A 16-year-old boy is being held as a suspect in the death of McKenna Hilton, an 18-year-old graduate whose body was found in the Michigan woods, CBS News is reporting.
Hilton’s body was found by a resident in the Grand Rapids Township who was out walking his dog shortly after midnight. Hilton, a recent graduate of East Kentwood High School was fully clothed.
Authorities are waiting for results from the coroner’s office to confirm her exact cause of death. However, bruises around her neck suggest that she may have been strangled. Investigators also believe that the former cheerleader was killed elsewhere, and the wooded area was only used as a dump site for her body.
Police have arrested a 16-year-old boy who they say knew the deceased and was friends with her on Facebook. Unconfirmed reports say his name is Savon Schmus.
The person of interest appeared in court Friday, but prosecutors are yet to charge him with murder and have only days to do so or will have to let him go. However, the leading prosecutor in the murder charge has suggested he might be slammed with an open murder charge.
In Michigan, an open murder charge allows a prosecutor to charge a suspect without making a decision whether the defendant would be charged with first or second-degree murder. The call is left to the jury.
Hilton had just graduated high school in the spring. Friends said she had big dreams about pursuing a career in medical therapy. A friend, Cam Spicer said she was still trying to comprehend what had happened.
“I can’t believe this happened because three months ago. I was just in class with her. She was telling jokes, having class arguments. The loss is tremendous. She was just an amazing person.”
Tyrese Baker, a senior who was in a musical and play with Hilton, said she had an amazing voice and excellent sense of humor.
“We just laughed all the time, whether we’d go out to eat or just hang out, we were always laughing all the time.”
Tyrese admitted that he was still in a state of shock over McKenna Hilton’s death.
“It still hasn’t hit me that much yet. When you have such a good person like that in your life and for them to be taken away from you, it’s crazy, McKenna is a good person and she needs justice.”
The 16-year-old teen, who authorities say had no prior criminal record, appeared in handcuffs at the Kent Family Court with his mother. Investigators revealed that the teen had made a statement to police, but did not disclose what he actually said. He is being remanded in juvenile detention.
Kentwood Public Schools confirmed that McKenna graduated from their district in the spring and was an active participant in many school activities. The Superintendent, Michael Zoerhoff in a released statement on behalf of the entire school, said the family remaine in their thoughts and prayers.
“McKenna was an East Kentwood High School graduate and an outstanding person. Kentwood Public Schools is a close family built on strong positive relationships. We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. McKenna and her family are in our thoughts and prayers.”
An obituary published in the Grand Rapids Press, described Hilton as “funny, bright, fantastic, beautiful, unique, thoughtful, caring and very much loved, and that she loved animals especially her pet dogs, Carl and Chloe.”
Hilton was found dead wearing a white tank top with stripes and black running pants. She was also found wearing a charm bracelet referencing her high school graduation in the spring.
A GoFundMe page has been opened to support the family with burial expenses.
Let’s say a prayer for McKenna Hilton.
[Photo by iStock]