25 years ago, similar homicide at GRCC parking ramp

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Early Saturday morning, a body was discovered at the Grand Rapids Community College parking ramp.

24 Hour News 8 went digging through the archives and this is not the first time there’s been a homicide at the GRCC parking ramp.

It took years to solve the murder of 77-year-old Muriel Stoepker. She was homeless, and suffered from mental illness and was found brutally beaten, raped and shot to death near the GRCC parking ramp in 1991.

It was a case that was tough to handle even for police.

“I have never experienced the viciousness of this kind of assault ever,” said former Grand Rapids Police Chief William Hegarty back in 1991.

Eighteen years later, the swab from an about to be released Michigan prison inmate helped solve the case.

Rodrigo Hernandez, 36, was convicted for an assault in Grand Rapids in 1998.

When he was let out of prison in 2002, the Department of Corrections took his DNA sample. It matched evidence in DNA preserved from a Texas murder that put Hernandez on death row. And it helped investigators place Hernandez in downtown Grand Rapids at the time of Stoepker’s murder with that DNA match.

“Back in the day, there wasn’t enough in order to develop a profile. So when we resubmitted using today’s technology we were able to get a match,” said Michigan State Police Sgt. Sally Wolter.

Fast forward 25 years, police are now investigating another homicide.

Officers responded to a call at the GRCC parking ramp in the 100 block of Bostwick Avenue NE north of Lyon Street just before 3 a.m. Saturday. A witness contacted police saying a man was seen dragging what appeared to be a body between the main building and the parking ramp.

When officers arrived, they found the body of a woman near shrubs and bushes on the campus. What appear to be drag marks could still be seen in that area Saturday afternoon.

Grand Rapids police were later investigating outside Mel Trotter in connection with the homicide. They later took a man into custody — but would not say whether he was connected to the case.

Police say no arrests have been made and the case remains open.

Grand Rapids police says it will release information about an arrest following approval by the prosecutor’s office.

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