Court docs: Bloody blanket, shorts tie suspect to 2017 murder

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

A July 6, 2020, booking photo of Joshua Wessel from the Kalamazoo County Jail.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of murdering a 71-year-old in rural Kalamazoo County three years ago was defiant as he was formally charged Tuesday.

During his arraignment via video feed, Joshua Wessel told the judge he “can’t understand how something can happen to an innocent man like this.”

A judge denied him bond.

Wessel, 31, of Galesburg was jailed Monday on an open murder charge in the death of Ronald French.

An undated courtesy photo of Ron French.

According to court documents, investigators allege Wessel killed French sometime after 5:30 p.m. on June 4, 2017, following some sort of argument in French’s home northeast of Vicksburg.

French’s body was dumped about five miles away. The document says Wessel wrapped vacuum cords from French’s property around French’s mouth and neck and dragged him into a field.

The remains weren’t discovered until about three weeks later when a farm worker stumbled upon them.

Officers found Wessel with French’s truck on June 6, 2017. They searched the truck and found French’s blanket, which had his blood on it, the court documents show.

Authorities say Wessel denied “any contact with French or his dogs,” which also vanished around the time of the death.

Wessel allegedly claimed he took French’s truck the morning after he was last seen alive, but authorities say they have proof Wessel was in it within 90 minutes of French’s death.

They also say they can prove Wessel had the dogs with him at a McDonald’s after the death. In the truck, investigators found a pair of tan cargo shorts believed to be Wessel’s; they had blood on them that matched the breed of the dogs.

Wessel was charged with auto theft in 2017 and ultimately served 90 days in jail.

It’s not clear why prosecutors moved forward with murder charges now, but French’s family members told News 8 that they were pleased by the developments.

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