homicide

Courtesy of the Tholen family

 

(Editor's note: We recommend you listen to the story before reading.)

It was December when Rick Tholen was killed. He was working at M&J Grocery in Grand Rapids.

He’d just graduated college and was in his first year of teaching high school English. And he’d decided to take some shifts over Christmas break for extra cash. He was getting married soon.

Rafael Alicea and Jose Burgos

Update 7/30/18: Jose Burgos has been granted parole. He says his projected release date is the end of October.

"The joy I live with today cannot be described in words," says Jose. "To know that within the next few months I'll get to spend the holidays with my family, [that's] an amazing feeling." 

Jose Burgos says he always felt like dying in prison was probably one of the loneliest ways to die. And  – for nearly 27 years  – that's what he was told would happen to him.

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all juvenile lifer sentences  –  including Jose’s  – had to be reviewed, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy still recommended life without parole. That's where things stood when we initially did a story about Jose last October.

Morgan Springer

It’s been two years since the U.S. Supreme Court said states across the country had to reconsider the sentences of nearly 2,000 juvenile lifers. But not much has changed in Michigan since that January 2016 ruling for most of those prisoners.

Michigan had the second-largest juvenile lifer population in the country – with more than 360. So far, only 30 percent of juvenile lifers have been resentenced. Antonio Espree is one of them.

 


Morgan Springer

Juveniles serving life in prison with no chance for parole have a reason to hope. They might get a shot at resentencing.

Up until 2012, juveniles convicted of murder were given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. It was mandatory. Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this requirement was cruel and unusual. They said it should only happen in very rare circumstances.

But the court didn’t say whether the ruling should apply retroactively. Some states chose to resentence their juvenile lifers while others - like Michigan- did not.

 


Police release details of family found dead

Aug 17, 2015

The deaths of a Garfield Township family of four have been ruled a murder-suicide.

Michigan State Police found Jeffrey and Tamisha Mendenhall, and their children, dead last Thursday.

When state troopers forced their way into the home Thursday evening, they found the bodies of the two children, Thomas, age 6, and Olivia, age 3, posed in a bedroom with flowers and stuffed animals. Their father was found in the hallway posed with flowers as well.