Would I Reflect on 3-16-77?

Ok, here you go.

On this night, 37 years ago, I saw my brother Tim alive for the last time.  The next time I would see him, over a week later, he was in a white coffin wearing a light blue tracksuit.  I had never seen a dead person before.  Nobody warned me what the deal would be.  Tim looked nothing like the kid I remembered.  He looked much bigger—probably because after the autopsy, he was pieced back together and stuffed with god knows what.  The make up on his face was really heavy in a failed attempt to cover a big bruise on his forehead.  When I touched his hand, I was shocked at how cold it was.  I pulled my hand back and shuddered.  It made me feel incredibly cold.

But the reader asked about March 16, 1977.  It was the last night my family had a “normal” life.  I was 17.  I’m now 54.  More importantly, Tim was 11.  He would be 48 today.  I don’t know what happened to him after 8 pm or so the night of 3/16/77.  I just know it was horrific.  I’ve always known that.  Even if he wasn’t raped and tortured constantly, he was held captive, against his will.  Away from his family.  He was dumped face-first in a ditch in Livonia, Michigan on March 22, 1977.  Hate to break it to you readers who think he was laid out in funereal fashion, like the killer(s) wanted some kind of absolution for what they had done.  Nope.  Dumped, helter-skelter.  Wait until you see the photo.  I don’t have it, but somebody does and I’ve seen it.  It’s not pretty.

And I knew from the second I got home in the early morning hours of March 17, 1977, that whatever was going on was totally and completely wrong and sick.  Do you really want to hear about the rest of this?  I don’t think you really do.  You can imagine it.  Life as we knew it was over.  Police living at our house 24/7 for a week.  Our phone line was tapped and recorded.  The day the cops left, after Tim was put in the ground, we got a new phone number.  My close friends and I still remember the old number—313-644-1539.  Hey, new start—good luck to you.  God’s speed and all of that.  Hopefully no more extortion calls.  Yes, we got a few, along with prank calls from people young and old.  Yeah, you were on tape, but I’m sure the B’ham PD and the MSP have long-since lost those tapes.  We all heard that shit, sitting around our little round kitchen table.  I was 17, but I felt like I was 45.

I didn’t realize until my oldest was a senior in high school how much my brother’s death fucked me up.  It was March of senior year; there was so much to look forward to.  Until I saw photos of some of the events from that spring in 1977, not much of it was in my data bank.  As I watched my son go through senior year, with our own personal family suffering in 2010, my heart broke doubly—mostly for him, but also for me.  Senior year went on for all my friends and I was like a washed-out image in the background.  Spring break, prom, senior celebration and god knows what else I missed.  I was 2,000 feet underwater, struggling to participate.  At graduation, a teacher who at the time was much younger than I am now and who was friends with my parents, told me he “better see me smile” when I crossed the stage to get my diploma.  This was one of literally hundreds of inappropriate things uttered to me over the years concerning my brother’s murder.  I smiled, of course, but I felt like telling him the truth:  I’m drunk, you asshole–and you have no idea what it will be like for me to walk across that stage with everyone knowing my name, who I am and what my family has gone through.  There was no graduation party.  My Mom gave me a ring that was unwrapped.  She said there was a story behind the ring and she would tell me later.  When I asked about it down the road, she couldn’t recall what that was.  When my house was burglarized in Naperville in 2006, the ring was stolen along with all of the rest of my jewelry in my house at the time.

As of early March, the only college I had visited was Marquette University.  I was accepted into the physical therapy program at M.U.  I had been accepted at other universities, including the physician’s assistant program at Emory in Atlanta.  There was no further discussion about where I would go, needless to say, after Tim was murdered.  I went to Marquette.  It was not my first choice, not by a long shot.  But that was the least of the shit on the table that spring, if you know what I mean.  It turned out ok—I ended up going to law school there after I graduated in 1981.   I knew if I didn’t make it there, I’d end up back in Birmingham, which was the last thing I wanted.  I can’t tell you how alone I felt in 1977 and 1978 at Marquette.  Those years, and actually the rest of my undergrad and law school, were the bleakest years of my life.

