Murder Suspect Kills Himself

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

As investigators went to close the case into 30-year-old Steven Sampier's murder, their suspect took matters into his own hands.

As first reported on, Jackson County sheriff's deputies say Todd Sanford, the 33-year-old owner of The Rocket nightclub in Jackson, was about to be arrested on felony murder charges. As a deputy approached his car, they say Sanford shot himself and later died at University of Michigan hospital.

Sanford was suspected in the November 25th murder of Sampier, the corrections officer who was found in his burning Blackman Township home, lit on fire to cover up his homicide, police said then.

According to the club's web site and Sanford's MySpace page, he had once been a state trooper. But he traded in his badge to live the life of a nightclub owner. The people who work near him say they can't believe how his life has now ended.

We heard he had killed himself-- it's just really shocking. You just don't believe it," says Darla Amber McDowell.

McDowell works next door to The Rocket at a hair salon. She knew Sanford, but not well, and says she'd seen police interview him in the past week at his bar.

"Sometimes people don't know what to do, there's nowhere else to turn. They made a bad choice, they don't know how to deal with it. It's just sad," she says.

Sanford's MySpace page says he's a parent and shows his involvement in the nightclub scene.

Someone left a message Wednesday, the day he died, saying happy birthday.

His own message on MySpace-- "Here for a good time, not here for a long time!"-- haunting.

Authorities in Jackson say there will be a press conference Thursday morning to discuss the details of this case. Stay with News 10 for the latest on this story. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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