On 15 February 1976, 12-year-old Mark Stebbins failed to return to his Ferndale home in Oakland, Michigan. Tragically his body would be found four days later, in the parking lot of an office building. An autopsy concluded the young boy had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death, and with little evidence, and no reliable witnesses this murder would go unsolved. Over the next year, three more children would go missing and were later found dead, all horribly murdered and their bodies discarded in the snow by their killer. Evidence from the crimes seemed to indicate all the victims were murdered by the same individual, and the media began referring to the unidentified serial killer as the Oakland County Child Killer. Several weeks after the last known murder, a psychiatrist working on the task-force received a letter from someone claiming to be an accomplice to the killer. In exchange for revealing the identity of the Oakland Child Murderer, the man known as Allen, demanded immunity from prosecution. Despite arranging a meeting with the man, Allen never made contact and nothing further came from incident. Numerous suspects have been named in the case, and although there has been a new investigation and promising leads, no-one has been charged and the crimes remain officially unsolved.
"The Babysitter Murders" (January 1976)
In January 1976, long before the media made reference to the Oakland County Child Killer, the murders of several young women were believed to be the work of the elusive serial killer. The first such murder occurred on New Years Day, 1976, when the body of 16-year-old Judy Ferro of Redford, Wayne County was found left in the snow of the Lola Valley Park, just a couple of blocks from her home. Judy had been a student at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, a private school for girls, and she was described by her aunt as a quiet girl and excellent student. She had recently gotten her driving license, but she didn't drive often. On the evening of her death she had been babysitting the children of a neighbouring family, the Lauts, who had two children. Judy put their 5-year-old to bed but allowed the 9-year-old to stay up to bring in the new year celebrations. Once she was put to bed, Judy contacted her family and wished them a happy new year. The events between midnight and 3:00am when the Lauts returned home remained unexplained. When the Lauts came home they found Judy's coat on the floor and the telephone ripped from the wall, whilst on the floor was a spent shell casing and a bullet hole in the ceiling. There was no sign of their babysitter, but their two children were found unharmed safely asleep in their beds. Redford Township police conducted a search of the neighbourhood and soon learned that another teenager was missing.
The Pervinkle family reported their son, 19-year-old Gary as missing during those early morning hours. It was reported Gary Pervinkle had taken a gun from the residence along with his father's car and disappeared. His brother Michael told investigators that Gary had graduated from Redford Union High School in 1974, and had recently enlisted in the air force. He also mentioned that Gary had left the family home that morning without his shoes or wallet. When officers asked the Pervinkles if they knew the missing babysitter Judy Ferro, they learned that despite living on the same block, the families did not know each other. At around 7:00am, Redford Township police officer Tom Street came across Judy's fully clothed body in Lola Valley Park. She had been beaten and strangled. Despite the spent shell casing in the Lauts home, Judy had not been shot to death and detectives found a link between her death and the disappearance of Gary Pervinkle puzzling. A search was made for the Pervinkle family car, which was eventually located on 12 January near Cadillac, Michigan where it had been abandoned. The state police crime lab processed the vehicle and made a search of the area but nothing was found to indicate Gary's whereabouts. The Pervinkle family had come to believe their son had been the victim of a kidnapping, pointing out that he had stomach flu and had spent most of new years eve either in bed or vomiting. They argued he had no reason to leave the house, and was too sick to go anywhere or hurt anyone. Investigators disagreed, and stated their theory that the evidence at the Laut's home and the Lola Valley Park crime scene indicated just one perpetrator, and local prosecutors drew up kidnapping and murder charges against the missing man.
Several days later another young woman would suffer a similarly violent death. On 15 January, 16-year-old Cynthia Cadieux left the house of her friend Rose and headed a half a mile south to her own home. She never made it, and was last seen alive in the 11 mile area of Roseville, between Gratiot and Grosbeck. Her walk back should have taken only 10 minutes, and was something she had done numerous times before. So when she failed to return home, her parents assumed she was sleeping over at Rose's house, again something she had done many times before, and so she wasn't reported missing until the Friday evening around 6:30pm. At the time of her disappearance, Cynthia was wearing a long gray coat with fur trim, a pink turtleneck sweater, new blue jeans, white athletic shoes and black gloves. In the early morning hours of 16 January, Cynthia's naked body was found dumped in the snow on the side of the road in Bloomfield Hills, just north of Franklin Village. She was found just 100 yards north of the Franklin cider mill, and her remains were visible to passing motorists, many of whom drove past her body without notifying police. An autopsy found she had been restrained with ropes and sexually assaulted before being hit on the head with a blunt object. Her face showed bruising consistent with a beating, and her time of death was given as approximately 11:00pm. The Roseville City Council put up a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of person or persons unknown in relation to the murder of Cynthia Cadieux. Although she had not been babysitting at the time of her death, Cynthia was nonetheless listed as a victim of the "babysitter murderer".
Three days after the discovery of Cynthia Cadieux, a third young girl was murdered. On 19 January, 14-year-old Sheila Srock attended school, went ice skating with a friend and then went to her sister Nancy's Birmingham house to babysit her niece. Like Judy Ferro, Sheila attended an all-girl Catholic school, Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills, and after the deaths of both her parents, she had been spending more time with her older siblings as she adjusted to their loss. That evening a man entered the home of a male neighbour, pulled out a gun and tied him up, telling the terrified homeowner he would shoot him. The intruder left after stealing $5, and proceeded to break into other homes on nearby streets, committing at least three other burglaries before arriving at the house where Sheila Srock was babysitting. Police believe the man knocked on the door of the home and when he got no answer, he unhooked the latch on a window at the rear of the house and gained entry. It was then that Sheila came down the stairs and was surprised by the intruder, who beat her viciously, raping her and finally shooting her several times. Neighbours were alerted to the sound of gunshots and although the police were already in the area, due to the reported break-ins, they were not aware of the murder taking place.
