And more McKinney

In addition to the comments on my blog concerning the FOIA documents in the McKinney homicide, a few readers sent me more comprehensive information via I will do my best to present it here.

First, two readers found the October 1977 news article and photo in the Royal Oak Daily Tribune of the batik art that was found unframed on McKinney’s desk. (Prior post.). I’m told, but have not been able to confirm, that the work is entitled “Eros.” (No surprise, I guess. It is unclear if anyone ever came forward to claim the art.

As an aside, I love the RO Tribune. Maybe this photo was in the Detroit News, but since they were so penny-wise and pound-foolish, their shit isn’t archived online. Can you say “microfiche at the library?” (That’s like banking with a bank that has no ATMs.). I didn’t come up with anything similar in The Detroit Free Press.

A few readers pointed out how McKinney’s murder had all the marks of a hit–a beat down, followed by one or two 22’s to the brain. Another reader had a good observation about drug smuggling done in picture frames, and with art coming to McKinney from Arizona and other locations, that was a real possibility. The picture frame smuggle is still in use:

This man was in some big trouble, one way or the other, and it caught up to him big time. Although McKinney’s family, employees, friends and customers were all asked about any drug use by McKinney, I did not see any indication the police pursued the possibility drugs were being smuggled through this art gallery. A few folks speculated about how McKinney even kept his gallery afloat, but there was no next-level inquiry. The guy had money trouble and could have been getting loans from the dark side, where it is not advisable to miss a payment.

If you are a big believer in police polygraphs, circa 1977, especially those conducted by the MSP, you have no problem believing that all who were polygraphed in this case were in the clear. So that would seem to take the investigation to a wider realm–like who TF did this guy owe money to, piss off or screw over?–but it never went there at all according to the FOIA documents provided to me.

In spite of the letter sent to Birmingham PD by Dr. Bruce Danto about the concerning statements of George Landino and the possibility McKinney was the child killer, that theory goes nowhere. The “bad feeling” Doug Webster wrote to McKinney and told police about–a sense that McKinney might have been involved in the child killings–was clearly just dismissed, as were the statements of the medium police met with in McKinney’s gallery. All dismissed even though at the time, the “most popular” theory about the killer, as expressed by Dr. Danto and Dr. Emanuel Tanay, was that this was a diabolical, deranged, damaged, wealth-hating, more white-collar, lone serial killer.

So let’s circle back to that batik on McKinney’s desk the night he was murdered. The artist was a young Dennis Cigler, who had been living in Rome since the early 1970s. Here’s where it gets more interesting.

According to two readers, several months before McKinney was murdered, Cigler came to Detroit and showed his batiks to the Michigan Opera Theatre staff who were putting together a production of “The Pearl Fishers.”  A reader asked: Who was the brainchild and patron of the Michigan Opera Theatre?  Jack Faxon.  Who were major contributors?  Gerald Knechtel, the vice president of labor relations for GM; and Dr. Bryce Alpern, pediatrician.  If you are a careful reader of this blog and books mentioned along the way, is your skin crawling yet?

Oh, I know, I know–just a coincidence. Birmingham didn’t have any connections to organized child sex rings, right?! Just a bunch of good shopping and fun lunch spots.

The “art world” in B’ham was pretty small–maybe even smaller than the child sex ring that infected that city’s borders. Here’s an example of how small. McKinney worked as a framer for Peggy deSalle at The Little Gallery (she owned it 1949–late 1970’s; he later left and opened his own gallery a few blocks away). The Little Gallery was on Maple, a short walk from our house on Yorkshire, right in front of the lot on Knox Street where the late state senator and man-about-town and stage, Jack Faxon, bought his house in the 1990s. Knox Street. Probably the last street my brother walked on before he was abducted and held captive before being murdered.

Peggy deSalle was briefly married to Zoltan Sepeshy, who was president of Cranbrook boys school from 1946-1966. In April 2022, Cranbrook sent a notice to alumni of an ongoing investigation into sexual abuse of students by a deceased faculty member between the years of 1946-1961.

Peggy, who was a photographer in addition to a gallery owner, married Albert deSalle and both were donors to Cranbrook and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

And we certainly can’t forget that poser Everell E. Fisher, Jr., and his Birmingham “gallery.” That makes for some circles in the rarified B’ham art scene.

It would stretch credulity well beyond the breaking point to suggest that all or any of these people knew who was involved in the OCCK crimes. But it gives you some sense of why nobody was digging real deep into the pedophiles operating in an around a place like Birmingham. Or why someone trying to turn in a Christopher Busch for flashing their kid got shown the door. Or why McKinney wouldn’t even be looked at as a suspect in the child killings.

That’s the information from readers, synthesized as best I could. If you have more to add or to clarify, please comment below. If you email me about it, I can’t promise when or if it will show up on my blog.