A Michigan man confessed to murdering his 59-year-old neighbor while she was removing snow from the shared driveway between their homes.
According to court documents obtained by the Grand Haven Tribune, 63-year-old Wendell Earl Popejoy of Crockery Township, Michigan, admitted to shooting Sheila Bonge in the back of the head on December 26 as she was using a snowblower in the neighbors’ shared easement driveway.
Popejoy reportedly told detectives at the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office that when he saw Bonge outside his window he “made the decision” to kill her.
Detective Ann Koster recounted the details of the interview in a court hearing on Sunday before Ottawa County District Judge Susan Jonas. According to the transcript, Koster testified that Popejoy told detectives he retrieved a gun from his home and “stated that he went up behind Sheila and shot her in the back of the head and disposed of her body behind his residence.”
According to the court documents, Bonge was reported missing by family members, who last spoke with her on Christmas Day. Police responded to Bonge’s home for a search of the property, but did not locate the missing woman.
The following day, police reportedly returned with a K-9 unit, and Bonge’s body was discovered on December 28 behind Popejoy’s home. The Michigan State Police and Sheriff’s Office and the Ottawa County Search and Rescue Team assisted in the investigation.
Popejoy, who had no prior criminal record, was arraigned via video on January 2 on one count of open murder and one count of felony firearm charges, according to local ABC affiliate WZZM.
While details of the relationship between Popejoy and Bonge remain unclear, Guy McDonnell, a friend of Bonge’s, told WZZM that she had prior issues in the neighborhood. According to McDonnell, Bonge “really didn’t bother anyone unless she was being pushed and she was pushed.”
Court documents reveal that another neighbor, not Popejoy, had submitted an unsuccessful request for a Personal Protection Order against Bonge and her fiancé, reportedly due to a disagreement about Bonge’s use of an easement in the neighborhood.
In addition, Ottawa County authorities reportedly confirmed that they had responded to the area at least five times prior to the murder.
Family members have established a GoFundMe page to assist with covering Bonge’s funeral expenses. According to the page description, Bonge was “a mother, a grandma, a great grandma, aunt, and a sister. She was loved very much and will be deeply missed.”
Local NBC affiliate WOOD TV reported that Popejoy is being held without bail at the Ottawa County jail, pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for January 16.
[Feature image: GoFundMe/Sheila Bonge]