WALKER, Mich. -- Tuesday’s death of 81-year-old Casey Wybenga in Walker is under investigation.
Relatives say at first Wybenga’s death was reported to them as a result of natural causes, then a suspicious death and now it's being called a homicide.
Family say Wybenga feared the man they believe is responsible, who they say is a parole absconder who befriended the elderly man to take advantage of him.
Family and friends of Wybenga say he was a Korean War veteran, father of six and pillar of the Grand Rapids community.
“Casey played a pivotal role in my life. He helped me out through a lot of rough areas in my life, a lot of dark areas in my life,” friend David Newton said.
Wybenga ran Casey’s Restaurant in Grand Rapids’ Heartside district, feeding those in need.
“His food was phenomenal, best fried potatoes you could ever have,” great-niece Sheila Shockency said.
Police say Wybenga was found dead Tuesday at America’s Best Value Inn near Alpine Avenue in Walker. Relatives say police initially told them his death was natural, then suspicious. But during an interview with FOX 17, a phone call confirmed their worst fears as they say the 81-year-old’s death is now considered a homicide.
“I knew it, because Uncle Casey wouldn’t be there, no he wouldn’t and he wouldn’t just die,” Shockency said.
Niece Rosemarie Gallaspy says Wybenga feared this would happen.
“He told me that he was afraid that he (the parole absconder) was going to kill him or do something bad to him,” she said.
They say Wybenga’s credit card has been used and his truck stolen, all information they’ve turned over to police.
Those who loved Wybenga want him remembered for the man he was, not how he died, especially his 84-year-old sister
“He’s a good guy. He’d help anybody,” Katherine Shockency said.
Walker police have yet to release any information on the death.
Family say they're still awaiting an autopsy to determine a cause.