The enigmatic Mr. McKinney.

Among the hundreds of pages of interviews of people who thought John McKinney was the most gentle, kind, sympathetic, prince of a man, there are also signs that he had some serious “not so nice” shit going on. In this post I am going to pull some of the threads that stuck out to me and highlight in the next post the few times the child killings come up in 800-plus pages.

As you read the documents, you will see that McKinney, a nondenominational minister and art gallery owner, had a very unconventional approach to “marriage counseling.” The kind that could probably get you murdered. Obviously bisexual (although not to some of his patrons and some church admirers), he had all kinds of hook-ups in the mix. It’s obvious he treated his mistresses and his boyfriends much, much better than he did his wife and kids. There’s no hypocrite like a religious hypocrite.

His business did not appear to be doing well. He may have owed someone money. While the investigation looked at individuals who might have had reason to want McKinney dead, it is clear from the evidence at the crime scene and the condition of McKinney’s body that more than one person was present when he was murdered. The killer(s) spent some time with him before he died. He was beaten approximately 30 minutes to an hour before he was shot in the head. The beating started upstairs and McKinney went into a downstairs bathroom at some point before he was shot. A gold chair was pulled over so it was outside the bathroom. Doesn’t really seem like the time for a sit down.

While suspect names are redacted (it is, after all, an unsolved homicide), during the investigation a number are later polygraphed and cleared. In fact, many people consented to and passed polygraphs. See, e.g., FOIA documents (“FOIA”) 610, 809, 835. Therefore their names show up later unredacted.

Dr. Shitheel Sillery was the Oakland County ME who performed the autopsy on McKinney. A Birmingham police officer assigned to attending the autopsy wrote a report that indicated “[a]t no time during the autopsy did this Dr. Sillery indicate the time of death, nor did he say what caused the victim’s death.” FOIA 12. This police narrative indicated McKinney had been severely beaten before his death, including “black and blue bruises on the victim’s scrotum indicating to the doctor that the subject may have been severely beaten up.” FOIA 10. Later an undated transcript shows a detective called Sillery to get some idea what his fucking report was going to say since it was still not ready and police were trying to move the investigation along. FOIA 33.

Sillery tells the detective that although McKinney was hit or kicked on the right side of his back and the left side of his chest, there were blows to his face, jaw broken, his nose broken, his left arm scratched and lacerated, there was no bruise to the scrotum. It was jock itch, according to the good doctor. FOIA 35. Ok, pal, I’m going to have to defer to you on that one rather than run a Google image search to see if jock itch ever presents as black and blue. The undated autopsy protocol, when it finally issues, simply states that “[t]he genitalia are those of an adult male.” This pathologist is a real brain surgeon. No mention of jock itch or bruising. Maybe it all cleared up post-mortem. FOIA 155.

Two days after McKinney’s body is found, staff from the state crime lab and Joe Krease (MSP, second in command of the OCCK task force) met with the Birmingham police to discuss the case. FOIA 76. There is no detailing of this discussion to be found in the FOIA documents.

FOIA 113 and 114 are photos of portions of an envelope found at the crime scene that would have contained photographs (“Order extra prints now!”).

Part-time gallery employee Freda Riccardo told police she “feels as if John McKinney was hiding something in the gallery” and whatever it was he didn’t want an employee to become too familiar with it. She also said that McKinney “had strong feelings about the occult.” FOIA 197. Other friends (a couple) said that “John was getting into religion so strongly that it was almost becoming an occult [sic].” FOIA 214.

A number of people interviewed observed changes in McKinney, most saying over the prior six months. (March 1977. Hmm.) A friend of McKinney’s mentions other friends (a couple) “knew of John’s changing lifestyle, app. 6 months ago.” FOIA 119. A Dr. Schorenstein “stated he always knew John McKinney as a very neat person” and that “some time ago John was apparently going through some kind of change because his dress style and his hair styles changed from neat and conservative to a little on the hippie side.” FOIA 175.

A gallery employee also told police McKinney was “meticulously clean.” FOIA 328.

