Before moving on to discuss the almost instinctual vindictive and punitive moves made against family members and an attorney representing one family in 2012 by then Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, her Chief Deputy Paul Walton, and the Michigan State Police, when they felt they were losing control of the bullshit narrative in this case, consider these comments made by a reader in April 2020. I have posted this before, but thinking about some of the points “Bob” makes in his declaration, this is the root of the problem and the legacy of Oakland County. You might take issue with “Bob,” but this is a little tougher to argue with:
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, Patterson’s #2 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. Forget the Senate, forget running for Governor.
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.
And 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(s) 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 horriblly 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.
I will continue to follow this along with so many others. Thank you for the courage in sharing your family’s personal story.”