I feel like I have posted this stuff before, but I remember calling home and telling my Mom that I had been on a bus in Milwaukee and heard a little boy who sounded just like Tim.  I started crying.  She simply said:  “That’s going to happen.”  I never expressed myself that way again.  I would ultimately marry someone who had a similar sense of empathy.  So, uncleholmes, there it is in painful print.  Picture how awful all this shit is—and then multiply it by 1,000 and you will get as much of an idea as you want of how this went down.

My youngest is a senior this year.  I will again go through the strange feelings of happiness and great loss.   Although kids now seem so much older than we were during our senior year, I will just say this:  No one, no one, no matter what age, should have to go through this shit.  Life—and high school—is hard enough with out coming face-to-face with the kind of evil that creates this shit.  And that is NOTHING compared to what Tim, Kristine, Jill and Mark suffered.

So, there you go.  If you want more details about the evening of March 16, 1977, it is burned into my brain and I will give you more.

31 responses to “Would I Reflect on 3-16-77?”

  1. This case and your words are frequently on my mind, Catherine. I wish you and all the victims justice and peace, as distant as those ideas may sometimes seem. Please keep writing and posting.

  2. I sit here trying to think of the right words to say. There aren’t any. I cry with you.

  3. Cathy, my heart goes to you, your family and all of the families involved. I pray everyday that this case will be solved.

  4. My heart aches for you and the other family members of these four children. I pray for justice in this case.

    How does Charles Nels Busch sleep at night?

  5. Hi Kathy,
    Thank you for sharing. Yes, I would like to hear more, but if you don’t want to write it I understand. Why do I want to hear this stuff? I’m asking myself the same question. I want to know as much as I can about the tragedy and I’m not sure why. I want to know how it felt for the people who were there. I want to know how those people felt five years later, ten years later, how they feel today, and how they will feel tomorrow. I want to be aware of the full extent of the damage caused by the OCCK, though “full awareness” is never possible.

    As I read your words, I feel pain. Maybe this helps me to grow and to become a more compassionate person, a person who can help others with their grief. I’ve got struggles of my own–I have a child with extreme special needs, and as a result I’m pretty much housebound. It’s hard, and it’s not the life I pictured for myself. But I love my child, I will get through it, and I will be a better and stronger person for it.

    Again, thanks for sharing.

  6. Everyone who ever asks should read this. Thirty seven years or yesterday, this makes me sick, perhaps sicker now than when it happened because I am a parent and grandparent. That you were able to respond to Uncleholmes question on this day reaffirms (super-affirms?) my believe that you are one of the bravest people I know.

  7. As you probably have guessed, the murder of your brother and the murders of the other children are on my front burner and have been for a long time. I’m FURIOUS about it which makes me want to help, though I can offer little. But what I want to tell you is that you do need to stretch yourself and remember that there are other people who have had to struggle through egregious events: parental and sibling suicides, parental murder, the Holocaust, horrendous life events. Why mention this? Because I wish for you the ability to find inner peace, as much as possible, that you owe to yourself. You may say HA! to that but I bet Tim would want it for you. It is very hard to come by for people who have suffered so much but it is there, through spiritual discovery, connection to God, for some people. I can hear Tim agreeing with me!! You need to find some centered peace, which, BTW, will help you in the quest for truth and whatever else you want from this blog. I hope my advice hasn’t angered you.

  8. I was 16, and in my Junior year in high school when this happened to you. The very first thing I thought of when I read the article in the Grand Rapids Press about Tim’s abduction was what your family was going through. Those years were a scary time to be a teenage boy (especially the next year, when the John Gacy murders came to light). I can’t tell you how sorry I am for you and your family Cathy. I’m sure of the fact that people, being as imperfect as we are born to be, have said (and will say in the future) words that are “awkward” and very inappropriate in our stumbling, shambling way to express how we feel about your experience; an experience that nobody would ever truly want to endure, and very few people actually understand – and desperately attempt to “cheer you up” in the process. My heartfelt condolences to you and yours at this annual time of accented grief…the time of Tim’s abduction/captivity.

