Michigan cold case: 1983 death of 16-year-old Erik Cross remains unsolved

34 years later, mystery still surrounds death of Michigan teen

Erik Cross, family photos

DETROIT – It's a death that shook a small Michigan town to its core.

Erik Cross, a 16-year-old boy from Vicksburg, Michigan - a small town in West Michigan - was killed in 1983 after attending a party.

Cross was struck and killed by a car as he was walking home and was left to die in the road.

Although there have been several leads over the last 34 years, nobody has ever been charged with the killing. 

In case you're unfamiliar with West Michigan, here is where Vicksburg is:

The death of Erik Cross

The night of his death, Erik Cross was walking home from a party, where he had been drinking. 

Witnesses told police they saw Cross near a gas station that same night and he was talking to occupants of two different vehicles.

Police initially believed Cross was the victim of a hit-and-run, but later took up a different theory.

Police believe Cross was actually killed before he was struck by a vehicle. The hit-and-run was staged to make it look like he had been hit by a car. His body was found on the road near his home. 

ALSO SEE: 5 unsolved Michigan cold cases, mysteries

Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas, who plans to retire this fall, told People that they believe Cross was killed during a "hood-surfing" attempt. They think Cross fell from the hood of a car and was crushed under the car's tires.

Car-surfing was a big and dangerous fad that started in the mid-1980s. The CDC reports about 58 deaths connected to car-surfing between 1990 and 2008.

The car-surfing theory is no longer being considered by police.

“Last year, we definitely caught a break with this case,” said Matyas. “We’re definitely a lot further along with the investigation than we were even a year ago.”

In September 2015, the sheriff’s office said that one person of interest, Brenton Spaulding, was being held on unrelated charges. He was never charged with anything related to Cross. Police have named five persons of interest, referred to as the "core crew" by police. Spaulding has been the prime suspect.

In June 2017, Kalamazoo police told WWMT that new witnesses are coming forward and there may be new developments in the case.

“What they have is new witnesses coming forward and he told me that posters we've been putting up over the next seven years have been paying dividends.”

Spaulding was actually arrested this week after failing to appear in court for sentencing in a stalking case. 

Many fear Cross' death is a cover-up

For years, locals have floated the theory that the death of Erik Cross is being covered up by police and the people involved in the crime.

A Facebook group with more than 1,000 members, titled "Justice for Erik Cross," organizes events to keep the story alive.

One of the founders, Melissa Hatfield, believes it's time for the people who know what happened to Cross to come forward.

Hatfield attended high school with the Cross family. She ran track with Erik's sister following her brother's murder, and she believes the cover-up started the night Erik was killed.

"That night a cover-up plan was put into place by those involved in the crime. They would not share information with the authorities or Erik's family," said Hatfield. "The car used to murder Erik disappeared and still to this day has many urban myths about what happened to it."

"The cover-up happened because they wanted to protect themselves and their families from facing what was done. This involved a couple of families with what back then would be considered higher standing in the community. The cover-up was always thought to include the local police and several residents of the Village, many of those residents were students that helped hide truth and information to this day."

Hatfield works tirelessly with her group to raise awareness.

"We hold events to help spread awareness of Erik's case in hopes of reaching that one person that needs to come forward with information," said Hatfield.

You can follow Melissa's group online here.

If you have any information on the case, call the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department at (269) 383-8821.

Posted by Melissa Missy Hatfield on Saturday, July 22, 2017

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.