Today’s Detroit News:
An easy way to open a news article or clip about the developments in the OCCK case in the past few years has been some version of “after more than three decades, man never gives up on finding his son’s killer.” Like most easy leads, it is inaccurate or at best incomplete.
I bet my Dad has never given up over all these years, but I gave up a long time ago. And I’m not talking about actively giving up on law enforcement after the latest round of tips and the further exposure of the astonishing flaws in the investigation. I’m talking about never picking up the mantle of pursuing justice in this case. I was focused on putting one foot in front of the other, not on finding who murdered my brother; at some level I secretly hoped like hell the guy was never found. By the way, when I let myself think about the crime, I assumed it had to have been one man. How could more than one person know about these crimes and the information not bubble to the surface? If two people knew, more people knew. Who on earth could keep their mouth shut if they knew or suspected someone was involved in the abduction, torture, and murder of little kids? It turns out quite a few people could and did.
Anyway, it was just easier for this to be a faceless, nameless monster. We were so conditioned to support law enforcement that, while it was clear even to a 17-year-old that some huge investigative gap had occurred to allow a serial killer of children to keep picking off kids in the glorious suburbs of the Motor City, I believed police had done everything they could (and they probably did). Some crimes–many, it turns out–are never solved. Remember Tim and the good times. Don’t let this monster get another piece of you. As best you can, live your life to honor the memory of your brother. Don’t focus on the last week of his life.
I moved to Idaho right after law school in 1981 and felt like I had found home—the place I was supposed to be. I had a one-year contract but I signed up for the bar exam there that summer and 1 year turned into 23. This is no understatement: It saved my life. I loved it there and never did I think I would return to the Midwest. Like the easy lead I described above, it sounded good but it wasn’t the way it went. I’ve been over some of this stuff before, but let me fill in a few gaps.
We wound up back here in the summer of 2005. I didn’t know that four months earlier the Michigan State Police had publicly reactivated/rejuvenated/whatever-ed the OCCK investigation after the Livonia Police Department had developed a lead on an old pedophile—Ted Lamborgine. When public announcements were made in early 2006 about Lamborgine, my brother in the Detroit area was kind enough to give me a heads-up because there was a chance the media in the Chicago area would pick this up and he didn’t want me blindsided.
I read the news online. I searched the Internet and learned the OCCK crimes were the subject of a lot of Internet chatter. One woman had a site entirely devoted to the crimes. What I read opened a can of worms I sometimes wish I left on the shelf. Her story and that of quite a few of her readers who commented had one disturbing theme—they went to police with information and very clearly got blown off in a big way. This stuff is kind of crazy, so the people who come forward and are the slightest bit insistent, can easily be painted by police as crazy. I now know the feeling. But even if it was just one crazy person, a person can be “crazy” and still be right. If the police were urging people to come forward with information, why were they summarily dismissed and then hassled if they did not then back off?
Skipping many details here, in March 2006 I received a letter from a friend of my brother who lives in the Detroit area. I will try to get her permission to post the letter. She long ago married the brother of one of Tim’s best friends. What she told me about a tip her now deceased mother-in-law tried in vain to give to police the day after Tim was abducted hit me over the head. Of course police could do nothing now with the information she had provided, but how it was handled back then spoke volumes about why these crimes remain unsolved and continue to be the crimes that keep on giving, revictimizing families and the entire community at almost every turn. This woman continued to reach out to police over the decades, calling in each time there was an announcement of a “rejuvenation” of the MSP OCCK task force (sounds promising, right?!). It haunted her for the rest of her life.
You know that feeling when realization creeps over you and causes a physical reaction? The muscles in your face relax entirely for a minute, your shoulders drop and then a tingling sensation goes from your face to your stomach, followed by a big sigh then by shortness of breath? It was one of those. This whole thing was seriously fucked up and there was no going back.
What happens from March 2006 is where this part of the story starts for me. For a second time, life as I knew it was over. I was back in the Midwest and a part of me always was afraid of moving back here. No one could have predicted what would unfold over the next few years. Some days I still don’t believe it myself.