Think I just pulled this out of my hat?
Jumping around a bit, the years between 1978 and 2005 pass with a few contacts between the police and my Dad. He handled them on his own. My Mom was mortally wounded when Tim was abducted and then murdered. My Dad kept her out of the loop because that’s how she wanted it. She really died in 1977, although she stuck around until 2004. She gladly talked about her memories of Tim, but discussion of the investigation and any cop business was off-limits. The only time I remember her talking about any of this was when she called me to warn me that she had given a blood sample to the cops right after MtDNA became an option. This DNA sequence is passed only through the mother and can be detected in some cases where the more accurate nuclear DNA is not an option. In other words, if your evidence is degraded to shit, it still may yield MtDNA evidence. She called me, warned me and told me not to worry about it, that it “was nothing.” It was one of the few times she was truly a mom to me after Tim died. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s the way it was. I totally get it now that I am a parent. I think my first-born was a baby then. She was worried I would freak. At some point when my baby was still quite young, my Dad told me about a lead on a guy who was not that much older than me who had graduated from a nearby Catholic high school, Brother Rice. Although I would not know it for almost a decade later, his name was John Hastings. My Dad discussed filing a civil action against this man to get him to talk. I told my Dad this guy sounded crazy and would simply take the 5th Amendment, making any civil proceeding worthless and a great cost to our family’s psyche. I told my Mom the next day while walking downstairs with my baby that I had nightmares all night long after that discussion.
Unfortunately, this meant no one ever talked about this freak again. When my kids were young, and especially when they were between 10 and 13, I was dialed into this horror completely. At the same time I was dialed in, I fought like hell to keep it from adversely affecting my family. I will never forget going to my son’s sixth grade conference and thinking “Jesus, if I could only tell you where I am right now.” But I didn’t. I figured I was long past all of this. And the point of the conference was where he was—which was not the best place. I could still weep when I think of that. I couldn’t articulate it because I felt like it would be used against both of us. Think the past isn’t a part of who we are and who are kids are? Think again.
I still wish someone could have hugged me and said this kind of shit doesn’t happen everywhere and that what happened In Oakland County, and the reaction to it, is an aberration and you have no reason to be ashamed and you are supported. But I am lucky because I did feel for many, many years after this that as bad as things had been, that’s how good they became (with props to the video Matilda, based on the book by R. Dahl, which I watched hundreds of times with my kids). I felt like moving to Idaho in 1984 saved my life. Literally. Little did I know I would return to the Midwest in 2005 (something I had always feared at some level) and this would coincide with the lid being pried off the cesspool of an investigation of my brother’s murder. It was time for a lot of loose ends to be tied up. And it would hurt a lot.
“Predatory crime does not merely victimize individuals, it impedes and, in the extreme case, even prevents the formation and maintenance of community.” Robert D. Keppel, Professor of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University.
Freedom of Information Act requests have yielded close to 4,000 pages of documents related to this case. We have also obtained documents and information through other channels. These documents substantiate the following:
On February 19, 1976, a witness saw a small Pontiac or Buick near the scene where the body of Mark Stebbins, age 12, was found. No color was given, but it was described as a shiny car.
On December 26, 1976, at around 3:30 a.m., a witness saw a dark colored Pontiac LeMans on the shoulder of I-75 near Troy, MI. The witness said that as he drove closer to the car, it started to move forward along the shoulder. He claimed that he had owned a similar car in the past and was certain it was a LeMans. He reported that the vehicle he saw had damage to the driver’s side and that the left taillight was broken. At daylight, the body of Jill Robinson, age 12, was found in this same area along I-75.
On January 21, 1977, the body of Kristine Mihelich, 10, was found 19 days after she had been abducted from a 7-11 store in Berkley, MI, on a secluded street in Franklin, MI. She, like Mark and Jill, had been held captive until being murdered shortly before being dumped on a roadside. The vehicle prints near her partially frozen body showed the car was traveling south on Bruce Lane. At the point where the driver could see houses in the distance, the car swerved to the left, striking the left snow bank. An imprint showed a coned shaped indentation in the snow. The car backed across the road, striking the other snow bank and leaving the impression of the rear of the car. The car completed the turn and parked adjacent to where Kris’ body was found.
The bumper impressions were ultimately determined (in 1978) to be from a 1971 or 1972 Pontiac LeMans with a V8 engine. The dog apparently ate Report No. 2, containing the most precise results, prepared after a photo interpreter calculated the measurements of the impressions within 1/16th of an inch of actual measurements. This report noted an exact year but since the report is MIA, we don’t know if it was a 1971 or 1972 LeMans. The closer evaluation of the photos by the interpreter also revealed that this car had a damaged trailer hitch that had been pulled over to the left/driver’s side. This second, much more detailed report was submitted to the OCCK task force commander in the early summer of 1978.
