Teenager Charged with Open Murder in Death of Man in Traverse City

Teen had ties to both Traverse City and California, Living with Family in Both Places

A teenager has been charged in connection with a five-week long murder investigation, and we’re learning new details about the case.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg says the arrest warrant was issued Friday, when investigators believed the suspect was in California. They learned Tuesday he was back in Traverse City. “(We) told him we do have a warrant, and he agreed to turn himself in.”

Now an 18 year old is in the Grand Traverse County jail accused of murder. Traverse City police began their investigation into the murder of a man along Boardman Lake five weeks ago. The body of James Chisholm was found by walkers in a wooded area alongside the Boardman Lake Trail back on May 29th.

Police say they’ve been working with law enforcement in California since June, serving search warrants at a residence there, and at a home in Traverse City. Early Wednesday morning the teenager turned himself in to police, meeting them at the county jail.

TC Detective Evan Warsecke says, “He is the only suspect that we were seeking and he is in custody.” The Traverse City Police Detective Bureau notified family at dawn. “It’s been a long five weeks and it was very fulfilling this morning to be able to make the phone call to his family members.”

Gail Chisholm, the sister to James Chisholm, says, “I answered, it was the detective… He said ‘we got him’. I was so happy and I’m bouncing off the wall.”

Joshua Vandehoef appeared by video arraignment on an open murder charge. The Family of James Chisholm was also in the courtroom to see the young man now facing open murder.

The break in the investigation was a tip from a woman in California. Moeggenberg says, “The big break was a Snapchat tip.” The details are graphic: court documents show that Joshua Vandehoef admitted to someone on social media – over Snapchat- that he killed “a homeless guy” by slitting his throat. “She mentioned that he had talked on Snapchat about killing someone. And at that point she made the call to the tip line, talked to one of our detectives.”

The Snapchat Confession from Vandehoef went on to say, according to court documents, that he walked home and cleaned the blood off himself and his clothes… adding that he (Vandehoef) “did not even take his (Chisholm’s) alcohol or marijuana.”

Another sister, Carole Gilbert, says, “It brings relief that the individual is in custody and there’s not somebody out in the community that could cause more harm to somebody else.”

While Snapchat was the source of the confession – the suspect’s phone GPS was the turning point for the arrest. Moeggenberg says that’s because “We had results from a search warrant we did to Google that showed his phone was in the location where we found the deceased. Literally within meters, one measurement I saw was three meters (from the crime scene).”

Gail Chisholm says “It’s sad, really for a young child. To me he’s a child.” The 18 year-old Vandehoef will not be released on bond – he will be back in front of a judge next month.

Chisholm’s sisters also want people to know that their brother was not “homeless” as many believe. They say he had places to stay with family, but chose in the summer to be out on his own. Carole Gilbert says, “He was a veteran of 21 years and in the reserves after that, and a professor, and he worked for NASA. This was a common thing when the summer was nice he traveled by tent and liked to hear people’s stories.”  James Chisholm was buried with full military honors, according to his family.