joined the department in 1988, graduating as a member of the 103rd Trooper Recruit School. Prior to being assigned to the Hart Post, he served at the Ypsilanti, Detroit, Lakeview, Grand Haven and Newaygo posts.

Stephens joined the department in 1999, graduating as a member of the 118th Trooper Recruit School. Prior to being assigned to the Hart Post, he served at the Newaygo, Lakeview and Mt. Pleasant posts.

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Billboard campaign launched to generate new leads in 1993 cold case


N-Cold-Case-Van-Slyke-billboard

There is a new effort in an attempt to solve the 1993 murder of Kathleen Vanslyke.  The Kent Metro Cold Case Team has partnered with the Grand Rapids Police and Silent Observer to highlight the victim in their unsolved homicide billboard campaign. –

On July 23, 1993 at 3:30pm, Kathleen Vanslyke, a 45-year-old mother and wife, was shot at close range while she waited in her vehicle in a parking lot near Burton Street, SE, and Eastern Avenue, SE, in the City of Grand Rapids. After the shooting, Vanslyke’s car rolled backwards and collided with an adjacent building. The location was a busy area surrounded by businesses, including the former Old Kent Bank, Silver Derby Tavern, and Bucks.

In an effort to generate tips on this brutal murder, a billboard will highlight this victim for 30 days near the intersection of Burton Street SE, and Eastern Avenue SE, on November 2, 2015.

The family of Kathleen Vanslyke is supportive of the billboard campaign and hope, after 22 years, someone with information will come forward.

To see a photograph of Kathleen Vanslyke and crime scene photos, a Facebook page has been created called Kathleen Vanslyke 1993 cold case homicide.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Silent Observer at 616-774-2345 or Kent Metro Cold Case Team at 616-632-6123.

The Kent Metro Cold Case Team consists of detectives from the Michigan State Police, Kent County Sheriff Department and the Grand Rapids Police Department.

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Cold case team makes arrest; searches for another suspect


By Judy Reed

The Kent Metro Cold Case team is making progress on several cold cases, including an arrest last week, and the identification of a victim and possible suspect in another.

Last week the team arrested Andrew Ramon Scott, 27, of Lewisville, Texas, on an open murder and felony firearm charge in the 2004 Grand Rapids murder of Tahari Braggs, 25. Braggs was driving his vehicle on Alexander St. when he stopped to talk with occupants of another vehicle on the street. Shots were fired from the suspect vehicle, striking Braggs, and the other car left the scene. Braggs died from multiple gun shot wounds. Investigators determined the incident was a result of an altercation that transpired a day earlier between Braggs and acquaintances.  After a lengthy investigation, the case went cold, but was reopened in 2009. It is the ninth arrest made by the cold case team since it was formed in 2006.

Just this week the team identified the victim in a 2001 homicide that occurred in southwest Grand Rapids in 2001. On November 13, 2001, the Grand Rapids Police Department investigated a double stabbing that occurred on Ritzema Ct  SW, near Grandville Ave SW.   Officers found a Hispanic male fatally stabbed and a second stabbing victim with non-life threatening injuries. The first victim had no identification on him. The second victim,  Simon Mata, indicated he and the first man had been stabbed by a Hispanic male known to him as “Guero.”  Through the use of interpreters, Mata told investigators he did not know the victim or assailant’s real name. Investigators believed the victims and suspect were illegal immigrants from Mexico, but investigative leads were exhausted in the case in an attempt to identify the victim and suspect.

cold case suspectIn March 2011, the cold case team reopened the case, and resubmitted the victim’s fingerprints into a larger database, where they learned his identity. The victim has been identified as Gerado Piedra-Amaya, a 32-year-old Hispanic male from Durango, Mexico.  He entered the country illegally on February 19, 2001. The victim had been living in the Grand Rapids area for at least three months prior to his murder.

Investigators are seeking information from witnesses who might provide information on the victim or suspect. Suspect is a light skinned Hispanic male with light brown hair, very thin sideburns, a thin, barely visible, mustache, and a small goatee.  At the time of the homicide he was around 24 years of age, about 5-feet 5-inches tall, 155 pounds, and had hazel eyes.

At the time of the homicide he was known to frequent the Heartside area of Grand Rapids and sleep under viaducts along the U.S. 131 corridor.  He is believed to be an undocumented worker from Mexico.

Please contact the Kent Metro Cold Case Unit at (616) 632-6123.

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