Benton Harbor Mayor addresses Eric McGinnis case closure

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss Attorney General Dana Nessel’s request to close the Eric McGinnis case.

Eric McGinnis, 16, was found dead in the St. Joseph River in 1991 five days after he disappeared.

The first investigation ended in 1993 and ruled his death an accidental drowning.

Despite pleas from his family and members of the community, the case remained closed.

A witness who saw a black teen being chased by five white men on May 17, 1991 came forward to ABC57’s Brian Conybeare after a special ABC57 investigation into the deaths of several Benton Harbor residents found dead in the St Joseph River.

In 2021, the case was reopened by St. Joseph Police, but then transferred to the Attorney General’s Special Investigations Unit. The witness spoke with the AG’s office.

In 2022, McGinnis’ death was ruled a homicide. The witness provided enough information for the Attorney General to determine McGinnis’ death was not an accidental drowning, but a homicide.

The new witness who came forward told ABC57 that he was at Silver Beach in St. Joe with a friend when they both saw a black teenager, they now believe was McGinnis, being chased by five white men on May 17, 1991, the same Friday night McGinnis vanished. The friend of the witness confirmed he saw the pursuit that night too.

The witness says the group chased the teenager along the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline all the way from the south end of Silver Beach to the South Pier and ultimately to the same river McGinnis’ body was found floating in five days later.

“Our finding was that Eric McGinnis was killed as a result of being assaulted and thrown in the river,” said Gentry Shelby, a special investigator for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office has requested the case be closed again, with no charges filed.

Shelby said the suspect who chased and kicked McGinnis that night, Curtis Pitts,  committed suicide nearly 12 years later and no one else can be charged in McGinnis’ death because the statute of limitations has run out for lesser charges.

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