Like I said, chronological order isn’t going to work well here. The latest is that authorities are supposedly ruling out the involvement of deceased convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
Never mind the fact that surely Gacy’s DNA has been in the data bank hall of fame for years now and that if they are talking about DNA evidence there should have been a hit already. But check this information out that my Dad tracked down last April. Yes, the “senile old man” Prosecutor Jessica Cooper “feels really bad for” and says “has problems with memory,” tracked this guy down and he gladly provided the following information LAST YEAR.
From the email to my Dad:
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 3:54 PM
To: [Barry King]
Subject: about T King memoir
The following is my recollection of the events surrounding your son’s abduction. I was keenly interested to read about Chris Busch. If the authorities knew about this individual at the time why didn’t they haul him in and have me look at him in a line-up? I would be interested in seeing photos of him contemporary with the abduction.
And then from his narrative:
On my way home from work I decided to stop at the supermarket and pick up some breakfast groceries (milk, eggs, etc.) for the following morning. As I pulled my new Alfetta GT into the parking lot, I immediately noticed a young boy on an orange skateboard. He was using the natural slope of the parking lot to build up speed as he headed downward toward the market. At the last minute he would jump off the board and the board would continue on into the bricks of the building. Fearing that the flying skateboard might damage my new car, I decided to use one of the parking spaces farthest from the store.
After locking my car, I noticed that the boy on the skateboard was talking to a young man by the side of the building. My immediate impression was of a father talking to his son. The young man was about 25-30 years old. He was wearing a plaid shirt jacket and jeans. He was also wearing a baseball cap over his shoulder length hair.
As I started walking towards the market entrance, I glanced at an older man sitting in a car. He had backed his car into the parking place now opposite my parking place, but closer to the building. He was facing me as I walked towards his car and the market. He fixed his gaze on mine and continued to start at me intently. There was something unnerving about this man and I remember thinking that he might be a car thief. He looked to be about 55-65 years of age. He had totally grey hair and looked about 20-30 pounds overweight. He had a very round face.
As I walked by him I glanced back at his car and tried to commit his license number to memory. The numbers were easy, three twos and I made up a quick phrase to try to remember the letters. Unfortunately, to this day, I cannot remember the phrase I used to remember the letter make- up of the license plate. The make of the car was a 1973 Pontiac Le Mans 2/door coupe.
I continued into the store where I did my shopping and came out about 15-20 minutes later. All three persons were gone: the boy, the young man and the older man in the car.
I had not been paying attention at the time to the news about the abduction of kids in the area. Had I done so I may have been more suspicious of the situation involving the boy and the 2 men. As it was, I was only concerned possible damage or theft to my new car. All I had seen was totally forgotten when I got into my Alfa and returned home.
I would only remember these events about two weeks later when my best friend and colleague Steve B. was talking to me about a kidnapping in our area with another designer. It was a little boy named Timmy King. As I listened they mentioned about a boy and a skateboard. At this point I asked if the skateboard was orange in color. They answered yes. I then asked where the kidnapping was supposed to have happened and was told it was the supermarket by Steve’s house. This made me recall the evening I was at the market, and I asked if the night in question was the really warm evening about two weeks earlier. He said yes, and asked me if I had seen something?
At this point I told him my story about seeing a young boy with an orange skateboard in the market parking lot. Steve immediately implored me to go to the authorities. I told him that I really could not remember any more than that, and that I could probably add nothing new to what the police already knew.
A few days later my ex-wife called and asked me to sign some papers to complete our divorce. She asked about how I was doing and I said fine, and then told her about maybe seeing the missing Timmy King in the supermarket parking lot on, maybe, the evening he disappeared. Her reaction was the same as Steve’s. I still resisted saying I could remember nothing else and would be of no help to the police.
As chance would have it, my ex attended a party that following weekend where she was introduced to a young man. This man turned out to be one of the FBI investigators assigned to missing children cases.
Well, bright and early, the following Monday morning at work, I was paged over the studio PA system. I was asked to come to the corporate security offices. The FBI wanted to talk to me. I looked at Steve and he pleaded innocence. He said he had nothing to do with this.
I left my desk and went to the security offices. There were two agents there and one of them explained that he had met my ex-wife at a party and she had told him about our conversation of the past week, and about what I had witnessed. I explained that what I told my ex was the extent of my recollection. They then asked if I would be willing to go under hypnosis to help with my recall. I replied that I was skeptical, but was willing to help in any way I could.
The hypnosis session was conducted at the University of Michigan campus. In attendance were the two agents, a sketch artist, and the psychiatrist who would hypnotize me. While under hypnosis I remember wondering if I was really hypnotized. I only remember feeling extremely relaxed, but still aware of what was around me. Or so I thought.
