GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- A nationally sought fugitive, a murderer who killed a man with his bare hands, is back on the streets.
The Grand Rapids Police department says he has struck again, and they fear there could be deadly consequences if he’s not found soon.
Anthony Vronko, 31, served seven years in prison for the beating death of a friend, Jim Whiting. Four months after his release, he’s accused of randomly attacking a stranger outside a Grand Rapids gas station.
There’s a permanent memorial at the Hovey Street SW home where 44-year-old Whiting was beaten to death in 2006. His cousin David Whiting held him in his arms during his final moments.
Vronko was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Jim’s death and served nearly eight years before being released from prison in April.
“A physical assault with his fist resulted in another individual’s death. (It) doesn’t look like Mr. Vronko’s learned from that experience,” Lt. Pat Merrill of the Grand Rapids Police Department said.
Police are back on the hunt for Vronko after an August strong armed robbery at the Go-Lo gas station at Leonard and Fuller.
“(The) Individual’s on their phone actually looking at some information on their phone, reading some emails and our suspect walked out of the gas station and just turned to him and just started assaulting him repeatedly for no reason whatsoever, they had never had any interaction with each other,” Merrill said.
Witnesses and surveillance video identified Vronko as the attacker.
Merrill says Vronko knows police are looking for him. There is reason to believe he has fled the state.
Vronko has a history of violent behavior with alcohol as a trigger. “It does appear he had been drinking at the time," said Merrill. "Alcohol seems to be a significant contributing factor to his behavior. When he’s drinking, he’s not a pleasant person to be around, apparently.”
That’s a terrifying and infuriating reality for the family of Jim Whiting, who says the two were friends. They tell us that they were drinking beer on Jim’s front lawn when Vronko attacked.
Now the Whiting family is living every day knowing what Vronko is capable of. Whiting is missed by his three daughters and never met his seven grandkids.
Cousins David Whiting and Linda Vert say they don’t believe the punishment fit the crime.
“Jim was down and didn’t get one swing in, not one,” Vert said.
She says every year on Jim’s birthday family and friends get together for a balloon release in his memory.
Merrill says police are adamant about finding Vronko before he hurts someone again. “What I would hate to see is that the reason we take him into custody is because he’s beaten someone else somewhere else,” Merrill said. “Right now it’s strong armed robbery; hopefully it won’t be another manslaughter murder charge.”
As long as the wanted fugitive roams the streets, the friends and family of Jim Whiting will live in anger and fear.
“He’s gonna kill somebody else, plain fact,” David said.
Anthony William Vronko is 5 feet 11 inches tall and 215 pounds. He has brown hair, but may be bald, and has hazel eyes.
He’s been convicted of manslaughter and is now wanted for strong-arm robbery.
If you see him call 911, do not approach him. If you know where he may be call Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345.