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Popejoy officially charged in neighbor's murder

By Jaleesa Irizarry/WZZM-TV • Jan 2, 2018 at 3:24 PM

Bond was denied Tuesday for the man suspected of killing his Crockery Township neighbor last week.

Wendell Earl Popejoy Jr., 63, is facing an open murder charge for the death of 59-year-old Sheila Bonge.

Bonge was reported missing early last week. Authorities found her body in a wooded area behind her home at 14961 104th Ave. on Dec. 28.

Popejoy, whose address is 14915 104th Ave., was arrested the next day. However, he is technically a Coopersville resident.

"I lost a good friend — she was like a big sister," said Guy McDonnell, Bonge's friend of five years. "I'm just going to miss her all around."

When they found Bonge’s body, police said it was evident that they had a homicide case.

Popejoy, who is lodged in the Ottawa County Jail, was arraigned Tuesday via video on one count of open murder and a felony firearm charge.

"It says you did carry a firearm in your possession, namely a revolver, at the time you committed or attempted to commit a felony, namely open murder," Ottawa County District Judge Craig Bunce told Popejoy at the arraignment hearing.

After the hearing, Popejoy was remanded to the Ottawa County Jail pending a probable cause conference on Jan. 10 with his assigned attorney, Phil Sielski, and the prosecution. The purpose of that conference is to determine whether or not there is a need for a preliminary examination, Sielski said.

Little information is known about the relationship between Bonge and Popejoy, but McDonnell confirmed Bonge had ongoing disputes with a couple of her neighbors.

"She really didn't bother anyone unless she was being pushed, and she was pushed," McDonnell said.

Court documents show a neighbor, not Wendell Popejoy, requested a personal protection order (PPO) against Bonge and her fiance, who owns the home she lived in. However, that PPO was not granted.

A law suit indicates the disagreement was regarding an easement and Bonge's use of it. While that case appears to be ongoing, there were no cases between Popejoy and Bonge.

Last week, Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies confirmed that they responded to the area of Bonge’s home at least five times in the past.

"There have been some disputes reported between neighbors out here in the past," Capt. John Wolffis said Dec. 29.

All of this makes McDonnell wish more was done back then.

"It could have been prevented,” he said. “Very easily it could have been prevented.”

Capt. Mark Bennett of the Sheriff’s Office said detectives are still investigating the case and seek information from the public. Tips may be submitted online at mosotips.com or by calling Ottawa County Silent Observer at 877-887-4536.

Tribune reporter Becky Vargo contributed to this report.

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