At around 8:20pm, a call was made to the Birmingham Police Department, by a woman who reported hearing gunshots and screaming coming from a home on Villa Drive. Responding officers knocked on the door but got no reply. Meanwhile the killer had slipped out of the house and mingled with the growing crowd of curious onlookers, before casually walking a block or two away to where he had parked his late 1960's Cadillac. When police searched the back of the house, they looking in through a window and saw the aftermath of the violent struggle which had taken place inside. Blood covered the carpet, as well as cushions and the door to the sunroom. The child Sheila had been babysitting was found asleep and unharmed. News reports on the gruesome murder speculated that the still missing Gary Pervinkle could possibly be involved and was considered a suspect by police, but neither Redford or Birmingham detectives refused to comment on any such theory. During the first three weeks of 1976, three young girls had been brutally murdered and their killer or killers had yet to be found, and most investigators suspected they had all fallen victim to the same maniac.
The Murder of Mark Stebbins (February 1976)
The following month, on 15 February a young boy would go missing in what were suspicious circumstances. 12-year-old Mark Stebbins was last seen on Nine Mile Road leaving an American Legion Hall in Ferndale that Sunday afternoon. He had left family members, telling his mother Ruth he was going home to watch television, but never made it home. After four days of searching and frantic worry, his parents received the news they had been dreading. On 19 February, his body was found on a snowbank in the parking lot of an office building at Ten Mile Road and Greenfield in Southfield. He had been neatly laid out in the snow, wearing the same clothes he had wore when he vanished. An autopsy concluded the young boy had been sexually assaulted with an object and strangled. There were two lacerations to the left rear side of his head, and rope marks on his wrists and ankles seemed to indicate he had been bound throughout the period of his captivity. A single unknown hair was found on Mark's clothing, which belonged to an unidentified individual, most likely the killer. It was believed the murder of Mark Stebbins was linked to those of the three young teen-aged babysitters, but this was soon dismissed because of difference in M.O, with the young boy being held for several days by his killer.
On 8 March 1976, an article in the associate press listed the dead children and offered rewards for information about the slayings. The article read in part, "Rewards totalling over $20k are being offered in four Detroit area homicides. A $7,500 reward is offered for information about the murder of 14-year-old Sheila Srock in Birmingham. There is a $5,000 available for information in the case of a Ferndale boy whose remains were found in Southfield. $5k is available for information leading to the arrest of the killer of 16-year-old Cynthia Cadieux of Roseville. Her body was found in Bloomfield Hills, and finally there is a cash reward for information about the murder of 16-year-old Judy Ferro of Redford on January 1, 1976." The mystery of Judy Ferro's murder was partially solved on 7 April, when the remains of a young man were discovered. Next to the body was a 22. calibre handgun, the same type as the one used to subdue the young babysitter. Within two days the body was identified as that of Gary Pervinkle and the bullets recovered from the gun matched the one found in the ceiling of the Laut home. It was suspected that Gary had somehow accessed the Laut home, and Judy, thinking it was the Lauts returning early, had opened the door. Gery Pervinkle then fired a shot into the ceiling and then forced Judy from the house and towards the park, where he beat and strangled her, leaving her body out in the open. He then drove his father's car, heading north to a remote area in mid-Michigan where he committed suicide. Although this theory answered the question of how Judy Ferro was murdered, it failed to answer why. And neither the Ferro or Pervinkle family found answers to their questions. The Pervinkle's argued their son had no history of criminal behaviour or mental illness, and would never suddenly commit such a heinous crime. Despite this, the case of Judy Ferro is quietly closed.
It would be two years before the murder of Cynthia Cadieux would be solved. In January 1978, on the second anniversary of the murder, the Roseville police undertook a television appearance and asked anyone with information to come forward. A former prison inmate, Gary Krowl contacted detectives and told them of a conversation he had with another inmate whilst serving a sentence at the Michigan State parole camp in Jackson, Michigan. Krowl told detectives he had a chance meeting with an old childhood friend from Roseville, and after a brief discussion, the man asked Krowl if he would help him obtain clothes to escape. When Krowl asked the man why he wanted to escape, he replied, "You don't understand, I wasn't about to go do a murder for nobody and I had to go." The man further explained he and another acquaintance from Roseville by the name of Raymond Heinrich, had picked up a "chick" in Roseville and, "had sex with her". He said he and Heinrich had picked up the girl near Papa Joe's in Roseville and he "took her ass off", whilst "Ray punched her up", before they "kicked the bitch out in the snow and she froze her ass off". Krowl said this incident had happened several months prior to their conversation, which occurred in April 1976. He said the man wanted to leave the prison system because he was afraid that Raymond Heinrich would be questioned by police and implicate him in the murder.
Just two weeks after being paroled, Krowl said he received a phonecall from this man, saying he had successfully escaped from prison. On 6 February 1978, Detective Richard Scott of the Roseville Police Department arrested Robert Anglin at an apartment building in Roseville on an escape warrant. At the station the suspect was told by police that they had enough evidence to charge him with the murder of Cynthia Cadieux. The suspect told police he could not have committed the crime because he had an albi on 15 January 1976, despite the fact detectives did not tell him the date on which the suspected murder was committed. Anglin eventually admitted to police that he was involved, but claimed he only drove the car and that it was Ray Heinrich who hit the girl because that was Heinrich's "bag". It was determined that Anglin and Heinrich, along with a third man who had since died before the arrests, had taken Cynthia to a motorcycle club where she was beaten and assaulted and then her body dumped in Bloomfield Hills. Raymond Heinrich and Robert Anglin would stand trial from 24 April to 2 May 1979, and both men would be found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
The murder of Sheila Srock would not be solved until December 1978, when Oliver Andrews of North Carolina was arrested and tried in Oakland County. He admitted to police that he had killed her, but did not mention she had been sexually assaulted. He was found guilty of her murder and in January 1979, was given a life sentence. The murder of Mark Stebbins was initially considered to be linked to those of the three babysitter victims, and as such the Oakland County Murders were originally known as the "Babysitter Murders", and the unidentified killer was erroneously called "The Babysitter". However, these three crimes would eventually be dismissed as unrelated, with all three committed by different killers, whilst the murder of young Mark would remain unsolved.
