“A harrowing examination of a headline-grabbing subject.” –Booklist.


Soon after Tim’s murder, author Theodore Weesner and one of his sons were in Birmingham, MI, for hockey playoffs.  He explains in Seacoastonline.com (Nov. 2007) that B’ham was in lockdown mode after the child killings (surprised?). 

It was such a powerful thing to have in the air I decided to write a novel on it. I was very moved by Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” …;. I came back, packed up, got an advance from my publisher and went and lived in Michigan. …; I worked with the state police …; and the task force …; researched and did interviews of the families and investigators. But they never caught the guy.

But I’d done a fair amount of writing. …; So I took the research and made a fiction …;with invented characters and moved it to Portsmouth.


Weesner moved his family to Oakland County and worked on the book.  His publisher, James H. Silberman of Summit Books, sent my parents a letter explaining that Weesner was under contract with Summit to “write a comprehensive account of the events which have taken place in the Oakland County cases.  He asked them to “[p]lease extend to him all possible courtesies and cooperation.”  After my Mom died in 2004, I found this and other letters in a box she had kept, along with newspaper articles about my brother’s case. 

I remember filling out a questionnaire Weesner had sent for each of Tim’s siblings.  Although I wouldn’t necessarily have said it this way back then, I do recall feeling some version of “how the fuck do you think I feel about all this, pal?”  To his credit, he did ask about our memories of Tim and positive things, but here is some guy asking me questions and he can’t even look me in the face and talk to me.  He just wants the material for his book.  I hope I threw it out, but I have this bad feeling I in fact filled it out and gave it to my Mom. 

The issue with all of these books supposedly has always been that because no one was ever arrested, there was no ending, so no publisher would touch it.  (Wussies.)   But by the time Weesner has finished his manuscript, documenting whatever it was he spent those years working on, he is no longer with Summit Books, the publisher that had given him the advance.  I am told the manuscript was over 500 pages. 

In 1987 Weesner’s now-fictionalized version of the crimes, The True Detective, is published by Avon Books.  The book, as these things always do, starts out with the notation:  “This is a work of imagination.  Places are named, but only to suggest reality.  None of the persons who appear in these pages is intended to represent anyone, living or dead.”  Imagination?  You got a pretty goddamn good jump start on the old imagination outline, I’d say. 

It’s been quite a while since I read this book and I am not going to reread it.  The book is about the abduction of one 12-year-old boy and the facts seem most parallel to Mark Stebbin’s story.  The killer is “[a] deeply disturbed college student, driven to an unspeakable act by a desperate need for love.”  One of my brothers reminded me that the suspect in this book also offs himself by jumping off a bridge. Yes, the killer, being chased by a detective, jumps off of a bridge and dies.  Just like the killer did in Parrott’s book, The Oakland County Child Killer

Anybody want to do a little research on bridge suicides in or around Michigan in 1977/1978? 



11 thoughts on ““A harrowing examination of a headline-grabbing subject.” –Booklist.”

  1. Yes! Do you remember how when law enforcement began busting up the huge porn ring back then, one of the “victims,” a college student, was said to have committed suicide supposedly because he didn’t want to testify? I think I may have a pretty good idea as to who it could be – unfortunately he’s got one of the most common last names and it’s been difficult to track him. I didn’t find a where a man with that name is buried in a Michigan cemetery, died at the age of 20 in I believe late 1977 or early 1978.

    1. That may be a young guy who Frank Shelden was “sponsoring”–I recall something like Shelden was paying for his college or something. He committed suicide–there is a mention in one of the Record-Eagle articles. I will check it out.

  2. I’ve not read any of these books, but I’m not sure what inference might be drawn from them. If the police had tipped Weesner off to Busch, or to a dead college student who jumped off of a bridge, he obviously would then have had a significantly more publishable non-fiction manuscript. But forming and dramatizing a theory that the murderer was a dead pedophile takes very little imagination. Part of the problem faced by investigators on this case, however, was that (a) the science of criminal profiling was relatively new in 1977, and (b) to this day, the known facts of these crimes defy any conventional understanding of serial killers and/or sexual homicide. Factor in the non-existence of DNA evidence back in 1977, and it becomes clearer that the investigation was facing far higher evidentiary hurdles than the possibility that one of the suspects had a rich daddy.

