An 18-year-old recent high school cheerleader was murdered and left by a trail in rural, Michigan.
McKenna Hilton was identified as the victim, whose body was discovered Aug. 18 in the wooded area. Police have not yet said how she died, but she was remembered by friends and family for her beautiful smile and love of animals.
A 16-year-old boy has been detained while police determine whether to file charges against him. The suspect is Hilton’s half brother, said mLive. An open murder warrant was authorized against Savon Schmus, said WoodTV.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hilton Was a Cheerleader Who Recently Graduated From High School
At East Kentwood High School, Hilton was active in school activities, including cheerleading, said WoodTV.
“Occupation: Princess,” says the cover photo on Hilton’s Facebook page. The community held a candlelight vigil for Hilton. Hilton was in a musical and play at the school, said WoodTV.
The station quoted a statement from the high school as saying, “McKenna was an East Kentwood High School graduate and an outstanding person. Kentwood Public Schools is a close family built on strong positive relationships. We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss.”
2. Hilton’s Body Was Found on a Wooded Trail But She Might Have Been Killed Elsewhere
The Detroit Free Press says Hilton’s body was “found in a wooded area in western Michigan.” The area is located in Grand Rapids Township.
The trail is less than a mile from where the suspect’s father lives, says WZZM13.
Mlive said Hilton “was fully clothed, wearing a white tank-top with horizontal blue stripes and black Adidas running pants. She was also wearing a bracelet with a charm denoting her recent graduation.”
WoodTV said investigators “found injuries around her neck that suggest strangulation” but said they need to await the autopsy results to be sure how she died.
The trail is located near a lake, but the newspaper said authorities believe Hilton was probably killed elsewhere within a day from her body being left on the trail.
3. Hilton Wanted to be a Medical Therapist & Move to New Orleans
The young woman’s obituary describes her as “so funny, bright, fantastic, beautiful, unique, thoughtful, caring, and very much loved.”
The obituary added: “She had a dream of moving to New Orleans and working as a medical therapist.”
Hilton’s obituary says she is the daughter of Stacey Hilton and David Schmus. “She loved animals, especially her dogs, Carl and Chloe,” the obituary said.
A Go Fund Me site for Hilton’s family says, “McKenna was a loving, caring, talented, funny young lady with her whole future in front of her! Words truly cannot express how she impacted so many lives in such a short time!! Her smile would light up a room!”
4. The Boy & Hilton Knew Each Other & Are Half Siblings, Reports Say
According to mlive, police said “the suspect and victim knew each other but would not provide additional details.” Numerous media sites have now reported they are half siblings and say it’s expected that Schmus will be tried as an adult.
The teenager, who has no juvenile record, lives with his mother in Kentwood, Michigan and attended Crossroads Alternative High School, said WZZM13.
Woodtv, citing a source close to the investigation, said the victim and teenager “had lived in the same household.”
5. Hilton Was Described as a Teenager With ‘Big Dreams’ Who Was Beautiful & Kind
One woman wrote on the Go Fund Me site, “I just worked with her earlier this week. She had BIG dreams and was kind, smart and a beautiful person all around. I will miss seeing her at work. She had a great outlook on life and I’m very sad that she is lost too soon. I wish the best for her family and I hope that her family can heal to the best that one can in this situation.”
Her mother wrote to those who had donated, “Thanky you for showing me how loved my daughter is. We are heartbroken and the heartbreak has just begun. Your caring words are deeply appreciated.”