Body found is believed to be missing swimmer

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 5, 2014

At approximately 8:15 p.m. June 4, members of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Dive Team located and recovered the body of a male subject from Stony Creek Lake. An autopsy was scheduled for 9 a.m. June 5.

Police believe the body belongs to 21-year-old Malcolm Robert Fairley, of Pontiac, whom police called a missing person after he did not resurface while swimming in the lake around 6:05 p.m. June 1.

Lt. John Michalke, of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, said divers found the body a couple hundred yards away from the initial point where witnesses said Fairley disappeared.

“(The body’s location) is not unusual,” Michalke said. “Sometimes, when people are out on a lake and describing their location, it’s hard to get your bearings, and there are currents that play into it.”

Michalke said that the county’s dive team had been searching for Fairley continuously, except during darkness.

“The body’s been turned over to the Macomb County medical examiner, and it is their responsibility to positively identify the victim,” he said. “At some point, they’ll release their findings, but we’re at their mercy. The ball is in their court.”

Fairley jumped off a paddleboat he had rented with three friends at the Stony Creek Metropark boat launch near Baypoint Beach, officials said.

Police said witnesses told them that Fairley intended to go swimming in a shallow portion of the lake, but that the lake bed dropped off and water levels were 10-15 feet about 10 yards from the shore. After he jumped in, he resurfaced once, and then disappeared.

Michalke said two males and a female accompanied Fairley on the paddleboat.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said one of the male individuals in the paddleboat jumped in after Fairley but could not locate him. He returned to the boat and the group called 911.

Wickersham said that Fairley had not been wearing a life vest.

Shelby, Washington and Harrison Township firefighters responded to the emergency, and Shelby Township Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski said his department had divers in the water from about 7-9:30 p.m. June 1.

“The issue is location, because there’s a general area, but with the current and the wind on the surface, it was difficult to pinpoint the location where he may have gone in the water,” Swinkowski said. “Everything was drifting when we got there.”

He said the size of the 500-acre, man-made lake also added to the difficulty of the divers’ search.

After about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Swinkowski said, the county sheriff’s dive team took over when it seemed to be less of a rescue operation and more of a recovery effort.