Some distressing/bizarre reading

At the outset of this post, I want to say that the current day Birmingham Police Department has treated us like human beings and were completely above board. It took a little getting used to. No manipulation, no deception, no alternative agenda. I would think any police agency still involved in this case would understand the need for transparency, even if there are no concrete answers. But that’s not how most of them roll.

After the offer was extended for us to view what the BPD still had on Tim’s case, one of my brothers went in on two separate afternoons to look at the files and other materials. It consisted of loose documents, a three-ring binder, a wooden tip box with file cards, three tapes and two bankers boxes. It took hours. He took notes and was allowed to take screen shots to assist us in formulating a FOIA request.

He would later summarize his notes in a six-page, single-spaced document. Most of the files had been moved to the MSP Oak Park Headquarters years before. Moved to the black hole. This was what was left behind.

What remained was depressing and disjointed. Some of it we recognized from the MSP FOIA response from over a decade before, and you will, too. One of the loose documents was a newspaper with an article about that crime-fighting whiz, assistant oakland county prosecutor Richard “No Deals” Thompson, who had acted as a drug buyer in Shane Park back in the day. There was a big photo of him in his office after his big drug bust assist. It made me ill.

The bulk of the documents involve the 1992 investigation into information provided by “confidential informant” Helen Dagner. The order of these files is not ideal and many copies are illegible. No, I don’t have better copies, no I did not attempt to enhance the copies.

I tried my hardest not to annotate or editorialize with these documents, but some of the margin notes (and any highlighter) are mine. And yes, there are redaction errors; they are really unavoidable.

I suggest reading the documents in this order so they make a little more sense:

Interview transcripts (scan pages 219-425)

Police narratives, records, etc. (scan pages 456-608)

Helen notes and handwritten letters (scan pages 90-218)

Handwritten notes, Commander Don Studt (scan pages 1-89)

Ridiculous notes and writings of unknown origin (scan pages 426-455)

Not included in the above, but related, are maps drawn by the interviewee to demonstrate to Commander Studt his photographic memory and his command of the relevant areas even 15 years after the last murder.

14 thoughts on “Some distressing/bizarre reading”

  1. Hi Cathy;

    This is the first I’ve seen of this and it sure brings back memories of all the crazy discussions I had with Helen thru the years and of course the night I heard them talk about this at the restaurant in 91.

    Still going thru this but since it’s fresh in your mind right now. I must ask. What I’m most curious about – Was there any indication that the Birmingham police ever interviewed anyone at the Alpena Big Boy staff in 92? This was something that Don Studt told us (Me and my wife) when we first talked to him in 2005 and we took another trip to Alpena to try to hunt down whom they talked to. Conclusions were they did not talk to anyone at that restaurant! It bothered me so much that I came and talked to your dad about it years later. So just curious if maybe there was something in these notes about it and we might have missed something.

      1. My memory was it was the first thing discussed with Don and I simply stated something like ‘the discussions at Big Boy are for real” as I had other cops previously deny to me that I heard anything. That was when he said he knows because he interviewed the Big Boy staff back then. From there I pointed at my wife sitting beside me and said she worked there so who did you talk to there? That kind of put him on the spot. I think back on it now, Don might have just said that as a way to say I’m your friend and I’m on your side as a first impression to me. Maybe it’s thing that cops do when they talk to people? My problem was that I took it literally that he talked to Big Boy staff and I was determined to find out who as I wanted to try to find the waitress that served both of our tables that night. So it was a wild goose chase. After all of these years, I’m not really sure what to think of any of it. I don’t put much faith in Helen nor do I with the cops that worked the case. Very head spinning to say the least. I put the whole weight of it on the very suspicious missing Georgia polygraph results that seem to have very telling conclusions with no trace of it now! Still waiting for an explanation from someone on those matters.

    1. I’m reading through all of this and at the part I am at now, Hastings says he is drawing the map based on what Helen is saying from the book Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Is that true, or was he just rambling all this off the top of his head and drawing the map from his brain? (He’s acting like Helen is reading locations from the book and he is basically just a cartographer, as opposed to him providing the info to Helen unprompted.)

      1. KP
        Did not see your post until just now when someone let me know about it. Hopefully you catch this.

        When I came into the restaurant, the maps were already drawn and spread around the table. They were still going through them and JH was talking about roads. He said ‘Troy’. It got my attention and I partially stood up as he had a map near the edge of the table, I could not see what he was writing but noticed some minor details from a quick glance at it. I was convinced it was Troy Michigan he was talking about at that point as I saw 75 down the middle on the map. That was my last chance seeing any of the maps because Helen had them all stacked on her side of the table with her big purse on top of them. And that was how they were for the rest of the night until they got up to leave.

