A new source has come forward in the cold case investigation involving a Rapid River man whose charred body was found in a burned down hunting camp over 30 years ago. In addition, a new force has joined the investigation.
It began when twenty-year-old, Airman 1st Class, James Malenfant was home on leave from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. He told his friends he was coming home to go hunting. On October 28, 1979, he was reported missing. He was last seen walking on County Road 509.
â??Jimmy was a veteran who served out country during the turbulent â??Cold Warâ?? era,â?? said Air Force investigators. â??He and his family deserve answers.â??
On October 30, Malenfantâ??s charred remains were found in a burned down camp located in the Haymeadow Creek area near Rapid River. This camp had no connection to Malenfant, or his family. Weeks later, his personal items were found miles away, hidden in the Hiawatha National Forrest.
Originally, the Michigan State Police concluded his death was accidental, and closed the case. When new evidence surfaced in August 2008, the case was re-opened. Since then, more information and sources have continued to emerge.
â??This has been an important case for the Forest Service and other local law enforcement agencies,â?? said Forest Service special agent, Mike Evans.
Due to recent case advancements, a new force has joined the investigative team.
â??We are encouraged that the U.S. Air Force is now taking this case on and making it a priority for their agency,â?? Evans said.
This new information leads investigators to believe people in the community know what happened, and some may have been present at the time of Malenfantâ??s death.
In fact, investigators believe individuals who have already been questioned are withholding information.
â??Itâ??s truly shameful that someone would withhold information on this case â?? something that would bring closure to this veteran and to his family,â?? said Michigan State Police Detective Sergeant Jeremy Hauswirth. â??Those that have the information know who they are, and to some extent, so do we,â??
Officials said some individuals have stopped cooperating with the investigation, and some have since sought legal counsel.
â??The real question is how those individuals can justify such cruel behavior,â?? Evans said. â??Iâ??m not sure how anybody can live with themselves under those circumstances.â??
Investigators acknowledge the possibility Malenfantâ??s death may have been an accident. They said they suspect otherwise, but if this is the case, officials say criminal charges will most likely not be perused. If this is what happened, officials encourage individuals to come forward to discuss the situation, even through their attorneys, if necessary.
â??We are certainly willing to work with anyone that has information, but we canâ??t address their legal concerns unless they come forward,â?? Hauswirth said.
Law enforcement representatives are asking those community members who have provided anonymous information in the past to please call in again. They are hoping to clarify some information and get answers to additional questions that may help the investigation.
Also, anyone who has any information who has not come forward in the past is encouraged to do so.
"Itâ??s the right thing to do, itâ??s the courageous thing to do, and itâ??s the humane thing to do. Jimmyâ??s family and this community have suffered long enough from this,â?? concluded Evans.
If you have any information on the death of Airman 1st class Jimmy Malenfant please contact:
Michigan State Police, Gladstone Post: (906) 428-4411
U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigation (937) 414-7622