Corey Lee LaValley

Man arraigned on murder and arson charges in death of girlfriend and children

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

Corey Lee LaValley has been arraigned on open murder, arson and felony firearms charges in connection to a Dorr Township triple murder.

LaValley, 32, was arrested during the evening of Tuesday, March 10, by Allegan County Sheriff’s Office detectives. The victims were officially identified by the Allegan County medical examiner Friday, March 13, as Debra Denise Sheppard, 33, and her children Emma Rose McComber, 12, and Corey Lee LaValley Jr., 10.

Police said the accused was in a relationship with Sheppard and lived at the trailer. He was arraigned Thursday, March 12, in Allegan County Circuit Court and pleaded not guilty to three counts of open murder, one count of second-degree arson and one count of felony firearms. LaValley asked for a court-appointed lawyer and Magistrate Kirby J. Goodwin denied bond in the case.

According to Allegan County Undersheriff Frank Baker, LaValley was arrested with the assistance of the Charlotte Police Department and the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office late Tuesday, March 11, and brought back to Allegan to face charges.

At an early court hearing, Allegan County Sheriff’s Detective Mark Lytle presented evidence for a warrant to Goodwin. Lytle testified firefighters from Dorr and Salem townships had responded to the report of a trailer fire at 2360 Briarwood Ave. about 1 p.m.

“While extinguishing the fire, they found a body inside the trailer,” Lytle said.

The firefighters called in police and fire marshals and located two more bodies.

“(They) appeared to have been shot,” Lytle said. “All three have injuries consistent with gunshot wounds.

“Several witnesses reported that Corey LaValley told them directly that he had shot all three victims during the early morning hours of March 10 and then returned later that same day and set the trailer on fire.”

The detective said LaValley had gone to Charlotte, where he’d made these statements to the witnesses before being arrested and not saying anything during an interview with police. Lytle also said fire marshals had located two man-made ignition points for the fire in the trailer.

The trailer is in a park in the southwest corner of Dorr Township, near Monterey Lake. The children attended Hopkins Public Schools.

Ruth Lester identified herself as a neighbor and friend to Sheppard and the two children for the last year or so she had lived nearby.

“She was a good woman,” Lester said. “She worked hard for those kids and for him—he just sat on his butt.”

She said Sheppard had told her LaValley beat her and was mean to the children.

“It’s sad, terribly sad,” Lester said.

She attended the arraignment at the Allegan County Courthouse, where LaValley was visible over a video link from the county jail.

Lester said, “I just wanted to see if he had any remorse in his eyes, but, as you could see, he did not.”

During the hearing, LaValley only deviated from normal protocol once, when he asked the magistrate “How is having a shotgun a felony?” in response to being told about the felony firearms charge, which specifies using a gun to commit another felony.

A preliminary hearing in the case was set for Wednesday, March 25, at 9 a.m. in district court.

According to court records, LaValley pleaded guilty to a disturbing the peace charge (reduced from assault and battery) late last year and was sentenced in February. The records show Sheppard posted bond for him.

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