Former GVSU quarterback Finnerty found dead in Lake County woods

Finnerty

LAKE COUNTY — After two days of deploying more than a 100 law enforcement officials, rescue crews, friends, family and members of a college football team, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it recovered Cullen Finnerty’s body Tuesday night.

At 7:40 p.m. Tuesday, the last search crew that was deployed found the body of Finnerty, a Detroit resident and former Grand Valley State quarterback, who disappeared Sunday evening after a fishing trip on the Baldwin River. He was 30 years old.

His body was located half a mile north of Bray Creek Campgrounds in Lake County’s Webber Township, just south of the area crews had been focusing heavily on, said Lake County Sheriff Bob Hilts.

Finnerty’s body was taken to Blodgett Hospital in Grand Rapids to determine the cause of death.

“There is nothing obvious to us as of the cause of death at this time,” Hilts said. He added Finnerty’s body didn’t appear to have obvious signs of an attack or trauma.

Earlier on Tuesday, volunteers and rescue workers remained positive that they would find Finnerty, a former Grand Valley State University quarterback who led the team to three national championships from 2003 to 2006.

A staging center to manage the search was established at the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin. Volunteers consisting of Finnerty’s family, friends, former football teammates and coaches and members of the current team waited patiently in the facility’s parking lot for instructions from law enforcement officials.

With an uncertain and daunting task awaiting them, the volunteers looked to be calm and alert. Members of the GVSU team stayed optimistic about the task at hand.

“There’s always hope,” said Matt Yoches, GVSU’s defensive line coach, who was on the team with Finnerty. “No matter what, there is always going to be hope. The people who have seen Cullen play and know him as a person know that there is hope. He’s doing all right; we just have to find him. I think that is why everybody came up was because we have to find him.”

Yoches, GVSU head football coach Matt Mitchell and many other football alumni and current players echoed the same reason for joining for the search — GVSU football is a brotherhood.

“(The GVSU football program) is still a brotherhood, no matter what,” Yoches said. “There are alums from the ’70s who I didn’t play with but I am still connected to them. I hear that they are battling cancer, or something like that, and my heart goes out to them and their families because we are a family. That’s how it works.”

Mitchell helped coordinate the whirlwind search party that formed early Tuesday morning, mainly via text messages. Thirty-eight current GVSU players and coaches boarded a university bus on campus at 10:30 a.m. to make the trip to Baldwin. They were joined by many other football and university alumni as well as current students and staff.

“It (speaks to) the kind of person he was that so many people would come to his aid,” said Mitchell, who was defensive coordinator and linebacker/safety coach while Finnerty was on the team. “It’s a big effort. We felt like we needed to help. Given the alternative of sitting at home and waiting for info, it’s nice to feel like we had a hand in the effort.”

An hour after the football team arrived at noon, they still were waiting to be dispatched in the search effort. Michigan State Police officers were using a canine unit to search the area where Finnerty’s cell phone had been working last, and they didn’t want search parties to interfere with the canine sweep.

Throughout the past two days since Finnerty was reported missing, police have had a difficult time searching the area because of its dense wilderness. Police were concerned that volunteer search teams also would become lost and limited civilian search teams to roadsides and other easily accessible areas.

 

Leave a Reply