Dead man found in ditch north of Morenci 6.10.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The kind of work day Matt Hoadley experienced Friday isn’t one he’s looking forward to again any time soon—not when there’s a dead body involved.

His father, Rich, planted sweet corn Thursday and when Matt returned to the field Friday morning, he noticed tracks from a vehicle in the field. He followed the tracks with an off-road vehicle and soon discovered a 1990 Buick station wagon abandoned in Silver Creek.

A Michigan State Police trooper investigated the scene and half of the mystery started to fall into place.

Sometime overnight, the vehicle turned north off Ridgeville Road and followed a lane at the east edge of the Hoadley property. The lane goes to the back of their land.

The vehicle then traveled through a narrow opening at a fence row and continued about half a mile before entering the creek.

“He ended up in the middle of nowhere,” Matt said.

His father found a piece of the vehicle that fell off after it struck a stump in the fence row.

State Police Trooper Dianne Weakland investigated the scene, determined the owner of the vehicle and returned to the police post.

“It started out as malicious destruction of private property to a cornfield,” she said, but the incident changed as the investigation progressed.

Weakland spoke by telephone to the wife of the car owner who reported that her husband, John Curtis Tifft, 51, of Camden, Mich., is employed in Toledo and failed to return home from work on Thursday. She said he generally travels on Ridgeville Road on his way to and from work. She said her husband was last seen at about 6 p.m. Thursday at the home of family members.

Weakland then suspected that Tifft might be in the vicinity and she called Rich Hoadley and asked that he check the passenger side of the vehicle and look around the vicinity.

Matt and his friend Zach Rendel joined in soon noticed footprints leading from the site and they followed the trail north through a cornfield.

There was corn knocked over, indentations in the ground where the person had apparently fallen, and a pair of Carhartts that were shed.

“It looked like he fell down every 20 or 30 yards,” Matt said.

He lost sight of the tracks in tall grass on the south side of Wolfe Road at Whaley Highway—the abandoned section that leads to the railroad tracks.

“I walked up over the road and there he was, lying face down in a ditch,” Hoadley said.

By the way the grass was matted down, he could see where Tifft had fallen and rolled into the water.

Matt’s report to the police is listed as 12:40 p.m., but the car and body were left in place until dusk while waiting for State Police crime lab technicians to investigate the incident for foul play.

Weakland said the death instead appears to be the result of an unusual accident and she suspects that alcohol consumption could be a factor.

Hoadley said a liquor bottle was found in the vehicle.

An autopsy report could take up to two weeks, Weakland said.

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    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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