Then and Now: Mother discusses life after daughter’s murder

Posted at 11:43 PM, Nov 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-03 23:44:03-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Three years after her daughter was murdered, a mother hopes she can be an example of strength to others.

Jeanne Huntoon was killed in Downtown Grand Rapids in 2016. The aftermath of the homicide was caught on security cameras, which kicked off a legal process that only ended this year.

"That evening she was supposed to be back she never showed up. And this is where I believe he befriended her," said Jeanne's mother, Debbie, about the night she disappeared.

A week after the 34-year-old's death, police arrested then 19-year-old Marcus Bivins, who said he came across Jeanne Huntoon one night, spoke to her briefly, then killed her.

Before going to court, Bivins admitted to FOX 17 during a jailhouse interview that he killed her and blamed it on his split personality.

"All of a sudden my mind clicked over and that's when it happened," Bivins said during a May 2016 interview. "I'm very, very, very sorry that I hurt your family and that I hurt your daughter."

Jeanne Huntoon's mother says she keeps reminders of her daughters around the home, like different angels and butterflies.

"Everybody will say one day at a time. It ain't one day at a time, it's every moment of a day," said Debbie Huntoon.

She says she tries to stay positive, and adds there is only one way to go from here.

"You think you're one step up and then you get thrown two steps back. But you've got to go up three more steps to keep going and you've just got to stay forward and you've just got to go," Huntoon said. "You know, you've got to do what's best for yourself and for what your daughter would want. Or your son, whatever the case may be."

Since her daughter's murder, Debbie Huntoon has become close with other parents who have experienced a loss similar to her.

"We share that bond that nobody ever wants to share. That's not a good bond to share," she said.

And she has a message to others who are coping with grief and loss:

"Just be strong. Mom strong, dad strong, just be strong. That's the main thing, you've just got to fight and you've got to win. That's what I do. I fight. And I win. I don't give up."

In April 2019, nearly three years to the day that Jeanne was killed, Bivins lost his appeal for a new trial. His conviction on first-degree murder stands.