Forty-three (yes, 43) years ago today–

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?!

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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:

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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.

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Baseball and hockey:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.


29 Comments on “Forty-three (yes, 43) years ago today–”

  1. Kathleen Firestone says:

    What a sweet, precious boy. I’m wiping tears from my face.

  2. crimebuffy says:

    Hugs to You and Your Family Cathy!!
    You guys are HEROS!!

    • cathybroad says:

      Thanks, crimebuffy.

    • DDR says:

      I’m so sorry that after 43 years, the families of the 4 children still don’t have the answers they so deserve. That night changed B’ham as we knew it. No more bike rides to Perry’s or Hunter Pharmacy or Eton Park. We had to go in groups. Your life and your family’s life was also forever changed as well.
      Thank you for sharing photos of your little brother today. 💙

  3. Barbara Skotte says:

    Sending love to you and your family

  4. Judi Coltman says:

    As you have always said, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Keep shining that light, Cathy. You, Chris, Mark and your dad are always on my mind, this time of year – especially.

    • Judi Coltman says:

      As you have always said, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Keep shining that light, Cathy. You, Chris, Mark and your dad are always on my mind, this time of year – especially.

      And your mom’s notes… my heart hurts.

  5. Nancy Genovese Cooper says:

    Oh his pictures- they make me cry. My sister was in Tim’s class a couple of years prior – my brother was in your class in Seaholm, and I was a year behind- coming from a family of 6 kids, and having the Hunter Maple pharmacy as our go to place- I still can’t fathom the fact that this hasn’t been solved. I will never forget your parents on TV – I will never forget the fear and confusion when he was found – and I will never understand how the powers that be in Oakland County and MSP can continue to cover up and hide their tracks – I am so sorry Caty, Tim deserves so much better.

  6. Mark Morton says:

    Cathy we’ve connected on this site over the years but I must say this was the most impactful post I’ve seen yet. It was nice to read about Tim as a person.

    We all want the culprit(s) caught. Lord knows I’ve obsessed over this case since the crimes occurred, having studied and read and comtemplated and analyzed.

    So it’s good to take some time to remember Tim and the other kids in whatever positive light our hearts will allow. I think it is important to recall their spirts as terrific youngsters instead of just victims, even for a short while.

    Back to the flip side for a brief thought. One idea that’s been running through my mind (of course this virus will make it nearly impossible to organize in 2020) is to round up all of us who care about this case, meet at your family home and walk to that damn pharmacy location. Invite the press. Make it a public spectacle. Do it every year at this time and demand some answers. This is crazy.

  7. bfl40yrs says:

    Your letter to Helen was such a beautiful tribute to Tim.
    I have no doubt that he would have grown into the kind of man who would make a difference in this crazy world. I am so sorry those monsters took him from you.

  8. OCCK Survivor says:

    Thanks for sharing with all of us who Tim was it was a refreshing experience and a heart breaker all at the same time, it also reminded me how young and innocent I was when whoever it was from the Occk clan that tried to get us, sorry this is a bad week for you and your family, trust me it is hard for me as I know I was almost kidnapped right after Tim was, may we all try to trust again that there is going to be a day this case will be solved, get off your asses Michigan State people whoever you are who can get this case solved sick of waiting, then you wonder why people go in to a court room and senate office and just start shooting or kill a judge in his car while driving away from the courtroom, or some one kills a cop get a fricking clue uncover the covered and become a hero instead of a coward whoever you all are from 1977 to present hmm I can only wonder how many people that would be that could not solve this case hmm well dead or alive you are all accountable for your actions, and letting these creeps get away with murder, torture, rape of young children, you are just as sick as they all were and still are today, and guess what you are all murderers yourselves and are accountable of murder of the all the spirits involved in this case which includes me.

    I really think it is time to call on another state to help us and forget you crap Michigan people working this case. I guess I will have to look into that, all the other states are getting cold cases solved, maybe they can help Michigan as they are so incapable to do so on their own, they may need real cops and coroners to show them how it is done. Shame, Shame, Shame!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Matt says:

    Cathy,

    Thanks for this post. The world needs to be reminded who these children were. Their names and faces can never be forgotten and it is heartbreaking to see the innocence in a kid like Tim, knowing the horror that happened and somehow, has STILL been allowed to go unpunished.

    You see these pictures and you can see brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, cousins, family members in Tim and the other victims and you feel the gut-wrenching pain (only a small part of the pain because nobody can truly fathom what they are going through) parents like your mom and dad have endured. But you see the love that they brought to their family and friends and thats what will ALWAYS shine through.

