Daughters of homicide victim share father's story

54-year-old Jeff Donalson lost his battle Sunday. His daughters say it was difficult to wrap their heads around the loss.

Traverse City police arrested 50-year-old James Wemigwans of Traverse City Tuesday for the murder of a homeless man.

Police say the Wemigwans knew 54-year-old Jeff Donalson and that they had argued in the past.

Donalson died Sunday after being assaulted late Thursday night.

Donalson's family members are now sharing his story.

His daughters Melissa Lawson and Nicole Tracey got the phone call around 1:30 Friday morning that their father was in the hospital.

â??The doctors made it sound urgentâ??which it was,â?? said Melissa Lawson.

She says it's not the first time theyâ??ve gotten a phone call of that nature.

â??We've gotten a phone call a couple times. My dad has been very sick. We knew when we got the call that he was under the bridge. It's really difficult. It's hard to drive past that part of Traverse City without thinking that.â??

Jeff Donalson was taken to Munson Medical Center Thursday night with what detectives call severe head and chest injuries.

â??They had to do everything possible to try to save him. He had brain surgery, he had a ventilator, he had everything. So he was hanging on,â?? explained Lawson.

The 54-year-old lost his battle Sunday. His daughters say it was difficult to wrap their heads around the loss.

â??We never expected such cruelty and inhumane treatment. You don't want to see that your dad has been beaten,â?? said Lawson.

His daughters say Donalson had struggled with alcoholism for years. He lived with his daughters on and off for the past three years. They decided -- and their dad agreed -- that it wasn't working.

â??Having families of our own and young kids we could not put our families through that and we had to do the best we could with caring for our dad,â?? said Lawson.

â??My father was out there and I was in a warm bed,â?? said Tracey. â??I feel that guilt.â??

Donalson had been living on the streets for the past three weeks.

â??He called every four or five days to check in and say hey how's it going,â?? said Lawson.

His daughters say he was familiar with the dangers.

â??You fight for what you want out there,â?? said Lawson. â??You fight for what you need. And you've got to keep one eye open is what he would tell us. I sleep with one eye open because you just never know.â??

Even under hard circumstances, Lawson says her dad was a very giving man. When things were going well, Donalson had taken the women to the Union Street Bridge to show them where he had been staying.

â??He would see some of the people that he knew and would give them his last five bucks just to say I've been there and this will help you for today,â?? noted Lawson.

Lawson and Tracey say they find some comfort in the fact that an arrest was made in their father's murder, but it will always be hard for them to drive past the bridge.

There will be a private family memorial for Donalson next weekend in Flint.

â??Regardless of the life that he lived, he was a person. He had a family. He wasn't always a homeless man who had an alcoholism problem,â?? said Lawson. â??There are a lot of people out there that are in the same boat and God forbid anything ever happen to them.â??