A woman who had worked with McKinney at The Little Gallery described a period beginning in 1973 where she and her friends observed that “John is not the John he used to be.” FOIA 448. She describes him returning to “his old self” in the year prior to his murder, but “there was a period there where I just didn’t understand John, I didn’t know the man.” FOIA 448. Thomas W. Kneff told police he “noticed a big change in the personality of John McKinney.” FOIA 479. His description of the change is not very helpful, but it sounded like in May 1977 McKinney was not the hustling, energetic art gallery owner Kneff had previously known.

A customer and friend said a mutual acquaintance mentioned “about 6 months ago or so that John was going through an incredible [inner-turmoil] about” various relationships in his life. FOIA 787. He described McKinney as moody and suggested police take a look at McKinney’s customer list which “can’t be that big.”

Gallery employee Steve Accomando tells police that McKinney “is always going to somebody. He always has an appointment, all the time, is never home because he is with the people that he knows for some reason or another. People about seeing somebody about art, or speaking at some you know something because he is on a lot of committees and stuff but I don’t know what any of them are. FOIA 269. While Accomando did not know anybody who would want to harm John, McKinney “did say he had some enemies . . . he talked about them but he never said who.” FOIA 271. He explained that in the last couple of weeks before the murder “John McKinney was up tight and edgy and he was making a lot of mistakes in his work. He was unable to comprehend why John McKinney was in this state of mind.” FOIA 488.

In one of the many pages that are out-of-order, Martin Hoogasian tells police McKinney and his “buddy” Doug Webster (previously a part owner of the gallery) “are simulated by crows. In other words, John McKinney and Doug Webster at times picture themselves as crows.” FOIA 199, 417. He states that “John McKinney has become involved in ‘Don Juan’ magic.” FOIA 416. There are other references in the documents to triangles and pyramids in the documents that may mean something to someone more well-versed in what this might mean.

In another interview, a man tells police that McKinney and Webster “were on you might say a mystical level without even doing it verbally.” FOIA 749. “Since the energy got to be so much between the[m] they both realized they better separate for a while so this person went to Arizona or some place like that you know out in the west.” FOIA 750.

A letter to police describes Doug Webster’s exit to Arizona was because John’s “mind power” was too great and Doug “could not take it any more.” FOIA 805.

On September 21, 1977, the day after McKinney’s body was found, Birmingham police received a call from an unidentified person who “stated that John McKinney had been involved in homosexual activities since he was 13 years of age. He stated that Mrs. McKinney should know who his present boyfriend is. He also stated that John McKinney’s brother, a Harley McKinney [redacted] could verify John’s homosexual activities. FOIA 201.

That same day, a reporter for the Detroit News stated that “he had heard rumors that John McKinney had contacts with the Underworld. He stated [McKinney] spent Sunday’s at the Bloomfield Hills Nursing Home at Square Lake and Woodward.” The reporter stated “that this nursing home, according to his sources, is operated by Lenny Shultz who is a noted underworld person.” FOIA 201.

Dr. Henry Phillips told police that “not many people knew it, but that John McKinney had a very bad temper.” FOIA 212. Sally Saunders, who had known McKinney for many years, told police “John would get angry and turn almost white, but would not show his rage physically.” FOIA 229.

A part-time employee told police that she felt McKinney “would tell people what he wanted them to hear” and that she “did not believe everything John McKinney told her.” FOIA 429.

The wife of one of McKinney’s assistant pastors told police she “only saw the good side of John McKinney,” and added that several years ago McKinney was known as Bill–that all his friends called him Bill.” McKinney requested they start calling him John over the past few years. FOIA 492, 493.

A waitress who served McKinney and his mistress Linda Webster on Sunday, September 18, some 24 to 36 hours before the murder, told police McKinney “did seem somewhat nervous.” FOIA 230. The next morning McKinney was late for a meeting and apologized saying “he had a very trying Sunday and he slept in.” FOIA 238, 362.

