DALTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — What was initially thought to be a hit-and-run crash after a jogger was found on the side of the road in Muskegon County is now being called a homicide.
Investigators were called to Automobile Road just south of Lakewood Road in Dalton Township, which is west of Twin Lake, around 6 p.m. Sunday after a nurse located 36-year-old Rebekah Bletsch, who had minimal signs of life, authorities said.
Emergency responders tried to revive Bletsch, but were unable to do so. She was pronounced dead at the scene, Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler said.
Initially, investigators said they thought Bletsch’s injuries may have been the result of being hit by a vehicle. However, investigators found shell casings from a small caliber gun — likely a handgun — at the scene. They also discovered a single gunshot wound to Bletsch’s head when examining her body, according to Roesler.
“At first, I heard somebody got hit by a car and then I heard it was her. I was in total shock, especially when I found out she was shot in the head,” Donna Beegle said.
Bletsch was found laying up against Beegle’s mailbox. Beegle said she had known the devoted mother and volunteer middle school basketball coach for years and considered her a friend.
“She wouldn’t have any enemies, to my knowledge. She was a great person — loving, caring, a great mom, great wife,” Beegle said.
Authorities said it wasn’t unusual for Bletsch to walk or jog along Automobile Road between five and six in the evening, after work. She was found less than a mile from her home.
“Between 6 and 6:30, somewhere between there, my wife looked out the window and saw this lady jogging down the street. We didn’t think too much more about it until we saw all the police cars and stuff like that,” neighbor Chuck Race said.
He said he had seen Bletsch run by before.
“We’ve lived here for 45 years. Over 45 years, we’ve never had any trouble around here,” Race said.
The sheriff’s department, Muskegon police and Michigan State Police formed a task force to look into the murder. 24 Hour News 8 witnessed the task force searching near the area where Bletsch was found Monday afternoon. They used a metal detector to scour the area near the crime scene and cut down tall grass in the area.
Investigators said Bletsch had valuables with her when she was found, so they do not think robbery was a motive.
They have not yet developed a suspect. Roseler said Bletsch’s husband has “a rock-solid alibi.” He was out of the county with the couple’s 11-year-old daughter. Bletsch had stayed home so she could take off the weekend of July 4.
“There’s several theories that we are just discussing,” Roesler told 24 Hour News 8. “Her becoming a random victim and some crime of opportunity is one of them, but I’m not saying that’s what this is.”
“There is not a lot of information to go on at this time,” Roesler added. “It’s a real whodunit.”
Anyone with information about what happened is asked to call the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office at 231.724.6351or contact Silent Observer by calling 231-72-CRIME or by texting 274637 to CRIMES. Tips can also be emailed to Silent Observer.
“I just hope and pray that they get them, whoever did it,” Beegle said.
Family members declined to speak on camera Monday, saying they were too emotional. They did say there is a $10,000 reward being offered for information in the case.
24 Hour News 8′s Heather Walker contributed to this report.