Truth is stranger than fiction.

Did you know that six works of fiction based on these abductions and murders have been published since 1980?  One weak nonfiction book was published in 1984.  More on that later.

The first of these books was Angel in the Snow, (Pocket Books, January 1980) by Patricia Welles.  Welles wrote Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice in 1969, and the themes were infidelity and wife-swapping.  The book was the basis of screenplay for a popular movie with the same name.  In Angel, victim number five was a little girl who escaped.  The abductors/killers were an older businessman and his younger male partner.  Welles gives thanks in the opening pages to “the Birmingham Police Department, Birmingham, Michigan, for the help they gave me in the writing of this novel—both in the opinions and the fantasy offered.”  Umm—right, ok.

The second was The Oakland County Child Killer, by “Michael L. Parrott” (Harlo Press, March 1980).  A “work of fiction based on a factual series of child murders that took place during the winter of 1977 in the quiet, northern suburbs of Detroit, “ written from the perspective of psychiatrist “Dr. Elliot Denton.”   The book is dedicated to Lisa, “who taught me to see.”

Parrott is clearly a pen name, based on my research.  Harlo Press is long out-of-business.  I believe the book was written by the late Dr. Bruce L. Danto, a psychiatrist who insinuated himself into the OCCK investigation, spent a lot of time and energy on the case, and for all I know was Chris Busch’s psychiatrist.  Danto wrote other nonfiction books and contributed to many other published works.

We know from police records that Chris Busch was living at his parents’ home in Bloomfield Village, MI, to be close to his probation officer and psychiatrist.  Danto’s daughter, Lisa, who went to the same high school my brothers and I did, sustained a serious spinal cord injury in 1978 or 1979 and I believe she fully recovered.

This book, long out-of-print, is kind of a mindblower.  Aside from paralleling the experience of Dr. Danto, down to taped phone messages from a man allegedly connected to the murders, it ends with freaky parallels not yet apparent in 1980.  First of all, cops get a pedophile loser they think is the OCCK to essentially confess to involvement in the murders after getting him wasted in his car while they are questioning him.  After the suspect passes out, they then exit his car, connect a rubber hose to the exhaust pipe of his car and asphyxiate him.  They remove the hose and drive away in their patrol car.

One of the cops asks if they are just going to leave the guy there.

“In a day or two, we’ll send a scout car out in the area and they’ll stumble across him,’ [responds the lieutenant].  “’Aren’t you going to announce that the child killer . . . .’

‘Hell no Shultz,’ said Bowers.  ‘Do you realize what we’ve just done?  The last thing we need is every newspaper in town digging around into what happened.  This way it’s nice and clean.  Just another suicide that nobody gives a shit about.  There won’t be any more killings and the public will just forget about it.  Like always.’

‘What about the Task Force?’

‘We go on just as we have been for a month or two.  Then one day when everybody starts to forget, and believe me, it won’t take long, we announce that the Task Force is costing taxpayers too much money.  No more kids will be missing.  Nobody will care.  And that’s the end of it.’”

Turns out, in this story, that the guy the cops offed is not the real killer, just someone who seemed like the real deal.  The real killer is a Catholic priest, who kills his first three victims—a boy and two girls, and then lets his final victim—Joey—leave unharmed.  Joey tells everyone he just ran away for a few days.  While Joey is missing, the priest’s photograph collection is being showcased at a local art gallery.  At some point the priest leaves an anonymous message on the shrink’s phone essentially blaming his parents for how he turned out.  The priest commits suicide by jumping off the Ambassador Bridge and the shrink, of course, has it all figured out.  He says nothing, believing it is in Joey’s best interest to keep it all quiet.

Pretty interesting work of fiction, Mr. Parrott, “a graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit. He currently earns a living as a writer, photographer and film producer.  The Oakland County Child Killer is his first novel.”

23 thoughts on “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

  1. The idea that Danto may have written this novel is interesting–some thought there might have been a connection between Danto and the fact that the street where Kristine Mihelich was found was Bruce Lane.

    What puzzles me is that if Danto suspected Busch was the killer, why did he keep it to himself? And if Danto wrote this novel, and if he did so suspecting Busch was the killer–yet wishing to keep that knowledge to himself–why did he still write the book?

