Confession, complaints recounted in neighbor murder

Ottawa County
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GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A dispute over a shared driveway led to an Ottawa County woman’s murder, testimony revealed Wednesday.

Wendell Popejoy appeared in Grand Haven District Court for a preliminary hearing. He is charged with open murder and one felony firearms charge in connection to the Dec. 26 murder of his next-door neighbor, Sheila Bonge.

Bonge’s body was discovered on Dec. 28 in a wooded area behind her rural home, located in the 14000 block of 104th Avenue in Crockery Township.

Popejoy denied any involvement in Bonge’s murder to police at first. However, around 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 29, after a five-hour interrogation at the Sheriff’s Department, his story changed.

“He asked for a pen and paper and said ‘let’s finish this and what’s done is done,’” said Ottawa County Det. Ann Koster.

Koster read his letter in court Wednesday.

“‘I, Wendell Popejoy, with(in the) spur of the moment, decided to shoot and kill Shelia, put her in the backyard and take full responsibility for all actions to deceit and cover up the crime,’” she recounted.

Popejoy allegedly told detectives that he looked out his kitchen window, saw Bonge snowblowing the disputed driveway and decided to “end things.”

He grabbed his unregistered .22-caliber revolver from his underwear drawer.

“He went out the front door and went up behind her and shot her in the back of the head,” Koster told a judge during Wednesday’s hearing.

Popejoy told detectives that Bonge collapsed from the single gunshot and the snowblower moved a few feet on its own.

“He said he picked her up like a sack of potatoes and then he put her into the sled,” Koster testified.

The sled went on its own down a hill and he took off her clothes and left her there, then burned the clothes, according to the detective’s recounting of Popejoy’s confession.

Popejoy allegedly threw the gun off a bridge near Allendale. During a field trip from the jail, he showed police where he tossed the weapon, but they have not yet found it.

Popejoy said Bonge was a nuisance in the neighborhood.

“He stated that he was sorry for his actions, but he was not sorry that she was gone,” Koster said.

Popejoy’s girlfriend, Rhonda Clark, also took the stand Wednesday. Clark said she was asleep at the time of the crime, did not see anything and knew nothing about it.

However, Clark said that Bonge had been nothing but trouble, harassing all of her neighbors. She said that the driveway had been peacefully shared by everyone except Bonge.

“(She said) We better find another way to come into the driveway because she’s going to own everything,” Clark said.

Clark also recounted encounters with Bonge.

“I called the police,” Clark said about an October incident. “That’s when she tried to hit me, when I was putting up the rope.”

Police confirmed they had been called numerous times by several neighbors, and another neighbor was involved in a lawsuit with Bonge.

“She was an evil woman,” Clark said.

Clark said Bonge harassed Popejoy.

“He’s been out there in the garden when she belittled him and abused him and swore at him,” Clark said.

Clark implied that if law enforcement had acted on the complaints against Bonge, things might be different.

But regardless of what type of neighbor Bonge was, her murder means Popejoy faces a possible sentence of life in prison as his case moves to felony court.

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