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.

29 thoughts on “And more McKinney”

  1. Dr. Bryce Alpert was our family pediatrician for many years – his office was I believe 7 mile and Woodward. He drove a little convertible sports car down Woodward as a recall, was he somehow connected to the OCCK? I never heard that before (?)

  2. Here is a link to a cd cover Dennis Cigler designed, in batik, called Birth of Eros. I believe the cd was released in November 1977. The Salsoul Orchestra’s Majic Journey album.

    I think the Herald Times Reporter April 1977 article on Cigler mentioned that on his visit back in the US he was first in NYC doing a few private showings. Chances feel pretty high that Faxon, who at least later had a place in NYC, and/or his close friend David DiChiera, Michigan Opera Theater founder, met Cigler at such a showing in NYC, and DiChiera invited him to apply for the set/costume/etc design for The Pearl Fishers. That opera was part of the MOT’s Fall 1978 season. How else would a 30-something artist in Rome, originally from small town Wisconsin, get a connection with the MOT’s founder.

    For someone in Birmingham to have one of Cigler’s unframed batiks in September 1977, they either knew him from his batik work in Rome, Italy, or his brief stops in NYC, Detroit, his Wisconsin hometown,, or CA privat showings during that visit back to the States in April 1977.

    Finally, if you can see the Wisconsin Herald Times Reporter article on Cigler, the photo with the story is of Cigler and a fairly large batik that appears to be a young boy who may be wearing a wrap or a hood. Creepy.

    1. You make some excellent points. Didn’t McKinney also visit NYC? I thought it was sometime in 1977 as well.

        1. Yes, I just finished reading the FOIA documents. Many people were questioned as well about McKinney’s NYC trip. Mostly to find out who went with him. I was just wondering if this trip coincided with when Cigler was in NYC.

          1. According to the Manitowoc Herald Tribune, 2-April-1977, Cigler had a 3 week visit to the US. By the date of the article, he already had had 4 private showings of his batiks in New York City, was on his way to Detroit after a brief visit with his family in Wisconsin, and then on to Los Angeles. That most likely puts his New York visit in the last week of March 1977.

  3. Jack Faxon was in the Senate in 1977. I wonder how much muscle a senator could scrape up if he were being blackmailed? If (big if here) John McKinney was using his gallery to facilitate some nefarious money making business, would he be bold enough to target Faxon? Just a fleeting thought.

    Also, I looked up some old MOT programs online. Guess who else was a big Metro Opera fan? Dr. Robert Sillery and his wife are listed as “Premiere Benefactors” and “Sustainers”. Who knew? Oakland Co. must have paid really well back then. And Dr. Slippery performed the autopsy on McKinney. Hmm. Lots of dots here.

    1. That is interesting. Here is some additional information on Sillery and possible

      Mrs. Sillery was co-chairman for the Detroit Grand Opera association during 1977. All while Dr. Sillery was being charged with Medicaid fraud (charges kept getting delayed and were later dropped). He was later charged with falsifying an autopsy in Oakland County in 1980.
      Good thing he owned 4 pathology labs in the Detroit area all while he was the medical examiner.

      During September of 1976, the family owned some champion race horses in Kentucky. I seem to recall Everell Fisher retreating to a horse farm in Kentucky.

      What about the art world? Dr. Sillery’s daughter has a MA in Art with an emphasis in Painting. Also a BFA in Art with an emphasis in Drawing. Both from Wayne State.

  4. Sounds like Dr. Sillery had a few irons in the fire. Now, why on earth would someone with enough $$ to rub elbows at the opera dedicate themselves to public service? What’s in it for him? Money?
    Falsifying autopsy results could benefit insurance policy holders (just add a liitle kickback for the ME). Or upper crust families whose kids are facing criminal charges. Especially those who could afford horse farms and the nice seats at the opera.
    Perhaps Dr. Slippery got a big pile of cash to damage control the McKinney autopsy? Maybe the medicaid fraud business was so lucrative he needed 4 pathology labs and a big wheelbarrow for all that cash? All speculation at this point. Lots of rabbit holes here.
    Also, listed on that 1977 MOT program list of donors/patrons was Dr. Danto. And thats entirely different bucket of weirdness.

