TRAVERSE CITY — Kelly Ann Boyce won’t be home for Thanksgiving.
She usually spent today’s holiday in Frankfort joking and laughing with her parents, family and loved ones. Sometimes, she filled up on pre-dinner snacks and wine before she even sat down to the formal dinner table.
This year, Boyce’s family will gather for their first Thanksgiving since a hit-and-run motorist killed the Traverse city woman early July 5, a crime that remains unsolved. Her sister Nicole Nostrandt doesn’t know to what extent the family’s loss will change what always was an easy-going gathering.
“There’s going to feel like there’s an empty spot at the table,” Nostrandt said.
The investigation into Boyce’s death has significantly diminished in the months since a motorist struck her down as she pedaled her bicycle to her Washington Street home. Her killer’s vehicle dragged a screaming Boyce for more than a block.
Traverse City Police Department Detective Sgt. Jim Bussell said four detectives are assigned to the case part-time, down from 11 who worked full-time at the height of the investigation in the summer. He said the past two months yielded no significant leads or potential suspects, though tips continue to trickle in.
“We still are getting one or two tips a week at this point,” Bussell said.
Bussell speaks with Boyce’s mother every week and gives her updates. He shares the family’s concern the trail will go cold.
“Certainly, we realize it’s a possibility, but that’s not really the biggest concern,” he said. “The biggest concern is to find out who did this and bring them to justice.”
Nostrandt said the family looks on the Thanksgiving holiday with mixed emotions.
“We’re thankful for the years we had with her and the memories, but someone took her from us. Not knowing who or why is horrible,” she said.
Police developed several potential suspects, but eventually discounted each one, including a once-promising tip about a man who split his time between Traverse City and Alpena. Bussell said detectives aren’t using bar receipts and hotel bills collected from the July 4 holiday weekend to develop a suspect, but instead set them aside for use after a strong suspect is identified.
Witnesses described seeing a dark pickup truck or sport-utility vehicle speed away from the scene, and most of the 660 tips police received so far relate to similar vehicles. Police don’t discount those tips, but stress the most important ones may concern somebody talking about their potential role in the crime.
“I think at this point, just kept your ears open,” Bussell said. “If you hear anybody talking or notice a significant change in behavior with somebody who had the opportunity to be in area at the time, then report it to us.”
Boyce’s family continue to keep the case alive through Facebook posts, billboards and posters throughout town, but Nostrandt said they fear keeping public attention on the case is turning into an uphill struggle.
“You feel you’re banging your head on the wall. I feel people are forgetting and we don’t want them to forget,” she said. “... (The police) need tips. It’s narrowed way down and the leads they have aren’t going anywhere.”
One reminder of Boyce’s death will remain out of the public’s sight until after winter. Nostrandt said the family removed a white “ghost bike” and makeshift memorial erected at the Railroad Street alleyway where Boyce lay dying to help the city with snow removal. The bicycle will return in the spring and the family looks to dedicate a more-permanent memorial in the form of a bench or park pavilion.
A $50,000 reward remains in place for information leading to Boyce’s killer. Members of the public with information are asked to contact the Traverse City Police Department at 231-995-5152 or the anonymous tip line at 231-947-TIPS (8477).