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Town’s Tranquility Shattered When Halloween Prank Turns Deadly

November 16, 1992

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (AP) _ Adam Provencal just wanted to clear up a misunderstanding over a Halloween prank when he knocked on Todd Vriesenga’s door.

Instead, the confusion and anger were compounded a thousandfold when a shotgun blast ripped through the closed door, hitting the 17-year-old high school standout in the face. He died the next morning.

On Friday, a murder charge against Vriesenga was thrown out, but he was ordered to stand trial on a charge of manslaughter in Provencal’s death.

Vriesenga, free on $10,000 bond, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter, plus another two years if convicted of an additional charge of using a firearm during a felony.

He and Provencal had never met until just before midnight on Halloween.

In Grand Haven, a town of 12,000 on Lake Michigan, violence between strangers is all but unknown.

It was especially unfamiliar to somebody like Adam Provencal, an outgoing senior, an honors student, editor of the school newspaper and star athlete who also volunteered at the church nursery and Special Olympics.

″It was just like Adam to want to clear up a misunderstanding,″ said Provencal’s father, Jack Provencal, who also is associate principal at Grand Haven High School.

″Kids have been ‘T.P.-ing’ houses since the beginning of time,″ Provencal said. ″But people didn’t answer their doors with guns in their hands.″

Halloween began on a festive note in Grand Haven.

Vriesenga put a mask on his dog as he passed out candy. Neighbors described the 25-year-old tool designer as a friendly young man who had lived in the house for about four years.

Provencal’s family had watched as he led the Grand Haven soccer team to the state’s Class A final four in double overtime.

About 11:30 p.m., Provencal and a friend, Michael Van Tubergen, went out for pizza. On the way, they stopped to talk to a group of classmates on the street near Vriesenga’s house.

Moments earlier, two girls in the group who worked at a video store with Vriesenga’s wife had wrapped plastic around her car as a prank. Some other teens threw toilet paper in a tree in Vriesenga’s yard.

Vriesenga’s wife heard people outside and woke up her husband, who went to investigate, said Vriesenga’s attorney, Bruce Neckers.

As the other teens fled, Vriesenga began taking down Provencal’s license plate number though Provencal insisted he wasn’t involved.

A litte later, Provencal told his friend he wanted to talk to Vriesenga again because he didn’t want to ″get in trouble for something stupid,″ Van Tubergen testified at Vriesenga’s preliminary hearing last week.

Provencal walked up the steps to Vriesenga’s house and knocked on his door.

″The guy didn’t say anything,″ Van Tubergen said. ″He just shot him through the door.″

Vriesenga testified that the shooting was an accident. He said he meant only to scare the pranksters and didn’t know the 12-gauge shotgun was loaded.

″When I heard that he died, a part of me died that I don’t think will ever live again,″ Vriesenga testified.

Vriesenga ″didn’t know how many kids there were out there,″ Neckers said at the hearing. ″He didn’t know they were good kids; he didn’t know if they were bad kids.″

″Provencal was everyone’s friend,″ said senior R.J. Winter. ″The one thing that really upset him was when someone was mad at him. He always wanted to make things right.″

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