Michigan State Police
New Buffalo Post
December 31, 1971
Troopers Charles Stark and Gary Rampy began their midnight shift at the New Buffalo Post like most others. After meeting fellow Troopers Robert DenHouten and David Hettinga at the Sawyer Truck Stop for coffee at 2:30 AM, they left southbound on Red Arrow Highway to patrol for possible intoxicated drivers. With Trooper Rampy at the wheel, a 2-door Maverick made a U-turn in front of them. The troopers pulled the car over in front of 16620 Red Arrow Highway, the Richard Novacek residence. The driver was identified as Jonnie Willie Croxton of Parsons, Tennessee, and his passenger, Dorothy Pearl Broz of Inkster, Michigan. Rampy took Croxton back to the squad car while Broz called Stark to her window. As he approached the window, a scuffle ensued at the rear of the squad car. Croxton had pulled a .25 caliber pistol on Rampy and demanded his gun. Both Stark and Rampy surrendered their guns to Croxton and as soon as the guns were in his hand, he shot Rampy in the eye. Without a weapon to protect him, Stark took a defensive position but was shot three times; one glancing blow to the head, and the other two to his temple and under his chin. As both troopers lay on the ground, Croxton and Broz got into their vehicle, backed up and scuffed Stark's head with the rear tire and continued southbound on Red Arrow Highway towards Indiana.
Witnessing the entire event was Richard Novacek and neighbor Oliver Dohner. A call was made to the New Buffalo Post at 2:55 AM. Dohner ran to the aid of the troopers but was surprised to see the suspect car returning to the scene. Both men sought cover and called the New Buffalo Post once again. Sgt. Ed Caid dispatched Troopers DenHouten and Hettinga to the Novacek home, just a short time after having coffee with their fellow comrades. With the chaos of what just happened, the troopers overshot the driveway, giving the suspects a chance to flee northbound on Red Arrow Highway. Both troopers fired at the fleeing Maverick but it continued northbound. The vehicle abruptly turned onto Warren Woods Road and then on Lakeshore Drive for about a mile. Croxton exited the vehicle as DenHouten rammed the Maverick, knocking him off balance, however he got up and started running. Hettinga jumped out of the window of the squad car with his sawed off shotgun and chased after Croxton while ordering him to stop. With Croxton still running, Hettinga took aim and fired twice. Croxton was hit and killed instantly. A search of his pockets revealed the service revolvers of both Stark and Rampy, along with another .25 caliber pistol.
After placing Broz in custody and driving towards the New Buffalo Post, she slipped from one of her handcuffs and attempted to reach into the front seat to either grab a gun or her purse, which also contained a pistol. She was hastily stopped and re-handcuffed. Once arriving at the post, she refused to talk. Although she was arraigned on murder charges, the charges were later dismissed for lack of evidence and she was freed on all charges. Dorothy Broz died on October 8, 2011, in Tennessee.
Both Troopers Robert DenHouten and David Hettinga received bravery awards from the Michigan State Police and posthumous valor awards went to Troopers Stark and Rampy.
Charles Stark was born on April 24, 1939, and resided in Chikaming Township. He joined the Michigan State Police in 1964 and had been assigned to the New Buffalo Post for 5 years. His body was laid to rest in his hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.