A cold case on the Grand Rapids Police files is resolved after more than four years of effort.
The Kent Metro Cold Case Team said today 60 year old Michael Newkirk confessed to murdering his neighbor, 88 year old Helen Tracy in May of 1989. He's accepted a plea deal to Second Degree Murder, has been convicted and will be sentenced next month.
Detective Sergeant Sally Wolter of the Metro Cold Case Team told WOOD Radio "when she (Tracy) was murdered, the detectives at that time had developed a few suspects, one of them being Michael Newkirk." He'd already served time for the sexual assault of a three year old. There was not enough evidence to link him to Tracy's death, a 1992 sexual assault of a Kentwood woman could not be prosecuted despite a DNA link due to the statute of limitations. Wolter said the Cold Case team began their investigation in 2009 and kept up that pursuit of Newkirk.
That "dogged persistence" paid off recently. Wolter explained "detectives continued to interview him and finally got him to break just this past week. We're pretty pleased because this was a case where we knew who our suspect was." Sentencing guidelines point to a 25 years to life sentence for the second degree murder plea. Wolter told WOOD Radio "our victim certainly deserved better than to have her case just stored up on a shelf. We now have gotten a predator with no chance of him doing this again to anyone else."