Mention is made in various places, in response to police questioning, that McKinney was using or renting an apartment in the area. FOIA 214. Nobody comes up with an exact location or address. “[S]ome time ago John made a deposit to move into an apartment complex, however something happen[ed] and that fizzled out,” this was maybe the Clifford West Mansion at Lone Pine and Cranbrook. FOIA 228. Another friend told police he “knew for the last two or three years [McKinney] did not go home very much at night, he slept in the Gallery or I don’t know where else he did not go home.” FOIA 290. Another man mentions that about “a year ago or something like that,” McKinney had taken up residence in Birmingham.” FOIA 304. Dr. Schornstein told police that Peggy DeSalle helped finance McKinney’s home in Troy, which was news to him as he thought McKinney lived in Clawson. FOIA 384. He did not know of any other home McKinney had or any apartment he may have leased. FOIA 384. Another person said McKinney “had taken up residence in Birmingham, that was around the time when he got in that car accident, um the summertime. I don’t remember.” FOIA 749. Said another: “John also told me he had an apartment though nobody that I’ve talked with said they knew of one.” FOIA 805.

Nowhere in the documents is there any mention of Pat and Donna Coffey, our neighbors, who were described to me as “silent partners” in McKinney’s gallery. At FOIA 529, however Doug Webster, a 1973 BFA graduate of EMU, mentions that in 1973 Kevin “Coffee” was working for McKinney doing framing and other work. Kevin is the eldest of the Coffey kids. Webster says that Kevin left McKinney’s gallery later in 1973 and then he went to work there.

As of early December 1977, a B’ham PD sergeant reports that double-agent Assistant Prosecutor Richard Thompson, chief deputy to Brooks Patterson, “wants to get together with me and discuss the case.” FOIA 518. There is no further mention of such a meeting in the FOIA documents, however after a suspect (name redacted) is polygraphed and caught deliberately distorting the exam, he is taken to the OCP office so DICK can interview him. FOIA 522. The man was polygraphed again in two weeks or so and cleared.

Police spend a lot of time trying to identify the origin of two pieces of cloth art work that were found in the center of McKinney’s desk the morning his body was found. The pieces were batiks and signed Cigler 77. More on that later. For now, know that mention of this piece or pieces is at FOIA 165, 183-84, 190, 209, 306, 403, 433, 434, 459, 476, 480, 751-52. At the time no one interviewed knew of this artist. But one of my readers knows who this is. These brief mentions of the Cigler piece(s) probably will not add much to the mix, but you never know.

FOIA 674 is interesting. Check the date:

My next post will address some specific mention of the child killings in the FOIA documents, as well as reports concerning a “fortune teller” police met with in this case. Obviously in today’s world she would be known as a medium. I am impressed police met with her. My money’s on the medium. Next post.

Pages referred to above:

3 thoughts on “The enigmatic Mr. McKinney.”

  1. Cathy,

    Something did pop out at me:

    On page 31, ME Sillery (“Shitheel” lol) is quoted as believing that two men held McKinney by the arms while a third hit him in the head and face with a pistol.

    This would seem to fit with my discovery 18 months ago (since repeated by Ellen Wilson) of the mysterious post from “Olivia Guest” on Helen Dagner’s board. This poster claimed that “A Birmingham police officer told my Attorney friend that they killed John McKinney. The Birmingham cops knew he would never be sent to prison so they tried to get him to confess with a beating. When he refused they shot him.”

    One other minor (?) thing: on page 12, “Freda” (a part-time gallery employee) was going to tell us what the ghost of John McKinney’s response was when she asked him “Who murdered you, John?”

    While I put no stock in the occult, the officer’s report next typed word is “Coincidentally”, followed by a red ink arrow and a question mark, and underneath is a number in red ink, apparently 197. Beside the number 197, is a pencil circled number 45. Two different writers put down numbers upon hearing the name.

    (Oh, just taking a wild shot in the dark here, lemme see, gotta be some reason cops would write “Coincidentally” and numbers just before the now-missing name . . . hmm, just a guess . . .what could those numbers be . . . hmm . .. Tips # 197 and #45 to the OCCK task force. . . )

    Whatever name “Freda” came up with struck two different officers in the Birmingham P.D. as noteworthy . . . one can only wonder what connections Birmingham police made when they had the name.

    (But since the next page of her statement is not included in this particular batch of documents – perhaps Cathy has it, but I wouldn’t bet on it – we do not know the name.)

