Forty-three years ago today, at around this time, my family had about two hours left of life as we knew it. Tim had even less. He would be abducted some time around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, 1977. He would spend the next 144 hours with his captors and tormentors, terrified and having unspeakable things done to him. His fate would become that of Mark Stebbins, Jill Robinson, and Kristine Mihelich, also captives held by these monsters then discarded on roadsides (these three in Oakland County), like garbage.
This year, I want to give you some sense of who Tim was and the magnitude of the loss. Last year I was too hostile to share such personal details, but this year I don’t really care. There is nothing left to lose. I will have a lot to say this week (while social distancing) but for today, let the focus be on who Tim was. I have posted some of these photos and pages before.
This is Tim’s last school photo. The photos in the newspapers when he was missing (this was pre-Adam Walsh, so no milk cartons yet) were this larger one and another from fifth grade (because that photo better represented his hair cut on March 16, 1977). The little photo was a school photo from years before, but it captures his spirit. Who can smile like that in front of a pathetic school photographer?!
Thirteen years ago, Helen Dagner sent me an email asking for any details I could provide about Tim so her readers would get a sense of who he was. Here is how I responded:
Please do not write any comments about, or even mention Helen below. I will delete them (I don’t care who you are.). This isn’t about Helen.
This is one of Tim’s art projects my Mom had saved. Clearly, the assignment was to draw pictures of things you liked. Sorry it’s sideways, but clearly the drawing shows skateboarding, fireworks (sparklers), baseball, hockey, reading, friendship and rollercoasters.
Baseball and hockey:
This was Tim’s favorite sweater, he wore it all the time. His favorite football team was the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was another of Tim’s favorites–a robe made by one of his aunts. Check out the lunar landing module and astronaut pattern. My Mom saved these two pieces of Tim’s clothing. When she was ready, she must have had a hell of a time getting rid of the rest of his stuff.
Notice how small these clothes are. As evidenced in the autopsy notes, Tim weighed 60 pounds. What do you think Chris Busch went, 240, 250? Greg Green–170, 180? How about you, Vince?
These are notes my Mom had saved in the giant box of news articles about Tim’s abduction and murder. She was clearly pulling together her thoughts for that letter the cops made her write to The Detroit News pleading for Tim’s safe return, or his funeral.
Some six days after we last saw Tim, his body was dumped on Gill Road in Wayne County, face first. The body dumpers tossed his orange skateboard near him and drove away. In the wake of this loss, my Mom and Dad sent out copies of this letter on April 19, 1977:
I am trying to stay as positive as possible today, but I do have to note that there was a snarky comment made after one of my posts soon after L. Brooks Patterson (the OC prosecutor at the time of these murders) died. Someone, clearly a Patterson defender, wrote something like–Catherine and Mr. King certainly know how to make something positive come out of all of this if they wanted to. How dare I express contempt or anger here?! I’m not even going to go back and find the comment because I would be too tempted to out you. Something positive, like maybe putting one fucking foot in front of the other and trying to be a productive member of society after something like this? Or something like this–a fund that has quietly been in place and quietly contributing since April of 1977. Feel free to donate to it, brother; you know who you are. The address hasn’t changed. Or maybe donate to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children if you want your donation to have a larger impact. https://www.missingkids.org/
It is strangely ironic that this week the entire world is dealing with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1977, this has always been a week that reminds my family of living with uncertainty. In this time of unprecedented uncertainty, may society pull together and stop living like “every man for himself.” One of my dear friends observed last night that “sunlight is what the world is yearning for on so many fronts.” Including this one.