I think sometimes the Universe just decides enough is enough and it’s time for a crime to be solved. Stuff bubbles to the surface and then it continues to ooze out in spite of every roadblock—files lost over the years, missing evidence, budget problems, lack of team work, liars, corruption and ass-covering. There are signs along the way that keep saying “this won’t go away” and eventually they will not be ignored. And because I believe multiple people were involved in committing the crimes against these four kids and that a fair number of people who are still alive know or should have known what the deal is, that this stuff is going to ooze out with increasing intensity.
When you read the rest of this you will realize why even as of 3 years ago, it was impossible to describe what we knew had gone on in my brother’s case since 2006 in less than 90 minutes. And I mean 90 minutes of nonstop talking, with no questions. The few people I talked to about this had many questions—it is just so hard to tell this story because it has so many twists and turns.
Here’s something that still boggles my mind about what led up to that polygraph business I described in the previous entry. Cops don’t like these kind of extraneous details and the story is complicated enough to tell in the media without these details leading up to Patrick Coffey’s phone calls to my brother and me about what Larry Wasser told him at the 2006 polygraph conference in Las Vegas. But it’s details like this that are the signs I am talking about.
In early March 2006, two people contacted me with questions and information about my brother’s case. The common theme (which has been repeated many times since then) was that the cops blew them off repeatedly. The information bothered me and I searched online for any information about the case. I found a number of Internet forums discussing this case and the information was very disturbing.
A few days later I went to my Dad’s house in Birmingham to help him deal with my Mom’s remaining belongings. She had passed away many months earlier. While cleaning out a hall closet, I found three large boxes. One contained many newspapers and magazines covering my brother’s case and the OCCK crimes. The other two boxes contained hundreds and hundreds of sympathy cards sent after Tim was found murdered. My Mom had clearly saved those for us to read when we were ready. It was also clear that she didn’t want anybody reading or discussing any of it before she was gone. I was afraid these would get tossed in the garbage. I put them in the trunk of my car and read all of it over the course of the next few weeks.
There was one unavoidable conclusion after reading those articles spanning from 1977 to the early 1980’s. The case had been botched, in spite of the many hardworking and committed cops who broke their backs working on these four murders. I know forensic science has changed drastically since 1977, that the various suburban police departments were scrambling under the pressure of an unprecedented crime, that the MSP took over the case and started calling the shots, and that mistakes were unfortunately unavoidable in all the chaos. We all get that.
The post-1978 articles containing comments from task force officials on the unsolved status of the case are especially interesting. I thought about what I had read online and those news articles and I felt ill.
It prompted my call to a cop I know who worked on the case back in the day and who knows me well. He blew me off. Big time. He wasn’t rude—but his reaction was very off. The people who had come forward with information in the recent past were crazy and I shouldn’t listen to a word of it. This did nothing to reassure me.
I read the sympathy cards, which were amazingly poignant and kind. I don’t know how people found the words. Many were from people who did not know us, but who were obviously profoundly affected by Tim’s murder.
I struggled with what to do and who to consult. I ended up calling an old friend from Boise, Steve Wolf. Steve had been a police officer, police chief, private investigator and polygrapher, as well as a member of the Idaho Board of Corrections. His wife worked with my ex-husband. We were all in a wine tasting group and socialized together many times over the years. Steve had also helped me with a mock trial some of us were conducting at our kids’ school. The guy is kind, blunt and very smart. I trusted his judgment. I knew he would tell me if he thought I was nuts or if I was spinning my wheels.
I told him about my brother’s murder, my view of the current MSP cold case team, my reading of the mountain of press material, and some of the Internet chatter I had come across. He listened carefully and then said “Cathy, some of these people on the Internet may be crazy, but they may also be right.” He agreed to read the many articles, the Internet chatter, and my notes. Toward the end of the call he told me he was going to the national polygraph conference in July and that the MSP always sent representatives. Steve said he would chat them up and see if the MSP was following anything solid in this case.