  2. Paul, I maybe should have posted the entire set of documents first but I suspected only a few intrepid readers would wade through all of them. I will post all of the pages later today.

    Responding in order, I have long wondered how word would have gotten out between March 22 and September 19, 1977, that McKinney may have been the child killer. Of course police in a small town hear things on a daily basis and maybe there are even tips in the MSP files on McKinney. There was nothing about McKinney in what was left of the OCP files, as we saw. And of course the sheriff’s office claims not to have a single record in the OCCK case. I have a lot of trouble with the blanket statement that suspects like McKinney or Busch would have never gone to prison. This implies it is due to their stature in the community. It is much more likely that no one from OC was going to be charged because it would expose OC for the despicable haven it was for child predators. So if these “problems” were to go away via murder or suicide, that solves a lot (for the powers that be). And, let’s be real, as long as someone was quite confident they would never be caught, it was a tempting solution.

    As you will see in the documents, when Freda asks her ethereal question, the t.v. responds with the name of a baseball player, Johnny Blanchard. It’s redacted, but it was easy enough to figure out. John Blanchard (the younger) was the one name that was consistently redacted throughout. He ran in McKinney’s circle (or McKinney his). But as a true testament to how tedious and difficult redacting can be, the name John Blanchard does sneak through a few times. So the tip from the netherworld was “Johnny Blanchard.”

    The red question mark is mine, because as you will see, many of the pages are out of order and one interview all of a sudden becomes another. If you picture how the average 45-year-old paper file gets stashed, this is not really a surprise. Also, the documents were 2-side copies. The same reports sometimes appear multiple times, which actually helps because sometimes the second set of reports is in order (and maybe not contain as many redactions). The large red page number is my crude attempt at marking the pages in the order as received before I scanned them. Yellow highlights and the occasional red pencil are mine–pencil, pen and a faint red pen used on one small paragraph toward the end of the documents, were there before I got the paper.

    Not sure about the “45.” I saw no cross-referencing with anything from the state police. Just that Joe Krease shows up to discuss McKinney’s case on 9/22 (no substantive documentation of what was said/done); in 1983 there is a handwritten request for a ballistics comparison that goes to Robert Robertson, and in 2017 evidence from the McKinney case is shuttled between the B’ham PD and the MSP. (FOIA 674, which you basically have to enlarge to read). Richard Thompson puts his fingers on the case in 12/77, but there is no indication of what, if anything, he said about this case.

    It will be a little more clear (or not) when going through the documents themselves.

  3. The crows are connected to the underworld across various strains and sects of ancient religion. Triangles embody many esoteric/occult principles, and the fact they feature in Gerald Richards’ diagram is not coincidental, nor is the title Delta. I would also suggest that the diagram indicates a conversant awareness of the Kabbala Tree of Life, which features both triangles and spheres (or Sephiroth) prominently.

    Whether the outside observer believes in the occult or not is irrelevant. Cosmogony is demonstrably important to many of the players in these cases. Detroit police sensed this, for reasons I can’t discern. But the Church of Satan would have been on their radar. Anton Lavey, the church’s leader, initiated a Grotto system (regional branches/congregations) across the United States and I believe also in Europe in the early 70s. Because The Church of Satan philosophy centers around ancient and modern texts and theologies (see, among others, the Babylonian/Chaldean Empire, the early history of Jewish exile to Babylon, the figure Moloch, Alesteir Crowley and Thelema, Hermes Trismegistus, and of course Baphomet and the Ars Goetia, several of whose demons relate strongly to crows/ravens) even a general familiarity with them illuminates quite a bit about the various people involved in the OCCK.

    The Grotto in Michigan was led by Wayne Forest West. He was investigated, interviewed, and followed by LE. Associates were questioned. All of these people were either involved in Ohio’s Stygian Grotto (after the River Styx; see underworld) or in Babylon. West was viewed through his windows during stake out, and was seen performing rituals with colored candles and an altar – though he is not asked about this during his interview.
    West presented a real problem for the Church of Satan, whose central grotto was in San Francisco, at the black-painted home of Lavey. The problem was fundamentally one of independence. Grotto leaders were left the freedom to name their individual grottos, and their guidelines were their own. The whole church was about personal power within autonomy, and yet there were real problems with West and the Babylon grotto; not just the fact that the Babylonians were stealing ritual objects from many area churches, like the ones used by West in his private ritual, but dealing drugs and other practices which go unmentioned. They excommunicated West not just because he was running his own program. There was evidence he was trying to start a prostitution ring among members and was involved in a host of illegal activities which threatened the security of the Church’s profile. He had also embezzled money from the Babylonian membership. The Central Grotto in SF made mention of the quality of West’s membership–implying they were rough characters even by Church of Satan’s libidinous, live and let live standards.