  9. Dear Cathy: I want you to post this.

    My heart just breaks reading this. I want to tell you that writing this is so utterly important so people can get a sense of how it is going through a horrific murder of one of your closest members of your family. You speak not only for yourself but those who can’t put these words on paper. You are writing the very words and feelings of my granddaughter who has to deal everyday with the same heartache because her dad was murdered when she was 15. Her pain is also still so great and it has totally ruined her life. She never graduated high school or accomplished much of anything because her pain has paralyzed her. Yes people say utterly stupid and inappropriate things to you. My so-called pastor saw me in a restaurant after a candlelight vigil we had for my stepson. He came right up to me and my friends and said “I saw your vigil on TV and am glad you got closure”. CLOSURE? My friends, dumbfounded just stared at me as I wanted so bad to scream at him. No one but those of us who must endure this, gets this torture of the aftermath that NEVER goes away and NEVER gets better! How does anyone expect closure from something like this? My prayers are with you. I am so very sorry.

    God bless you and your family.

    Jessie Kanehl


  10. I was good friends with your brother Mark at the time, and we lived not far away. I remember the horror of it all as if it was yesterday, can still taste the bile that those of us who knew your family felt on our lips. For all those years afterwards, your little brother Tim was the metaphor in our family for shattered innocence, for the worst nightmare that could befall a family, for the horribly cruel fates that await the most undeserving: “Remember Timmy King,” is shorthand for us for how absolutely horrific things can be for those who deserve it the least. I remember those days poignantly, remember Tim as he was alive and boylike, remember the pain and suffering so many of us endured with his loss, although none as sharply as his family. I will always remember him, always remember all of you in my prayers. Our family will never stop missing Tim and the time before his cruel death.

  11. Cathy, thank you so much for sharing what it was like the day Tim disappeared and what it was like all of the years after. It wasn’t easy for me to ask you about what it was like the day it happened. But at the same time it’s like there’s this mystery about this case that doesn’t seem to leave my mind and I just had to know.

    And I figured we’re all in this together on this blog. “You,” “me,” and “everyone else” who is connected or if not connected have a deep interest and care about the victims families and caring and eventually solving this case. So I figure why not let it all out on what it was like.

    I lived in the area and was two years older than Tim when this happened. I remember watching the local 5 or 6 pm news with my parents while this was going on and my dad describing how strange this killer was for a variety of reasons from bathing and keeping the victims clean to other stuff.

    I guess you can say I’m obsessed about the Oakland County Child Killer case. I still live in the area. I drive on Maple Road (15 mile road) and cross Woodward Ave 5-6 times a week to and from work. There’s not a day that I don’t look at the Kroger shopping Center where it happened and think back to the 1970’s when this was happening while listening to the 70’s station on sirius radio.

    And the same questions and thoughts keep going on in my head such as I bet the majority of people at that shopping center right now have no idea about what happened there in 1977. And how did this killer not get caught? How did no one see anything during the first three kidnappings? Nothing! And even when there was finally a description of the killer being seen with the fourth and last victim (Tim), it seemed to be vague.

    Thanks again Cathy for allowing us in your life on this blog. For I believe that “WE” is a lot more powerful than “I.” You don’t have to do this alone.


    • I hear you uncle…

      I am 5 yrs younger than tim.

      I grew up in oak park at 9 and scoica. (Spelling). Then late 78-79 moved in with my dad in southfield. I remember all the hystaria with the safe house signs and such. Dont walk alone etc. i worked at the berkley theatre as a teen and had drivers training in birmingham. I had to walk, bike and drive past all the abduction sites on a regular basis for most of my first 25-30 yrs of my life at one time or another.

      We will not every forget and we raise our kids based on our young childhood experiences. We taught our children at a very young age who to go to in case they were lost or followed. We told them to go into a business like a resturant and go to the person at the register with a name tag. If not able to go find a female with kids and stay with them. Tell them what is going on.

  12. Cathy god bless you and your family. Your pain just leaps off the screen, the same pain I’ve seen in your dad’s eyes so many times on television. I am unable to articulate anything that doesn’t seem inadequate.

    There is no making sense of this and there never will be. But keep digging. Keep pressing. Keep this alive. Because even though none of us can share the grief and horror you describe, I promise you that there are a lot of people who support and pray for your quest for justice. And in some much smaller way, we want what you want, we want this solved.

    I’m not sure what the force is, people have different names for it, but odd things happen in situations like this. The universe has a way of bringing truth to light, and I will hold out hope for as long as it takes that someday, somehow we will find the truth.

  13. I remember well the first six days after 3/16/77, and I can’t imagine how difficult those six days must have been for your family, let alone the past 37 years.

