What you can do to make a difference.Posted: May 31, 2020
I don’t want to bury the lead, so here it is: The magic hairs, discussed by Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and her chief deputy Paul Walton in July 2012 are NOT an exact match. Surprise, surprise. They simply cannot be ruled out as coming from the same source. That is a BIG difference from saying they are a match. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/oakland-county-child-killer-case-new-dna-evidence-discovered-in-1970s-michigan-murders-prosecutor-says/; More details emerge about Oakland County Child Killer person of interest Arch Sloan; https://detroit.cbslocal.com/2012/07/17/breaking-news-update-in-oakland-county-child-killer-case/; https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/2012/07/20/legal-expert-weighs-in-on-latest-break-in-oakland-county-child-killer-case/; https://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/2012/07/dna_results_revive_36-year-old.html.
Furthermore, this hair evidence may well have been extinguished during testing. Meaning it is gone and can never be retested using more advanced techniques. Meaning they are simply mtDNA sequences on a piece of paper. Want more information? Ask the prosecutor’s office. That little diversion down Arch Sloan lane was interesting and effective. Sloan was a very active pedophile in Oakland County during the 1970s. But ask yourself what more we know about him than we did in July 2012. He and Ted Lamborgine continue to subsist on the taxpayer’s dime in Michigan, two more men who may take information about the OCCK cases to the grave.
A lot of people have written to ask what they can do to help get some transparency in this case and to get some answers about where it stands. The biggest difference you can make if you live in Oakland County is to make sure a new prosecutor is elected in November. I cannot overstate the importance of this simple act–of researching the people you vote for. Do not rely on the word “incumbent.” Twelve years is more than enough time to fuck things up.
Karen McDonald is running against Jessica Cooper in the August 4 primary. https://mcdonaldforprosecutor.com/ . The winner will face Republican Lin Goetz in November.
Brooks Patterson ended his long reign as county executive when he died in August 2019. He was the Oakland County prosecutor when the Oakland County child killer(s) was/were roaming the streets of Oakland County. Not a single prosecutor since him has gained any ground or acknowledged much of anything about the murders of children in that jurisdiction. Some, like the current prosecutor, have actively distanced themselves from it. They don’t want to touch a loser.
The power of a prosecutor is immense.
Prosecutors are the most powerful officials in the American criminal justice system. The decisions they make, particularly the charging and plea-bargaining decisions, control the operation of the system and often predetermine the outcome of criminal cases. Prosecutorial power is vast and unrestrained, and the mechanisms that purport to hold prosecutors accountable are weak and often totally ineffective. In addition, the most important prosecutorial decisions are made behind closed doors – away from public scrutiny and thus immune from public accountability. The most remarkable feature of these important, sometimes life-and-death decisions is that they are totally discretionary. The deficiency of prosecutorial discretion lies not in its existence, but in the randomness and arbitrariness of its application. Even in prosecution offices that promulgate general policies for the prosecution of criminal cases, there is no effective mechanism for enforcement or public accountability. Self-regulation by prosecution offices is largely nonexistent or ineffective, and the United States Supreme Court has protected prosecutors from both public and judicial scrutiny.
The Power and Discretion of the American Prosecutor, Angela J. Davis, https://journals.openedition.org/droitcultures/1580?lang=en
I have quoted before from reader Brian Sterling’s comments, which crystallize my thoughts on Prosecutor Patterson, and they need to be repeated:
It should be understood there WAS a another cunning power broker working to manipulate outcomes at the time of the OCCK.
L. Brooks Patterson.
In November of 1975, the underground newspaper The Ann Arbor Sun published a well researched and very public take down of the then Oakland County Prosecutor. The article is titled “Naked Came the Prosecutor”. https://aadl.org/node/200230
Looking back over the decades, the opening line written by reporter Maureen McDonald rings like an urgent alarm on the disasters that lay ahead:
“The darling of the media and leading Young Republican protege, L. Brooks Patterson has parlayed the “evils” of welfare, parole, drunk-driving, drugs and “obscenity” into the most saleable political package the suburban county has ever seen. While Patterson gets great press for his attacks on people who are easily prosecuted and often can’t afford the cost of a trial lawyer. The SUN’s sources indicate that the charismatic young leader may be looking the other way on tougher challenges like organized crime and political corruption in his jurisdiction.”
2 months after this article ran, Mark Stebbins was murdered.
Patterson found his political voice in latching on to useful idiots he could play like a Stradivarius. In the early 1970’s he rose to prominence exploiting the racial tensions over things like busing and chasing down welfare cheats. He didn’t just play the race card, he spoiled the whole deck. He catered to that elite slice of Oakland County, the Bloomfield’s and the Cranbrook’s. The rounds of golf at Oakland Hills. The happy hours. Patterson was able to cultivate that cult of personality because of his hold on and ability to manipulate the Detroit media. Patterson would conduct a masterclass of beguiling reporters with his camera ready looks, couched in the style of a wise-cracking tough guy who wasn’t afraid of a microphone or television camera. Outside of reporters like Maureen McDonald, Patterson enjoyed a fawning media apparatus which in 1976 and 1977 essentially created a safe space for the prosecutor to operate well outside of conventional boundaries, including constitutional limits.