  5. Cathy, what are your thoughts on the possibility that McKinney might actually have been the one who ordered Tim’s abduction? I always stood by the theory that it was a crime of happenstance, in the sense that the kidnapper – in my opinion, John Hastings – just spent that evening lurking around the Adams neighborhood scouting for potential victims in order to make some money selling a kid, and then Tim unfortunately crossed his path. Thanks to Polly Coltman, we do know that he had been driving around Poppleton Park earlier on, watching Tim, Tim Coltman and the other two boys play, so it already strikes me as a little odd that he had been watching Tim previously. It could be a coincidence, but still. Some time ago, people were discussing the events of that day here and I pointed out this, saying that the kidnapper was definitely driving around the park while waiting for the four boys to part ways so he acould approach one of them alone, and given that the three boys can’t recall meeting anybody suspicious after leaving, chances are that the chosen boy was Tim, which supports my little theory that the kidnapper actually spoke to him before they met at the parking lot. Perhaps that would explain why he felt comfortable enough getting into a stranger’s car. Nevertheless, I still think the abduction happened by chance – it’s not likely at all that he stalked Tim, found out where your family lived and kept waiting in the vicinity, hoping that somehow he would came out again in the dark and all by himself. Rather than that, the guy would probably just move on and try another kid. But still, your previous posts on McKinney made me think a lot: he does not resemble any of the two men witnessed by Doug Wilson, which means he had no part in the actual abduction. We do have reasons to assume he had a big involvement in the crime to be murdered, whether by the police or by the other members of the ring, so what was it? Why was he so important? Thinking about this and these coincidences I just pointed out, it occured to me that maybe he was the orderer of Tim’s kidnapping, giving the perpetor Tim’s schedule, address, and favorite hangout places, and that’s why the creep was everywhere Tim could possibly be that fateful day. Do you think it is possible that McKinney knew Tim well enough for that? I apologize in advance if I am perhaps going too far in the conspiracy department, but I really wanted to know your perspective on this.

    1. I had previously believed (for decades) that all of these abductions were crimes of opportunity. That any kid would do. If you look at Mark’s abduction, there were a lot of freaks in Ferndale and some of them saw Mark leave the VFW Hall alone to walk home. In Jill’s case, who was to know that she would jump on her bike on a December night and take off rather than cool off after a disagreement at home? Somebody evil saw her riding her bike and could have used the old “hey, I just hit your bike are you ok, let me take you home” ruse, the cop ruse, or who knows what. Kristine may have been seen by one of the abductors who may have lived in her very neighborhood, walking by herself and tracked her to the 7-11. I do believe the abductor(s) were hanging around Adams School, Poppleton Park and the parking lot of the Hunter-Maple Pharmacy beginning in the afternoon of March 16. It was a gorgeous day and the kind of warm day you did not get in Michigan in March back then. There were probably a ton of kids out that afternoon. Whether or not this person followed Tim and hung around, the whole day and evening was an aberration in schedule at our house. That was the first time ever that Tim was allowed to stay home alone and it was last minute. The three other kids, including me, had plans that were already on the books and my parents knew it. My dad convinced my mother to go to a nearby client’s house to witness a will signing and then they went out to dinner. I foolishly gave Tim money to go to Hunter Maple and I was more concerned about the traffic than a child killer. So, as in the Jill’s case, it was very sad circumstances that worked in the killer’s favor. I think, given what my late friend told me about how often McKinney was at their house for dinner (because he wasn’t with his wife or kids and probably needed a break from buying his mistresses dinners), that Tim would have recognized and spoken with McKinney. But did McKinney know Tim’s schedule? I doubt it. Did the man or men who abducted Tim know who he was? Possibly. There are a million scenarios–the undercover cop/I saw you shoplifting ruse, or god knows what. Circling back to my initial impressions about crimes of opportunity–never in my worst nightmares would I have thought of “catalog kids,” as described in Portraits of the Snow; where a pedophile client orders a specific type of kid, including a “clean” “suburban” kid. Then, years later, I would speak to living victims of the pedophile rings operating in Oakland and Wayne Counties, as well as on N. Fox Island. They had no reason to lie, and were dismissed by police and everyone else who can’t wrap their brains around this sick shit. One of the “clients” liked kids with a gap in their front teeth. Whoever abducted Tim was probably the purveyor. The clients? Unless there is some needle-in-the-haystack DNA hit, we will never know. Nobody in that god-forsaken county will ever say jack shit about these crimes or the failed investigation. A corrupt code of evil and silence. I probably didn’t answer your question. There are just so many unknowns. And that’s how they like it in OC.