The Murder of Jill Robinson (December 1976)
Despite the brutal slayings at the start of the year, there were no more deaths throughout the summer and autumn of 1976. But that would all change in December 1976, when 12-year-old Jill Robinson disappeared. She had packed a backpack and run away from home on Wednesday, 22 December, following an argument with her mother over dinner preparations. Her bicycle was found the following day by a neighbourhood boy, left behind a hobby store on the Woodward Main Street of Royal Oak. Three days later her body was discovered along the side of Interstate 75, just north of Sixteen Mile Road near Big Beaver Road in Troy. Her body had been placed out neatly in the snow, and she was lying face-up, fully clothed and wearing her back-pack. Jill had been killed by a single 12-gauge shotgun blast to the face which obliterated the top of her head, and her killer had displayed the body within sight of the Troy Police Station.
The autopsy concluded she had died from shock and haemorrhage due to the shotgun wound to her head, but there were no signs of sexual molestation and her hymen was intact. Jill had recently began her period, and the tampon she bought herself was still present, but it appeared her body had been cleaned by the killer before being laid in the snow. The shotgun and ammunition used was determined by police to be a common variety, easily obtainable from a number of local gun and hardware stores. The brutal and senseless killings horrified residents, and in response to this latest murder local police jurisdictions assembled a task-force of some 200 officers to investigate the recent child murders. Three months after the death of his daughter, Thomas Robinson expressed his frustration at the lack of progress made in catching Jill's killer, and claimed that her case received little attention from the special task-force. Detectives could offer little in the way of answers, and had no theories on who might have taken the young girl, where she had been kept for four days and why she was murdered in such a horrific way. Her murder would go unsolved along with that of Mark Stebbins and the Babysitter Murders of Ferro, Cadieux and Srock.
The Murder of Kristine Mihelich (January 1977)
The next murder occurred the following month, when on 2 January 1977, 10-year-old Kristine Mihelich of Berkeley vanished from outside a 7-Eleven store on Twelve Mile Road at Oakshire in Berkley, whilst buying a magazine at around 3:00pm. Kristine was a 5th grade student at Pattengill Elementary School in Berkeley, and was reported missing three hours later by her mother when she failed to return home. It would be 19 days later when her body was found by a mail carrier, discarded on the side of a rural road called Bruce Lane in Franklin Village. Her body was so frozen, that doctors couldn't perform an autopsy until her body had thawed. She was found wearing the same clothes she had been wearing when she went missing, and her killer had placed her in the snow with her arms folded across her chest and her eyes closed. The autopsy concluded she had been smothered and had died less than 24 hours before her body was discovered. Detectives noted the similarities between Kristine's death and those of Mark Stebbins and Jill Robinson, and suspected it was the work of a serial killer. Forensic officers also found an unknown human hair sample on Kristine's body, along with animals hairs that were similar to those found on the previous victims. All three children had been kept in captivity for between four to ninteen days, and each had been dumped in a public place in the snow.
The Michigan State Police were the lead investigators in the Oakland County Task-force, and were working with a local psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Bruce L. Danto, who had been conducting interviews with local newspapers about his thoughts and opinions on the killer. It was believed by some, Dr. Danto included, that with the murder of Kristine Mihelich, the killer was attempting to make contact with him by dumping the body on Bruce Lane, which he came to suspect was a direct reference to his own name. Dr. Danto then began to contact the killer by leaving messages in local newspapers requesting that he turn himself in so he can get help. The task-force was eventually comprised of officers from 13 communities, dedicated to catching the elusive serial killer operating in the Oakland County area.
The Arrests of Gregory Green and Christopher Busch (January 1977)
On 25 January 1977, Flint Police arrested 26-year-old Gregory Woodard Green after they received a complaint he had sexually penetrated a 12-year-old boy in August 1976 in Flint, Michigan. Green was a former K-Mart maintenance worker and had previously been an in-patient at the Patton State Hospital in Patton, California, where he had been held from 24 January 1974 until 7 January 1976, where he had been hospitalised after nearly killing a boy during a brutal sexual assault in Huntington Beach, California. He was suspected of molesting dozens of young children, but was transferred by the State of California on 11 February 1976, on a plane back to Michigan, just days prior to the murder of Mark Stebbins. The investigation into Green, a homosexual paedophile, would eventually expand to include over 50 other victims of sexual exploitation and would culminate in the arrests of several other suspects.
Green told investigators about fantasies he had discussed with his friend Christopher Busch, which involved kidnapping a boy and holding him captive, with one of them working nights and the other day shifts so they could watch over the boy. But Green was soon confessing that Busch was responsible for the murder of 12-year-old Mark Stebbins, which led to his case being referred to the Oakland County Task-force. This in turn led to the arrests of 25-year-old Busch and 19-year-old Douglas Bennett in connection with multiple charges of criminal sexual conduct with minors. Busch came from a wealthy and well-connected family and his father, Harold Lee Busch was a high level executive for General Motors. Although he admitted to charges of child molestation, Bennett vehemently denied any involvement with Green or Busch. The Michigan State Police requested both Green and Busch undertake polygraph tests and both were subsequently cleared on 28 January 1977 as having no involvement in the Oakland County Murder case. Green would be found guilty of multiple counts of child sexual abuse, sentenced to life imprisonment, and sent to Jackson State Prison in Genesee County. Meanwhile, Busch pleaded guilty to reduced charges of molesting boys in four counties and was sentenced to probation.