    When Dennis Rader was arrested in 2005, nobody outside the investigation had any advance warning–law enforcement was able to match semen left decades earlier at a crime scene to his daughter’s DNA–an ingenious, but entirely non-dramatic series of events involving creatively worded search warrants and lab testing. Conversely, Jerry Frank Townsend was released from a Florida prison in 2001 after serving 22 years for rape-murder–semen from the victims had been matched to a serial rapist named Eddie Lee Mosley. Police had, in fact, managed to get a confession from Townsend to the crimes–the problem is that Townsend is mentally retarded. (More to the point–there is ample evidence that detectives had provided Townsend with the proverbial “details only the killer would know”.)

    DNA was a game-changer. It is unclear to me at this exact second whether the current investigation has managed to obtain any of Chris Busch’s DNA, but prior to that breakthrough, serial killers that were caught bac in the 1970’s were typically caught in the act. Berkowitz–seen by a witness near the crime scene getting into a car with a parking ticket on the windshield. Gacy–identified by a witness as one of the last people a victim had been seen with. Wayne Williams–discovered by police moments after ostensibly throwing a victim’s remains from a bridge into the water. Ted Bundy–arrested multiple times out west, caught with all sorts of weapons and crime tools and trophies from his victims, yet escaped from jail and was not incarcerated for good until he went to Florida and left physical evidence on one of his victims.

    In other words, catching a serial killer in 1977 mostly meant catching that killer in the act–these crimes weren’t solved in laboratories. For whatever reason, and it is a question well worth answering, Chris Busch wasn’t placed under continual surveillance by police who were waiting for him to snatch a fifth victim. However, there is evidence that David Norberg was subjected to exactly that, to the extent that he finally wound up moving out to Wyoming. To a certain extent, I have to wonder if the biggest reason that Green and Busch were apparently discounted as suspects is simply because the cops thought that Norberg was their guy.

    I guess I’ve kind of gone off on a tangent here. My main point is that if one is attempting to write a fictionalized book about a real series of unsolved homicides, the idea then is to create a character with personal characteristics that fit the facts of the crimes. This will likely require altering the facts of the case in an effort to better tailor the crimes to that character. Criminal profilers don’t have the luxury of altering details of the case to fit their profiles, which is why these particular murders are so perplexing; there are significant factors that defy the criminology scholars. Also, criminal profiling is an inexact science–just ask Richard Jewell. Law enforcement, however–GOOD law enforcement–does not start out an investigation by identifying a suspect and then trying to tailor the case to fit that suspect. Good law enforcement starts with evidence. And in a lot of ways, this is where the case still leaves me baffled–there’s just not a lot of evidence, especially evidence that seems to connect Chris Busch to these crimes. In 2013, we’re told that the blue Gremlin was a false lead, yet some find it significant that Busch owned a blue Vega with a racing stripe. False lead, or not? Or both? Unfortunately, owning a car does not make one a serial killer. We have the famous suspect sketch from the Hunter-Maple Pharmacy, that frankly, doesn’t look a lot like Chris Busch. (It does look like Green, however–who was supposed to be in jail at the time.) What else? The dog hairs, found on all four victims–I still haven’t heard any theories as to which suspects owned a similar dog. Semen found in victims–assuming that this contains valid DNA evidence. Of all of the suspects in this case, how many of them have voluntarily or involuntarily made their DNA available to law enforcement? The semen would seem to be the smoking gun, and if this investigation ever results in an arrest, if that semen does not match the DNA of the defendant in this case, a jury conditioned by years of CSI episodes is likely to call that reasonable doubt.

    The bottom line is that I’m not trying to be argumentative, and I do find portrayals of the OCCK in pop culture–even exploitative and unsubstantial works–to be both interesting and worthy of review, but not much more than that. I would put forth that there were likely dozens of writers and journalists badgering the OCCK task force for some type of inside scoop, but it would appear that none of them got what they sought.

