Former GH father, son die in murder-suicide

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:47 AM

The cause of their deaths made it even more difficult to absorb.

David Michael Laverty, 57; and his son, Justin Michael Laverty, 30, died Thursday afternoon in what police are calling a murder-suicide.

State police are assisting the Muskegon Township Police Department with the investigation.

"Justin Laverty is believed to be the person responsible for his father's death," according to a statement from the township police.

The two men were working on the swimming pool at the home the Laverty family shared at 2199 Becker Road in Muskegon Township. During the project, they argued over a second business the father planned to launch without his son’s involvement, Township Police Chief Ken Sanford said.

While their wives were away from the home running errands, the argument escalated. Justin Laverty then stabbed his father multiple times in the upper body with a 4- to 5-inch hunting knife while the men were still outside the home, police said.

Following the stabbing, Justin went into an upstairs bedroom and shot himself in the head with a shotgun, authorities said.

David Laverty managed to make his way into the house and was found dead in the kitchen.

Police said David’s wife, Kimberly, arrived home shortly after 3:30 p.m. and found the horrific scene. She had been gone less than an hour.

Kimberly ran to a neighbor’s home, from where a call was made to 911.

Township police said emergency crews were called to the home at about 4 p.m. Police found David Laverty dead in the kitchen, and Justin Laverty and the weapon lying in his upstairs room.

Pools of dried blood were still visible on the porch and in the kitchen on Friday afternoon. A pile of towels or rags and other debris were visible from the porch.

Police tape that was stretched across the property near the road was broken at the driveway. Several vehicles were parked by the house.

“They’d come and go and we would talk,” said next-door neighbor John Fisher. “It’s just kind of shocking.”

Fisher said he believed the Lavertys were running the cleaning business out of their rural home northeast of Muskegon.

“They worked mainly nights, but they were always doing something,” Fisher said. “They seemed like real good, friendly, hard-working people — just like most of the people in the neighborhood."

The Lavertys were in the process of expanding their business, said Spring Lake Village Clerk/Treasurer Maribeth Lawrence, who counts Kimberly Laverty as one of her friends. Instead of an expansion, the business might be dissolved, Lawrence said.

The Lavertys' company cleaned the Village Hall since 2007. Lawrence said they started using the service after receiving a recommendation from former Loutit District Library officials.

Lawrence said she received a call from the Lavertys’ daughter on Friday, apologizing for the inconvenience, but they wouldn’t be cleaning the Village Hall anymore.

Lawrence took a moment Friday afternoon to hug a distraught woman, who cleaned the Village Hall for the Lavertys' company. Lawrence said she had just told the woman her services would no longer be needed.

Lawrence described the Lavertys as hard-working people.

“They did an awesome cleaning job,” she said. “If something wasn’t right, Kimberly was right here to make sure that it was.”

Neither Fisher nor Lawrence were aware of any problems among family members.

A check of Ottawa County court records revealed that David Laverty had pleaded guilty to a charge of assault and battery in 1994 and was sentenced to six months probation. He was also charged with domestic violence in 1998, but that charge was dismissed.

There were no charges in Ottawa County against Justin Laverty.

The Lavertys formerly lived in the 1500 block of Moreland St. in Grand Haven Township, according to court records. They moved to Muskegon Township seven or eight years ago, Fisher said.

The Lavertys once operated their cleaning business from a strip mall on M-104 near I-96 in Crockery Township, Lawrence said, but they closed that office.

“Anytime something like this happens, it’s always such a tragedy for families and anyone who has to go through something like this,” Lawrence said.

Autopsies for the two men were performed Friday at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, police said.

A funeral service is set for 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Sytsema Chapel on Apple Avenue in Muskegon. More information will be available later this weekend as arrangements are completed, a Sytsema Funeral Home official said.

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