STOCKBRIDGE, Mich. -- Two men with ties to the same Michigan village: one that served the people of Ingham County, making the ultimate sacrifice last week, the other now charged in connection to that deputy's death.
The community of Stockbridge is still coping with the loss of Ingham County Deputy Grant Whitaker. The 25-year-old was killed on December 7 when his cruiser struck a tree during a high speed chase in his hometown. Not long after that, Michigan State Police released surveillance images of the white SUV that deputy Whitaker was chasing, along with word of a $10,000 reward to help catch who was behind the wheel.
"Grant when he would walk in the room, it would light up," said Mike Kitley, who attended high school with Whitaker.
"I prayed every night that they would catch the person and I pray every night for his family but I am so blessed to think they have got that person that he was chasing, it gives me goosebumps," said Deborah Castle, a Stockbridge resident.
MSP says hundreds of tips led to 34-year-old John Kelsey II, who's now facing felony charges.
"When this death occurred, we did not have any information as to the identity of the vehicle or the driver," said Ingham County Prosecutor, Stuart Dunnings III. "I did not believe that we would be this far in this investigation to the point where we are actually reviewing charges on a suspect one week after Deputy Whitaker's death."
Kelsey is now facing two felonies. one for fleeing and eluding., the other for driving on a suspended or revoked license, both of which carry a maximum of 15 years in prison. Investigators believe Kelsey was driving the white 2003 GMC Denali that's registered to one of his relatives when the deadly chase took place. Even with an arrest and a chance at closure, those who knew Deputy Whitaker say there's little to help overcome the loss.
"But it doesn't bring Grant back," Kitley said.
FOX 17 looked into Kelsey's criminal history, which is extensive. It includes drugs, resisting arrest, fleeing and eluding and OWI, all prior crimes going back to 1997. His driving record shows he hasn't had a valid driver's license since 2009. He's now held on $1 million bond and is due back in court December 22.