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Crime story details investigation by former Gladstone State Trooper

July 3, 2012
By Dorothy McKnight (dmcknight@dailypress.net) , Daily Press

ESCANABA - By all appearances, it was just an ordinary package that was delivered to Nola Puyear at the Tasty Cafe in Marshall, Mich., on Aug. 18, 1967. But opening the package proved fatal for Puyear when a fiery explosion killed her instantly.

Who would want to kill Puyear?

That was the question that left probing police investigators from Marshall frustrated for many months with mounting evidence that only led to more questions with no answers. Even with the addition to two detectives from the Michigan State Police, Robert J. Kenney and Leroy S. Steinbacher, both stationed at a post in nearby Battle Creek, the case remained a puzzle with no apparent conclusions.

Article Photos

Dorothy McKnight | Daily Press

Anita Stockham, right, presents a copy of the newly-published book, “Secret Witness,” to Carolyn Stacy, director of the Escanaba Public Library. The book was donated in memory of the late Det. Sgt. Robert Jack Kenney, who was stationed at the Gladstone State Police Post from 1973 until his death in 1977. Written by Blaine L. Pardoe, “Secret Witness” is a true crime story of the 1967 bombing in Marshall, Mich., near Grand Rapids.

But in the process of the investigation, the detectives began to unravel the fact that the town of Marshall had a few "dirty little secrets" that no one really wanted to talk about.

It was through the use of a "Secret Witness" program offered by the Detroit News that offered monetary rewards for anonymous tips that a suspect was uncovered - Enoch Chism.

An exhaustive account of the crime and subsequent arrest, trial and conviction of Chism is told in the newly-published book, "Secret Witness," authored by Blaine Pardoe.

As one of the prominent investigators in the case, Det. Kenney, who was later stationed at the Gladstone State Police Post from 1973 until his death from lung cancer in 1977, was prominently mentioned in the narrative. Several copies of the book were given by the author to Kenney's widow, Anita Stockham of Gladstone.

Remembering her first husband's involvement in the case, Stockham said, "It was one of the earliest cases he worked on after being promoted to detective. It was a two-year investigation, and he was selected as Policeman of the Year for Calhoun County in 1970, largely as a result of his work on this case."

Stockham recalls being very interested in the outcome of the case.

"I was a young mother with four children so I had my hands full but still managed to go to the trial," she recalls.

Stockham said she was contacted by Pardoe about two years ago and told about his plans to write the book.

"He (Pardoe) spoke with me and two of our children," she said. "When I read the book, I think he did justice to what kind of investigator my husband was. His job was quite an adventure."

Stockham, who currently makes her home in Gladstone with her second husband, Dan, along with the Kenney children who graduated from Gladstone High School, recently donated two copies of "Silent Witness" - one to the Gladstone Library and one to the Escanaba Library.

 
 

 

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