Vigil to be held Thursday night for Benton Harbor victims of unsolved crimes
BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- A first-of-its-kind candlelight vigil will be held Thursday night in St. Joe to honor several dozen Benton Harbor natives who are missing or whose murders or deaths are unsolved.
Lisa Gorman and Michael Hoyh are organizing the event.
They plan to pay tribute to a list of at least 55 names of people from Benton Harbor whose lives ended in unclear or suspicious ways or who are still missing.
The vigil will start at 9 p.m. in the parking lot behind the Boulevard Inn at the corner of Elm Street and State Street in downtown St. Joe.
Despite the event being Benton Harbor-focused, the vigil is starting in downtown St. Joe because that’s where a 16-year-old boy named Eric McGinnis was last seen in 1991 before his body was found in the St. Joe River.
Gorman started making a list of victims about three years ago after a Benton Harbor mother she was mentoring went missing and was later found dead.
She and Hoyh are using McGinnis’s death, which drew national attention and inspired the book “The Other Side of the River,” as a starting point for the list.
“We wanted to put teeth to just a list, you know?” Gorman said. “We wanted to make sure that their names were lifted up. We wanted to make sure they were not forgotten, like oftentimes happens.”
Families of those on the list are being asked to come to the vigil and bring pictures of their loved ones.
Gorman said she hopes the event will provide closure for some people and maybe spark new information to help solve some of the cases.
The names of each victim will be read aloud during the vigil and a bell will ring throughout.
Though some of the victims technically died or went missing outside of Benton Harbor city limits, Gorman and Hoyh said they included the names of anyone who was originally from the 49022 zip code.
It should also be noted that at least one of the victims listed, Martell Hadley, died in what police say was a suicide in the Berrien County Jail in 2016.
Since his passing, Hadley’s death has been the subject of many conversations in Benton Harbor doubting the official cause of death.