    In other words, the idea that Danto wrote the boos is more plausible to me than the idea that Danto either knew Busch, or suspected he was the killer, yet told nobody.

  2. I’ve read Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, which would be the 3rd book. I thought it was weak. Amazon has no copies of The Oakland County Child Killer by Parrott. I think it would be helpful to excerpt it here on this blog. It might awaken some memories and provoke some people to come forward.

  3. His name was Fr. Gary Berthiamume, an asst pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows at the time..

    Read his history here:

    However, he was 35 years old at the time and only has had a history for abusing boys. Also, didn’t the autopsy reports show the boys were assaulted with an object, post-mortem? If true, I don’t think the killer was a sexual predator.

  4. I’ve done a little bit more digging–Michael Parrott appears to be a real person–or at least one with a paper trail. According to a copyright search, “Parrott, Michael L., 1951- ” has registered for five copyrights, including the novel discussed above; the other titles are “Oakland County child-killer : original story and screenplay : first draft, June 24, 1979 / by Michael L. Parrott”, “Tails you lose : a novel / by Michael L. Parrott”, “What do you say when the baby is stillborn? : An original screenplay : fourth draft, Nov. 11, 1981 / by Michael L. Parrott” and “Dream team : original story and screenplay / by Lisa Carrato Parrott and Michael L. Parrott. ” Lisa Carrato Parrott is the registered agent for “SCREEN INVESTMENTS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP”, a domestic limited partnership registered in 1990 with a Grosse Pointe Woods address. Michael Louis Parrott (b. 1951) once used that same Grosse Pointe street address; public records also indicate more recent addresses in Harper Woods and St. Claire Shores.

  5. Oakland County Child Killer – Softcover (2012)

    by Jesse Russel, Ronald Cohn

    ISBN-13: 9785513843573
    ISBN: 5513843579
    Publisher: VSD

    Description: New. High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles!
    The Oakland County Child Killer was an unidentified serial killer responsible for
    the murders of four or more children in Oakland County, Michigan, United States in 1976
    and 1977. The killer was also nicknamed “The Babysitter”, as all four victims had been
    recently bathed. This book was created using print-on-demand technology.

    Seller information: Human Touch Publishing, Key Biscayne, FL, USA

    Here is something I ran across today while trying to find a copy of Parrott’s book. I don’t know how many pages in this, but it also looks weak.

    1. This might just be me, but I don’t ever recall encountering the nickname “The Babysitter” being used by any of the Detroit media outlets–I believe that the first time I ever heard that nickname was within the past ten years or so, and probably via Wikipedia. Back in the 1970’s, Channels 2, 4, 7, the News and Free Press, all exclusively referred to the case as “The Oakland County Child Killer”, never “The Babysitter”.

        1. “Babysitter” goes back quite a ways. I believe this moniker was fueled by the shit the police tossed out there: the kids weighed essentially the same when they were weighed at autopsy as when they were abducted–meaning they actually ate food while held captive; their clothing was not bloody or overly-dirty (but until Tim, I believe the clothing was not pristine–simply indicative of the fact that the kids did not wear this clothing during captivity). Kristine’s pants still had salt stains on them from walking in the snow/slush. All they knew about Mark was that his clothing was not as bloody and given his head wound, it should have been. Jill’s clothing–who knows. The Troy PD fucked that one up totally. Tim’s clothing–may have been cleaned, given the fact that by this time these bastards knew every then-known forensic step would be taken (hence his clipped nails), but the stuff about clothing being pressed is, I believe, complete bullshit. I read Tim’s autopsy. And most of Werner Spitz’s autopsy notes. These were not babysitters. That’s what the police wanted the public to believe–that these kids were well-cared for and then quickly suffocated and then raped. Sorry. Not buying it. They fed these kids to keep them alive. The boys were raped while alive. These kids were not well-treated. They were tortured by virtue of the fact that they were held captive and subjected to god knows what. “The babysitter”–really? Let me post Tim’s autopsy and you will see nothing could be farther from the truth.

  6. I tried to find those books on Amazon without success but Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is these and a new one I was unaware of, Snowman’s Children, by Glen Hirshberg.