  14. Cathy,

    Thank you for sharing your painful memories. I think I speak for all of us here to say we wish you didn’t have to endure the painful events of that year. If we could take away your pain, we would. We stand by you and your family now and always.

    Incidentally, the youngest of my three sons is also graduating this year. I’ve often shared with my kids how scary it was growing up with the OCCK news in the background of our childhoods, and I wasn’t affected 1/1000 of what you and your family were. I’d like to think your brother Tim would want you to be happy for your son.

    Sending you much love and friendship.

  15. Cathy,

    I can’t even imagine what you and your family have gone through since that day. I was 10 years old that day and grew up nearby in Royal Oak. Tim’s face is burned into my memory, as are those of Kristine, Mark and the others. Every time I drive through Birmingham, which is quite often, I think of Tim and that Kroger and wish that I could have been his friend and been with him that day and that maybe I could have done something to save him. It could have easily been any of us who were taken. I know I spent a lot of time alone riding my bike or walking. It’s just the way things were done in those days. Innocence was taken from all of us. These murders affected a lot of us so deeply who were children at that time. Their deaths still haunt me to this day. Since I still live in the area I also often drive by the 7-11 in Berkley where Kristine was last seen and wonder how any of these abductions could have happened with nothing being seen or heard.

    I’ve been reading your posts and have come close to posting a response many times. I hate for you to have to go through the pain in a posting like this, and I’m sure the pain is there with you every day. You’re not alone, I just wish there was something I could do, though nothing I could do would ever bring Tim back. I think of all the things that I have been through over the last 37 years and all of the things that were taken from Tim and taken from you at that terrible time. He will forever remain 11 years old in my mind, but will never be forgotten by me and many others. I hope every day that we will find out what happened to these kids and who was responsible.

  16. No, there aren’t any comforting words that can even touch this horror for you. Just looking at the responses I do see a lot of caring people who wish they could erase it all. Hugs to you.

  17. Catherine, I know there have been questions about whether these children were killed on North Fox Island. I am doubting that, when I look at the dates of their disappearance. The winters can be harsh out on the islands, and I don’t think a pilot would want to land an airplane on North Fox, especially during January or February. My mother died February 7, 1977, on the mainland in site of the Fox Islands. I remember that we had a lot of snow at that time. I doubt the North Fox airstrip would have been in any shape for a landing. I think it would also have been a mushy landing in March, even if the snow was gone, which I don’t know if it was. I don’t recall how the weather was the previous December. In the 1950s and 60s our family had a lumber camp on South Fox. We had an airstrip there also, but it wasn’t used during winter. A caretaker was usually the only person there, and supplies were taken in by boat. My point is that even though Frank Shelden did some bad things on North Fox in other seasons, I think it’s highly unlikely he would have flown victims there during winter. The police may have already concluded this, I don’t know.

    • I agree, Kathleen. In 1976-77, the Detroit area had 45 consecutive days of sub-freezing temps, with an average January temp of 12.8 degrees. That’s why, on March 16, 1977, when it was 70 degrees, kids like Tim were running around Poppleton Park, the Adams School playground and skateboarding in the parking lot behind Hunter-Maple Pharmacy. I still say Shelden’s Fox Island group is somehow linked in a more “global” fashion to these murders–perhaps one of his clients was involved. Shelden and his ilk certainly made the investigation tougher because nobody wanted to touch people with money and/or power–not even to ask the tough questions that could have shed some light on the OCCK murders. And thank you for the information and articles you sent late last week. They are very interesting and I will be posting about them. Finally, thank you for your kind words posted on Monday.

  18. Through the years, I have read everything I could about this case. I was 12 years old growing up in Southfield at the time, and I like everyone else who has posted will never ever forget this time period. From everything I have read, I truly believe that Chris Busch was involved in some way but, like other posters on this blog, I have often wondered where the victims were held because, articles I have read said that the Busch family had a maid and other family members were living in his home at the time, im sure somebody would have seen something. Some of the articles I read recently mention a man by the name of John Hastings that lived 2 blocks from Chris Busch and he had a drive around garage in the back of the house. I know the Michigan State Police and the local police depts botched this case but, have the Poilce investigated this Hastings guy? From articles I recently read, he is still alive in the Atlanta area. Also, I will stick to my previous statement that the local News media does not do enough to highlight this case. Kevin Dietz, Heather Catallo and Marney Keenan mention this case once in awhile when there is nothing else to print or report on. If this case is ever to be solved, it needs to be constantly in the public eye. I realize that it brings back terrible memories but, we should also never forget it happened. Every day that the police don’t work on this case, every day that this case is not brought to the attention of the public is a waste. It has been almost 40 years. It has to be the biggest black mark on the Michigan State Police and local police departments. If this had occurred in any other state, I believe it would have been solved by now..