When the session ended I had thought maybe only 15-20 minutes had elapsed, but when I looked at my watch I was shocked to see that 4 hours had passed. The agents were very excited about my observations. I was able to confirm the possibility that two men were involved. This information was some that the FBI had only speculated on. From my description the sketch artist was able to get a pretty good likeness of each man. But, the most important information was my identification of the car that the older man was sitting in. It was a 1973 Pontiac Le Mans 2/door coupe.
It turns out they already knew about the make of the car. When the previous victim had been dropped off, the car had backed into a snow bank and left a perfect impression of the car’s rear bumper. As for the car’s license number, I could only remember the last three numbers: the three 2’s. For some reason the phrase I had made to remember the preceding 3 letters was not retrievable. To this day I still cannot remember it. I can only surmise that numbers are stored in a different part of the brain than the phrase would be.
I was able to show the agents the exact spot on the wall where the boy’s skateboard had impacted the bricks of the supermarket building. They took small samples of the brick and discovered pieces of the orange neoprene material that the skateboard was made of.
Years later I saw a picture of John Wayne Gacy after he was arrested for his crimes. I felt that this man might have been the older man I saw in the Le Mans that long ago evening. I learned later watching a TV program about his crimes, that he had a younger sidekick that roughly fit the description of the other man I had seen talking to the boy. It is something I have pondered all these years.
And did the FBI or the Michigan State Police ever release this information or the drawings of the two men the witness saw? No they did not. They told this witness that they didn’t want the information about the LeMans coming out because they did not want to alert the owner of the car. They were too busy pulling over every single blue AMC Gremlin in Oakland County to bother with this LeMans. The LeMans comes up again and again. More later.
A fair amount has been written about the incredibly cruel and sick serial abductions and murders of children in Oakland County, Michigan during the years 1976 and 1977. If you Google “Oakland County Child Killer,” you will get an accurate enough view of the history of these crimes. Or check out the special section coverage of the OCCK case on WDIV-TV’s Local 4 Defenders website. http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/oakland-county-child-killer/-/8864800/-/yb9tek/-/index.html.
The circumstances are so awful and the crimes so profoundly devastating to the communities involved that it is utterly outrageous that for decades some in state and federal law enforcement got away with (and continue to get away with) sweeping this under the rug like some weird relative or shameful incident that no one ever speaks of again. Now that I know a lot more about the investigation of these crimes and the failures by those whose job it was to speak on behalf of the kids who no longer had a voice, I’m talking about it. It isn’t going to impair the “investigation.” It is so impaired that these crimes will never be solved. Sure, there may be pressure to pin this crime on one person—preferably one dead person who was never interviewed by the task force, never polygraphed and released to rape and kill again—to neatly wrap up this Chinese fire drill and make people like me go away.
I look at this mess in three parts: the horror of 1976 and 1977; the next three decades where I honestly believed the cops did their best, that my brother’s murder would never be solved and the best I could do was keep the good memories; and post-2005 when the lid the Michigan State Police and other agencies had on this thing started to loosen. I’m not a chronological-order type, but I will try to make this coherent.
In fairness, there are a lot of people out there who are not ignoring this case. There are people working hard behind the scenes to expose information. People have reached out. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has done real work on this case. Family and friends of Mark, Jill, Kristine and Tim aren’t ignoring this case. Attorneys represent some family members. People who were blown off by police over the years have come forward to talk to us. This is an uphill battle.
Two fictionalized books have been written in recent years. Author Jason Appelman is writing what will be the most definitive nonfiction book written on this mess. This has come at great personal expense to him—this subject matter can eat you alive. Detroit News reporter Marney Keenan has invested incredible time and energy to bring this story to Michigan readers. She was the first and she had to fight for every inch of newspaper space her stories got. Now-retired Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter busted his ass as well to put this complex story in a concise enough format for newspaper readers. It isn’t easy to get the big picture here—and it certainly isn’t easy to get it into column-format for a paper. The frustration level is incredibly high—no one in authority will talk (the permanent “open investigation” excuse), others won’t speak on the record, editors and the legal staff have legitimate concerns limiting what can be put in print.
Jim Killeen is genuinely interested in producing a documentary on the case, but faces struggles getting the financial backing. M. William Phelps with the Investigative Discovery Channel did an hour-long show on this case which aired last year. Students from the University of Western Ontario’s Cold Case Society examined this case in all of its greatly-flawed glory.
Here’s the deal. Nobody likes a story that doesn’t have an ending. And cops and prosecutors love the “open investigation, can’t talk” line. Somebody way back when took care of this deal and was pretty goddamn smart about it. The killings stopped. The case will never be solved, therefore the file is permanently an open investigation so nobody can talk about it anyway. If someone comes forward with any information, paint the person as a emotionally overwrought relative of a dead kid, a drug addict, an alcoholic, a mentally unstable freak, or someone who just wants a piece of the case. Until recently nobody would touch the story because without comments from the cops there isn’t a full story and, furthermore, book editors don’t like stories without an ending. No ending means no inquiry. Nobody has to admit to fucking up. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
“[B]ut in the end truth will out.”
Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice