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24-Year-Old Cold Case Grand Rapids Murder Reopened; Film About Slaying Debuts This Week

Grand Rapids police have reopened their investigation into the murder of 23-year-old Joel Battaglia.

Battaglia died on June 11, 1990, from injuries suffered in a beating. He was last seen leaving Mulligan’s Pub in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood early that morning.

Battaglia was found, beaten and unconscious, a half mile away from the pub where he was last spotted, at 1065 Lake Drive SE. Robbed and left without identification, Joel lay in the morgue unidentified for a day. A tattoo of a phoenix on his right ankle enabled investigators to put his name with his body.

According to WZZM-13, two detectives have been working with an assistant prosecutor in recent months to solve the case once and for all. They were prodded by Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth.

The new push in the investigation comes as documentary film maker David Schock is about to premier a movie about the case titled “Death of a Phoenix: The Eastown Murder of Joel Battaglia.”

In a news release, Schock said:”The goal is for someone to come forward and to provide the police with the one revelation they need to at last fully investigate the homicide, and for Kent County then to successfully prosecute this case. We’ve said it before and in this case again: ‘Somebody knows something; somebody always knows something.’”

Schock’s film will be presented free at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, at Wealthy Street Theatre, 1130 Wealthy St. SE in Grand Rapids.

“This is the closest screen to the site of his murder,” Schock said. “And we invite the neighborhood as well as those who knew Joel. He was beloved, and his death has had far-reaching consequences—not just for his family, but also for the community.”

More information is available at Schock’s website.

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