  19. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Alcala


    Have you looked into the simular matters of rodney alcala “the dating game killer” and the north fox island pedifyle ring. Same time period and same sick pray. Same lure too with taking photos as a lure. This would make a good thread post all by itself. I wonder if rodney has any time in michigan in his past.

  20. Hi Cathy,
    As a 1977 graduate of Seaholm I remember the events of that year. I think that you and I were in home room together, but we never spoke or interacted. I’ve been following your blog for about 18 months now. This post really put things in perspective for me. I didn’t think I would comment here, but this post, um, moved me. There can’t be more than a few hundred people in these united states that really understand what you and your family have been through. I am amazed at how you have been able to bring back memories, some good, and some bad, but I have followed every word, and some times I think I have felt your pain, and sometimes I know that I don’t understand, but your words never fail to take me back to the late ’70’s.
    Thanks for writing, even when you don’t feel like it. Thanks for sharing your feelings even when they are dark, negative, and troubled. You definitely shine a light on injustice, and how it can happen to any of us, regardless of where we grew up, or who are parents were, or knew. I am proud of you for still being here, sharing all of your feelings through this forum, and making us who are on the outside looking in, understand life just a little bit.

  21. Cathy,
    I hope you don’t mind me commenting, I found your blog via Marney.
    The day Tim was kidnapped and the following week are etched in my mind and my family’s and will be forever. I remember my Mother returning from your house, she had undergone a change, one that stayed with her. I hope in some way our Dad’s friendship and bond lessens the pain.
    I wish you peace…

  22. Finally able to get back into my blog and post. Been reading…great posts!

    I can feel the pain through your words like an echo in the wilderness. Mere photos of your father makes my heart break as his eyes say it all!

    The phone calls? Extortion? Did they identify themselves? Were they journalists? Or merely pornographers? Any records taken by the police?

    Cathy, I am curious…did anyone tail you around prior to and/or after Tim’s death?

  23. I stumbled upon this blog. I grew up in the 70s in this area. R.O. I was 9 years old at the time. I remember my mom’s fear warning/advising me to watch out. I remember the Gremlin car. That said, I want to thank you for posting what you experienced. It clarifies that there is Good and Evil in this world. We live with such relative values in the modern age that good and evil are dismissed as simplistic or the product of mental illness. But what you experienced was evil and you are angry and rightly so. Pure evil. (I feel the horror in what you write.) And those in authority are not up for the fight. They don’t understand what they are dealing with. I don’t know you, but want to thank you for reminding me that evil does exist. And conversely, that good exists. But I share your anger. And until justice is served, you are completely normal in your feelings. God bless.

  24. Cathy, Nothing I can say, except I’m so very sorry, and let you know though I never met Tim, I have never forgotten him, or the other children, and never will. I lived up the road from 15 and Woodward and experienced this terrifying time daily, as a seven year old, who knew the reality that kids could die, as my older brother had died a few years prior, unrelated to this. It was all very real. Made more real by the fact that I was closely followed myself at that time, and if not for a family friend in a car coming along at the right time, seeing what was happening, and chasing this car, I don’t even know. I remember watching the news, (we had to be told about this anyway, for our safety) and seeing your parent’s plea for Tim, and the horrific conclusion. Then, the uneasiness of never knowing who did this, and they were still out there. This has remained in the forefront of my mind and life, had a large impact, molded how I have raised my children, in being extra cautious, etc. It changed us, as a local society. As I have read and discovered over the years, the “truth” how this has all been handled, and what is now known, I feel betrayed and angry for you and your family, and the others, as well as a whole generation who experienced the terror, that quite possibly could have been somewhat spared. I guess I just want you to know there are still people who remember and care what has happened. I don’t know if that helps at all. I wish you as much peace as possible, and the answers you are seeking and deserve.

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