Congregation remembers 81-year-old man killed in Walker motel

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jan 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-02 18:32:04-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The death of 81-year-old Casey Wybenga continues to ripple through the Heartside community where he served others in need for so many years.

Friday, the congregation of First United Methodist Church expressed sadness upon learning of Wybenga’s sudden and tragic death.

In a release from Laure Mieskowski, the church’s director of missions, she said the congregation had partnered for years with Wybenga to host a Christmas Eve breakfast at Casey’s Restaurant and were committed to continuing the partnership.

The Christmas Eve meal has since moved to the church, dubbed “Casey’s Breakfast,” to continue to honor Wybenga’s legacy in serving the homeless and others in the Heartside community.

“Casey inspired us to think beyond the doors of our church to be in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Heartside District,” Mieskowski said in the release.

“We express our sympathy to Casey’s family and to all of those whose lives were changed by his friendship.”

Wybenga was found dead Tuesday at America’s Best Inn Motel in Walker.

In an exclusive interview, Wybenga’s family told FOX 17’s Ann Marie LaFlamme they feared the man who killed their loved one was in fact the man police would later call a person of interest in the case.

Matthew Brunn, 29, is a parole absconder, and Walker Police say he’s a person of interest in Wybenga’s death.

“In my opinion, Matthew is taking advantage of the situation,” said David Newton, a friend of Wybenga’s.

Newton referred to Wybenga as a 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,” he said.

Picture from

Picture from “Casey’s Breakfast” Christmas 2014 (courtesy First United Methodist Church)