Missing Madison Heights woman found dead in the water

MADISON HEIGHTS — A body found floating near the Gravely Shoals Light in Saginaw Bay has been confirmed as that of a missing Madison Heights woman.

The disappearance Sept. 20 of Catherine Nativite Hoskinson, 48, of Madison Heights, led to a weeklong search at a Huron County beach where she’d originally planned to kayak and where her possessions were found on the shoreline. Her body was found in the water at Saginaw Bay at 5:40 p.m. Sept. 26.

The body was transported to Au Gres in Arenac County, where forensic examiners used dental records to identify the body as Hoskinson's at 8:15 p.m. Sept. 28, confirming the cause of death to be drowning.

“The body was distorted and obviously waterlogged," said Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson. “When the body was examined in Arenac County, they were looking for c-section marks that could not be found.

“That’s where it was determined that they were going to need to do an autopsy as well as getting dental records,” Hanson continued. “The forensic pathologist was able to find the c-section marks, which are apparently done differently in France than in America, as this gal had dual citizenship in France and the United States. The dental records really sealed the deal.”

The Huron County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies had been scouring Port Crescent State Park, located 25 miles east of Saginaw Bay in Hume Township, employing boat and foot patrols, dive teams, helicopter searches and cadaver dogs to find the woman authorities say left letters suggesting she’d been distraught over a failed relationship and possibly contemplating suicide.

According to Hanson, Hoskinson was last seen around 2:30 p.m. Sept. 20. Her last communication was a 4:30 p.m. text message to her daughter saying she’d been unable to find a kayak to rent and was going to swim instead.

The next morning at 10 a.m., a local woman was walking the three-mile stretch of popular summer beachfront when she chanced upon Hoskinson’s personal belongings on the eastern end of the day-use swimming area.

The items — her clothing, cell phone, driver’s license and keys to a black 2008 Pontiac Grand Am parked in a lot nearby — were soaked from morning rainstorms, obscuring any footprints but suggesting Hoskinson had been there Sept. 20.

The woman notified park management. At 1 p.m. that day, Park Manager Betsy Kish alerted Huron Central Dispatch.

Deputies arrived on scene and began to investigate, using Hoskinson’s cell phone to contact her family, learning she’d been depressed recently and had attempted suicide by overdosing in the past.

What followed was a search that lasted all week.

For the rest of the day Sept. 21, sheriff’s deputies searched the waters by patrol boat while park personnel assisted on foot, suspending the search at dark. The U.S. Coast Guard lent aid in the form of a helicopter and another boat, though on Sept. 22 the Coast Guard withdrew, saying they assist only in matters they deem to have a chance of preserving life.

The search continued by foot, ATV and boat Sept. 22, this time supplemented by a state police dog-handler and cadaver dog, conservation officers, family and friends, and a helicopter from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

A couple came forward saying they’d been at the beach around sunset Sept. 20 and had seen both Hoskinson’s belongings and her car, yet they hadn’t seen anybody nearby.

On Sept. 23, a dive unit searched underwater until mid-afternoon, finding nothing. At 5 p.m., Hanson and a fellow deputy took two of the department’s patrol boats and accompanied a dog handler on a search of the water. The cadaver dog found a point of interest, but nothing related to Hoskinson.

Of greater relevance Sept. 23 was the discovery of two letters Hoskinson appears to have authored the morning of the day she disappeared.

“There was a note that was written on the missing individual’s desk that had instructions on how to get into an e-mail account, and that’s where the stuff was drafted, in the form of an e-mail,” Hanson said.

He noted the “stuff” in question was not one but two letters, one advising the family on how to disperse insurance, the other to an ex she’d broken up with two years prior.

Madison Heights resident Natasha Desiree Hoskinson, 22, the missing woman’s daughter, turned the instructions over to her aunt, who saw the letters and withheld them a couple days before coming forward, Hanson said.

Hanson, who in 25 years has seen two dozen missing person cases, characterized the letters as “a final farewell” that put him “at the 99.9 percent certain belief of suicide,” though at the time he acknowledged abduction or running away as possibilities.

As of the morning of Sept. 24, the Huron County Sheriff’s Department had scaled back search operations to hour-long foot and boat patrols in the mornings and evenings.

Neither Arenac County nor Huron County officials knew of any missing persons on Lake Huron other than Hoskinson. As the search continued, the family held out hope.

Describing her mother as a fun-loving, artistically talented person who loved traveling, music and shopping for gifts to surprise and delight others, Natasha said “I never thought I’d be in this position, because you hear about people missing or bad things happening in the world, but you never think you’re going to be the one that’s put in that position. …I always thought my mom would be around to see me get married, or see my grandchildren, or see me become somebody.

“I think the saddest thing I’ve realized out of this it took my mom missing to realize that sometimes we take the people we love for granted. I think we all do, whether we realize it or not.”

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