Wendell Earl Popejoy, 63, of Ottawa County, Michigan was charged with murdering his neighbor, Sheila Bonge, 59, after seeing her blowing snow out of his driveway, court records show.
According to court documents, Popejoy, who had no prior criminal record, told Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Detective Anne Koster that he “made the decision” to kill the woman after seeing Bonge outside on Dec. 26, blowing snow from the easement driveway in front of his home in the 14000 block of 104th Avenue.
“Wendell stated that he had made the decision when he saw Sheila to kill her,” Koster said during a hearing, according to a court transcript. “He then grabbed a gun from his home. He went out to the easement where Sheila was blowing the snow. Wendell stated that he went up behind Sheila and shot her in the back of the head and disposed of her body behind his residence.”
Bonge had been reported missing by relatives earlier that week after last being seen on Dec. 24 at her home. Police found Bonge’s body two days later, and Popejoy was arrested on Dec. 29. He was arraigned in Grand Haven District Court on charges of open murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony.
The details of the relationship between Bonge and Popejoy are unclear, but a friend of Bonge’s said she had ongoing disputes with several neighbors. One of the woman’s neighbors, unsuccessfully sought a protection order against Bonge and her fiancé, according to court documents obtained by the station. The order, pertaining to a disagreement regarding Bonge’s use of an easement, was not granted.
Deputies from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said they were called to the neighborhood more than five times recently for disputes between neighbors.
Bonge’s family said they are “in shock due to the heinous nature” of the crime, according to a statement released to the station.
“We are deeply saddened by the fact that there is nothing we or anyone can do to bring our mother back,” according to the statement. “She was loved dearly by so many for her sweet and caring nature. She was selfishly and brutally taken from us far too soon. We have no other choice but to put our faith in the justice system.”
There is an online fundraiser established in Bonge’s memory and to help offset funeral expenses.
“She was suddenly taken away from her family in such a cruel senseless way,” according to the website. “She was a mother, a grandma, a great-grandma, aunt, and a sister. She was loved very much and will be deeply missed.”
Records show Popejoy remains held without bail at the Ottawa County Jail, he is due to return to court for a probable cause conference Jan. 10.
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