CROCKERY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A man accused of killing his Ottawa County neighbor confessed to the murder, saying he shot her in the back of her head while she was out snowblowing, according to court records.
Wendell Popejoy, 63, told deputies he killed Sheila Bonge, 59, on Dec. 26, the day after her family last heard from her.
In an interview with detectives, Popejoy said Bonge was “snow blowing the easement driveway out in front of his residence” on 104th Avenue.
“Wendell stated that he had made the decision when he saw Sheila to kill her,” according to an affidavit for Popejoy’s arrest.
“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.”
Ottawa County deputies found her body in the snowy woods behind their homes.
An autopsy at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital in Grand Rapids confirmed she was shot in the head, court records show.
Popejoy, who had no criminal record, is charged with felony murder and using a firearm in a felony. He is at the Ottawa County Jail without bond. He is expected back in court Jan. 16 for a preliminary hearing.
Bonge’s family released this statement to 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday afternoon:
“At this time we are in shock due to the heinous nature of the crime. We are deeply saddened by the fact that there is nothing we or anyone can do to bring our mother back. 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. They have been working tirelessly around the clock to bring the person or people responsible to justice. We are praying that she gets the justice she so desperately deserves.”
Bonge was last seen by her family on Christmas Eve and last talked to them by phone on Christmas Day.
The victim and suspect shared a private drive and lived right next door to each other off a quiet gravel road.
A friend of Bonge’s told 24 Hour News 8 that she had told him about a recent run-in with her neighbor over “snowplowing” and that she’d “been having a really difficult time with her neighbor.”
Neighbors in the area said Bonge often had run-ins with those who lived nearby.
Files obtained by 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday revealed disputes over property lines, and personal protection orders requested by neighbors against Bonge. Those orders, however, did not involve Popejoy.
Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies said they had been to the area more than five times recently for disputes between neighbors, including one within the last month.
A GoFundMe account has been started to help Bonge’s family cover funeral expenses.