Tearful outgoing Kent Co. prosecutor recounts 30 years

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth. (June 10, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After putting criminals behind bars for decades, the Kent County Prosecutor is leaving office.

Tuesday, Prosecutor William Forsyth announced he will not seek re-election.

His career as a prosecutor spans 42 years, 30 of which were as Kent County prosecutor.

Two of his more memorable cases involved the deaths of police officers.

“The murderer of Joe Taylor… the last one I tried was the killing of Bobby Kozminski,” an emotional Forsyth said Tuesday afternoon.

Forsyth helped convict Jeffrey Vanvels in the murder of Kozminski. The Grand Rapids officer was responding to a domestic call in July 2007 when he was fatally shot.

“What they’re asked to do is a thankless job. And I think in this community, the community is blessed to have the quality of law enforcement that we have here,” Forsyth said.

Forsyth also tried Frederico “Kiko” Cruz, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1997 for beating 17-year-old David Crawford to death, dumping his body in a swamp, then returning later to cut off Crawford’s head and mutilate it, all which Cruz recorded on video tape.

Forsyth has also been involved in many high-profile cases, including the investigation involving Jahleel Hoskins, who confessed in court to murdering his girlfriend Latrice Maze; and new charges filed in the 1990 cold case murder of Joel Battaglia.

“I’m grateful to the detectives who worked on this so diligently, who believed they could find an answer and also to Bill Forsyth, the prosecutor who never let this case die,” Gail Battaglia told 24 Hour News 8 shortly after Aurelieus Marshall was charged in the case in November 2014.  Marshall was convicted in the case in June 2015.

Through his decades as Kent County’s top prosecutor, Forsyth always relied on a piece of advice from a former prosecutor:

‘He said, ‘Make the best decision you can make [with] the facts that you have and move on,” recalled Forsyth.

The advice has helped him deal with the regrets, like the situation surrounding Javonte Higgins.

Higgins was hospitalized with serious injuries after a crash while fleeing police after a home invasion in Wyoming in late 2012. Forsyth said charging Higgins from his hospital bed would force taxpayers to cover the suspect’s medical bills. To avoid that, Forsyth decided to delay charging Higgins until he was released.

But Higgins checked himself out of the hospital before police could get to him. And a short time later, he murdered David and Vivian Bouwman during a home break-in in Kentwood.

“Do you really think he’s gonna walk out of the hospital within a week and do what he did? No. Knowing what he did, sure I would have done that differently,” said Forsyth.

One thing Forsyth does not regret is his career choice.

“I like this job, pretty simple,” he said. “There’s a saying- if you find something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

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