The Murder of Timothy King (March 1977)
Just two months later on a beautiful spring day on 16 March 1977, 11-year-old Timothy King left his Birmingham home to buy candy at the local Maple drugstore. He had borrowed 30 cents from his older sister and clutching his skateboard, he set off to nearby Maple Road at about 8:30pm. When he failed to return home, his family contacted the police and despite an intensive search conducted by some 100 officers, which covered the entire Detroit metropolitan area, no trace of Timothy was found. There was widespread media coverage of his disappearance, as well as ongoing coverage of the previous three child murders. Barry King appeared on television, begging through tears for his son's safe release, whilst his mother Marion wrote a letter to the Detroit News about how she wanted her son home so she could serve him his favourite meal, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Because no body had been found, the Kings resolutely believed their son was still alive.
It would be several days later, on 22 March, when two teenagers found his body in a shallow snow covered ditch alongside Gill Road in Livonia. His body was still warm and responding paramedics attempted to revive him, and in doing so destroyed any evidence at the scene. He was still wearing the hockey jacket he had worn the day he disappeared and his skateboard was found close-by. An autopsy concluded the young boy had been sexually assaulted with an unknown object and suffocated approximately six hours before his body was recovered. Like the other victims, his body had been washed and carefully cleaned by the killer, in a ritualistic manner. The coroner found Timothy had eaten a chicken meal before his death, the favourite meal his mother mentioned to the press. Many suspected the killer was now taunting the police and daring them to catch him. Unknown hair samples were found on Timothy King's body, one single hair strand in his underpants and another in his nasal cavity, which when tested, were a match for those found on the clothing of Mark Stebbins, indicating they had come into contact with the same person or people.
A witness came forward with information relating to Timothy King's abduction. A woman told investigators she had seen a boy holding a skateboard matching Timothy's description talking to a man in the parking lot of the Maple drugstore from where he vanished. She was able to provide detectives with a composite drawing of the suspect, who was described as aged between 25-35, with a dark complexion, shaggy hair and sideburns. She also provided a description of his vehicle, which was believed to be a blue AMC Gremlin with white striping. This information was released by the authorities, and police questioned every Gremlin owner in Oakland County. One of those questioned was David Norberg, who drove a blue Opal, which was a similar compact car to the Gremlin. Norberg's name would crop up again around 12 years later, as a person of interest in the case. Another witness came forward who claimed to have seen Timothy King being abducted by two men, one of whom was described as being in his late 20's, whilst the other was older. Task-force investigators began compiling a profile of the killer, who they believed would have appeared trustworthy to children, allowing him to interact with his intended victims. He would also be familiar with the area and would hold a job that provided him freedom of movement, and which allowed him to hold children captive at his home for long periods without causing suspicion amongst his neighbours. Suspecting the killer might attend Timothy King's funeral, police camped in the balcony of the chapel, hoping to catch a glimpse of anyone who resembled the composite sketch.
"The Allen Investigation" (April 1977)
Several weeks after the murder of Timothy King, Dr. Danto, the psychiatrist working with the Oakland County Task-force, received a letter in April 1977 from an anonymous author who called himself Allen. In the letter, which was riddled with spelling errors, Allen claimed to know the identity of the Oakland County Child Killer, describing himself as the sadomasochistic slave of the perpetrator, who he referred to as "Frank", but confirmed this was not his real name. He went on to describe how "Frank", had served alongside him in Vietnam and was traumatised by murdering children during the conflict. He explained how the killer was taking revenge on the more affluent citizens of Oakland, to bring them to account for sending US soldiers to war. Allen described in the letter his feelings of remorse and fear for having known about the murders, but stressed that although he accompanied Frank whilst looking for victims, he was never present during any of the murders. He expressed great fear should Frank discover he authored the letter, and requested help from Dr. Danto.
The envelope to the "Allen Letter" contained the message, "MOST VERY IMPORTANT MOST URGENT PLEASE" and the letter read;
I am dsperite and nearly gone crazy and havnt got no place left to turn. I am going to comit suicide if you cant help me. Please dont give up the killer to the police. You must help me as there is no one else I cant turn to. This is for real I know who the killer is, I live with him I am his slave. He whips me and beats me all the time. And he will kill me if he finds out that I have written this letter. I have been with him in his car when we go out looking for boys but I swear I have never never never been with him when he picks up the ones he killed But I amin it in it so deep I am just as juilty to the law as he is I stayed with them here here right here in our apartment during the day while he is working. That makes me just as guilty. And no one can hear them as they gagged all the time. You know he brings them in stuffed inclothes hamper no one here knows the differences. You keep saying Oakland county not true. He has delivery rout in Oakland and Birmingham places but we live in detroit. You want to know people in this building? Primps and hookers and fags, you name it. Like on Gremlin he had it sure Grimlin until last boy but no one stops him in Detroit. He junk it out in Ohio to never be found ever. I tell you what makes him do it it Vietnam, we there together, Frank and me, oh Frank not his real name I call him that here. Nam screw up your mindtoo. Tell you something else he killed lots of little kids then with medals for it. Burned them to death bombed them with napalm it's real becautiful there doc. He wants the rich people like people in Birmingham to suffer like all of us suffered to get nothing back for what we did for out country. Hes not a monster like you think he really loves children especially that little girl for 3 weeks not doing it because he hates childrens but doing it because he hates everybody else out there and this be his way to get even and get back at everybody.
