Last night WDIV/Local 4 Detroit aired a primetime special called “Child Killer,” examining the history of the Oakland County child killer case. You can access the special here:
The five-part docuseries is also available. Access this link and then scroll down and click on the individual chapters.
Thank you to Senior Producer Jeremy Allen and his staff, as well as to Investigative Reporter Kevin Dietz, for your obvious hard work. You didn’t go down any rabbit holes and you presented important parts of this story. The public needs to know. Hopefully someone comes forward and the tips are scrupulously investigated. I also thank all who participated by being interviewed. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for anybody. But there is something important about being honest about the past. That in itself is a tribute to the child victims who never had a voice in what happened to them or how the story has been told. The film from back in the day was extremely powerful. Don’t look away.
Tonight this segment aired on the 6 o’clock news on WDIV Channel 4-Detroit:
The courage it took for these two men to speak, on camera no less, about their victimization by Frank (Francis) Shelden and Jerry (Gerald) Richards is unbelievable. I’ve written about Frank Shelden and his cronies and the N. Fox Island “boys nature camp” a few times on my blog. See, for example, https://catherinebroad.blog/2013/03/12/north-fox-island-circa-1975-76/. Author M.F. Cribari discusses this and more in Portraits in the Snow: The Oakland County Child Killings . . . Scandals and Small Conspiracies (2011), https://www.amazon.com/Portraits-Snow-Killings-Scandals-Conspiracies/dp/1432768026. J. Reuben Appelman writes about it all in The Kill Jar, Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer (2018), https://www.amazon.com/Kill-Jar-Obsession-Detroits-Notorious/dp/1507204027/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=MWBZ9YZ9EA6DDP042NPK.
Every 98 seconds a person is sexually assaulted in this county. https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence. According to RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network), 1 in 10 children will be abused before their 18th birthday. They say 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports childhood sexual abuse before the age of 17 at closer to 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys. https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf.
According to the website Darkness to Light, End Childhood Sexual Abuse, “[c]hild sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences. https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf. According to this site, only about 38% of child victims disclose; some never, ever disclose. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to authorities. According to Child USA, studies show that the average age to disclose is 52, with the median age 48. https://www.childusa.org/sol/. According to Darkness to Light, there are at least 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the United States today.
That’s a lot of people carrying a tremendous amount of pain for many decades. Thank you to these two brave men for shining a light on the monsters out there who look normal but are anything but. Frank Shelden should have been writing checks to all of his victims via civil suits. In fact, I think his heirs should write big, fat checks to nonprofits like RAINN, Darkness to Light, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Child USA. You got more than blood money; you got horror money.
I am assuming there will be more of these interviews on tonight when WDIV airs the hour-long show about the child killings. Thanks again for your courage gentlemen.
Thank you, Kevin Dietz and Channel 4 Detroit, and thank you to all who participated in creating this series on the child killer case. Oakland County citizens–demand that these tips be adequately investigated. Local officials from the prosecutor’s office don’t get to just show their face on film and continue business as usual. Make sure these tips are investigated, keep the public apprised and don’t use this tip line as a garbage disposal and another reason for “no comment.”
This Wednesday, February 13, 2019, WDIV-Detroit Local 4 will premiere a primetime special: “Child Killer” — and a five-part digital docuseries of the same name — that follows “the heartbreaking and riveting true-crime story” about Michigan’s Oakland County child killer case that is still unsolved 40-plus years later.
The “Child Killer” special airs at 10 p.m. this Wednesday. The digital docuseries, available on ClickOnDetroit at 11 p.m., chronicles this case from February 1976 to the present. It is said to feature never seen before video and interviews from the crime scenes. I am grateful for the exposure of these cases and the chance to get people talking for real about these crimes. I am hopeful there is accurate information and not a recitation of the myths and fabrications that line the entire sordid history of the Oakland County child killer case.
Thank you to a reader for sending me the information about the date and time this show and docuseries will air.
A reader sent me this link of a YouTube video prepared by a video blogger about the Investigative Discovery show Children of the Snow. This woman understands the horror of the combination of rich, powerful men and pedophelia and child pornography. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kREQSncAK-c See working link in comment section.
Here we are more than four decades after the Oakland County child murders (and Frank Shelden’s N. Fox Island boys’ camp/house of horrors), and we get terrible current-day reminders of how men in powerful positions get to bend the rules after they sexually abuse and rape children. These are monsters and the people who protect them and cut deals are not much better.