    1. Glen’s book Snowman’s Children is a great book. I love Glen’s writing style, he’s definately a very talented writer. I’ve been in contact with him a few times as I know he is haunted by these events from our childhood. I told him about your blog Cathy and he said he stayed up late one night reading every post….

      1. Kat, because I know two people who know Glen and tell me he is a good guy, I will go ahead and post your plug for his book. I thought the book was well-written and what he posted some years back about his experience at a book signing was very interesting. It is clear he was deeply affected by the crimes and it comes through in his writing. I’ve heard rumors he is writing or contemplating writing a nonfiction book about the case.

  7. I find it odd the author should choose the name “Parrot” in lieu of the aviary type idiocy once used-and connected to-the auto industry. Perhaps a liberal arts student who injected him/herself into the case-even promoting the Danto guy and his gay bar undercover operation.
    Wonder if this dude owns a shotgun? What did he drive during his college days?

    Since your brother was found in another county, they’d need someone else to fact-find, wouldn’t they?

    Of course, the child porn industry in the area must have been growing and becoming lucrative…they’d need a photographer and advertiser. Someone to market their wares abroad.

  8. I cannot believe how many fictionalized books are written on this tragedy. Something is not right about this. Maybe it is just becuse I do not read fiction, but it just seems so disrespectful to the victims to publish books with the intent of making some money off of it. Why else would someone write fiction account of these tragedies? At least with writing the truthful account of the OCCK victims, a writer would be getting paid to do research that helps educate more people about the tragedy. Fantasy is something that only promotes more fantasy. “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” tells the story from the OCCK Task Force perspective, “Portraits In The Snow” tells it from the “conspiracy & scandal” perspective. Fantasy tells it from no perspective because it isn’t even a real account. Please understand that am not putting any person diwn who reads fiction. I just think that whole premise of marketing & selling a book that “exploits” this tragedy in leu of what happened to these children is truly astonishing. If were to write this book myself, then it would be about the victim’s in the last few days of their lives, their families tragic waiting until recovery, the community tension & media accounts during the years 1976-1978. (Another book should be written about all of the twists & turns in the investigation, the cover-ups, and all of the ordeals family members have had to deal with over these years, but since it is ongoing to this day it wouldn’t do justice other than reveal frustrations that are ongoing). This book can be written if a writer was interested in learning about Mark, Jill, Kristine, & Tim from the families perspective, and if they could get each of the families to tell their story to that writer. This is what would do justice for these victims, their families, and the people who lived in Oakland County in the mid-1970’s.

    1. Why so many fictionalized versions? These crimes are the best writer’s prompt ever. Like I said; you couldn’t make this shit up if you tried. There it is, all on a silver platter. More later.

      1. Just reread your post, oaklandjustice. I agree. It’s one thing to open the door to potential leads in the wake of a nonfiction book or media coverage. Otherwise–utterly disrespectful. And, keeping in mind that many authors make very little per book sold, I would point out that the author gets to add a notch in their “author” status, regardless of money made. No need to comply with publisher or publisher’s lawyers requests for back up and verification. Just free-range, write “what you know.” Responses defending such authorship will not be posted, just so you know.

        How about a commensurate donation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to ease your consciences, if you have one.

  9. I am Lisa Danto, Dr. Bruce Danto’s daughter, and almost all statements above about us are absolutely untrue, except that my father was asked to serve on the task force (not insinuated in), and, I did go to school with one of the child victim’s brothers. My dad did not write a book about it, maybe articles only. I don’t know who you are, but maybe write what is true instead…

    1. Lisa, a smart person like you–a Flex Student at Seaholm, no less, could have easily figured out from my post (or by reading the opening page of my blog) who I am. My maiden name is King, I am Tim’s sister. In my post I stated I BELIEVED the book The Oakland County Child Killer was in fact penned by your father. Another poster found information to the contrary and it is posted above. The book so closely paralleled your father’s involvement, but it looks like Michael Parrott, like many authors since, capitalized on a most amazing and disturbing case in order to write a fiction book. Although your father was asked to participate in the investigation of Mark Stebbin’s murder, his involvement in my opinion (and that of detectives I spoke to a decade ago), did rise to the level of insinuation as the investigation progressed to the task force stage. His involvement was, if nothing else, extremely interesting. I left a lot out. His involvement was not the focus of my post–my focus was the books written on the OCCK case, all but two to date were fictionalized accounts. In no way do I demean your father in my post and as I point out again now–I was speculating about the possibility he authored the Parrott book. As I also stated in my post, your father was the author of many articles and books, including The Human Side of Homicide (Columbia University Press, New York 1982). He was one of three editors and he authored four very valuable chapters. I will quote from two chapters below. Dr. Danto’s observations are interesting and as relevant today as they were in 1982.