        So, I saw no books on the table at all and if there was, I surely would have been all the more curious what the book would have been. I can’t say if the book was out on the table beforehand when the maps were mainly drawn and she had it in her purse when I came in. I believe the police came up with a bogus story over that book but it’s hard to say for sure. I know Detective GG liked to use that explanation for the map drawing. I tried to tell him there was no book on that table when I was there. Helen claims she first knew about the Wolf book from Don Studt when he came to investigate in 92 and mentioned it to her asking if John ever read it. Supposedly she eventually checked it out of the library at that time under special order. In and around 2007, I tried to contact the Alpena Library myself and see if they have any record of whom the book was checked out and when. I had no luck, too many years has passed since 92 and they had no records of any type from that time or so they say.

      2. So Helen’s further claims were that once she checked this book out of the library she borrowed it to JH where he read it. She claims JH didn’t know such a book existed at that time and there were some things in it, that point to him. (Significance of Water Towers?) I don’t know what to think but I sure don’t believe anything JH has stated on record either. Need to know the exact time that this all took place and the acknowledgement of that book. Helen was corresponding with Don Strudt before he came into town as well, so don’t know when she got that book in her hands and when and when JH is making claims they had it during the map drawing. May be impossible to determine any time base to any of this now.

        1. Thank you for the response Inquisitor. I can’t imagine what it was like to overhear what you did. It is unfortunate that Helen was somewhat unreliable. For as much as she drew attention to Hastings, her erratic behavior detracted as well. I so wish someone would follow up in Georgia, there are just too many coincidences.

  2. Interesting interview with Hastings.

    It’s frustrating that when suspects were re-interviewed some years later, pertinent lines of questioning weren’t more exhaustively pursued. As if starting from scratch or pursuing only the most contemporary leads.

    Again, the Detroit police department file on area occult activity is a useful resource. They too were investigating triangles. More pertinently, that file reveals not only information about occult activity in the area, but illustrates how some voluntary occult tipsters defined the perimeters of that part of the investigation. All of the young men giving information to those investigating officers had belonged to grottos set up in the area in association, originally, with the church of satan.

    After the break from Lavey, his lieutenant Michael Aquino, he of military intelligence psy-ops, started the Church of Set. The men who came with him were the men feeding information to the investigators in Detroit. Like Aquino, they were fervently nazi. Aquino wrote a paper for the military about MindWar operations against not just military enemies of foreign countries but against US citizens.

    A big strain of this ideological demographic is libertarianism, indirectly referenced by Hastings in many of his expressed attitudes about money and finance. A big strain of bircherism in that era was libertarian.

    Hastings mentions Chaldean friends, and makes distinctions in his views about Jewish people—is this an Ashkenazi/miszrahi type distinction? I suspect so. That line of questioning was in my view more pertinent than getting to the bottom of dagner’s sex toy allegations.

    There is also the fact that much of Hasting’s tenor and tone parallels the end time commentary of John McKinney’s letter to his gallery partner Doug in Arizona. A big part of the Aquino set was the idea of chaos and rebirth—a corrupt old must be destroyed so that the new era may arise. Etc. Goes back to Alistair Crowley and the concept of aeons: a truly powerful adept ushers in his own aeon via engineered chaos and disruption. Crowley had a tremendous influence on Aquino and Lavey and most known occult figures throughout the years.

    This is all also interesting in light of Starchild and his libertarian views on off shore and island banking. Hakim Bey, whether actually Grossman or not, wrote a book about pirates and islands. While this wasn’t about finance, it maps very closely to starchild’s interests and literature, and rings interestingly in light of Fox Island (not to mention all the others islands). hasting’s association with con man Carr should have been pursued more explicitly. Given all these associations, his getting that particular job was a bit like Epstein getting his first job in finance.

    Anyone who thinks this is all over the place might have read too many of these kinds of interviews and not enough background information.

  3. This file gives great insight into the way an informant relationship seems to work – and reflects some of the drawbacks and conflicts of interest generated within that dynamic. At least to me. My gut sense is that Helen was practically assigned Hastings – I suspect after he’d moved back to the area. It does seem as if authorities might have been tracking him just a little, after the no account check charge.

    My primary problem, whatever the genesis of her involvement in the Hastings investigation of 1992, is that Helen is as profoundly unreliable as the suspect. I’m assuming that her relationship as an informant started after her own trouble with the law and a four month sentence for doing essentially what Hastings was doing at the time of this 1992 inquiry. Both displayed deceptive practices and sold some version of snake oil to their victims. In Hasting’s case, as he explained to an investigator, he was running a business which offered services for which he had no certification.

    Fortunately, the evidentiary information provided by the materials is strongly suggestive on its own. However, later cases involving/charging Harvey emerged years later. One example: two brothers had been wrongly convicted and imprisoned and were years later found to be innocent. They were charged and convicted using an informant who was coached, natch, but coached, it would seem, to lie.

