Sheriff releases identification of man who died at disc golf course.

September 27, 2017

James Walkley

Sheriff releases identification of man who died at disc golf course.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — The Mason County Sheriff’s Office has released the identification of the man who was found dead at the Ludington Area School District forest’s Leviathan disc golf course. James Anthony Walkley, 28, of Free Soil, died Saturday, Sept. 23. He was found by disc golfers about 6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 24.

Sheriff Kim Cole said the autopsy, which was performed in Kalamazoo County, revealed that Walkley did not die from a medical condition and that a drug related death could not be ruled out, however results from the toxicology exam are not expected for at least another week. The sheriff said Walkley’s family has been cooperative with investigators. He added that the delay in releasing the name was tied into the investigation.

“Our hope is to be able to answer any questions the family may have and to get to the bottom of what caused his death,” Cole said.  “Sometimes we need to hold some information close to our vest, and in holding onto his name, we hoped to get closer to a cause.  Unfortunately, our detectives have had to make adjustments in their approach to this investigation due to circumstances outside our control.

“We appreciate the cooperation of Mr. Walkley’s family and we also appreciate the cooperation of the legitimate media which has been patient in waiting for us to officially release Mr. Walkley’s name. I know the media have a responsibility to keep the public informed and we have a responsibility of keeping the public safe. Sometimes those two areas have to find a balance.

“With that said, there was at least one local blog, the Ludington Torch, that felt it was necessary to release the name of the victim prematurely and try to convince its readers that there was a cover up on behalf of law enforcement. I believe that was an irresponsible action on the part of the blog’s administrator and most likely hindered the investigation and our efforts to fight the local drug problem, and that’s a real shame.”

Walkley had a history of drug use and has been in and out of prison since he was 20-years-old. In November 2016 Walkley was sentenced to a three to 20 years prison sentence in Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court after he pleaded guilty to operating/maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory and also a three to 10 years sentence for possession of methamphetamine. He was paroled in March of this year.

In October 2014, he was he was sentenced to up to two years imprisonment for assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer. In August 2012 he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for larceny of a building. In October 2009 he was sentenced in 51st Circuit Court to 18 months in prison for the crime of maintaining a drug house and marijuana use.

The sheriff’s office, along with personnel from Pere Marquette Township Fire Department, Ludington Fire Department, Riverton Township Fire Department, Scottville Fire Department and Hamlin Township Fire Department, spent several hours Monday and Tuesday searching the school forest for further evidence in the case. Most of the items found on the scene were clothing. 

Arrangements for Walkley’s funeral are being handled by Oak Grove Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Amber Township.

Editor’s Note: Mason County Press obtained the name of the victim, James Anthony Walkley, Monday. While there are no laws that could prevent us from posting the victim’s name and we fall under the protection of the First Amendment, we believe that allowing law enforcement to perform its investigation for the good of the community outweighed the need to release the name at that time, especially knowing that Mr. Walkley’s family was aware of his death and the investigation. 

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