On or about April 1977, witness Doug Wilson is hypnotized by the FBI and recounts seeing my brother Tim skateboarding in the Hunter-Maple parking lot the evening of March 16, 1977, as well as seeing him talking to a 25-30-year-old man, and a 55-65-year-old freak sitting in a blue/green Pontiac LeMans watching all of this going on. He assists the FBI in the preparation of sketches of these two men The sketches are never made public. The LeMans is never mentioned in the press.
On September 7, 1978, task force Commander Robert Robertson issued a press release based in part on LeMans Report No. 2. Nowhere in the press release is a LeMans mentioned, rather it discusses a small, shiny Pontiac or Buick, a light blue 1967 Pontiac Tempest with primer spots on the left side, a 1964-67 Pontiac Tempest or Buick Skylark, and a blue Gremlin with a white hockey stripe. It concludes: “It is reasonable to believe that we are looking for a person that has intermediate size cars available to him and probably a blue Pontiac Tempest during the period of February, 1976, to January, 1977; but in March of 1977, he had a blue Gremlin available to him. We need your help.”
On November 14, 1978, Berkley Police Officer Chris Flynn, 41, was found shot to death in his 1973 Buick at around 12:40 a.m. in a church parking lot in Berkley. The cause of death was listed as “[s]elf-inflicting gunshot wounds.” Oakland County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas J. Petinga ruled the death a suicide. The wounds were to the chest, one right of midline and at an acute, downward angle. The second wound is slightly below and to the right of the first wound.
Two guns were found in Flynn’s car; Flynn’s gun and a 44-caliber gun registered to Berkley Officer Krussel. The gun belonging to Krussel was found on the floor of the car between the passenger seat and door. A report on the death states a bullet casing was taken from each gun but does not mention if these casings were tested for fingerprints. Furthermore, there are no results whatsoever on the lab worksheets for the nitrate test (gunshot residue on hands) or for latent prints on the guns. There is a report page for each test; there are no results and the pages do not appear to be redacted.
I have had two cops try to tell me Chris Flynn offed himself by using both guns at once, both pressed against the right side of his chest, one over the other. An ambidextrous, simultaneous gun firing. I realize people who are suicidal do things that don’t make sense, but this is truly odd. For my money, if I was trying to off myself, and was as good a shot as you would hope a cop is, I am going to shoot for the heart, or somewhere LEFT of midline. The under-the-chin method seems like a winner, too, if the person was serious about getting the job done. And then he lived long enough to toss the Krussel gun to the opposite side of the front seat area. He must have known he wouldn’t need a third shot.
The police report says a nun and a priest said they saw two people parked in a blue car parked in the same spot where Flynn was found at around 9:30 earlier that night. The police report also indicates that a Sgt. Itami turned the investigation over to Det./Sgt. Dave (I remember nothing about the death of Kristine Mihelich even though I attended her funeral and looked her parents in the eye and worked on the OCCK task force) Piche.
How did you manage to keep your name out of this Officer Cox? Especially since you live down the street from the church parking lot.
A law enforcement officer told my brother in the past year when asked directly by my brother that Chris Flynn’s name was turned into the task force. My brother’s recollection is that he was told Flynn’s name was turned in soon after Mark Stebbin’s murder. This all came up in the context of “how do you explain why so much surrounding this case looks so bad?” And–ok, what part of “On February 19, 1976, a witness observed a car near the scene where Mark Stebbins’ body was found. The car was described as a small Pontiac or Buick. No color could be given, but it was a shiny car,” doesn’t add up here?? That is a direct quote from a task force press release. Oh, and how about that nice shiny blue-green color that was an option back then? Jesus. Nobody connects any dots here, are you kidding me?! Obscure the facts AND the truth while you’re at it. It has worked thus far.
On November 22, 1978, four-time convicted pedophile Chris (I only do probation) Busch, whose name had been turned into the task force at least twice, is found dead in his parents’ Bloomfield Village home. He allegedly committed suicide, managing to shoot himself right between the eyes with a shotgun while tucked snuggly in his bed and without getting any gunshot residue on his hands. He had been rotting for some time when found, but no attempt was made to pinpoint the date/time of death, which was estimated to be 3-4 days earlier—within days of Chris Flynn’s alleged suicide on November 14. Suicide in 1977-1978 was more prevalent than child abduction and murder in 1976-1977 in Oakland County—for a change.
On December 15, 1978, the task force was shut down due to lack of funds. A letter to my parents from Commander Robertson ended with the following:
“But I want you to know that we will always continue to consider this file open until we have exhausted all avenues or until we do apprehend the person responsible.
The Task Force members will meet every two weeks for several months to make work assignments to the individual officers, to discuss new information, and to keep the unit in a ready state.
Obviously, we don’t feel the personal loss you do, but Timmy has been a great part of all of our lives during the last twenty months. I would like to thank everyone in your home for doing their best to help us do our jobs. So many times we bothered the family for an answer and you were always very gracious to us. Once again, from all of us at the Oakland County Task Force, good luck, and may God be with you.”