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Trial date set in neighbor murder case

Becky Vargo • Feb 5, 2018 at 7:19 PM

A trial date has been set for the Crockery Township man charged with murdering his neighbor late last year.

Wendell Earl Popejoy, 63, waived his arraignment that was scheduled for Monday in Ottawa County Circuit Court. 

Popejoy’s trial is scheduled for June 5-6 in front of Judge Karen Miedema. A final pre-trial conference is set for May 7.

Popejoy is lodged in the Ottawa County Jail without bond, on charges of open murder and felony firearm related to the Dec. 26, 2017, shooting death of his next-door neighbor, 59-year-old Sheila Bonge. Bonge lived at 14961 104th Ave., Crockery Township. 

According to court documents, Popejoy admitted killing Bonge when he was interviewed by Ottawa County Sheriff’s detectives. During the interview, Popejoy said he saw Bonge outside his residence on Dec. 26. She was blowing snow from the easement driveway in front of his home.

“Wendell stated that he had made the decision when he saw Sheila to kill her,” the document read. “He then grabbed a gun from his home. He went out to the easement where Sheila was blowing the snow. Wendell stated that he went up behind Sheila and shot her in the back of the head and disposed of her body behind his residence.”

Bonge was reported missing the next day.

Police responded to her home after family reported their mother missing. The family said they had last talked on Christmas Day, according to the court document.

A search was conducted in her home and around her property, but Bonge was not located.

Police returned the next day to interview the family and continue the search. K-9 units from the Michigan State Police and Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the county’s search-and-rescue team, assisted in the search.

Bonge’s body was found Dec. 28 in the snow behind Popejoy’s house.

During the preliminary examination on Jan. 24, testimony revealed that there was an ongoing dispute between the neighbors regarding a driveway easement.

Also during the hearing, Ottawa County Detective Ann Koster testified that Popejoy admitted putting Bonge’s body on a sled and taking it down the hill behind his house. Popejoy said he removed Bonge’s clothing and burned it, Koster testified. Popejoy then hid the gun in the garage, Koster said, but he later removed it and threw it in the Grand River off the 68th Avenue Bridge in Eastmanville.

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