      From Chapter 1, A Psychiatric View of Those Who Kill:

      “Among murderers who kill children none seem to be more feared than equal molesters of children who are strangers to them. In my experience, child molesters rarely kill. In fact, they show violence toward their child victims in less than 3 percent of all reported molestings. However, the murder of a molested child generates tremendous anxiety in the community. The molester who kills is a person who homicidal direction involves some interesting background. Many who become psychotic and subsequently kill are individuals who have been reared in a home atmosphere in which they have been a victim of homosexual assault by their fathers. Frequently, they commit a burglary before they abduct, molest and kill a child. Not infrequently, they kill a child as a way of striking back at the adult world. In this way, they deprive another parent, who represents a transference object, of a child to satisfy resentment they felt for being deprived of parents. Thus, the unconscious target is one or more parents who are survivor victims of homicide.” (Page 11.)

      From Chapter 5, Survivors of Homicide, The Unseen Victims:

      Dr. Danto speaks of survivorship in terms of relatives/those emotionally involved with either the victim or the killer. “It would be short-sighted to define such victimhood merely from the standpoint of loss of a loved one or from anger and hurt at being viewed as an extension of a killer. Other things happen to survivors of homicide. They become victimized by police, staff at the medical examiner’s office, the media, officers of the court, or socially significant persons. It is necessary to explore these areas as well to gain a better understanding of the magnitude of this type of survivorship. Police work, especially homicide investigation, can be very stressful for police officers as well as victims. . . .

      If a particular homicide is followed by another or a series of them, then a new source of pressure on the homicide detective appears. The press and politicians raise public questions abut the competency of the homicide division. Complementing this pressure is that which comes from his own feelings of impotence and demoralization. This type of pressure was graphically illustrated in the Child Killer Task Force in Oakland County (Michigan), where the killer or killers of four children have not been caught, despite an intensive three-year manhunt.

      Some homicide investigators, like other police officers, may feel that the only people who can understand the nature of their pressures and work are other policemen. Soon they may find themselves unable to communicate socially with non police persons. This becomes significant in viewing the homicide survivor, as he too is a non-police person.” (Pages 90-91.)

      Dr. Danto discusses the involvement of the media, who “frequently become hardened, much like vultures who descend upon the remains of a decomposing corpse.” (Page 92.) He observed that often “the entire focus is on “Dirty Harry” or Kojack–their roughness and toughness and idiosyncrasies. Nothing is mentioned about survivors of homicide (unless a policeman is killed, in which case you might see a 10-second scene depicting the grief of his widow or his buddies on the force). The next effect of such media coverage of homicide is to deny the reality of loss to the survivors of the deceased as well as the killer, to glorify and exploit violence, and to cast people in the roles of good guy and bad guy. Although the media have been presented with a marvelous educational opportunity to educate people about problems encountered by survivors of homicide, their cries go unheard; and the public remains ignorant and insensitive to their plight. For the media, homicide appears to remain a target area for exploitation and fascination rather than as a source for meaningful information.” (Page 93.)

      The chapter concludes with: “What is glaringly apparent is that nothing has been done to help these persons. Occasionally, a survivor shows up for psychotherapy. It is hoped that this discussion and proposal will encourage the creation and support of programs for persons whose human needs have been ignored for centuries. Once such programs are developed, it should be possible to determine effective ways of helping the survivors and should also provide a way in which significant research data can be collected.” (Page 97)

      Keeping in mind the book was published in 1982, it is still very relevant. Lisa Danto, if you have a problem with me, contact me at

    1. I remember seeing a list of priests from the area who had died during the relevant time period. It didn’t list cause of death. This was not a FOIA document, but a document sent to my Dad at some point.

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