    Thinking of you, your families and all families that have been affected by all of this.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been sitting here for half an hour writing in this little box, and then deleting all my well-meaning words of comfort and postive thoughts that sound, well, lame and hollow. I am heartbroken for the loss of your sweetheart of a little brother. It just isn’t fair! And the thought you all have to suffer through another raw, tortuous and miserable March 16 anniversary week makes me want to cry. I do thank you for sharing your gentle memories of Tim — they made me smile, and his school photos are adorable.

  11. Amy says:

    It was as if I could hear your moms voice as I read her notes.
    Staring at Tim’s photos and artwork it was as if I could see and hear Tim so vividly.
    He was one of a kind. Tim was such a special kid. I especially remember how incredibly smart and funny he was.
    Thanks for sharing these Cathy.

  12. M S says:

    Thank you Ms. Broad.
    You deserve to feel the way you write and so does your whole family. Please know there are many of us who would love to wrap our arms around your entire family and tell them all will be okay, and help you find the truth, but we cannot do that yet,we know there are answers out there, and hopefully someday soon that all will change.You all have suffered so much, and your communications to us allow us a peek into everyone’s tortured souls. I want you to know that your little brother could have been any of ours, or our children. He was a good kid,sweet and innocent, and deserved none of the things that happened to him, and nor did the others.Thank you for sharing your very special thoughts with us. I am sure everyone reading this has the hope that some how an ending with meaning will soon happen.
    Please take care and know we care, and we hope and pray all the clues and evidence lead to an ending You deserve that, so does your dad and the other families..

  13. weedbegone3468 says:

    Dear Cathy,
    Like everyone commenting, I also want to thank you for sharing a more personal side of Tim with us, I was Tim’s age at the time, and he reminds me of the kind of boy I would have had a huge crush on. Smart, cute, athletic, and funny! He reminds me of my brother…he was Tim’s exact age in 77′.
    Your mom’s notes remind me of my mother’s notes when her sister was abducted and found dead 8 days later in a field near Lk. Orion. My aunt’s story barely made the newspaper when we were searching for her. This was back in 1996, and for some reason, missing housewife/auto worker wasn’t hot news then.
    The way the sheriff’s office handled the case and communication with our family did not give us much comfort or hope we’d find her alive.
    Your family was robbed of a beautiful, precious life. Those all responsible for robbing and denying your family of a future with Tim, should burn in the hottest center of hell.

    • jwallace666 says:

      I remember the story of your aunt’s disappearance, as I’m friends with her stepson and we obviously were following the investigation closely from the beginning. That was a very difficult time for the family that even with the passage of time I’m sure it’s still painful to think about. May your Aunt Diane rest in peace.

      • weedbegone3468 says:

        666…small world, huh?

        Are you Doug or Allen Wirebaugh’s friend? Did you grow up in Berkley too? I haven’t heard from their dad, Jim, since Diana’s murder. Last I heard, he moved to Florida and remarried.

        Yes, the passing of time eases some of the pain.

  14. Robert Rae says:

    It saddens me as so much time passes without your family and Tim’s killer(s) case being properly closed. Especially knowing your family, playing hockey in your back yard, going to Adams and having walked alone through the back lot of Birmingham Drugs so, so many times over many young years. As others must do, I wish there was something more I could do to bring peace to you and your family, and the family’s of the others who were also killed close to the same time as Tim. I know there are no words from me to make it any better, but I admire your courage and resilience. You remain in my prayers.

  15. Cecilia Vettraino Brown says:

    At least the various pathetic school photographers are not watching TV and collecting welfare.

  16. Cynthia C says:

    Every time I read your words, I weep.

  17. janbastian2 says:

    I have no words-
    Chilling, sickening.
    Sending you love and light constantly.
    Tim is precious.

  18. jade says:

    sending love and peace

  19. Anonymous says:

    I remember, and I’m still hopeful, still working. Not just for Tim, Kris, Jill and Mark, but for Kim King, Jane Allen and Valerie Bishop. I can’t forget little George Kennedy Jr murdered in June 1979 in a ‘copycat’ slaying. George was 4 years old.

    Sending you love and strength.

  20. Julie says:

    I remember as this horror was happening, I was about the same age as Tim and I can recall our parents talking to us about strangers and safety as we walked to school in Detroit. I have always kept everyone in my prayers, and I find it shocking and unbelievable that there hasn’t been a resolution even after all these years. It’s hard to believe there hasn’t been a huge cover up that has kept this from being solved and that’s heartbreaking.

  21. Michelle Gurrola says:

    I am so sorry. I cannot imagine functioning through life if this happened to one of my siblings or children. Thank you for you article and for the images you shared.


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