Patterson’s hands were ALL OVER the OCCK investigation.
Notably, Patterson was influential in allowing “psychic sleuth” Bruce Danto to “collaborate” with the task force, a colossal error which essentially ended all chances of solving the entire case. Patterson would even admit in the following years that the series of traffic stops initiated in ’77 on Squirrel Rd, set up under the direction of Bruce Danto’s “subliminal” messages to the killer in the hopes he would take the bait, were unconstitutional. He chuckled when relaying that tidbit, as if to suggest he couldn’t quite believe it himself.
It is important to note that during this time, instead of running his office as prosecutor, Patterson was running for higher office. He was barnstorming the state in 77 and 78 in an attempt to win the US Senate seat in Michigan. The only usefulness for Patterson in regards to the OCCK investigation was to perpetuate it, in order to affect more media attention. The goal wasn’t to catch the killer, the goal was to make everyone AFRAID of the killer, ostensibly so Patterson could swoop in and crack the case.
Until they didn’t.
When they found Busch dead after his “suicide” in 1978 you know that their blood ran cold. They had this guy. He had been on the radar the whole time. For crying out loud, Dick Thompson went up to Flint in the middle of a blizzard to interview these guys. While the scene at Morningside was a little “too” tidy with evidence screaming “I DID IT”, and certainly suggests something off and staged, the conspiracy starts to show some cracks because Patterson would not have missed an opportunity to crack the case and declare they that found the killer, GM and H. Lee Busch be damned. The problem was that Brooksy, Dick Thompson, Cabot and the MSP apparatus knew they missed the ball and a little boy was dead because of it. They covered it up to protect and maintain their own careers. If the truth had been exposed in 1978, L Brooks Patterson’s career, and that of a few others would have been demolished.
Who can orchestrate a cover up better than the man in charge of actually pressing the charges? Who requests the warrants? No evidence – no case. No killer – no problem.
“Maybe he’s dead” they said in ’78. “Maybe he’s locked up” It’s all just a bad dream. Have another drink. Go back to bed.
Remember how quickly the task force folded after Busch’s death…
After losing the Senate race in ’78, Patterson remained the county prosecutor, occasionally taking on cases himself, crusading against strip clubs and advocating for capital punishment. Hollow crusades only intended to placate the base. All while organized crime, child pornography rings and a child killing monster were allowed to roam free.
Patterson has the dubious distinction of presiding over the county prosecutors office at a time where both the Jimmy Hoffa and the OCCK crimes occurred. While not necessarily connected, both have obvious ties to different layers of organized crime. Hoffa’s disappearance traded in the same currency as those with interested in profiteering from child pornography. And it was all going down in Oakland County. And L Brooks chose to look the other way.
It wasn’t just Cass. It was Cass Lake. It was scumbags in suits trading kids like playing cards. And they had the freedom because they must have known on some level they were protected.
I too grew up in the middle of that invisible milieu, invisible right up until the bodies started piling up and fear leeched into the bedrooms and bus stops as children were bombarded with confusing and contradictory messages about strangers and trusting adults.
The corruption, or lack of will was already baked in.
Yes, this case stands as a textbook example of facts falling through the cracks because of infighting among different jurisdictions. Yes, all of this happens against the backdrop of the late 1970’s, an age where the detective work required to solve these crimes was still in its infancy. Multiple mistakes were made. There was a woeful lack of coordination and cooperation. from the start and continued for two years as the investigation unfolded. But Patterson was in that very unique position of one being able to disseminate evidence and information as he saw fit – always looking at how it would benefit him. No deals. Until there is a deal.
I was astonished to read that during that time Patterson refused to reach out to your family in person. It makes sense. While he might be able to help you, you couldn’t do anything for him. That to Brooks Patterson amounted to a waste of time. And four families suffered unnecessarily for it. An an entire generation of (then) children in Metro Detroit remain traumatized to this day.
Chillingly, shortly before his death, Patterson gave an interview in which he said his “biggest disappointment was that of the Oakland County Child Killer, was never identified.”
What a choice of words. He took his secrets to the grave, but subconsciously implicated himself in the process.
Thank you for your courage in sharing your family’s story.
I was so hopeful someone would come forward in this case after L. Brooks Patterson died. The only person still alive on my list of people who corrupted this case–including Patterson, his chief deputy, Richard Thompson, task force commander Robert Robertson and his number two, Joe Krease–is Richard Thompson. Patterson kept his hand on the tiller in Oakland County as County Executive, for the remainder of his life after leaving as OC prosecutor. But he’s gone now. Here is your chance for a clean slate for once, Oakland County. Get a new prosecutor in office, too. Get some sunshine and transparency for once. This cold case reveals much about the way Oakland County does business.
This case is a campaign issue. Here’s why:
I have always referred to the hairs relied upon in Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper’s July 2012 press conference–the hairs that allegedly link Mark and Tim to the same person, a person who was associated with known pedophile Arch Sloan, as “the magic hairs.” First of all, how convenient to have that press conference and make it look like you were doing something on this case and to get the attention off of Busch and Greene, going into the reelection campaign?! Also, how the hell is it that no one would even think to compare the hair evidence in this case until that late date?
