GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Bill Gelineau made a promise to his 16-month-old granddaughter at her funeral.
Ten years later, he reached out to Target 8, hoping new attention to Elizabeth Rose Gelineau’s unsolved homicide would lead Ottawa County detectives to reopen the case. Maybe then he could keep his promise.
“At minimum, it helps me to feel I satisfied the pledge I made to her at her death bed… which was, ‘I’m going to find him,'” Gelineau said.
Elizabeth was killed in her own home in Georgetown Township on Dec. 11, 2005. The medical examiner called it a homicide, saying she was the victim of abuse.
“The 10th anniversary sort of really hit me over the head, that it’s time,” Bill Gelineau said. “I said we owe this to her to do everything we can do to re-ignite this investigation.”
JOY TURNS TO TRAGEDY
Elizabeth’s parents, Rachel and John Gelineau, were young when they got married after Rachel got pregnant. Her dad was a senior at Grandville High School.
“[She was] my first grandchild,” Bill Gelineau said.
Elizabeth had big eyes and a turned-up nose.
“It was an unbelievable, joyous moment for all of us and then in very short order, 11 days later, it starts turning to tragedy,” Gelineau recalled.
That’s when his son, John Gelineau, was accused of abusing his daughter when she was 11 days old. He pleaded no contest, served 90 days in jail, then was served with divorce papers.
In a later interview, John Gelineau denied the abuse accusations, saying he hoped the plea would somehow keep his family together.
Fifteen months later, Elizabeth died of what the medical examiner called new injuries, with fractures to the back of her head and bruises to her face. She was living with her mom, her mother’s boyfriend and her maternal great-grandparents in Jenison at the time.
“There were only four people present and as the Kent County coroner said, there was a homicide committed,” Gelineau said.
A CASE GONE COLD
Police said Elizabeth’s father could not have done it because he wasn’t there.
“[They] totally ruled him out,” Bill Gelineau said.
To some, that didn’t matter. At Grandville High School, classmates called him “baby killer,” his father said.
Since then, the case has gone cold, detectives said.
Gelineau said he counted on the system with the belief that justice prevails, but has been disappointed.
“All of us are just hopeful that we can motivate the powers that be to just dig a little deeper,” Gelineau said.
THE OTHER SIDE
Elizabeth’s maternal great-grandfather, Percy Crothers, feels differently.
Crothers, who was living with Elizabeth when she died, told Target 8 that police should leave the case alone — that his family didn’t kill her.
“We don’t really see any reason to reopen the case because there’s nothing that has happened,” he said. “She’s in heaven with Jesus.”
He questioned that her death was a homicide.
“I watch things on TV all the time about what the police say, and they’ve got to make a living,” he said.
Crothers said, if anything, he believes Elizabeth died from the earlier injuries.
“We know that she’s in the hands of Jesus and we know that we didn’t do anything. All you can do is just one day at a time.
“We had 16 months of blessed time with her,” he added.
NEW LEADS NEEDED
Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Mark Bennett said some family members remain suspects in the case, but said it’s been a while since detectives have gotten any new information.
He said there’s a chance they could assign the investigation to their cold case team.
Anyone with information in this case is asked to contact Silent Observer online or at 1.877.88.SILENT.