BELDING, Mich. -- A few dozen family and friends of Joel Battgalia gathered Thursday evening to mark 25 years to the day he'd been brutally beaten, robbed and killed outside a bar in Eastown Grand Rapids in 1990.
The vigil comes the same week Aurelias 'AJ' Marshall, 56, was convicted for the first-degree murder of Battaglia. A break in the cold case came late last year when Marshall was arrested and charged with perjury in the case, along with three others.
In January, Marshall was charged with murder.
This week bringing long-awaited closure and relief to a family and community forced to wait more than two decades for a killer to be brought to justice.
“You know it's a feeling that it’s right and just; that this man (Marshall) will not be walking the streets," said Gail Battaglia, Joel's mother.
“(Marshall) was like a wrecking ball in people’s lives not just ours but many people and it’s good he won’t be able to do that anymore.”
Also this week it was revealed, during the course of the renewed investigation into Marshall for murder, police and investigators discovered Marshall was also responsible for framing a man for the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl in the early 90's, which wrongfully sent Quentin Carter to prison for 17 years.
The Kent County prosecutor’s office determined that Aurelias Marshall was responsible for the sexual assault crime and for framing Carter for it instead by abusing the 10-year-old victim and forcing her to lie.
Thursday night, both of Battaglia's parents expressed their gratitude to those who came to pay their respects Thursday night during the vigil, adding they were grateful to see the impact their son still has in the community.
“I think it’s a witness to our son Joel, how special he was and how powerful his presence remains," Gail said. "All these people remember him, and after all this time love him and honor him."