LeMans, Tempest, Skylark, Bonneville, Gremlin, Vega, God Knows What

After media coverage or a blog post, people contact me with helpful observations and questions.  They are questions I can’t answer and I know the cops won’t answer, so I don’t send any of it on any more.  Questions like:  Did Douglas Eugene Bennett, Richard Hojnaki, John McKinney, John Hastings, Dr. Danto, Chris Busch’s brothers, Greg Green or Ted Lamborgine drive a LeMans with a trailer hitch, or a Tempest?  Who else, besides Chris Flynn, drove a Skylark?  How could the FBI not have figured out –even in 1977–who was the owner of a 1973, blue/green Pontiac LeMans 2/door coupe with Michigan plates with the sequence 222?  Good questions, all of them.

Now-retired Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter boiled this car business down quite well in his multi-page article of June 17, 2012.  Here’s what the article said about the task force’s obsession with the blue Gremlin:

“The biggest frustration for Jack Kalbfleisch, retired Birmingham chief of detectives, was the task force’s fixation on the blue Gremlin to the exclusion of the car that Kalbfleisch and others said likely was used in the abductions—a 1971-72 Pontiac LeMans with a V8 engine.

Kalbfleisch said he and an FBI agent spent months figuring out what type of vehicle had backed into a snow bank and left an impression on the dead-end lane in Franklin where Kristine’s body was found.

With the help of a University of Michigan photo interpreter and GM, Kalbfleisch said they identified a LeMans, with damage to the driver’s rear side and a crooked trailer hitch.

A motorist spotted a LeMans creeping along the shoulder of I-75 north of Big Beaver in Troy the morning Jill’s body was found there/

Another driver said he saw a 1973 LeMans in a drug store parking lot around the time Timothy disappeared.  He said a suspicious looking older man was sitting in the car, while a young man was talking to a boy with an orange skateboard.

‘I’m still upset about it, Kablfleisch fumed last month.  He said the task force was hindered by preconceived notions and, to some degree, incompetence.

‘Had the story gotten out, somebody—a gas station attendant, mechanic or someone else—might have spotted that car,’ he said.

Timothy King’s older brother, Christopher King, now 51, and an editor of a roofing industry trade publication, said he repeatedly told police that when he went looking for his missing brother, the blue Gremlin was still sitting in the drugstore parking lot.  That should have ruled out the Gremlin, he said.

‘Every time the Gremlin comes up, it bothers me,’ Christopher King said.  ‘I think they just tuned me out because I was a kid.’”

As Jack told me, this car information will not solve the crime, but it could have been instrumental to narrowing in on a suspect.  Trust me, lots of suspects walked because they did not own or have access to a Gremlin.  At the same time this ruled out suspects who otherwise were very suspicious, driving a Gremlin made you a target for police.  Every Gremlin in Oakland County was probably pulled over—and more than once.  If any energy was spent tracking the LeMans with the 222 in the plate number, or a Buick Skylark or Pontiac Tempest, we will never know.

We do know now, after reading documents provided by the MSP as part of FOIA litigation, that evidence described as “Pontiac debris” was mentioned in reports.  A report on this car, no doubt the Pontiac Bonneville owned by long-imprisoned convicted pedophile Arch Sloan, was apparently not considered responsive to the FOIA request and sits in MSP and OCP files.  Anybody hear any mention in the press of a Bonneville possibly being related to these murders back in the day?  They searched the car so they knew make, model, color, year.  Maybe the cops didn’t want to “alert” anyone connected with the owner of the Bonneville just like they didn’t want to alert the owner of the LeMans Doug Wilson saw.  But they sure alerted every driver behind the wheel of a Gremlin.

It stands to reason that if the cops think more than one person is involved in these crimes, as FBI agents excitedly stated to witness Doug Wilson in the spring of 1977, more than one car may be involved.  The decisions not to release information back in the day when it could have made a bigger difference cannot be undone.  But what is the point of a cold case investigation 35 years later if investigators don’t take a new and unhindered view of the facts?  If it is just a matter of keeping the lid on Pandora’s box, that is a babysitting job, not an investigation.

