MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — A 61-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in connection to two recent and two 1989 Muskegon Heights homicides.
Leon Means was taken to the Muskegon County Jail pending arraignment on murder charges, according to jail records. Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that he was arrested Wednesday morning and will be charged with four counts of homicide.
Anna Lawson, 63, was found dead around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday inside a home in the 200 block of East Sherman Boulevard, according to a Muskegon Heights Police Department news release.
Kimberly Bradford went to her friend Lawson’s house in the middle of the night after Lawson called her repeatedly and then wouldn’t answer her own phone. She found the door to Lawson’s home partly open.
“When I went in there, I saw all this tumbled over and blood everywhere; all coffee pots on the ground. I knew something was wrong,” she said.
She left the house and called police. When officers arrived, they found Lawson’s body.
“She was giving. She would do anything. She just had that heart,” Bradford said of her friend. “She was a good-hearted person and I don’t see why somebody would want to do this to her.”
“She was such a fun person, a fun-loving person,” Lawson’s sister Erline Lee McCran said during a small vigil Tuesday night outside the home where her body was discovered.
Lawson’s car was missing from her home, police say. They are asking for the public’s help to find the gray 2006 Chevrolet Malibu with the plate number 8KVY23.
CAUSE OF DEATH UNKNOWN IN SECOND CASE
About three blocks from the first crime scene, the body of 62-year-old Judy Bushman was found inside a home in the 2600 block of Wood Street. After family members couldn’t reach her, officers went to her house and discovered her body.
“She was a beautiful, caring, loving person. She’d give you the shirt off her back. If you didn’t have a place to stay, she’d open her house to you,” Bushman’s daughter Sarah Hooper said. “She definitely did not deserve this. Definitely.”
Police say they don’t know yet how Bushman died because there were no obvious signs of trauma. They are leaving the cause of the death to the medical examiner, but are treating the case as a homicide.
“She seemed to be a real nice woman. She never bothered no one,” neighbor Keipha Burt said of Bushman. “I’m really angry about it and I’m concerned, ’cause it could be anyone’s mother, grandma. The family over there is tore about it. Just turn yourself in.”
Michigan State Police and a countywide violent crimes task force is assisting the small Muskegon Heights Police Department in the investigations into the homicides. The MSP Forensic Crime Lab helped out at both crime scenes.
PERSON OF INTEREST
Police initially said that they did not have evidence connecting the homicides despite their close proximity and the close age of the victims.
However, the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office said in a Tuesday evening release that they were looking for the same person of interest in both homicides: 61-year-old Leon Means.
Authorities did not call Means a suspect, nor have they named any other suspects.
Both women knew Means. Hooper said Bushman had opened her home to Means and that though he isn’t currently living there, he and his girlfriend had recently stayed there for a few months. Lawson’s family said she had known Means and his family for years and that he would occasionally stop by and chat.
“He didn’t have any reason to harm my sister,” Lawson’s sister McCran said.
Michigan State Police records show Means served prison time for a number of offenses, including assault with a dangerous weapon, unarmed robbery, breaking and entering a building, and carrying a concealed weapon.
According to a 1971 article from the Holland Evening Sentinel, Means, then 19, was part of a group that robbed a Muskegon family, pistol whipping at least one of the victims. Records show Means served eight years in prison for that crime and was released in 1979. In 1984, he was convicted of breaking and entering and send back to prison.
In 1989, he escaped. His estranged wife Cynthia Lou Herrera Means and her mother Linda Lou Hererra were found stabbed to death during the time he was free. He was charged with the murder, but the charges were dropped after he was convicted of escape to give prosecutors more time to build their case. The charges were never refiled.
Records do not show any arrests or convictions since Means was released from prison in 2012.
Means was being held without bond pending his Wednesday afternoon arraignment.
McCran said Tuesday evening that she had a message for Means:
“Whatever your problem is, Leon, give yourself up,” she said.
Anyone with information about either of the homicides, the missing vehicle or Means is asked to call Silent Observer at 231.722.7463 or the Muskegon Heights Police Department at 231.733.8906.
“That’s my friend,” Bradford said of Lawson. “I want you all to find the killer.”
VIOLENT YEAR IN MUSKEGON HEIGHTS
Including the Lawson’s and Bushman’s deaths, there have been nine homicides in Muskegon Heights since April. The most recent victim before Tuesday was 17-year-old Dequarius Love, who was killed on Aug. 21. September was the first month since March that there was not a homicide in Muskegon Heights.
“This is getting out of hand,” Keipha Burt said.