In 2021 I filed a FOIA request with the Birmingham Police Department for the case file on the September 1977 homicide of 50-year-old John McKinney. The estimate for the documents was $2,300. I took a pass on that, as had someone/some group before me who had requested the files and also decided that the money would be better spent elsewhere. Recently, however, that goddamn murder was getting under my skin and I decided I needed to see those files for myself. As I have explained a number of times over the years, McKinney’s body was found in his art gallery which was walking distance from our house, six months after my brother Tim’s abduction and murder.
I had learned in the mid to late aughts that McKinney was often at our neighbors’ house for dinner and that one of the older children in that family (a young adult in 1977) had turned McKinney’s name in to police as an OCCK suspect a number of times over the years. I don’t know when she made the first call, but she thought strongly enough about this to renew her calls to police over the years. It turns out a few other people had the similar thoughts after his murder.
McKinney’s murder has been addressed in Portrait in the Snow, The Oakland County Child Killings . . . Scandals and Small Conspiracies, M. F. Cribari (2011); The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer, J. Reuben Appelman (2019); and The Snow Killings: Inside the Oakland County Child Killer Investigation, Marney Rich Keenan (2020). All are available on Amazon and worth reading if you follow the OCCK case.
As I have noted before, McKinney is also a subject of discussion online. For example:
His murder is also the subject of an episode of the podcast Don’t Talk to Strangers (“No Apparent Motive”):
I remember my brother Chris, who was all of 16 at the time, telling me later in the Fall of 1977 he had read a news article about this man’s murder that ended, out of the blue, with a statement something like–the murder had nothing to do with the Oakland County child killings. My brother asked me (basically), WTF?! It seemed crazy–B’ham wasn’t exactly a big murder town and now there had been three in two years (14-year-old Sheila Srock, whose case was eventually solved; my brother Tim; and now McKinney)–but it was a crazy time. For us it was strictly survival mode and surely police or those pricks at the prosecutor’s office would let us know if something was up, right?
So recently I renewed my FOIA request. Because there were multiple copies of reports in these files, the PD reduced the cost to just over $1,700.
Inspector Cory Williams (Wayne County PO) went in to the Birmingham Police Department to review the McKinney files before he retired in 2019. He told me that McKinney was “a homicide waiting to happen.” After reading the FOIA documents for myself, I certainly agree.
After I read the 800-plus pages, I reread Portraits in the Snow. Recall that this book was written in 2011 and without the benefit of the case file on McKinney. “Homicide waiting to happen” fits well with “Whoever was sent to silence the killer of kids would have to make sure it was an unrelated murder or accident.” Portraits, page 278. Any number of people could have killed McKinney, some with reasons that supported justifiable homicide (or damn close).
I remain unnerved by this man, what he may have been involved in and with whom, as well as the reasons behind his murder. At the risk of being accused of trying to make “anything” fit, I have pulled some threads from the case file and will set them out in my next posts before posting the FOIA documents in their entirety. Then you can read them for yourself.