Christopher Joel Battaglia was found beaten and left for dead in the early morning hours of June 11, 1990, in front of 1065 Lake Dr., Grand Rapids, MI. His body was discovered by an off-duty security guard from Blodgett Memorial Medical Center who saw Battaglia—known as Joel—lying across the street from Trinity United Methodist Church. The responding officer tried to revive him before Battaglia was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:36 a.m.
He remained unidentified until the next day because his identification was missing. He was identified partly though a tattoo of a phoenix just above his right ankle. Once identified police learned that he had been at Mulligan’s Pub, an Eastown bar, with a young woman. She told police that there she and Joel had an argument and Joel left the bar at closing time, perhaps at 2 a.m. or a little after. The bar is ten blocks from where he was found.
According to his parents, Gail and Jerry Battaglia, Joel “had just enrolled for his senior year at Aquinas. He had graduated magna cum laude from GR Catholic Central in 1985. He was prom king that year.” He’d been offered several academic scholarships and chose to attend New Mexico Tech. to study petroleum engineering. He refined his interests and moved to James Madison College at Michigan State University to study foreign affairs. And again he made a change. He took some time off and moved to California to sail and work. Then he moved to Grand Rapids two months before his death and said he intended to go to Aquinas College to study education. “He was going to be a teacher,” said his mother. Both she and Jerry spent their working lives teaching. Gail taught elementary education at inner-city Grand Rapids Schools for 35 years.
Police theorize that the murderous assault may have been the work of a gang, perhaps the Wealthy Street Boys. Joel’s parents also mentioned the Nine Iron Posse and The Cherry Street Boys. They had heard though telephone communication from unidentified callers and an anonymous letter that Joel had been the mistaken target of the beating. The murderers, said a caller, were aiming for another young man who might have owed them money.
Joel had not been involved in gangs or drugs, say his parents. “If anything he was strongly against drug use,” said his mother. “He spent a New Year’s Eve in the emergency room with someone who was having a problem. Joel had been to a party and this young man was having some kind of drug-related episode. No one else was doing anything and Joel managed to get him to the emergency room and stayed with him. That’s the kind of man he was.”
“He was the person you wanted around you when you were in trouble,” said Jerry.
“After he told us about the emergency-room trip,” his mother added, “I told him I hoped that if ever he was in trouble that there’d be a ‘Joel’ there for him.”
In addition to his parents, he is survived by his younger brother, Jeremy.
The following clippings are from The Grand Rapids Press. Copyright rests with The Press.