    West immediately started his own church, taking many of the Babylon members. There isn’t a lot of information on this church (whose name I can’t presently remember; only that it is similar in linguistic feel to Grossman’s so-called brotherhood), but it is reasonable to conclude that it would have constituted around West’s “problematic” ideology.

    Triangles represent the four elements in ancient cosmogony. The upright triangle is Fire. Draw a horizontal line through it and it represents air. The triangle is part of “Sacred Geometry”, which speaks to universal laws of alchemy. The triangle is exalted for its embodiment of the unity of three. Three is important in most religions (as is seven). As is fire in the occult. Fire must be given form. Fire destroys, allowing abrupt and significant change. The magician is tasked with conjuring and embodying this fire.

    At the time he was interviewed, West was very close with a synagogue in Oakland County. I believe he had converted. It looks as if, from the Detroit file, that he and his group had or continued to meet there.

    Aquino started the Temple of Set (from Egyptian cosmogony) in 1975 after a final split with Lavey. Aquino had been Lavey’s right hand figure. At this point Lavey had monetized his religion – allowing advancement to higher degrees for a generous fee. Aquino and many other COS members were against this, and left with Aquino or had left earlier, between 1972 and 1975. It should be noted that Aquino, who has popped up also around the Frankling case, Children from the Presidio Daycare accused Aquino and his wife Lilith (assumed names mean everything across this case and across the occult) of ritualized sexual abuse. They reported being taken to his home, which they described in detail. The ceremonial room was similar to pictures of Lavey’s ceremonial room. Masks lined the walls just under the ceiling. These were worn during rituals. In Egyptian/Babylonian magic, the practitioner summons the powers of various deities who take the form of animals (including crows). In many hieroglyphs, a Magi (Magician) Priest dons the mask of the God he wishes to summon. There is identification there, in other words.

    Hiram Bey, who might have once been Mr. Grossman, was himself deeply involved in ancient religion of this kind. The Chaos that many practitioners of the Dark Arts seek to conjure is virtually synonymous with the Church of Discordianism, with which Bey was strongly associated. The idea is cultural chaos – a Tower of Babel (See Babylon) phenomenon where through language and image people are divided, sent in different directions, irreconcilable. This requires the Magi’s skills of influence, deception, and mesmerism, as well as the manufacturing of signs and symbols (see Danto’s images: the car, the road, et al). These images are absorbed by subjects and exert tremendous psychological/cognitive power.

    Mesmerism plays a vital role in these source cosmogonies. The ancient magician believed that what was in the mind could be made real. This sounds preposterous until you read carefully and realize what is being indicated: You change culture, and you rule people, by controlling their minds. You mix disinformation with information. You plant seeds, which take root in the perceptions of others and allow you to prompt them, guide them. All of this is typically done without the subject’s awareness. A trusted figure is the most efficient vessel for this kind of work: a figure in the guise of a priest or a children’s magician, perhaps. Often these practices involve hypnotism and forms of trance. Diversion and distraction are crucial to success. This work creates realities which change behavior and even culture (see not only Danto, but Wong’s Hat, Q-Anon, etc. to understand this phenomenon at play).

    I do wish that the DPD had support and more initiative in the work they did looking into West. Many of the clues are in this report, staring them in the face, but they don’t go far enough into their research to make connections. There are many. Looking forward to reading this file.

    The nursing home industry was largely controlled by organized crime, and organized crime does intersect in ways with occult culture. Several books were written about this in the early to mid-seventies, interestingly; one by Ralph Nader, which I have not read, and one called Tender Loving Greed, which I have.

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