- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Joel Battaglia’s parents still hang his Christmas stocking above the fireplace, nearly 25 years after the young man was robbed and fatally beaten while walking home from a bar.

“Oh, dear Lord, what would have been,” Jerry Battaglia told WOOD-TV.

Jerry and Gail Battaglia still don’t know why their 23-year-old son was targeted, but police believe they know who’s responsible. Aurelias Marshall, 56, appeared in court Friday on murder charges.

He asked for a court-appointed lawyer and was returned to jail.

Kent County prosecutor Bill Forsyth declined to say what finally led to an arrest, although Marshall has been a suspect for a long time. He recently was charged with perjury in the case.

“I find it so hard to wrap my mind and my heart around it, after all this time,” Gail Battaglia said. “But I’m so grateful to the detectives who worked on this, so diligently, who believed they could find an answer, and also to Bill Forsyth, the prosecutor, who never let this case die.”

Indeed, the Battaglias have sent him Christmas cards for years. Forsyth received one earlier this week.

“Some cases affect me more than others. … You try to keep a distance because if you get too emotionally involved you’re not going to do this very long,” Forsyth, with tears in his eyes, told reporters. “But this is one I always wanted to get to this point for them, because I knew it meant so much to them, their friends and their family.”

The Battaglias knocked on doors after their son’s death, seeking information about what happened in the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids.

“This was a boy that graduated from Catholic Central with honors, had scholarships, and he knew the love of his mother and I,” Jerry Battaglia said.

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