      1. Cathy,

        I agree that these were certainly “crimes of opportunity.” Whether or not the creep circling Poppleton Park at 4pm was part of the ring that kidnapped your brother at 8:30 (probably was), there is no way that the ring could have anticipated your brother’s trip to the pharmacy that night. (I strongly disagree with those who suggest the kidnapper might have arranged some sort of clandestine rendezvous with your brother later. There is not the slightest evidence for that scenario. Your brother simply wanted to buy a candy bar, that’s all.)

        I have long believed that the ring was NOT lying-in wait for hours in the Hunter-Maple drug store parking lot, hoping against hope that an unaccompanied minor would show up, hours after sunset on a school night in the middle of March.
        (If he was acting alone, Hastings (if it was him) would have been “hunting” in his neighborhood in Bloomfield Village, three miles west of your house. Mills Pharmacy on Maple and Chesterfield was the B.V. equivalent of Birmingham’s Hunter-Maple. So, if Hastings really was in downtown Birmingham, it was because he was on a job, assigned by higher ups in the ring.)

        No, the street crew – whoever they were – was there because they spotted your brother that night on his skateboard on either Yorkshire or Knox, drove to the parking lot and then waited for him to emerge out the back.

        And that means the ring had a base of operations (a house) with a view of your brother’s route on the sidewalk. Somebody connected to the ring in that very small area owned or leased a house right there.

    2. There’s no coincidence with whoever was circling the Adams neighborhood earlier in the afternoon on March 16. 1977 was the same person that abducted Tim later on. What’s the probability? The % is so minute that it’s a coincidence that it never crossed my mind. I wish Polly was able to see photos of the suspects because she could have closed the case. The guy ran into her at Hunter Maple and she seen the same guy circling the neighborhood. He was obviously looking for something or someone.

      1. Police blew her off in the early days and over the years. I suspect that many people turned in information assuming it had been taken seriously. A logical, but very erroneous assumption. As Alpena Witness can attest, even if someone diligently kept after it with police, police were completely capable of circling back and fucking with them to quiet them down. Garry Gray just might show up at your work place in his boy scout uniform and try to make a scene. Literally outrageous.

        1. I never knew where this rumor came from exactly but maybe just confusion when I tried to convey what happened or this may have been from Helen herself changing things around some. Let me set this straight, GG never showed up at my workplace although his response was similar.

          After trying to contact GG with a few trials I left my home phone number along with my work phone number just to reach out for initial contact like many people do when they first make contact. He called me at work which is fine but when I told him several times during the discussion I can’t talk about it here I have people around he seem to pursue it anyway and push me and when I asked if we could meet somewhere he turned me down several times on that as well. I was quite pissed at many of his comments asking me if I’m nuts and dwelling so much on Helen and her website. He seemed to be more an emotional wreck than someone professional and after an hour trying to defend my position of this situation he calls me back immediately to further talk about it for another half hour. I do not know of him showing up at my workplace or where that rumor started but he did certainly did not open the doors for me to talk other than at my workplace.

          There was another time afterward where I tried to reach out to the Troy Police at their place and hoping I could talk to someone over these matters and the follow up was that they contacted GG where he called me again at my workplace a day later and said we already discussed these matters and why am I bothering the Troy Police? My impressions are that I still believe GG is more concern about his bruised ego from Helen than the case itself which now it has become very bluntly obvious from the missing polygraph results from Georgia with no explanation. In addition my impressions seem to relate and supplement Marney’s details in her book years later about him as well when him and Cory took the trip down to Georgia to begin with and arguing over Helen Dagner.

            1. Cathy, sincere thanks for letting me express my frustrations and letting me talk about it a few times like we did. I would have never used Helen for a character reference or anything else for that matter but the woman was telling the truth as far as what went down at the BigBoy and that’s what matters although it was difficult to stand behind it at times. I did feel threatened by GG by just the way he talked to me like I’m some type of criminal for supporting Helen. It may seem silly but that was my impressions at the time and knowing the outcome of some of this so many years later makes it all the more frustrating.

              1. Yes. Awful. Eventually the GGs of the world will all be out of policing. It can’t happen soon enough. Will the culture of the MSP ever really change? Pretty ingrained.

