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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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