Former Marengo man gets 28 years in prison for killing Harvard woman

Jonathan Van Duyn pleads guilty to first-degree murder of his girlfriend Michelle Arnold-Boesiger

Michelle Arnold-Boesiger, 33.

The mother of a Harvard woman whose boyfriend killed her and hid her remains in a U-Haul storage locker called him “a coward” before he was sentenced to 28 years in prison Friday.

Jonathan Van Duyn, 35, formerly of Marengo, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in a Winnebago County courtroom in the death of his girlfriend Michelle Arnold-Boesiger, 33.

He could have been sentenced to more than 60 years in prison.

In exchange for his guilty plea, an additional count of murder and concealment were dismissed.

Van Duyn is serving 7 1/2 years of a 12 1/2 year sentence in a Wisconsin prison for the kidnapping of his 10-year-old daughter from her mother’s home in Wisconsin.

After a few days missing in December 2020, the pair were found safe in Indiana. Authorities later discovered Arnold-Boesiger’s remains about three months later inside the storage unit in Roscoe, Illinois, in Winnebago County.

“You took this family’s heart away, is what you did.”

—  Winnebago County Judge Jennifer Clifford

Last year, Van Duyn was transferred to Winnebago County Jail and held on a $5 million bond to await his trial for the murder of Arnold-Boesiger.

He will be transferred to Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin where he will finish serving his time for the kidnapping.

Van Duyn then will be transferred to Illinois where he will serve the full 28 years for killing Arnold-Boesiger, Winnebago County Judge Jennifer Clifford said.

Upon his release, after serving a total of roughly 35 1/2 years in prison, he will be about 70 years old. He will then serve three years of mandatory supervised release. He also is required to pay $999 in fees and fines, Clifford said.

According to Winnebago County court documents, Arnold-Boesiger’s remains were discovered in the storage unit in March of 2021. Authorities have said they believed she was killed on or around Nov. 15, 2020, when she was reported missing.

Because of the level of decomposition authorities were unable to determine the cause and date of death, Ken LaRue, first assistant of the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office criminal division, said in court Friday.

As he laid out the facts of the case, LaRue said that Van Duyn told his daughter that he killed Arnold-Boesiger. After killing her, Van Duyn was using her credit cards and filling her prescriptions, LaRue said.

When police arrested Van Duyn in Indiana they found writing on the walls of the camper they were staying in and within his personal journals that referenced Nov. 15, 2020, as the day he “was finally free,” according to court documents.

Van Duyn and Arnold-Boesiger had been in a romantic relationship, and Van Duyn began to physically abuse her, LaRue said.

Arnold-Boesiger’s mother Nancy Bulava tearfully read a statement in court calling Van Duyn a “coward” and telling him he ripped her heart out the day he killed her daughter.

She said he deserves the maximum sentence without parole and wanted him to serve the time for her daughter’s death prior to the Wisconsin term so that she would be alive to see it.

“Shelly from birth was strong willed,” Bulava said. “She had everyone’s heartstrings within her reach. ... She had the most infectious laugh [that] I will never forget. Her [two] sons ... were her everything. Shelly lived and breathed her boys.”

She also spoke of her daughter’s tiny stature and the many health conditions that she was medicated for. She said Van Duyn became abusive toward her daughter and stole her prescriptions.

She said prior to Van Duyn moving in with her daughter “she was doing awesome” after doctors had found the right treatments for her medical conditions.

Bulava said her daughter told her Van Duyn was physically abusive and that if anything happened to her “Jonathan did it.”

She also said Arnold-Boesiger would not tell her where she lived. Around the time she died, she was telling her mom that she was “working on a way to leave him.”

“I don’t know what he had on her to keep her there when she clearly wanted to leave,” Bulava said. “I know she was afraid and my daughter was not weak.”

She said she sees the lives of her daughter’s friends continuing “but my heart will forever be broken.”

“All we have are our memories of the past,” Bulava said later adding that he should have just walked away from the relationship but “chose evil over good.”

“Shelly deserved happiness, she fought so hard for it,” her mother said.

When offered a chance to speak for himself, Van Duyn declined.

Before Van Duyn was taken out of the courtroom, Clifford said she hopes he thinks about what he did and that he atones for it. She also told him to think about how he hurt Arnold-Boesiger’s mother and her family.

Clifford told him that as a parent himself he should know that a child is “your heart living outside your body.”

“You took this family’s heart away, is what you did,” Clifford said.