2 bodies found amid search for missing Portage couple

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Police on Friday afternoon recovered two bodies in the Gourdneck State Game Area, where they were searching for a Portage couple missing for more than a week.

Portage Department of Public Safety Chief Nicholas Armold said authorities have not yet made a positive identification of the bodies but the circumstances were “consistent with (them) being the Johnsons.”

He said he knew one of the bodies was that a man; he did not have information about whether the second was a man or woman. The bodies will be sent to the medical examiner’s office for autopsies, likely this weekend, and identification.

“If these are who we think they are, we’ll just leave it at that, that we believe we found them, but we’re not sure until we get a positive ID,” Armold said.

The site at Gourdneck State Game Area in Portage where two bodies were recovered on Feb. 12, 2021, as police looked for Gary and Laura Johnson.

Police went to the Gourdneck State Game Area in Portage to look for Gary and Laura Johnson.

“Last evening, we got some information as a result of our investigation that led us out to the site in the state game area…” Armold said Friday before the remains were found. “We came out and did an initial survey late last night to try and confirm some of the information. We were able to do that. As a result of that, we spent the evening making the plans to come out back this morning.”

Crews returned to start searching a wooded area off Vanderbilt Avenue, just east of US-131, around 10 a.m. Friday. Armold said search dogs signaled on a recently dug area about 200 yards south of the main road, which is accessible by car, and crews started excavating.

“As sad as it is, this is the result we thought we were going to get,” Armold said.

The state game area is about three miles away from the home of the Johnsons, who were last seen alive Feb. 3. When police went to the couple’s home on Romence Road Tuesday, they say they found “signs of violence,” though they have not clarified what exactly those signs were.

An undated courtesy photo of Gary and Laura Johnson.

Their son Nick Johnson has been arrested on unrelated weapons charges. Police are treating him as a person of interest in the case.

Armold also confirmed to News 8 Friday that Nick Johnson is also considered a person of interest in the case of 17-year-old Bonifacio Pena of Gobles, who vanished in 2018.

*Editor’s Note: Citing police, a previous version of this article stated an archeology team was assisting at the state game area. Armold later clarified that he misspoke when he announced that and that he meant to say an anthropology team.

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