    1. A, your points are all valid and I have had this discussion many times with many people. Here’s the deal: my entire family understood and understands the changes in evidentiary forensics over the years and has not held the investigators from back in the day to a higher standard. I am not going to debate every angle of this case–I did it for a few years on another site. If suspects such as Busch and Green are easily dismissed, LE should tell us why. It bugs me to have to respond point-by-point to this stuff, so I don’t. My blog, my rules. I am blogging about my experience and my reactions to it. I don’t mind if you are argumentative, but give me a little credit. I don’t need a counterpoint to every angle of every post. I understand the contrary arguments, believe me.

      1. I understand. I’m not trying to be contrary, or argumentative–I’m just trying to understand what there is to understand about this case.

        Honestly, I really haven’t paid much attention for some of the online discussions of this case on message boards that pop up via Google, for no better reason than they just don’t make a lot of sense to me–often referring in shorthand to individuals and incidents apparently introduced in previous posts that I am unable to locate.

        I’m not asking you to respond point-by point. Somewhere on my laptop are wordfiles containing hundreds, maybe thousands of words that have poured out of me in the past month or so in which I have attempted to work through some of my thoughts as to the multitude of issues that this blog has raised. Again–the information you have provided is information that I personally have never encountered elsewhere. Much of what I’ve written I have not posted, but merely saved as a draft; this morning, having a little more time than usual, I sort of coughed up a synthesis of many of the things I have pondered in recent weeks–not so much in an attempt to engage in a dialogue, but in a compulsive attempt to organize and express a few of the many thoughts I’ve had in recent weeks.

        I suppose the discussion of writers and writing factored into my outburst as well. Believe me–I wish I could come up with a convincing scenario that explains these murders, but I cannot. This sounds stupid, I know, but back in 1977, I was an avid reader of those old Hardy Boys mysteries–at the age of nine, it drove me nuts that adults–the police–people who were presumably smarter than me–could not solve this particular mystery. All these years later, the truth suddenly seems tantalizingly close.

        I apologize if my coffee-fueled brainstorming was inappropriate, or insensitive, or seemed argumentative. That was not my intent.

    2. @Wellman-I wouldn’t take anything personal from this. All of your comments & questions are all valid points to her (Cathy). These are obvious roads that would all become a bit tiring if a person (especially a family member) had to continually go over with each & every person who wanted to bring rationale to this thing (OCCK). These are the kinds of questions that we need to ask in order to find answers & form opinions. This blog is very outlined from the beginning as to what it entails. I do not think that this blog was set up to receive comments, but early on the rules changed and she allowed comments to be posted. I think the fact that she responded to your post shows the amount of respect that she has for it, even if it is something not willing to get into at this time. Being an administrator of FB community pages that have close to a quarter of a million followers, I also understand what it means to have to explain “point by point” on certain issues. It isn’t that what you say or debate can be of a detrimental nature, but the discussion would most likely be a forum for every other person who wants to debate or argue for the sake of arguing. It is not you (trust me) that she isn’t willing to go down that road with but that it is a road already traveled & it only wastes more time on something that most likely is set as far as what she believes. I could not imagine many people who could go through this kind of an ordeal and be able to let people comment without getting sucked in to responding to all of the comments. The professionalism, detachment, and being able to have people comment on this blog are all admirable to me, and that is because I know that there is a purpose to it.

  3. It could merely be an analogy of the connect the DOT system of law enforcment. They operate it in my area. In fact, a guy in a Gremlin stalked me in late May of 2000. He came from behind near a transportation building and stayed along side me for a couple of miles and then disappeared. He had deep tinted windows in this old machine and resurfaced-I noticed at lunch-sitting a cross the street from where I was that day; a street that divides two miserable cities and houses the majority of miserable county officials and state and federal employees as well.

    I never saw him get out. I had other things to do. As far as I know he just sat there-all day perhaps- or he actually lived near where I was and it was a huge coincidence.

  4. As far as this author (Weesner) goes, I find it hard to believe that him or his publishing house ever had the real intention of writing a truthful account of the OCCK murders. Anyone who would be that alarmed because of a woman (Dagner) doing a bit of research for her website that is a lifelong obsession of hers (passion), not a money-making scheme as with his own book project (“True Detective”) is obviously a pretty heartless person who never cared a thing for these murdered children. This is another very disturbing post to me. Wasser & Weesner just might be friends.

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