2017-02-05 / Insight

Sheriff’s department has four homicides that remain unsolved

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 •

LAPEER — The Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. put its most infamous cold case to bed in 2012 with the conviction of Frank Choate on a long list of charges including felony murder — six years after Marie Warren’s lifeless, mutilated body was found along Five Lakes Road.

The Sandusky man, now 47, is serving a life sentence at the Muskegon Correctional Facility. A single quarter-inch long hair found on a sheet from the murder scene led to Choate’s arrest and conviction, but there are four other homicides on the books at the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. with even fewer leads to go on.

The oldest dates back nearly 50 years, the newest more than 20, and the chances of any of them ever being solved fade a little more each passing year.

Helena Bailey, an elderly Hadley Township woman, was found shot to death in a home on Washburn Road in October 1970. Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. Det./Lt. Gary Parks said a neighbor was a prime suspect, but he moved to Florida and died in a car accident several years ago.

Parks said that while the case is technically open, “we exhausted all the leads” years ago.

Dr. Jim Richardson was well thought of enough in Columbiaville that residents put up a statue of him next to the town’s old railroad station. Someone disliked his son, James Joseph Richardson, enough to beat and stab the 20-something man to death in his father’s Columbiaville home.

The elder Richardson died at the age of 92 in 2006 and the murdered man’s mother, Doris, died at the age of 95 in 2012 —neither ever discovering who killed their son.

In 1975 a divorcee in her mid-30s disappeared from her Lapeer home. While Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. investigators collected evidence, no one was ever charged. Parks said the prime suspect, her husband, Clarence, went on to serve a prison sentence on unrelated charges.

After getting out of prison, Parks recalled, Clarence remarried, moved out of state and died several years later.

Police are no closer to discovering who killed Monica Foster than they were five years ago when her family tried to draw attention to the case on its 20th anniversary.

Foster’s half-sister Stephanie Cowart, a Davison resident, and her brother Morris Foster, a retired Navy veteran and a program specialist with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, contacted media outlets across southeast Michigan in 2011 on the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the Mount Clemens woman’s body in an Imlay Township pond near the CN railroad tracks.

Parks said he believes the woman was murdered in Macomb County and her body was dumped here.

The last record of Monica being seen is a Nov. 15, 1990 Mount Clemens Police Dept. report about a fight on Ahrens Street on the city’s north side. Police reported finding two men drunk and bleeding at the house. Police said Monica took one of the men with her and another woman took the other man with her.

At the time, a Mount Clemens Police detective told the Macomb Daily, “I’m not surprised she was murdered because of the life she led.” Foster, a one-time model, had numerous run-ins with Macomb County law enforcement, was a reputed prostitute and was said to have been a crack addict.

“She did a lot of stuff, but she didn’t deserve to be murdered,” Cowart said.

A passing train crew reported spotting a body floating in a pond three months after Foster was reported missing in Mount Clemens. Parks said her body had been in the water for several weeks when it was found. He said that left investigators with little in the way of physical evidence.

Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna and Undersheriff Jeremy Howe were both high school students when Foster went missing. McKenna said he’s heard people mention the Foster case in passing a few times over the years, but he’s not familiar with it.

Short of a lucky break, Lapeer County’s cold cases are likely to stay cold.

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