HARTFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - A man was arraigned Friday morning in connection with the deaths of his girlfriend and his cousin's wife.
Junior Lee (or BJ) Beebe sat before a judge via video arraignment in Paw Paw and did not even try to stifle yawns as he was charged with two counts of open murder and two counts of possession of a firearm. Each charge could get him life behind bars. His Miranda rights were read to him, and his bond was denied.
Police found two bodies partially buried on the Bangor Township land occupied by Beebe late Thursday. Police identified the victims as Amy Henslee, a 30-year-old Hartford Township stay-at-home mom who disappeared Monday morning, and 36-year-old Tonya Howarth, Beebe's girlfriend.
Authorities said the women died from multiple gunshot wounds, and the weapon apparently used in the killings has been recovered. Investigators did not release information on what they believe prompted the murders.
Beebe was arrested on a felony homicide warrant Thursday afternoon. Before his arrest, Beebe was questioned at the sheriff's department. The 34-year-old signed a letter of confession, and admitted to using a shotgun in at least one of the murders, according to a probable cause statement. But investigators did not specify which victim.
In court on Friday, Beebe had very little to say to the judge. When the judge read the charges connected to Henslee's death, it sounded as if Beebe was denying he killed her.
Judge: "It says that you murdered Amy Sue Henslee."
Beebe: "Did or didn't?"
Judge: "OK, I'll just ask you. Did you understand the charge? Got it? OK."
Authorities said they have no reason to believe James Henslee, Amy's husband and Beebe's cousin, is a suspect and that he had nothing to do with this crime. They don't believe any other suspects will be sought in this investigation.
Beebe, 34, has a long criminal record dating back 15 years: a misdemeanor larceny in 1995, felony drug possession, assault and weapons charges.
In nearby Coloma Township, he's had 25 run-ins with the law, including domestic violence just last summer.
Police dogs picked up on a scent and tracked it to Beebe's property, 42000 block of County Road 687; about three miles from Henslee's Hartford Township home, said her husband, James Henslee. Investigators found blood near a trailer belonging to Beebe, but it has not been identified.
Beebe and Howarth lived together. Howarth has two children who hadn't heard from her in days. They didn't report her missing because they didn't have any reason to believe she was in danger.
"I haven't talked to my mom since Saturday," said Amber Bradshaw, Howarth's daughter, after she arrived on the crime scene late Thursday night.
Bradshaw said Howarth was with Beebe when he picked up Henslee Monday morning at Henslee's home. Investigators said Henslee initially went willingly with Beebe, and they believe the women were killed shortly after. Beebe drives the black truck witnesses said pulled up at Henslee's house.
The family said Beebe and Howarth had some problems.
"Like any couple, they argued, they fought, But I honestly didn't think he'd be capable of doing something like this," Rebecca Nickerson, Beebe's sister told 24 Hour News 8.
Friends and family members tried to get Howarth to break off her relationship with Beebe but she wouldn't, Bradshaw said.
"She is a great person," Bradshaw said tearfully. "She just has a lot of problems."
Beebe's criminal record dates back to 1995 and he has been convicted on several charges, including assault, domestic violence and for possessing weapons, records show. Family and friends indicated he had drug problems as well.
James called to check on Amy around 10 a.m. Monday, and when she didn't answer after repeated attempts, came home on his break. He found the door locked and his wife gone; however, her ID and purse remained.
Amy didn't have access to the couple's car, and her sons, ages 8 and 10, already had boarded the bus to school.
James said he called deputies Monday afternoon, and police sent out information to the media Tuesday evening. At a news conference Thursday morning, officers said they believed Amy was still alive.
Optimism weakened among community members when they learned the Grand Rapids-based Michigan State Police Crime Lab was called to the Bangor Township property. Public records indicate the property's official residents include Richard Beebe and Phillip Beebe.
James has fully cooperated with the investigation, deputies said, and he has never been a suspect.
The family had no comment as of late Thursday night. A Facebook page has been created in loving memory of Amy.
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