Missing woman found dead in wooded area, suspect in custody

Posted at 12:04 PM, Dec 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-29 17:18:33-05

CROCKERY TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- A suspect is in custody in relation to a missing woman who was found dead in Crockery Township, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.

Sheila Bonge, 59, was reported missing on Christmas day by family members, after last speaking with her around 2 p.m. Thursday early evening a search party working alongside police found Bonge's body in a wooded area near her home off the 14,000 block of 104th Avenue.

"I just want justice for my mom," said Jane Luke, Sheila Bonge's daughter Friday to FOX 17.

Wendell Earl Popejoy, 63, arrested Friday and booked on felony murder, according to Ottawa County Jail records.

Friday morning, police confirmed they arrested a suspect in connection to Bonge's murder. According to Ottawa County Jail records, policed booked Wendell Popejoy, 63, on a pending felony murder charge. Property records show Popejoy is Bonge's neighbor. And police expect him to be arraigned Saturday morning.

"Our department has responded to this location in the past on disputes," said Captain John Wolffis with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department on Friday.

Wolffis confirmed police have been called to the area at least five times for different disputes, including in the last month, between neighbors in the area. He reiterated this is an active investigation and could not confirm cause of death or any further details, but said Bonge's autopsy is underway.

Police, K9s and community search parties looked for Bonge in 10-degree weather, which Wolffis said added to the difficulty of the investigation.

"It was a difficult scene, it was hard for our detectives and our officers," said Wolffis, "piecing through the evidence, and as the snow comes down covering up our scene, that made it difficult."

Bonge's family posted on social media including her niece Emily Whelpley who wrote in part on Facebook, "You didn't deserve this... Fly high Aunt Sheila. We love you. RIP." Several community members responded, writing Bonge was "sweet, spunky" and a memorable storyteller.

At this point, investigators believe the suspect acted alone.

"There’s no cause for concern for anyone in the area," said Wolffis. "At this point it’s an isolated incident, there’s no danger to the public, it’s being resolved. Again someone is currently in custody. There’s no reason for alarm in the area."