BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of a pastor found shot to death in southern Kent County say investigators and the medical examiner got it wrong when they ruled it a suicide.
They believe Dale Cross was murdered along the shoulder of 68th Street SW near Burlingame Avenue, not far from his home.
But Kent County sheriff’s detectives say they’re certain that Cross, 66, staged his suicide on Aug. 6 to look like a homicide. They are closing the investigation.
“They said that this was suicide,” said Cross’s daughter, Tammy Blood. “He set it up to look like a murder, so my dad staged his own suicide to look like a murder, is what they said.”
She said her dad, a retired pastor of Abundant Life Church in Wyoming, had too many reasons to live.
She accused the sheriff’s department of shoddy detective work.
“I was dumbfounded. I mean, a happy man, a man that only cared about others, a man who preached the word and preached against suicide,” she said.
Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Ron Gates said he feels bad for the family but defended his department, which he said assigned a detective full-time to the case.
He said the department would reopen the case if it received new information.
“None of the evidence points toward foul play,” Gates said. “It all points to it was self-inflicted.”
He said detectives believe Cross wanted his death to look like a murder to save his family from shame.
“We feel that because of all the negative perceptions of someone that commits suicide, that he didn’t want the public or the family or whoever to know that this was a suicide. So, we feel that he did stage this to look like a homicide,” Gates explained.
He said detectives found no obvious signs of why Cross would take his own life, though medical records showed the possibility of depression.
But they also found no reason he would have been murdered, he said.
“No motive, nothing stolen, no sign of a struggle,” Gates said.
The pastor was driving home after 5 p.m. after stopping at a gas station to get ice for his wife, and after returning a piece of lumber at Menard’s.
“He was just doing errands,” his daughter said.
Detectives said they believe that the routine trip was part of his plan. Passersby found him near his truck along on 68th, about a mile from his home.
At first it was believed he had pulled over to fix a flat tire, which detectives said was also part of the plan. Their investigation found the tire wasn’t defective, Gates said.
Another part of his plan to make it look like a murder, they said: Shooting himself in the left side of the head when he was right-handed.
A nearby resident reported hearing two shots, but Gates said it’s not unusual to fire a test shot to make sure the gun works.
Detectives found his revolver under his body.
“If the theory was that somebody came out of the woods, or stopped to kill him, why would they place the gun under his body?” Gates said.
Not until later did a family friend with a metal detector find a bullet nearby.
Detectives said their crime scene technician missed it during the initial search. They said it was the same kind of ammo fired by Cross’s gun, but it was too scuffed to determine if it was the bullet that killed him.
Gates said the passersby found his body within a minute of the shooting and didn’t report seeing anybody leaving the scene.
The pastor’s daughter said the family is considering hiring a private detective.
“If he did commit suicide and staged it like a murder and all that stuff, we would have found life insurance because he would have made sure my mom was set up,” Blood said.
She was flying to Florida on Thursday to be with her mother. Friday is her parents’ 44th wedding anniversary.
“We want his name cleared, because this isn’t my father, and we want whoever did this to have justice,” she said.