  6. The only thing the McKinney documents really reveal to me is that after 45 years, there are still no answers in the OCCK case and no one much cared if the McKinney case went cold. Four child murders and to this day LE cannot say if the four cases were even connected. Richard Hojnacki suicides in early March 1977. McKinney is murdered after what was a serious beating in September 1977. Chris Flynn and Chris Busch “suicide” in November 1978 within days (if not hours) of each other. Suicide means nobody looks very hard at any of it. But the OCCK and McKinney murders are never solved (nor is that of Gail Webster in Troy in October 1978). Does this just fall into the category of homicides committed in jurisdictions where police are traffic cops who investigate mostly property crimes? The kids’ cases go to the Michigan State Police, which must have been a godsend to OC prosecutor Patterson. The MSP task force then distinguishes itself by wheel-spinning, money-spending and almost instinctively making every wrong move for almost two years. Going on 50 years later, the MSP still will not speak openly with the press. Look how many articles there are across the country about a cold case being picked up by a new detective where the detective lays it out there and then asks the community for any information, no matter how obscure. The only detective to do that in the OCCK case was Wayne Co. Prosecutor Det/Insp. Cory Williams, who made a plea for information at the end of the Children of the Snow documentary. Then what happens? The MSP doesn’t even get their shit together on their fake tip line. Not since the exhumation of David Norberg in 1999 has anyone affiliated with that task force said a goddamn thing to the press, beyond smoke blowing. But if you look back, one thing seems pretty obvious to me. As winter of 1978 rolled in, no one in law enforcement seemed particularly concerned with telling the public to still be alert, and from that day forward all we ever heard from the few men high enough up the food chain to speak to the press was that “we believe the killer is institutionalized or dead.” Real relief, boys. Thanks for nothing.

  7. Cathy said; “…never in my worst nightmares would I have thought of “catalog kids,” as described in Portraits of the Snow; where a pedophile client orders a specific type of kid, including a “clean” “suburban” kid. Then, years later, I would speak to living victims of the pedophile rings operating in Oakland and Wayne Counties, as well as on N. Fox Island. They had no reason to lie, and were dismissed by police and everyone else who can’t wrap their brains around this sick shit”

    I have no reason to believe, that any ‘living victims’ whom you may have invested trust in, has deceived you – and please know it’s not my intention to imply that or cast aspersions on any specific person or persons.
    However, taken as a generalized phenomenon, there are reasons why a person who truly was victimized as a child, might incorporate elements of an identifiable and frequently proven false mythology into their own life history narrative.

    Pedophile clients “ordering” a specific type of kid, is a common claim associated with and possibly derived from that mythology. So are claims, that a victimized person had been forced to participate in, or witnessed, or observed in some setting, commercial ‘child snuff’ films – circa 1960’s to 1990’s. There are a few other, associated claims that I won’t go into.

    It is not necessarily the case, that true CSA victims who have altered or supplemented their actual life history with claims common to this mythology, have any nefarious intent, or desire to send anyone down blind alleys, or mislead other victim’s surviving family members about the possible-probable fate of a loved one. It is just as probable, or more so even, that their intent is to promote belief in this mythology because they sincerely belief it is the real, deliberately hidden and secret TRUTH underlying CSA crimes generally. Or because they fervently believe the mythology contains a KEY to resolving a particular CSA case, specifically. They may be so passionately convinced of this, that they would ‘dress themselves’ as someone who KNOWS the mythology is actually reality, because “it happened to ME!” A ‘higher good’, perhaps even serving the Will of God, is sometimes the motivation. Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. Can they PROVE whatever they’ve claimed?
    If not, you and/or anyone else is certainly welcome to believe their narratives ANYWAY. I have no interest in controlling or directing or censoring anyone’s personal beliefs.

    It is also not necessarily the case, that persons who remain skeptical of those mythology related claims when there is no proof to validate them, are somehow ‘naive’ or deliberately ‘blocking out’ other people’s reality, because they can’t handle “the sick sh*t”. That assumption does an unfair dis-service to some CSA victims and investigators, who may be more intimately and tragically familiar with the uttermost depths of sick sh*t than anyone could guess or will ever know.
    It is just as probable, that skepticism derives from many decades of attempting to validate mythology claims and repeatedly coming up empty, despite alleged eyewitness claimant’s assurances that – THIS time, it’s real. THIS time, it’s there, you just have to dig deep enough. THIS time, you will have my personal roadmap and guarantee. Oh! It’s not there? Must be corruption and cover-up, again.

    1. I did not delay your post b/c of the content–sometimes your comments and those of Inquisitor and. few others go into a “pending” file for some reason and I can’t approve comments from any device other than my computer so I miss a few. I will take you at your word that you don’t mean to offend but I get your message loud and clear.

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