MUSKEGON, Mich. — Relatives and a close friend of a man shot to death outside a Muskegon liquor store Saturday said the victim was a young father who was "trying to be a better man."
Brin Aurich confirmed to FOX 17 her friend Charlie Cuti, 23, was shot outside Sam's Drink All Party Store, 1500 S. Getty St. Muskegon police said when officers arrived on scene around 11 p.m. they found Cuti lying in the parking lot dead from what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the torso.
"I really loved Charlie," Aurich told FOX 17. "And I really wanted to help him. Charlie was a very dedicated person to me."
Aurich said the two had dinner Saturday night with Cuti's uncle before the shooting. After dinner they laughed and talked until Aurich fell asleep and Cuti left, she told FOX 17.
A phone call just hours later early Sunday morning brought feelings of instant shock and guilt, Aurich said.
"It was (Cuti's) aunt who called me at about 2 a.m. to tell me that Charlie was shot and murdered," she said. "I just felt like I failed when someone reached out and I couldn’t, you know, I fell asleep and now they’re gone."
Aurich told FOX 17 Cuti had a troubled past and she believed her friend had recently been struggling with drugs, which might've led to his death.
"I had a feeling he was chasing a high," she said. "But he reached out to me for help, he asked me for help. Charlie was really, honestly working on trying to be a better man."
Cuti had a criminal past that included drugs, retail fraud and assault, according to Michigan State Police records. His most recent arrest was in 2014 for malicious destruction of property to which he later pled guilty, records show.
But Cuti was also a young and dedicated father from Nunica, who had attended Grand Haven High School, Aurich said.
"There was two things in his life that he really adored the most; he did love his daughter and he did love his daughter's mother," Aurich said. "He was a good kid, he was a really good kid and I could see him going far in life."
Police told FOX 17 that they were "speaking with witnesses and persons of interest, and working to sort out the details of what occurred."
No suspects or arrests have been announced.
The incident is being investigated as a homicide by Muskegon Police Department detectives.
AGoFundMe page has been set up to help cover funeral costs.
FOX 17s Kate Nadolski contributed to this report.