But I cannot do it any more he says he wonts but I just know he is going to kill some more. I swear I had no idea no idea he going to kill that first little boy the one with blond colored hair. I shouldn8t ever never helped but trapped too late helped him stay uncaught, I am just as guilty as he is. I cant go on like this I fell I like to die.
I will turn him in if you will swearnto help me. I dont want any of reward I am so afraid if I turn him in I be killed or do forever to jail for what so something I didn8t want to or didn't start. If you be real doctor you must help me. If you promise and what really promise that you not punish me like you call it immuty I meeting with you this Sunday night, I swear, I swear I tell you all of it everything I have to tell someone have to tell someone. Please please please not print this in paper he Frank kill me. I am his slave and he owns me like whatever he wants almost killed me once. I be only one alive know it him. Nobody else know. I so scared all the time policeman come to door never happen. He say we never be caught but I am scared to die. I be guilty too. I not ge be call you araid police trace all your calls back to here. But if you will onluy please please help me help me and promise me not to go to jail in writing I tell you all of it everything everything and it all be over. I never never want it to be like this with little children dead. If you will help me please please. There be no toher hope. You tell me it be all right with code in sunday papers, this sunday, news freepress. You do like other letter you write on front page of papers this sunday, it be to say, Weather beuau say Trees Bloom in 3 weeks, I know you get my letter and understdna. It mean I can trust you. I set up meeting with you, no more little childrens die. Please help me please. I feel so bad like garbage not deserve to live any more. Maybe I kill self first must get out of this some way. Please help me.
I signed Allen
Allen had offered to provide photographic evidence of the murders in exchange for immunity from prosecution, and instructed Danto to place his response in that Sunday's Free Press edition with the phrase, "weather bureau says trees to bloom in three weeks". Shortly after the coded message was published, Dr. Danto received a phonecall from someone claiming to be "Allen", and the phonecall was recorded by police. The transcript of the call was similar to the letter, and revealed that the caller spoke in a similar way to how the letter writer had phrased his sentences;
Allen - I want (unintelligible) immunity. I want it by tomorrow night, I mean tomorrow 9:00am (unintelligible). You be at Seven Mile and Woodward you know where Gas Station Lounge, you listen to me, this only time I'm calling you (unintelligible). You want hang up, you hang up (unintelligible) but this is what I'm telling you (pause).
You be Gas Station Lounge tomorrow night at 9:00am with letter from governor of Michigan giving me total immunity in return I give you polaroid pictures proving he kill them (pause).
That's all I'm going to say (pause). You be there (pause). This is a bar (pause). Jesus (unintelligible). Gas Station Lounge (pause). You be there (long pause). You no bring police you be there by yourself (pause). You be there 9:00am tomorrow (pause). No it's a bar you stu(unintelligible). You be there 9:00am tomorrow (pause). You no bring police, I prove he kill them. That's all I say.
Investigators decided to allow Dr. Danto to meet with Allen and it was arranged that an undercover officer would accompany the psychiatrist. It turned out the Gas Station Lounge was a local gay bar and was full of young hustlers who were often picked up by older gay men, whilst gay prostitutes worked out the back of the building. Dr. Danto sat inside the bar, chatting with the bar tender, whilst the undercover cop was disguised a customer. As Danto sat chatting, a man with brown hair stepped off the dance floor, and came up behind him, acting like he wanted to talk, but then turned away and went to the restroom. When the man came out he stared in the direction of Danto, then walked over to the undercover officer and asked him if he'd like to buy him a drink. The policeman brushed the man off, thinking he was attempting to pick him up, not realising the man might have been "Allen". The man then walked out of the bar and Allen never showed up for his meeting with Danto. It was officially stated that Allen failed to keep the arranged meeting, but some suspected the man might have been him. Nothing more was heard from Allen after this incident.
Christoper Brian Busch, who had been arrested in late January 1977 in connection with the murder of Mark Stebbins, was found dead on 20 November 1978 in the bedroom of his parents Bloomfield Township apartment, having been shot in the head with a 22. calibre rifle. His family members said they believed Chris had killed himself due to depression stemming from the ongoing criminal charges he was facing. There was some controversy surrounding his death, because although he had been shot once between his eyes and four shell casings were found in his room, there was no gunshot residue found on his body, and no blood splatter anywhere near the scene. Furthermore, he was found wrapped neatly under his bedsheets, which would seem to indicate the suicide was possibly a staged murder. Officers found some bloodstained ligatures, as well as a hand-drawn image of a young boy, which was pinned to the wall of his bedroom. It would take several decades before detectives decided the drawing closely resembled victim Mark Stebbins, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and screaming in abject terror. Busch had previously passed a polygraph in January 1977, which ruled him out as being involved in the Oakland County Child Murders and detectives believed his death was unrelated to their investigation.
The Fox Island Paedophile Ring
During the ongoing investigation, the Oakland County Task-force had received and checked around 18,000 tips from the public, which had resulted in around two dozen arrests on unrelated charges and the discovery of a multi-state child pornography ring which operated out of North Fox Island in Lake Michigan. The Island was owned by wealthy entrepreneur Francis Sheldon, who would often fly his private plane to the island with groups of unsuspecting young boys. Sheldon, who had an unhealthy interest in prepubescent boys, and several like-minded acquaintances had started "Brother Paul's Children's Mission", which was billed as a nature camp for boys aged 7 to 16, which was located on the isolated and uninhabited island. The camp was actually a front for a child pornography ring, where young boys were coerced into sexual acts and photographed for use in child pornographic magazines.
An investigation into these images concluded they had been taken on Fox Island, and by the summer of 1976, several arrests were made, which included Brother Paul's chief organiser, Gerald Richards, who was charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Shortly afterwards Sheldon was facing similar charges, but he had already cleared out his Ann Arbor and Fox Island residences and fled in his private plane. His twin-engined aircraft was later discoverd in Arizona, but Sheldon was never found. Finding no links between the Fox Island paedophile ring and the Oakland County Child Murders, the task-force had hit a dead-end after making little progress, exhausting it's $2 million budget and was subsequently disbanded in December 1978, with the investigation turned over to the State Police.