Consider the “no prosecution” agreement that benefitted ultra-wealthy American financier, pedophile and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, overseen by then U.S. Attorney for Southern Florida (and now Trump’s labor secretary): https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/trump-cabinet-member-s-leniency-toward-sex-offender-stirs-outrage-1387897923761
In this segment on The Rachel Maddow Show, Marci Hamilton, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the shocking discrepancy between the nature of the sex crimes Epstein is accused of and the very light and unprecedented sentence he received in a deal overseen by Acosta. That “no prosecution” agreement sounds a lot like that nolle prosequi deal admitted admitted child rapist and abuser Chris Busch got from Oakland County. Nolle prosequi is a Latin phrase meaning “will no longer prosecute,” and amounts to a dismissal of charges by the prosecutor. Right, Dick (“No deals!) Thompson and L. Brooks Patterson? As Professor Hamilton points out, this is why children continue to be abused. If a kid crosses paths with a pedophile, god help him or her, but if it’s a rich pedophile, it’s almost always game over. Hamilton observes that failure to protect children is a failure across our culture, which makes the problems of children irrelevant and protects these men.
Hamilton is the founder and CEO of Child USA, whose mission is “to investigate, impact and inform the laws that should protect our children and their civil liberties to keep them safe from abuse.” https://www.childusa.org/
There was another recent reminder of how the Catholic Church has used its power and influence to protect pedophile priests at every turn. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/us/illinois-attorney-general-catholic-church-priest-abuse.html The Illinois attorney general found the Catholic Church in Illinois withheld the names of at least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors. The AG issued a scathing report accusing the church of failing victims of clergy sex abuse by failing to investigate their claims and/or finding lame reasons to dismiss the claims. The report tries to quantify the vast gap between the number of accusations made by victims who dared to contact the church and the number of accusations the church deemed credible.
This is further evidence that the church is utterly incapable of investigating itself and that kids will continue to be abused by priests. A powerful institution running defense for criminals at the expense of children’s safety and lives. Go back to the Child USA website and read about how statutes of limitations protect these freaks. First they take advantage of a child and then they use the passage of time in a situation where victims rarely speak up immediately after the abuse (if ever), to cover their own cowardly asses.
Conversely, consider this awesome use of energy and channeling of grief in the case of Sierah Joughin, 20, who was abducted and murdered in the summer of 2016 by a man who was previously convicted of abduction. http://www.sierahslaw.com/ Her family was the impetus behind Sierah’s Law, a proposal to create Ohio’s first geographically searchable registry of violent offenders. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/sierahs-law-database-of-violent-offenders-unanimously-passes-ohio-house-85-0
Another reader messaged me tonight and reminded me that truth is stranger than fiction. But fiction parallels truth. In the 2010 film Edge of Darkness, “Captain” Jedburgh describes how a case, especially one with political or influential overtones, can go unsolved.
“Jedburgh: Now, you know better than anyone, cases like these are never solved. They’re simply too complicated, too much hard work. There’s a lot going on out there in this world. And you can just never connect A to B.
Thomas Craven: How do you know that?
Jedburgh: Because I’m usually the guy that stops you connecting A to B. It’s part of what I do.”
Jedburgh’s explanation is very instructive in the OCCK case: “Anyone who looks at the rest of this is going to see something happened but no one’s going to be able to figure it out. That’s your objective; to make it so convoluted that anyone can have a theory, but no one’s got the facts.”
Michigan State Police Lt. Robertson closed his letter to my parents informing them that the task force would be shutting down in late 1978 without any answers with “godspeed.” I’m sure it was an earnest prayer for the arduous journey the living take after a death like this. But looking at where this thing has ended up, it just might as well have meant “you’re fucked.”
Here’s a trailer for a series on the Oakland County Child Killings coming up on Channel 4 in the Detroit area:
Don’t forget about Nina Innsted’s podcast, Don’t Talk to Strangers, which continues to examine nine child murders in Oakland County, Michigan, between January 1, 1976 and March 16, 1977, including the four linked to the OCCK.
J. Reuben Appelman, author of The Kill Jar, Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer, recently wrote an article for Medium called “What Victims Leave Behind,” (December 21, 2018, True Crime) about thinking outside of the box in these decades’ old cases. I can’t get the link to stick here, probably because Medium is a membership site. Google the above terms and check it out.
In the near future:
Other important projects will hopefully follow. Journalists, podcasters and authors are opening the discussion since law enforcement refuses. To my knowledge, and unlike other podcasts I’ve listened to and shows I have watched, law enforcement has not provided a tip line or asked the public for help in these cases in any of these endeavors. I receive a large number of pretty freaky emails with potential suspects. The problem is, I don’t have police powers. And as we have seen time and again, the sun, the moon and the stars have to line up just so for your tip to be taken seriously. But maybe these child victims will find some kind of voice in these projects. “Open case” isn’t going to fly well any more. I believe a number of people know who participated in these crimes. And more knew, but have since died. I hope that not only are the monsters involved in these crimes exposed, but also the people who knew and kept their mouths shut. May these projects shake something loose that can make a difference.