Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 7, 2013

Antrim prosecutor remembered for pursuit of justice

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — BELLAIRE — Antrim County Prosecutor Charles Koop was a man who put his friends, co-workers and community first.

His colleagues remember the professional committed to justice. His friends, like James Janisse, a sergeant in the Antrim County sheriff's department, remember the advice and support though important life decisions.

"He was greatly, greatly committed to the victims of crime," said David Leyton, president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. "He was bright, funny and he was just a joy to be around. He was very popular among the elected prosecutors across the state. We all gravitated toward Charlie."

Koop, 63, died Tuesday in his Williamsburg home. Antrim County Undersheriff Dean Pratt said the cause of death is believed to be "health-related."

News of Koop's death saddened friends and colleagues across Michigan. Lansing resident Teresa Gribi met Koop in 1995 during "terrible circumstances" -- her father and stepmother were murdered in their Kewadin home -- and she remembers his commitment to bringing the killer, Jack Bolton, to justice.

"He was very understanding right from the beginning," she said. "He had a very good sense of humor, but (he) also was very tough. He was very nice, down to earth and cared about people."

Bolton was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Koop served as president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan in 2007 and 2008. Leyton said Koop remained actively involved as a board member and was active on email forums that provided legal advice sprinkled with "laugh out loud" wit.

"He had a great sense of humor," said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney. "That's one of the things that really endeared him to a lot of people. He was also just a great prosecutor, a good litigator and was very sharp. I think that's why so many people did seek out his advice."

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a statement about Koop's death, saying "the people of Michigan will forever be privileged to have (benefited) from Charlie’s public service and profound dedication to justice.”

Former Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Dennis Labelle said he and Koop started work in the Grand Traverse County prosecutor's office during the 1980s. Koop briefly went into private practice before making an unsuccessful bid for prosecutor in 1988 against Labelle.

"After the election I didn't see Charlie too much," Labelle said. "It wasn't really until he was appointed as Antrim County's prosecuting attorney (in 1990) that we had more association. He was still the same Charlie that I knew -- very conscientious, very good trial attorney."

Koop won his first Antrim County general election in 1992 and stayed in office for 23 years.

Janisse said a funeral service will be this week. Koop is survived by his wife, Christine, three children, Haley, Sally and Charlie, and his grandchildren.

Gribi fell out of touch with Koop in the years after Bolton's trial, but she briefly reconnected by email during the past holiday season. She thanked him for his work bringing justice for her father and stepmother, Ken and Millie Gribi. Koop replied that he often thought about her parents, but seldom about the killer.

"I rarely think of Bolton, not out of not remembering your father and Millie, but as my way of dealing with evil, he is a nothing," Koop wrote.

"When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory (becomes) a treasure," Koop wrote.