The investigation now continued on a much smaller scale, and although detectives continued to receive tips from the public, there was little in the way of new information that would help solve the case. Detectives reviewed all of the evidence held in storage, including the hairs found on the victims bodies, but without advances in DNA testing or a DNA database, there was no way find out to whom the hair samples belonged. As time passed the Oakland Murders became a cold case and detectives held little hope of finding the killer. Gregory Woodard Green had previously been arrested after confessing that his friend and fellow paedophile Chris Busch was responsible for the murder of the first victim Mark Stebbins. Both Green and Busch were later ruled out as suspects in the case after passing polygraph tests, and Green was incarcerated in the Genesee County Jail when the last victim Timothy King was abducted and murdered. He was subseqently sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in unrelated child sex crimes, although his involvement in the Oakland Child Murders was never fully discounted. Green died from a heart attack on 29 December 1995, whilst watching television in his cell at Thumb Regional Correctional Facility in Lapeer County.
The Investigation of David Norberg
On 2 September 1999, Detroit reporter Kevin Deitz accompanied several investigators to Wyoming in a trip organised by the Oakland County Prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson, where they executed a warrant to exhume the remains of David Norberg in order to obtain a DNA sample for testing. Norberg had died in a car accident in 1981, and shortly after his death several items were found in his possession by family members who believed they might belong to victims of the Oakland County Child Killer. One of the items strongly resembled a silver cross necklace that was missing from one of the victims, Kristine Mihelich, and which bore the name "Kristine". Bone and tissue samples were taken from Norberg so detectives could link him through DNA to the strand of hair found on the body of murder victim Timothy King. The warrant also listed the two additional hair samples found inside one of the victims mouths and sperm which was recovered from another body. Investigators later discounted this, saying that no such evidence existed. The warrant also stated that Norberg was in possession of three pieces of jewellery, all of which were similar to those owned by three of the victims. Detectives learned that Norberg had lived in Warren, Michigan during the time of the child murders.
David Norberg was also considered a suspect in the 1976 murder of a Royal Oak girl, whose body was found in a river in Ohio, as well as the disappearance of a Warren girl who vanished without trace in 1979. 13-year-old Jane Louise Allen, disappeared on 7 August 1976, after leaving her boyfriends Pontiac house with the intention of hitchhiking back to Royal Oak. Her body was found four days later in the Greater Miami River in Ohio. She had died from carbon monoxide poisoning and her hands had been tied behind her back, with torn pieces from a T-shirt that had knots tied every few inches. Norberg's wife Sharon said he used a similar method to tie her up, using strips of cloth from a T-shirt to form a rope with knots tied every few inches. Sharon Norberg also told investigators how on occasion he used to tie her hands behind her back using this method, and that Norberg abused his sister as well as his wife. Once they were tied up he would pinch their noses and cover their mouths with his hands until they almost lost consciousness. Police suspected this might have been how Norberg murdered 10-year-old Kristine Mihelich, who died from suffocation. Jane Allen's murder was never officially linked to those of the Oakland County murders, because her body was found in Ohio.
There was also strong suspicions that Norberg was involved in the disappearance of 12-year-old Kimberly King, who went missing from her Warren neighbourhood on 15 September 1979. At the time of her suspected abduction, Norberg lived only two streets away from King. His wife Sharon also told investigators that Norberg stopped driving his blue Opal after he was questioned by detectives about his possible involvement in the child killings. The Opal was very similar to the compact Gremlin which had been identified by a witness as possibly belonging to the killer. Norberg then resumed driving the Opal when he moved to the sparsely populated Recluse, Wyoming in 1980, less than a year before his death. When the results eventually came back, there was no match and Norberg had been ruled out a suspect in the Oakland murders, but was still considered a strong suspect in the Allen murder and King disappearance.
The Investigation of Ted Lamborgine (2005)
It would be several years before a renewed investigation began, and only when new information came to light in 2005. In the course of investigating the sixteen year old murder of a Detroit cab-company owner, after receiving information from a prison snitch, Livonia Sergeant Cory Williams conducted an interview of the alleged killer. The perpetrator, Richard Lawson, known as "Coyote Negro", had been a former smuggler of illegal aliens, but it was a previous statement he had made to Pennsylvania investigators which had intrigued Sgt. Williams. Lawson had been arrested there in 1989, on charges of robbery and he told officers, "I know who did the Michigan Snow Killings". At the time this hadn't made much sense to Pennsylvania detectives, but Williams understood the implication and urged Lawson to begin telling him everything he knew. Lawson told him of his time during the 1970's in Detroit's Cass Corridor, which was a six-block section where hookers and dope dealers worked amongst the local bars. Large families had moved up from the South to work in the auto plants and hundreds of kids played in the streets. It was considered a paedophiles paradise and Lawson and his four friends exploited the situation.
He identified two of these men as "Ted Orr" and Bob Moore, who presented themselves as businessmen who offered the poor kids from the neighbourhood money and food, and in some cases even helped out some of the parents, paying for their gas bills to help the families through the cold northern winters. But these men had an ulterior motive and wanted something in return. They would take the children to their homes, motel rooms, and the basement of a local bike shop, where the boys, some as young as nine, were abused. They would be careful not to be too rough, so the boys always came back, some of them for years. Lawson told Williams that back then Orr had worn a luxurious pompadour wig made of real human hair, and sometimes he would bring kids from the poorer neighbourhoods to more affluent suburbs like Royal Oak where he and other paedophiles held "parties" at their homes. It was suspected by police that there may have been hundreds of men involved, and the parties were in fact orgies where everyone brought a child to share. The children were sodomised and photographed, then thrown into a bathtub and hosed down.
