Murder will out, too.Posted: February 1, 2013
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.