Family: Missing Kzoo Co. man found dead a homicide

The body of 71-year-old Ronald French found Monday in rural Wakeshma Township

Joshua Wessel Marvin Tabo
Left to right: Mug shots of Joshua Wessel and Marvin Tabor. (Michigan Department of Corrections)


WAKESHMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of a missing Kalamazoo County man whose body was found Monday say the sheriff’s department is treating the case as a homicide investigation.

“I’m just very scared of what we’re going to find out,” the victim’s daughter, Ronda Hamilton, told 24 Hour News 8 on Thursday.

A farm worker found the body of her father, Ronald French, in a line of trees between two fields near E. V Avenue and S. 45th Street in Wakeshma Township. The worker said the body appeared to have been there a while.

Ronald French
An undated courtesy photo of Ronald French.

French, 71, was last seen June 4 at his home along S. 34th Street near E. U Avenue in Brady Township, near Vicksburg.

French’s family says Joshua Wessel, 28, was found with French’s truck a day after his body was found and had the keys in his pocket.

“There was an appearance that the windows from the inside had been covered a little bit and it just looked suspicious, like someone had been staying or living in there,” Hamilton said.

Wessel was formally charged with unlawful driving away of a motor vehicle on Wednesday.

The family said authorities told them a Tuesday police chase involving 27-year-old Marvin Tabor led investigators to Wessel.

“The chase itself it was a fluke, he (the investigator) said. It led them to Josh Wessel somehow. And I’m not sure of all the details yet, but somehow they were in right place, the right time,” Hamilton said.

Authorities say Tabor stole an SUV in Kalamazoo and led officers on a chase that ended near Galesburg, when he ditched the vehicle. He then ran on foot into a wooded, swampy area near I-94 in Comstock Township. After a large police search, Tabor was allegedly taken into custody.

French’s daughter says a relative of Wessel was living with her dad at one point. She believes her dad may have hung out with Joshua Wessel and his brother.

“My dad had a very good heart and he tried to help a lot of people that were down on their luck,” Hamilton said.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, Tabor was sentenced to prison in July 2011 on multiple counts, including stealing a vehicle. He was released in November 2015.