Lawson described one time how "Ted" had scared even him. They were at the apartment of Bob Moore, the owner of the bike shop, when he pulled out a photo album Moore had kept of the young boys. He said Ted pointed to one picture of a little boy sporting a wing-cut and a dimpled chin, who was clean and wore nice clothes, not like the boys they usually preyed on from the poorer side of Eight Mile Road, and said "Looks like the King boy, does'nt it?" as he winked at Lawson. Sitting there telling this story to Sgt. Williams, Lawson said he never forgot that moment. Investigators had always been looking for a single suspect responsible for the Oakland Murders, but many now suspected there were possibly multiple killers who worked together, watching each other's backs and making sure the kidnapped children didn't escape. Williams decided to locate the other men mentioned by Lawson. Bob Moore was already dead, having gone into cardiac arrest at his home, where his pitbulls devoured his body before it was discovered. Ted Orr however was still alive, but Lawson was unable to remember his real name, except that is started with "Lam". Williams searched through the casefiles amongst the hundred of old tips which turned out to be dead ends and came across a name, Ted Lamborgine.
Sgt. Williams enlisted the help of Parma Heights detectives who trailed Lamborgine for several weeks before confronting him, and he was arrested during a routine traffic stop and taken into custody for questioning. There he confirmed Lawson's story, telling his interrogators that he had been a paedophile, but he wasn't a killer, and even agreed to take a polygraph test in Michigan. Some detectives still referred to the Oakland killer as the Babysitter, and Williams knew that investigators thought they had come close to catching him on numerous occasions. Many thought this time would be no different, but when the results came back they were shocked to learn he had failed. "It was very conclusive", William said. But police still couldn't charge Ted based on the lie detector, and he was released and allowed to return to Cleveland.
In 2006, the family of Timothy King requested the release of files relating to the investigation. Eventually, the Michigan State Police released 3,400 pages of investigative records to Timothy's father Barry and brother Chris, which revealed new evidence and revelations that had never been released before, including DNA testing of new suspects such a David Norberg, along with the items found at the residence of Chris Busch shortly after his suicide in November 1978. There police had found the hand-drawn sketch of a boy resembling Mark Stebbins, screaming in terror, as well as some bloodied ligatures. Busch had remained the primary suspect of King's parents, who strongly believe he was responsible for their son's murder. This evidence was then compiled by Catherine Broad, the sister of Timothy King, into an archive of investigative material. Ted Lamborgine's name resurfaced in October 2007, when the family of Mark Stebbins filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him, seeking $25,000. The lawsuit alleged that Lamborgine had abducted Mark, holding him captive at a property in Royal Oak for a period of four days in February 1976, where he was sexually assaulted and smothered to death. Although Lamborgine was never formally charged with the death of Mark Stebbins, the attorney for the Stebbin family sought compensation, including funeral costs on behalf of his brother Michael Stebbins, who stressed that money was not the primary motivation of the lawsuit.
A renewed investigation began in early 2009 into the Oakland County Child Murders, and with advances in DNA techniques, detectives were able to get a DNA profile from the hairs found on the bodies of two of the male victims, Mark Stebbins and Timothy King, which was matched to hair samples taken from the vehicle of an unidentified man. Prosecutors refused to release the man's name until further investigation had been conducted. In March 2009, FBI investigators found that a hair fragment found on the body of Kristine Mihelich, was a match to the mitochondrial DNA of 47-year-old parolee James Vincent Gunnels. Although a mitochondrial DNA match is not as precise as a nuclear DNA match, the FBI commented that the findings were significant. Gunnels denied any knowledge of the murder of Mihelich, and said he did not know how his DNA came to be on the victim's body. He was not charged in connection with the crime stating publicly, "I'm not guilty". In 1977, the then 15-year-old Gunnels was a known "companion" of Chris Busch and Gregory Green, both of whom were arrested and questioned in connection with the Oakland Child Murders. Gunnels could better be described as a victim, who was sexually assaulted and groomed by both men. Christopher King, Timothy's brother told the media he believes Gunnels is somehow connected saying, "It seems clear that he must have some had some knowledge of these crimes", and added, "I think this is the best and biggest piece of evidence in the case so far". The story of Gunnels possible involvement was not released by detectives until early 2012, the same year that information on the other unidentified suspect was revealed.
The Mysterious Bob Theory (2010)
In 2010, an as yet unidentified man, who claimed to be an autonomous investigator, contacted Oakland County Investigators to recount his recollections of a friendship he had with an acquaintance in 1977, during the time of the child murders. Going the alias "Bob", he told detectives that he would go driving with the acquaintance, who would converse and tell him about the areas they were driving past and their connection to satanic rituals which were performed on the child victims of the Oakland Killer. Bob said the acquaintance took him to lesser known locations associated with the case and spoke about details written in the "Allen" letter sent in April 1977. Bob repeatedly asked detectives to allow him to see the Allen Letter so he could verify his suspicions, but was denied. He later gave a recorded interview with Oakland County investigators and Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, during which he presented evidence he claimed was pertinant to the case.
The anonymous Bob would claim he attempted to get Cooper to place the case under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, which would expedite the investigation. Prosecutor Cooper would counter that the department was already involved because of the inclusion of FBI investigators and resources of the ViCAP database to locate any potential suspects. Cooper dismissed Bob's theories and said there was no new evidence presented, and denied his request to view the Allen letter. She would later describe his theory as, "a rambling statement outlining a theory that the Oakland County Child Killer abductions and murders were related to pagan holidays, the lunar calendar, and Wiccan rituals." Throughout 2010, Bob would enter into correspondence with Deborah Jarvis, the mother of victim Kristine Mihelich, as well as investigative journalists such as Heather Catallo and Bill Proctor. An attorney representing Jarvis, Paul Hughes, said Bob's investigation had discovered the identity of the killer, and he was urged to reveal this information, but refused unless the authorities revealed crucial information he had previously requested so he could positively identify his suspect using police evidence. All of his requests to access case evidence was denied. Using this information, Hughes attempted to initiate a £100 million lawsuit against Oakland County authorities, citing obstruction and a cover-up conspiracy along with a complete mishandling of the investigation, whilst also demanding Prosecutor Cooper's resignation. Hughes set-up a website to accept donations, and offered a copy of Bob's investigational report to anyone who donated upwards of $1,500. The victims families claimed Hughes and Bob were attempting to profit from their loss and in March 2012, the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.
The Investigation of Ed Sloan (2010-2012)
The Michigan State Police released the information on James Gunnels as a possible suspect through the connection of his DNA to victim Kristine Mihelich in early 2012. Later that same year it was also revealed that DNA with the same mitrochondrial profile from a single strand of hair found on the clothing of Mark Stebbins and from two hairs found on Timothy King were matched to hair samples found in a 1966 Pontiac Bonneville owned by Archibald Edward Sloan. The discovery was made in 2009, and investigators from the reformed Oakland County Child Killer Task-force conducted interviews with Sloan throughout 2010 to 2012. 70-year-old Sloan, a convicted paedophile, had previously worked as a mechanic at a garage or gas station near 10 Mile and Middlebelt Roads in the Farmington Hills area during the time of the murders, and had been sentenced in 1985 to life in prison after he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old boy. The victim was the son of a co-worker, who stayed with him overnight so they could go fishing the next day in October 1983. Sloan had bet the boy he could beat him in a race, and if the boy won, he would win a dollar, but if he lost, he had to perform a sex act on Sloan. According to court records, the boy lost and was assaulted. Later that night he was given soda and wine before he went to bed, and Sloan made the boy strip and then raped him. The next day he dropped the boy off at a gas station with $5 and told him not to tell anyone what happened. His lawyer failed to get him declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and he was convicted. Before his trial, Sloan's mother wrote a letter to the Judge asking, "I know what Arch did was wrong, but your Honor, will locking him up in a jail help his problem?".
With a long rap sheet dating back to 1959, involving numerous charges for gross indecency, sodomy and sexual assaults, Sloan was a prolific serial child sex abuser. Between 1970 and the 1980's, he was found guilty of three sexual assaults, including charges of sodomy and corrupting the morals of a minor. The hairs found in his car did not match Sloan, but detectives believed the killer had borrowed the vehicle and were certain he knew the identity of the cuplrit. Sloan, who was known to lend out his car to his paedophile friends, also owned two other cars during the 1970's, including a black 1969 Chevy pick-up and a blue 1971 pick-up. Detectives were now actively search for information concerning any other people who many have used his car, or who had access to any of Sloan's vehicles. Although his DNA did not match the samples, Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said publicly, "It doesn't mean he didn't do it, but whoever those hairs belong to is obviously a person of interest." The FBI and State investigators were now appealing to the public regarding information on Sloan's known friends or associates. County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper added, "Finding anyone like this who turns out to be the donor of the hair may be the key to solving these two murders". Sloan was questioned early during the investigation and allowed officers to search his 1966 Pontiac, in which they found a hair sample that was stored. With the availability of forensic testing that was not present in the mid to late 1970's, investigators set-up a renewed and expanded cold-case task-force in 2009. By now the case had accumulated around 20,000 tips from the public, 500,000 pages of documentation, hundreds of pieces of evidence and thousands of interviews of potential suspects and witnesses.
On 16 October 2012, the mysterious and still unidentified investigator Bob conducted an exclusive interview with several prominent Metro Detroit reporters, during which he claimed to have conducted 10,000 hours of investigation over a 7-year span related to the unsolved Oakland County Child Murder case of the 1970's. Using attorney Paul Hughes private cellphone to preserve his anonymity, Bob claimed his team of investigators had uncovered a number of similarities amongst the crimes that were unlikely to be purely coincidental. He further claimed there were approximately 11-16 victims, significantly more than the 4 official victims attributed to the Oakland case, and he theorised there was more than one killer who were conducting Wiccan human sacrifices which coincided with pagan ritual celebrations or the lunar calendar. In 2013, investigators looked into the possibility that the murders were committed by a convicted serial killer and acting of a witness description of two men seen at the abduction of Timothy King. The witness statement reported the first suspect was described as a young man in his late 20s, whilst the second suspect bore a strong resemblance to executed serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Detectives learned that Gacy was allegedly in Michigan around the time of the murders, but according to DNA tests conducted in 2013, Gacy was ruled out as having no involved in the Oakland County killings.
Later that same year, an anonymous informant reported to police that a blue AMC Gremlin, like the one seen by a witness during Timothy King's abduction, was buried in a farm field in Grand Blanc. The area was currently under development, and police conducted a search of the area, which failed to uncover anything. The blue Gremlin has since been discounted by many investigators, who believe that no such car was involved in the abduction of Timothy King. In February 2019, a two-part, four hour documentary on the murders aired on the Investigation Discovery channel. Around the same time, WXYZ-TV investigative reporter Heather Catallo reported that convicted paedophile Archibald Edward Sloan had failed a polygraph test when questioned by the Oakland County Child Killer Task-force during his 2010-2012 interviews. Sloan is considered a prime suspect in the murders, and it is believed he knows the identity of the killer or killers, but is refusing all attempts by law enforcement to gain his co-operation with the investigation. Despite numerous suspects, the Oakland County child murders remain unsolved.
Written by Nucleus