Deaths of elementary school principal, son considered murder-suicide

Michigan State Police are calling the death of an Ionia County principal and his son, a murder suicide.

BUSHNELL TOWNSHIP, MICH. - Police confirm the deaths of an elementary school principal and his adult son are being investigated as a murder-suicide.

According to Michigan State Police, 52-year-old George Heckman and his 28-year-old son Grant were found dead Monday, June 19, in a van on a dirt two-track off of Tow Road near Boyer Road in Montcalm County.

An autopsy shows both died of gunshot wounds and that George Heckman's wounds likely were self-inflicted.

"I can't believe George would – I just can't believe it, I still can't believe it, it doesn't make sense unless there was some kind of deep down pain that he was going through or things he was going through that we didn't know about," family friend Tim Fedewa said.

The investigation began when George Heckman, who was the principal of the Pewamo-Westphalia Elementary school, did not arrive for a meeting, Clinton County Sheriff Lawrence Jerue said.

The school board had a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. in Westphalia.

Jerue said a deputy pinged George Heckman’s phone and followed it to the scene.

Heckman was selected in April to take over as superintendent of Pewamo-Westphalia schools beginning July 1.

"This is an outstanding school district, and so there will be no problem getting candidates to fill that position, but trying to fill the shoes of George Heckman, that's going to be a challenge," superintendent Dr. Garth Cooper said

The school issued a statement saying:

Tonight, June 19, 2017, the Pewamo-Westphalia School district and entire community experienced an unforeseen tragedy. While details remain unclear, we were notified by local law enforcement that newly appointed superintendent and current elementary principal George Heckman has passed away. A faithful supporter of the community he loved, George was a dedicated husband, loving father and passionate educator. During this difficult time, we ask that you lift the family and entire school community up in prayer. Grief counseling will be available at the high school auditorium on Tuesday morning, beginning at 9 am.

School officials tell WZZM 13 Grant was disabled and required 24-hour care, saying he and his father were inseparable.

Autopsies are scheduled for Tuesday morning, officials said.

Christopher Haxel, Lansing State Journal, contributed to this report.

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