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.