Consider this:  Although retired Berkley PD Det. Ray Anger (working with the 2005 MSP task force) asked Jack K. for copies of any correspondence he might have on the LeMans information, once Jack sent it on, Anger never responded to him again.  Not his calls, not his letters.  And I have seen the letters.  Finally, MSP Det. Gray talked with Jack and said the LeMans information was not being released and that was final!  No one on this “rejuvenated” team was going to have some retired Birmingham lieutenant make suggestions; never mind that the guy had pulled all kinds of stuff together for them and was offering whatever help he could.  This man is also a trained investigator for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, something he pursued after retirement.  The other guys on the task force instead seemed to be pursuing retirement while being paid full-time to churn the OCCK file.  That’s how it looked to me at the time.

Everything in this case looks so, so bad, it would be almost comical were it not so horrifying.  When Jack K.’s suggestion to the 2005 task force is completely and ridiculously blown off, he contacts two Detroit area reporters to see if they can dig around and get this information in the press.  To my knowledge, Pat Murphy, long time reporter for the Birmingham Eccentric, never responds.  Detroit News crime beat reporter Mike Martindale speaks with Jack and they exchange correspondence.

Cops love beat reporters.  In this case, they have worked together for decades, they drink at the same places, and they rely on each other in a classic symbiotic relationship.  If the cops get thrown under the bus, guess who isn’t going to get another statement or story?  When police have to deal with a “rogue” reporter with a more global level of expertise, who does not owe the cops anything, they are most unhappy.  Especially in an expensive, failed investigation into the serial killing of little kids.

At least Martindale talked to Gray.  Gray sent him packing by showing him the first, more general report about the bumper impressions near Kris’ body.  This report doesn’t narrow down the make, model and year of the car with the kind of precision the second report.  Even after Jack points out to Martindale that Gray is clearly relying on only report #1 and not #2, the response apparently is:  Report #2?  What second report?  See, I told you this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Who knows, maybe someone from the FBI or high up the chain of command in the original task force “misfiled” this second report.  It wouldn’t be the first instance of sloppy filing in this case—a hair from my brothers’ body and mentioned in the autopsy report was only located a few years ago.  It had been MIA for decades and filed with “animal hair.”  Animal hair, facial hair, pubic hair—it’s all the same deal, right?

It Gets Weirder—Busch’s Blue Vega with a White Hockey Stripe–

Convicted pedophile Chris Busch was polygraphed in this case after the third known child victim was found in late January 1977.  He was polygraphed at the Flint post by a second-string polygrapher, Ralph Cabot and cleared of any involvement, as was his pedophile buddy Greg Green.  In late February 1977 Busch, Green and their then 18-year-old pal Douglas (I never saw these guys before in my life; we just wound up in the same holding tank) Eugene Bennett are arrested in Flint Michigan for sexual exploitation of between 30 and 75 boys.  Newspaper articles from February 20 and 22, 1977, state that Flint Police obtained a warrant against an unnamed fourth man allegedly involved in the crimes.  He was “reported to be out of state.”  I would love to know who #4 was.  Good luck with that, right?  Busch’s stash of child pornography is confiscated.  His daddy, a CFO for General Motors, springs him from the can immediately.  His bond, unlike that of Green and Bennett, is reduced from $75K to $1K.

So, he is for sure out on the street when my brother is abducted.  And I believe, although no one can seem to figure it out given the state of jail records, that Greg Green was out for a while, too, before he went to the big house for the rest of his life.  He tried to throw Busch under the bus but it didn’t stick and he got life in prison while his old pal money- bags got probation.

Guess what kind of car Busch drove then?  A blue Vega with a white hockey stripe.  Check out Vegas from the 1970’s and AMC Gremlins.  I realize the Gremlin was a very distinctive car, but there are a lot of similarities—especially when you add the white hockey stripe.  But I doubt anyone checks into any of that because, after all, Cabot has cleared Busch via polygraph and he gets the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free Card.

I have to think when MSP Sgts. Pierce and Davis (still living, but uncommunicative as you can imagine) are called by Bloomfield Township police to come to the “suicide” scene of Chris Busch on November 22, 1978 and are faced with a crime scene that practically screams out “child killer!” somebody at the MSP went back and took a gander at Busch’s file and saw his visit to the Flint polygrapher and said “oh fuck.”  They know he was cleared before my brother was abducted.  Then—this guy drove a blue Vega with a white hockey stripe; double fuck!!  That’s gonna be a problem.   But they get over it quickly.  No one needs to know, it doesn’t matter anyway—until things start to crumble in 2006.  Right, Larry (Loose Lips) Wasser?  Google the guy.  You will get the picture.

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