The hairs were found on Mark Stebbins and in the nasal cavity and groin area of Tim King and in the “Pontiac debris,” collected from Arch Sloan’s Pontiac Bonneville after the Stebbins abduction. As mentioned in the autopsy notes, the hair found in Tim’s groin area had to have come from someone involved in the crime, as he did not have pubic hair. Further, a hair in that location would presumably not be from a transfer event, like a hair found on a victim’s clothing could be.
But this is all quite irrelevant because the hairs are NOT an exact match. They just cannot be ruled out as coming from the same source. Reread that. Not only are they not an exact match, they may have been extinguished during testing, meaning they cannot be retested or subjected to the more high level testing of human hair done in other cold cases.
Not an exact match; cannot be ruled out as coming from the same source. Sound familiar? That’s the deal with the hair found on Kristine that could not be ruled out as coming from Vince Gunnels (or his younger brother Paul, for that matter). As described in the FOIA documents, this hair sample was small and the lab made the police sign off on the fact that it would be extinguished during testing. As in, gone and never can be retested by anyone, including Gunnels’ defense attorney. I was somehow led to believe that the magic hairs were a somewhat better sample than the hair on Kristine’s jacket. This probably just means the hair samples were more substantial. I am guessing that in all cases here, the failure to properly store evidence in the biggest crime of its time has handicapped solvability.
Prosecutor Cooper and her assistant, Paul Walton, explained in 2012 that they were taking this information–including the fact that the hair evidence did not match Sloan–to the public in order to get information about associates of Sloan who may have left hair in his Bonneville. Walton told the press they had gotten some good leads they were working on. Upon information and belief, I don’t think any of those leads were followed up on. That press conference was eight years ago. The Oakland County press needs to cover this as the primary season and then the general election start heating up.
Furthermore, I don’t believe any of the leads that have come forward since Children of the Snow aired have been followed up on. Part of that is manpower issues, part is the COVID-19 shut down, part of that is inertia. If you go to law enforcement with critical, specific, actionable information, you have to have a back-up plan for when it gets ignored. I am talking about the press. If you are not willing to name names, don’t bother.
Here’s what could happen if Oakland County elected a new prosecutor. The prosecutor could call all of the agencies involved in for a meeting to ask the following:
Where does the case stand as of today?
What is the evidence in this case, how has it been tested and by whom, what are the results, was it extinguished in testing, what has not been tested, what can be rerun and where is the physical evidence being stored?
Who have you consulted about more advanced DNA testing and genetic genealogy testing?
Have the stamp and the envelope from the “Allen letter” been tested for DNA?
Is this case solvable in your opinion?
Is it prosecutable?
Should the case be closed and who would be responsible for announcing this?
How can Oakland County help with resources and manpower in a case called THE OAKLAND COUNTY child killer?
Why does the Michigan State Police have to carry the entire burden here?
What was done to follow up on any leads that came forward after the 2012 press conference?
What were you told by my predecessor about working with other agencies and who you could/could not speak with?
How can we work with Wayne County to avoid the type of dysfunction and duplication of effort exhibited by Oakland County in the past.
How can we inform the public about the status of this case?
How will we respond to the bad press which is headed our way in this case?
How can we be transparent?
What do we tell the public about tips–what will help and who to call?
How will I be kept apprised of what is/is not happening in this investigation?
There are so many questions we will never have answers to. Was Chris Busch an informant for the FBI at the time he was abducting and murdering kids? Who did H. Lee Busch pay off to make all the cases against his son go away? Why did the information from witness Doug Wilson stay under wraps? How was evidence filed and stored in this case and why all the disorganization? Did Patterson and Thompson realize they blew it and released a killer to kill my brother one month later? Who was killing pedophiles in Detroit and the suburbs? Why was the active pedophile network operating in Oakland County (probably still is) not investigated and people prosecuted? Did the MSP (G. Gray and D. Robertson) hack our phones and computers when they were working on this case from 2007 forward? Why did the MSP and the OCP leave a listening device in the waiting room where relatives of Kristine Mihelich and Tim King were sent to wait for a meeting with law enforcement in this case? Why were prosecutors not challenged at all on the magic hair evidence, the similarities to the Gunnels hair evidence, and why was there never any press follow up on how the OCP was proceeding with tips about Sloan? Does the prosecutor really just get to put up some self-serving web page about the OCCK and sidestep all questions?
Leaving aside how Cooper and Walton have behaved in this case (see, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdPYjTVDAC8 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgBLW7-ACOU; https://www.spreaker.com/user/jreubenappelman/e11), think about the cynical nature of that press conference in July 2012. Elect someone who is not afraid of the elephant in the room and who will not respond with defensive vindictiveness or DNA “match” hocus pocus. Put some parameters around this immense limbo loss. Speak the truth about what happened and what can and cannot be done. Fresh eyes and less taint. Seems like a winner to me.
It’s your county. Do something about that underbelly.