The Kent Metro Cold Case Team arrested Michael Wayne Newkirk, 60, charged in the homicated of Helen Tracy of Grand Rapids. Tracy was 88 years old at the time.
Newkirk was arrested February 5 and arraigned February 6, the team announced in a release. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder and will be sentenced March 20.
Newkirk, who was 35 at the time of the homicide, was a person of interest in the case as it was investigated by Grand Rapids Police. The cold case team began looking at the case in 2009. During their investigation, the team “made repeated contacts” with Newkirk, and eventually Newkirk confessed to the murder.
On May 21, 1989, a neighbor noticed a broken window in Tracy’s house and that the door was ajar. Tracy was found inside, beaten and sexually assaulted. Newkirk was not charged at the time, though he was a person of interest. He already had been convicted in the sexual assault of a three-year-old girl in 1980.
Newkirk was connected to the sexual assault of an 80-year-old woman in 1992, but the connection was made in 2004, and the statute of limitations had run out. He was not charged. He was arrested for larcenies, breaking-and-entering, and in 2013 was sentenced to two to 10 years in prison on a breaking and entering charge.