Charlie Cuti was a young man with a bright smile and a soft heart, said his stepmother, Tara Cuti of Spring Lake.
The former Grand Haven High School student was trying to provide a stable life for his young daughter, but he lost his job and his life spiraled away from him, his stepmother said.
His last actions occurred just before 11 p.m. Saturday when he went with his uncle and cousin into the parking lot outside Sam’s Drink All, 1500 S. Getty St.
Muskegon Police responded and said the man suffered a single gunshot wound and died that night.
The store's manager said video surveillance captured some of it. He said that Cuti was going in and out of another vehicle before he was shot. It appeared the Cuti had two other people in the car with him.
"He came out the second time and just laid down on the ground the other car took off," said the store manager, Steven Abbu.
Michigan State Police records show Cuti had a troubled past. Convictions ranging from retail fraud and assault to most recently malicious destruction of property.
His friend, Brin Aurich said he had an ongoing battle with drugs.
She said Cuti, who had dinner with her earlier that evening, was fighting a demon and she was trying to help him.
Cuti’s stepmother said the young man had a difficult relationship with his daughter’s mother, and lost his job about six months ago.
“He was seeking solace somewhere,” Tara Cuti said. “He was just trying to find the answers to all of his questions. He as lost.”
Tara Cuti said unfortunately Charlie was finding his answers with the wrong crowd of people in Muskegon.
“It’s not something he would ever talk to us about,” she grieved. “You have instincts with a child. You know when they’re not leading the right path.”
Tara said her stepson purchased a mobile home in Crockery Township a year and a half ago after his daughter was born – that he wanted to create a more stable life for her.
“He just loved his little girl,” she said.
Tara Cuti said her stepson was funny and silly and had the “biggest, most beautiful smile.”
“It was a light,” she said.
Charlie loved dirt biking and quads.
“He loved to go long boarding with his best friends from high school,” Tara said. “He liked to be outdoors.”
“He wasn’t the public record of his criminal history,” she said. “He had moments in his life of bad choices.”
Cuti’s father, Charles, said his son liked to work on cars – that he liked to figure out the vehicle’s problems and then trade one fixer for another.
Tara Cuti said no funeral arrangements had been made as of Sunday night. The family was waiting to talk to police to see when anything could be done.
In the meantime police are talking to people of interest, but had not released a name of any suspect as of late Sunday evening.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Muskegon Police Department at 231-724-6750 or Silent Observer at 231-722-7463.
Family members have set up a fund online to help pay for Charlie Cuti’s funeral. https://www.gofundme.com/charlescuti
WZZM-13 reporter Alex Shabad contributed to this story.