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.”


18 Comments on “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

  1. Andrew Wellman says:

    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. bitamoney says:

    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. Truth Seeker says:

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

    Read his history here:
    http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Gary-Berthiaume/31779745

    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. Andrew Wellman says:

    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. Mike says:

    Heres a link to priests who had issues with minors in michigan.

    http://bishop-accountability.org/member/psearch.jsp

  6. CWW says:

    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

    http://www.alibris.com/booksearch.detail?invid=11648529293&keyword=oakland+county+child+killer&qsort=&page=1

    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.

    • Andrew Wellman says:

      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”.

      • Mike says:

        I have heard the nickname the babysitter all the way back into the early 80’s

      • cathybroad says:

        “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.

    • The Alibris link only shows “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” and “Portraits In The Snow.”

  7. bitamoneyey says:

    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.

    • kat822 says:

      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….

      • cathybroad says:

        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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • cathybroad says:

      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.


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