The Gremlin is But a Footnote–October 2006; We didn’t ask for any of this you dogs.

In October 2006 my brothers and I went home to B’ham to bury my Mom’s ashes and Tim’s ashes together at a recently opened Veterans’ Cemetery where my Dad wants to be buried.  While I was there my Dad showed me and my two brothers a letter he had recently received from a long-retired detective/lt. who had worked on Tim’s case.  This guy apologized profusely in the letter for contacting my Dad but he explained that all the attempts he had made to have important information about a car involved in the crimes released to the public had been rebuffed by the MSP and the local press.  Because I had my eyes opened about this investigation seven months earlier by a childhood friend of my brother Chris, Judi Newtson Coltman, alarm bells went off immediately.  (I do wish I could just handle this in chronological order, but the LeMans information is at the forefront right now.) My Dad told me he had forwarded the letter to his close contact in the B’ham PD and had simply saved a copy to show us.  More alarm bells.  This same guy—a friend of mine, actually—had totally blown me off when I called earlier in the year with questions about my brother’s murder investigation after speaking with Judi Coltman.  I never, not once, asked a single cop to look me in the eye and update me on the status of this investigation over the previous 30-plus years.  His reaction instantly triggered alarm.  How dare you give me the “thank you for playing” response?!  We had known each other since I was 17.  It was the start of a string of betrayals that would define the next five years of my life.  Thanks for the warning, bub.

Here is a letter from me to my two brothers dated October 23, 2006.

October 23, 2006

Dear Chris & Mark,

Please find enclosed copies of the documents referred to by Jack K***** in our recent conference call.  I have reviewed them and offer the following observations and possible suggestions on how we might proceed.  Note that some of the documents are not dated.

A document dated September 7, 1978, and approved by Assistant District Commander Robert Robertson [MSP], indicates the following information was released.  A witness saw a shiny, small Pontiac or Buick near the scene where Mark Stebbin’s body was found.  A witness described a light blue 1967 Pontiac Tempest with primer spots on the left side on the shoulder of the road near the scene where Jill Robinson’s body was found.  “After hundreds of hours of research,” impressions in the snow by a car turning around at the scene where Kristine Mihelich’s body was found were determined to have been made by a 1964-1967 Pontiac Tempest or Buick Skylark [this information was later found to be twisted].  And of course, there was a witness who allegedly saw Tim talking to a man near the ubiquitous blue Gremlin.

An article in the Detroit Free Press the following day reported much of this information, and ended with Robertson’s request that anyone knowing of a person who had access to BOTH a blue Gremlin and a Pontiac Tempest or Buick Skylark call the task force.

Interestingly, measurements were not taken of the bumper impressions in the snowbanks at the Mihelich crime scene, rather, the impressions were photographed.  The crime scene was processed by the MSP crime lab.

Jack details in the enclosed documents how he and FBI Agent Mort Nickel worked with a photo interpreter, car manufacturers and engineers to determine that the car leaving the impressions in the snow banks was a 1971 or 1972 Pontiac LeMans with a V8 engine and a trailer hitch, with damage to the left rear end (as well as to the hitch).  I am not sure of the year of this discovery, but this information was for whatever reason, never made public.  At any rate, apparently the only information disseminated related to a Pontiac Tempest or Buick Skylark, and no mention was made of rear end damage.  Therefore, the information was inaccurate and incomplete.

It looks like there were two reports covering the LeMans.  First, Jack’s original report covering the initial reply from GM proving rounds.  A subsequent report was made after the photo interpreters calculated measurements and this information was checked with GM Headquarters.  (See letter to Mike Martindale.)

In February  2005 the Michigan State Police announced that they were renewing their efforts on the OCCK cases based on some undisclosed tips they had recently received.  All files were moved from wherever they sat to the Metro North post in Oak Park.  They apparently had a new, updated computer system.

In the fall of 2005, Sgt. Anger of the Berkley PD called Jack asking if he had copies of correspondence they had over the years about the Pontiac LeMans.  Jack sent him copies and Anger forwarded these to the MSP.  No doubt the thought was, with this new computer system [which I contend was obtained via grant to help solve this “cold case,” but was ultimately a windfall to the MSP], perhaps this information could be cross-referenced with suspects.

In December 2005 Jack contacted Sgt. Gray of the MSP, who stated that the information was too old, would generate too many useless leads, and would be embarrassing to release at this late date.

The enclosed documents indicate that neither the MSP nor the Birmingham PD could find the second report Jack submitted to the task force.  He contacted the Detroit Bureau of the FBI in an attempt to see if they had a report from SA Nickel on the vehicle measurements and the name of the photo interpreter [from the University of Michigan].  It does not appear from the documents that he has received any response from the FBI.

A little over a week ago we saw the letter from Jack to Dad, asking for any help he might be able to provide in getting the information about the LeMans to the public.  Dad forwarded everything to Don, who obviously is well aware of this information.  We cannot rely on Don for this one—he has to play ball with the MSP for the rest of his career and furthermore, he would have no ability to force the MSP to do or say anything.

Interestingly, it was Jack who suggested and took care of obtaining photos of the kids and submitting them to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Interpol to compare them with images in their child pornography data bases.  Although he is an investigator with the Center and therefore is aware of these data banks, I would think that as part of an open investigation, this should have been done already by someone actively working the case, especially if they were working the pornography angle with a number of suspects.

The other area of concern mentioned in these documents is DNA testing.  I recall reading something in the press about DNA analysis done on a hair in the past year or so.  A hair was found on Tim and apparently on Kristine as well.  Were both of these hairs tested?  Have modern day tests been run on Tim’s skateboard and other evidence?  Crime labs are notoriously back-logged—I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised to learn that although these tests are now available, very little has been tested in these decades-old cases.

Finally, there are issues of the possible assistance of an FBI profiler and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I will enclose information about Project Alert, which is the investigative arm of the Center.  One of the enclosed letters also details the services the Center can provide.  The biggest stumbling blocks in my opinion is that the MSP will not ask for help.  Both of these avenues of assistance involve the PRIMARY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY asking for help.  If the MSP don’t have the manpower to go through the tips on the LeMans, for instance, they should ask the Center for help on this.  It would be unbelievable if an FBI profiler has never looked at these cases (and I mean by going to the specific local police departments, not just relying on a bunch of files in a room in Oak Park).  They can dig up an entire farm looking for the bones of a dead guy [Jimmy Hoffa] who had ties to the mob, but they can’t run a profile on the Oakland County Child Killer?

If the MSP doesn’t have the time or money to deal with these issues, they should certainly ask for the other assistance that is out there.  As it stands, the MSP are the gatekeepers of all information in this “open” investigation.  Therefore, no need to confirm or deny anything.  And, speaking of useless leads, I find the information from incarcerated freaks trying to get a better prison placement to be useless.  This is not just information about any 1971 or 1972 Pontiac LeMans, but one with a V8 engine, trailer hitch and rear end damage.  A neighbor, relative or gas station attendant could have provided important information about the owner of a car like this.  Still could, although as the years go by, there are less people around to tell what they remember.

The next step is to consider bringing Dad into the loop into all of this.  He may not have the stomach for it, and that is understandable.  Following that, we may have to consider going to the media ourselves, as well as contacting the other families so they are not blindsided by anything in the press.  I certainly do not relish the idea of giving up what anonymity I have by going public, especially because it will affect my [now ex-]husband and kids.  But I cannot know this information and do nothing about it.

What is wrong with this picture?  What am I missing?  I just don’t get it.

Let’s talk after you get the chance to look at these documents.

[Signed, ckb]