Nathan Gorzen was 15 years old, and his little sister was 8, when their mother, Tonia Renee Stiles (aka Renee Whitehall) disappeared November 18, 2010, from her Grass Lake, Michigan home. “I remember how much fun she was,” Nathan told me in a recent interview. "She tried to make everything special for us."
Tonia, 34, lived with her boyfriend Scott Steven Cassidy, a male roommate, and her daughter. Nathan lived with his father. Tonia had told people she wasn’t happy with Scott and was thinking about leaving him.
“I remember Scott came over to my dad’s house to tell us she had left,” Nathan said. “I was young and didn’t really understand what was going on.”
“Once a certain about of time passed, I knew something was off,” Nathan said. “It just wasn’t like her to up and leave her kids. We were a huge part of her life. She loved us very much. She used to stress in many different ways she would never leave me or my little sister. She would come up with different scenarios and say — no matter what — she would never leave us.”
Scott and Tonia’s relationship was getting rocky. Tonia had previously worked at the Napoleon Café and Frank’s Shop-Rite but was unemployed at the time she vanished. Although Scott owned Cassidy Tree Service, finances were tight. Scott admitted they had argued before she left.
The roommate claimed he took a nap for about an hour and Tonia was gone when he woke up. Tonia didn’t have a car or a cell phone. She didn’t take any personal possessions with her. It’s possible she went missing during the evening hours of November 17th and not during the day of November 18th.
Six days after Tonia disappeared, Scott Cassidy was arrested for stealing a Comtronics security van in Jackson. He was already on probation for a firearm charge and marijuana crime and also had a home invasion conviction on his record from 1997.
On December 3, 2010, Scott Cassidy hanged himself in the Jackson County Jail. He left behind a note. “I don’t really know its contents,” Nathan told me. “I do know he said he didn’t kill her, which is interesting.”
According to a Mlive report in 2011, Undersheriff Chris Kuhl said the handwritten note was entitled, ‘My Last Testament and Will.’ According to Undersheriff Kuhl, the letter outlined who should get his possessions, expressed dislike of Tonia’s parents who adopted her at the age of 9, denied any involvement of Tonia’s death or disappearance, and called her children ‘beautiful.’
Scott also wrote, “I hope you are OK wherever you are. I love you.”
No one has heard from Tonia since she was reported missing. It is believed she met with foul play. Although there were many searches, her remains have not been recovered.
Since he last saw his mother, Nathan has gotten married and has been blessed with a little boy and a little girl. Yet with each joyous milestone, he still wonders what really happened to his mother. “I’ve gone through every scenario in my mind a million times over the years and it’s horrible to have to do that,” he said. “There’s been no closure.”
If you know anything about the disappearance of Tonia Renee Stiles, please contact Michigan State Police at (517) 780-4580.
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