Thick swamp identified as possible burial site for Deanie Peters

Target 8

CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Testimony and evidence suggest a new possible burial site for Deanie Peters, who disappeared 40 years ago: a dense swamp near Alto.

But it’s not clear if police investigating the disappearance of the 14-year-old have searched the site near 68th Street SE and McCords Avenue, or ever plan to.

If they do, those familiar with the area doubt they’ll find anything.

An undated courtesy photo of Deanie Peters.

“I’d say impossible,” said Russ Harig, whose family owned the 10-or-so-acre swamp for decades, including back in 1981 when Deanie vanished.

“That swampy area back there is so bad, if you will, I was probably about 10 years old and we had a cow that was in the swamp, and I call it quicksand for I don’t know a better word. She was sinking, flailing about, trying to get out.”

He said he helped save the cow with a chain and tractor.

The possible swamp burial site came out during a hearing last week for James Frisbie, 61, of Alto, who is accused of lying to investigators in the Deanie’s case.

Deanie was an eighth grader when she vanished from Forest Hills Central Middle School in February 1981.

Despite countless searches, her body has never been found.

In an audio-taped interview with police in 2008 and played in court last week, Frisbie suggested two possible leads: that Deanie was killed by some men in Lowell or that two of his friends were involved.

One of those friends, Kyle Fate, was Deanie’s boyfriend, according to testimony. Fate, who later worked at Jim Frisbie’s sign shop in Alto, died in 2008.

Frisbie also suggested her body could have been dumped in the swamp behind the home of the other friend at 68th and McCords. The swamp is one-third of a mile from Frisbie’s sign shop.

Jim Frisbie enters a Kent County courtroom for a preliminary hearing in his perjury case connected to the 1981 disappearance of Deanie Peters. (Aug. 26, 2021)

Target 8 tracked down the other friend identified by Frisbie. He’s not being identified because he’s never been charged. He acknowledged he was friends with Fate and Frisbie at the time of Deanie’s disappearance, but he said he didn’t know Deanie and didn’t know that Deanie and Fate had been dating.

“No sir,” he responded when asked if he and Fate were involved in Deanie’s death. “I have never seen that person in the flesh, nor do I know about her outside any of this investigation talk.”

He said he was not involved in disposing of her body and knows nothing about it.

“There’s nothing,” he said. “I never even seen her, alive or dead.”

Harig, whose family owned the swamp until the 1980s, said he’s never seen police searching the area. Other neighbors said the same.

“As far as a person looking, that (swamp) is so wild, you literally can’t walk through it, and so I doubt in that respect, I doubt if anybody could have walked very far to try to have buried anything,” Harig said.

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki refused to say whether police have searched the swamp, or plan to.

Frisbie is expected back in Grand Rapids District Court on Sept. 20 to resume the hearing that will determine if he will stand trial. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

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