GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- A Grand Rapids man has been arrested and charged with the murder of elderly woman in 1989.
Michael Wayne Newkirk, 60, was arrested Wednesday and charged with killing 88-year-old Helen Tracy. She was found in her home on Sutton St. SW on May 21, 1989, and had been beaten and sexually assaulted.
Newkirk was a neighbor of Tracy and had been considered a suspect in the crime, but police were not able to make a case against him due to a lack of evidence.
According to the Kent Metro Cold Case Team, they got a new look at the case in 2009. "She was a true victim, kept to herself. Lived alone, she never married, never had any children", says Det. Sally Wolter.
Newkirk had a criminal history; in 1980, he was convicted and served time for sexually assaulting a 3-year old girl. In 2004, his DNA matched a 1992 sexual assault case involving an 80-year old woman. The statute of limitations had run out, so he couldn't be prosecuted. In 2013, Newkirk was convicted of breaking and entering and was sent back to prison.
"Miss Tracy's photo is on our desks and when we came in, we saw her every day. We said we need to visit Mr. Newkirk again."
It was that recent visit to the see Newkirk in prison, that helped solve the 25-year-old case. Newkirk confessed to the crime.
"I think we feel good about this one. We now know that Mr. Newkirk will not be praying on the weak, or our children, anymore."
Newkirk waived his preliminary hearing and has already pleaded guilty to second degree murder, which carries a penalty of 25 years to life in prison. He will be sentenced on March 20.