Police: Pewamo-Westphalia principal killed son, self

Posted at 4:42 PM, Jun 20, 2017

BUSHNELL TOWNSHIP, Mich.  -- Police say a Pewamo-Westphalia Schools principal killed his disabled son and fatally shot himself.

The bodies of George Heckman and his 28-year-old son Grant were found Monday night in a van on a dirt two-track off of Tow Road near Boyer Road in Bushnell Township. Autopsies were performed Tuesday.

Michigan State Police say in a release that preliminary autopsy results show that both men died of gunshot wounds and that "evidence indicates" that George Heckman's wound was self-inflicted.

"It's no less tragic," said Pewamo-Westphalia superintendent Garth Cooper. "My thoughts and prayers are still with his wife and son and daughter. This is something that doesn't seem to fit with the George Heckman that we knew. He was a very caring man and we just don't know what's in the minds of others."

George Heckman was principal at Pewamo Elementary School. The 52-year-old was supposed to become the new superintendent of the Pewamo-Westphalia district but failed to appear at a school board meeting Monday night.

Cooper says Heckman's son Grant was severely disabled, coping with cerebral palsy, and needed around the clock care.

"My guess is, and this is purely a guess, if this is what happened, then I'm thinking that George did this out of compassion for his son and not wanting to see him suffer any longer," Cooper said.

"We don't know what's in somebody's mind or heart and I do think that in George's heart he was a very good man who tried to do what he thought was best and this is an unfortunate ending to what i think was a very high-quality life."

MSP is still investigating their deaths are trying to piece together a motive. Once their investigation is complete, their findings will be sent to the Montcalm County Prosecutor for review.

A small prayer service for the Heckman family was held Tuesday night at St. Mary's Parish in Westphalia, where the Heckmans lived.

The Associated Press contributed to this report