Crockery Township resident Wendell Popejoy has lost his appeal of his conviction for killing his neighbor, according to a Michigan Court of Appeals decision Thursday, April 30.
Popejoy, 65, was convicted of first-degree murder by an Ottawa County jury last October. He admitted to shooting his neighbor, Sheila Bonge, in the head with a .22-caliber revolver on Dec. 26, 2017. Bonge was snowblowing their shared driveway.
Searchers found Bonge’s body on Popejoy’s property two days later on Dec. 28, 2017.
At trial, Popejoy’s attorney called Bonge a nuisance to the neighborhood, yelling and bullying neighbors and always blowing snow back into other people’s driveways.
After Popejoy shot Bonge, he took off her clothes and burned them in a barrel. He also put Bonge’s body on an ice-fishing sled and dumped her body behind their homes.
According to court records, police were called to the neighborhood at least 54 times between 2014 and 2017.
In Popejoy’s appeal, he claimed jurors should have been given information about a lesser felony charge, voluntary manslaughter, along with instructions about determining guilt of a murder charge.
The court of appeals stated in their decision that “an inferior-offense instruction is appropriate only when a rational view of the evidence supports a conviction of the lesser offense.”
Legally, a manslaughter charge differs from a homicide charge because manslaughter does not include malice in the killing. Rather, manslaughter is a killing occurring in the heat of passion.
The Michigan Court of Appeals stated it’s not rational to think Popejoy’s actions lacked malice. He saw Bonge snowblowing while he was drinking coffee in his kitchen, went to another room in his house to retrieve his gun, then carried out the murder.
“A rational review of this evidence does not support a finding that the killing occurred in the heat of passion; rather, defendant had ample time to plan the killing.”
Popejoy will remain incarcerated at the Carson City Correctional Facility for the remainder of his life sentence.
— Contact editor Audra Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SentinelAudra.