I then told Steve that my old neighbor, Patrick Coffey, a polygrapher in California might be there and that he could give some additional perspective on the case as he was a friend of my brothers’ and had lived across the street from us in Birmingham. Steve was silent for a minute and then he said he had just spent two weeks teaching a polygraph course in Idaho with Pat Coffey. The man who was originally supposed to teach with Steve could not make it, and Pat filled in at the last minute.
I copied all of the articles, shipped them off to Steve, and expected we might talk in two months or so, after the conference.
Here’s what happened at the conference. As I have described, Patrick gave a presentation to the group. Larry Wasser, a 60-something polygrapher from Southfield, MI, was intrigued by the presentation and asked if Pat would be willing to come to Michigan to speak to a local group of polygraphers. This is where the world stops for a minute, Pat explains he became a polygrapher in part because his neighbor in Birmingham, Tim King, was murdered in 1977. Larry Wasser freaks because at some point after my brother was murdered, he had been retained to polygraph a pedophile who, during the prepolygraph interview revealed that he “had not done this one” (the rape of a girl), but that he had been involved in the OCCK murders. During the prepolygraph interview, the polygrapher has to get everything out on the table because other criminal activity not related to the current crime in question can cause the person’s answers to be read as deceptive. In other words, if you are on the line for a sex crime polygraph, all of the kinky stuff has to be out in the open with the examiner so the questions can be worded to avoid triggering a response to an unrelated incident.
Wasser, of course, denies all of this now, but I have read the FOIA documents detailing his interview by police in 2007, as well as a transcript of one of the interviews. More on that later. (Not to mention that little defamation case, right Larry?)
Later Steve Wolf arrived at the conference and called Patrick. He said they had a friend in common and that he wanted to talk about a murder case. This happened within less than two hours of the exchange with Larry Wasser. What are the odds of that? Steve didn’t know before I called him that I knew Patrick and Patrick didn’t know until that phone call that I knew Steve. As Patrick explained in an email to his family “I tried to imagine how Cathy must be feeling in hearing from such people [psychics and others] over the years all claiming to have the answer to Timmy’s death, when I in fact DID and had been carrying the same for hours in my heart. I determined that at that moment I was morally compelled to act,” and Patrick confided to Steve what had taken place with Wasser and then called his cousin to get my phone number as well as my brother’s number. He called my brother that night.
When Steve and then Patrick called me the next morning to tell me what had happened, the hair stood up on my arms. We strategized about how to proceed. Much later, after the Livonia detective had fully investigated this lead and the Wayne County prosecutor’s office had won the court battle with Wasser to get the name of the person in question, the other cops totally downplayed all of it. Not one of the current crop of Oakland County cops or the MSP would have acted on this lead—or gotten back with me one-way or the other. I have no respect for any of them.
Mistakes are a part of life and until October 2005, we fully believed that all of the police and officials were doing everything they could to solve the serial murders of these four kids. Some cases just don’t get solved. Others cannot be prosecuted. Again, we all get it. I actually felt sorry for the police. I cringe when I think of this now. When all of this was going on, my parents constantly said they couldn’t have asked for any better response. The police we came in contact with during the week my brother was missing and for many months after, all clearly felt terrible that Tim was not found alive and that there had not been an arrest. Police were working around the clock on the case and news articles talked about the level of exhaustion and frustration at these police departments. Why would I question what was going on at the MSP task force or at the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office? I trusted them completely.
It is the response—decades later!–to the inevitable mistakes that are made in large and chaotic investigations like this that I take issue with. There is no good reason why, at this incredibly late date, when no one had really done jack squat in this case in years other than keep the file cabinets locked, that the MSP, the OCP and others in Oakland County responded to victims’ family members’ inquiries the way they have. There are reasons—but they are utterly indefensible in the face of what was done to those four kids. I don’t know when this became a matter of which agency gets credit for “solving” the case, instead of being a voice for these four kids, but I suspect it was decades ago. Shame on all of you.
There have been other signs since this “coincidence” that I call Steve, who knows Pat, who runs into Wasser and then gets a call from Steve saying he needs to talk about a mutual friend’s case. What happened in Las Vegas didn’t stay in Las Vegas, as untold others have learned the hard way. Just like what happened in this investigation is not going to stay in those files. It’s going to keep oozing out.