The Michigan Department of Corrections called Steven Sampier one of their most promising officers, handpicked and recently promoted at a state-run bootcamp in Chelsea. A seven year career with MDOC, after more than two years in the Army, had him now as a sergeant.
That career, and that life, has now come to a tragic end.
"He was a great kid," says his father, Steven Sampier, Sr. "Everyone liked him. You never want to bury your child. This is the lowest part of my life right now."
The 30-year-old's lifeless body was found inside his burning house on N. Brown Street in Blackman Township Tuesday morning. But police soon realized it wasn't the fire that had killed him.
"The victim had died as a result of homicide," says Jon Johnston, deputy director of Blackman Township Public Safety Department. "Apparently the fire was set to conceal evidence indicating the crime had been committed."
Johnston says this is Blackman Township's first homicide of the year.
Neighbors can't believe what they're seeing.
"It's devastating. He was such a nice young man. It's too close to home," says neighbor Sheila Taylor.
As quiet as neighbors say Sampier was, police say he had been the victim of some crimes in recent weeks. It those crimes neighbors are now calling suspicious now that Sampier has been murdered.
"Maybe six weeks ago his home was broken into and a few things were stolen, then Halloween or the night before Halloween the windows were broken out of his car," Taylor says. Police confirm the home break-in. "Now this takes place, it kinda makes us wonder if someone was out to get him and for what, he was so nice."
It's making investigators wonder, too, especially because of Sampier's job as a corrections officer.
"His particular job puts him in contact with people who are always angry at the system," Johnston says.
"I keep thinking this is all a dream, that he's going to call me and say 'Hey, Dad! What the heck happened? I'm okay, I've been Up North!' but I know that's not going to happen."
Sampier says he and his son were gearing up to go to Tennessee Sunday for a father-son hunting trip.