CHARLES B. STARK
Michigan State Police
New Buffalo Post
December 31, 1971
When most people are ringing in the New Year with friends and family, Troopers Charles Stark and Gary Rampy were beginning their shift at the New Buffalo Post. 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 patrolling for a possible drunk driver. With Trooper Rampy at the wheel, a 2-door Maverick did a U-turn in front of them and the troopers pulled them 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 was Dorothy Broz of Inkster, Michigan. Trooper Rampy took Croxton back to the squad car while Broz called Trooper Stark to her window. As he approached the window, a scuffle ensued at the rear of the squad car. Croxton pulled a 25 caliber automatic pistol on Rampy and demanded his gun. Both Trooper Stark and Rampy surrendered their guns to Croxton and as soon as the guns were in his hand, he shot Trooper Rampy in the eye. Without a weapon to protect him, Trooper Stark took a defensive position but he was shot 3 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 Trooper 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 and Oliver 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 partners. 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 on Warren Woods Road and then on Lakeshore Drive for about a mile. Croxton exited the vehicle as Trooper DenHouten rammed the Maverick, knocking him off balance but he got up and started running. Trooper 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, Trooper Hettinga took aim and fired twice. Croxton was hit and killed instantly. Searching the pockets of Croxton were the service revolvers of both Troopers Stark and Rampy, along with another 25 caliber automatic pistol.
After placing Broz in custody and driving towards the New Buffalo Post, she slipped from one of her handcuffs and was attempting 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.
Both Troopers Robert DenHouten and David Hettinga received bravery awards from the Michigan State Police and posthumous valor awards went to Troopers Charles Stark and Gary 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.