The Rev. Dale R. Cross Sr., a longtime pastor of Abundant Life Church in Wyoming, Michigan, who preached against suicide, took his own life but staged it to look like a murder to save his family from shame, local police and medical authorities have concluded.
"None of the evidence points toward foul play," Kent County Sheriff's Detective Lt. Ron Gates told Wood TV in a recent interview. "It all points to it was self-inflicted."
Cross, 66, was found dead just after 6 p.m. on Aug. 6. His body was lying near his SUV with a gunshot wound to the head just blocks away from his home, Fox 17 reported.
While Cross’ family has maintained the belief that he was murdered, local police and the medical examiner in Kent County have ruled it a suicide.
Despite the family’s protest, Gates argued that based on the evidence that was reviewed, it appears Cross was trying to spare his family the shame that generally comes with suicide.
"We feel that because of all the negative perceptions of someone that commits suicide, that he didn't want the public or the family or whoever to know that this was a suicide. So, we feel that he did stage this to look like a homicide," Gates said.
Cross’ obituary describes him as “a mentor, pastor, and friend who dedicated more than 30 years of service to his Lord and Savior.”
He served 24 years as the lead pastor at Abundant Life before retiring. He was also a U.S. Marine veteran who worked at General Motors for 10 years prior to going into full-time ministry.
“Pastor Dale was a man of integrity who lived for Jesus and his family. His greatest joy was taking the grandkids out on the boat to see who he could throw off the tube with his Jonah waves. His message to all of us today would come from his favorite hymn, ‘It is well with my soul,’” the obituary states.
While the late pastor’s family argues that he was murdered, Gates said they have found no motive for that crime.
"No motive, nothing stolen, no sign of a struggle," Gates said.
Cross' daughter, Tammy Blood, is struggling to accept this conclusion.
"They said that this was suicide. He set it up to look like a murder, so my dad staged his own suicide to look like a murder, is what they said," Blood noted about her father, who, she said, had too many reasons to live.
"I was dumbfounded. I mean, a happy man, a man that only cared about others, a man who preached the word and preached against suicide," she said.
While there are no clear signs as to why Cross took his life, police say his medical records show he may have been suffering from depression.
He was driving home after 5 p.m. after stopping at a gas station to get ice for his wife, Wood TV reported. His family said he was just running errands.
When he was found dead near his truck about a mile away from his home it seemed as if he was fixing a flat tire. Investigators found that nothing was wrong with his tire and suggested it was a part of the pastor's plan to make it look like his death was a murder. He also shot himself with his left hand even though he was right-handed.
His revolver, however, was found under his body.
"If the theory was that somebody came out of the woods, or stopped to kill him, why would they place the gun under his body?" Gates said.
His daughter continues to reject the idea that her father committed suicide and the family is seeking to raise $10,000 on Go Fund Me to hire a private investigator. The two-month-old campaign has raised only $687 so far.
"If he did commit suicide and staged it like a murder and all that stuff, we would have found life insurance because he would have made sure my mom was set up," Blood told Wood TV.
"We want his name cleared, because this isn't my father, and we want whoever did this to have justice," she said.