    The original tipster on Hastings was this former short-term girlfriend from the lost years period in question (73-77). She reported that Hastings associated with a self-professed, ring-bearing satanist at Biff’s. This person was fired from Biff’s right around the time Hastings was. This was I think the weekend night manager. After this job, Hastings had no other job, yet seemed never to have been short on cash. The file illustrates how atypical this windfall of money was in Hastings’ general history. He borrowed copiously from his parents, was bailed out, was provided vehicles, etc. At the time his mother was interviewed, it was revealed that he had fairly recently “borrowed” money from her.

    In the included notes for his book, Hastings lays out classic libertarian viewpoints. He suscribes to paramilitary survivalist periodicals. In some ways Hastings illustrates the shift of this late sixties/early to mid seventies shift in libertarian thinking, from Bircherism to Ron Paul, survivalist, and Tea Party. His is exactly the kind of disenfranchised, bright but detached mind that these groups have classically targeted.

    If you’re wondering what the connection between satanism at that time and libertarianism was, I refer to Lavey’s own statement about his church: “Just Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added.” Ayn Rand, especially back then, was the patron saint of libertarians.

    The dissolution of the church’s grottos occurred between 1971 and 1975. I believe the Babylon Grotto, in Detroit, was dissolved in 1973, but I’d have to consult the literature again. In any case, by 1975, the grotto system was discontinued altogether. Lieutenant Aquino left in 1975. He had been the scribe of the church, in contact with many of the grottos, their leaders, and their members. A handful of members left the church with Aquino, or at the time he did, and seemed to remain loyal to him. It was this group of people to whom I think Aquino steered Detroit police in their investigation. All of these young men were very helpful. They pointed to Wayne Forest West – a classic con artist who wrote the section in Lavey’s book which proposed actions against the public meant to drive home a message, to create havoc, confusion, distrust, and trauma.

    Interestingly, this chapter written by West tracks closely to Aquino’s psy-op ideas around “Mindwar”, which also proposes such measures, translated into military language. These Aquino loyalists, after breaking with Lavey, formed a white supremacist/neo-nazi church of their own, a “Brotherhood” (also satanic) which is still active today, though, for a brief period the leader (included as a source in the Detroit file) converted to Christianity. This lasted several months and therefore would seem to be about optics.

    My own working theory is that these factions and splits were designed. The young members were worked up into agitated states – they were given resources (extensive official church reading list), as well as narcotics, and encouraged to express themselves in their own ways, to act out, to disobey brazenly. This unleashed a lot of unstable characters into the populace, and the Lone Nut brigade of “cultural operators” followed closely behind to provide “context” (this would be Danto and his efforts, as well as a writer whose name I presently forget, who started the Skeptical Inquirer, presenting articles which debunked and elevated misinformation under the guise of debate and intellectual discourse. In many ways this too is consistent with the Mindwar approach. As a further aside, this man also ran a satanic group). When you study the odd sects surrounding these cases, you see pretty quickly that splintering was not only common but frequent.

    Hastings got a job at LLoyd, Carr Inc somehow. He should have been asked. He was a broker with little to no experience. Many of the 1000 persons hired by Alan Abraham (aka Carr) were inexperienced, but it does sound as if Hastings was a level above them. He saw the writing on the wall, he says, and jumped ship a month or so ahead of Carr’s indictment. No surprises there, as Carr had been warned to stop operating without license, and continued to do so after appealing the charges.

    Hastings is vague on how he got the job at Biff’s. This indicates that he wanted that relationship protected. I suspect that Gabara or the night manager with the Satan ring – or both – got him that job at Biffs. Additionally, I suspect that this person had also been involved in the Lloyd Carr operation, or with people associated with it; had that been known, a thru-line of criminality would have been indicated. Hasting’s will not give this person’s name, citing poor recall, though he is said by several people (he says it himself) to have an unusually sharp and detailed memory. That night manager’s name is likely a further key to the kind of “associates” Hastings kept – and I think probably also key to the associates McKinney, Green, Sloan, Busch, and others kept. Work in nursing homes, and as a cook seem to fit the character profile – suggesting contacts within those employment arenas. I will only say now that a minister in a nursing home, in this particular environment, would seem to be an interesting extension of the work LLoyd, Carr was doing. Rest certain that the targets of the Lloyd Carr schemes were generally older individuals; even better targets without their wits.

    Interesting that Hastings’ brother went to Arizona, where McKinney’s partner in the gallery went around this time. A lot was going on in Arizona having to do with organized crime, including the car bombing of a reporter who’d been working to expose this activity. Interesting that Hastings was trying to generate business in Kuwait. Interesting that in his book notes Hastings seems to be discussing the kind of servitude a member of Lavey’s church might have endured. He says this kind of victim is unaware of his own position, believes he is autocratic when really he is serving an overlord, who isn’t required to work because of all the money the minions are bringing in.

    Lavey also had mob connections. See his FBI file, released within the last decade. It has gone unnoticed but involved a case in the 80s where an informant notified authorities that a plot to assassinate Edward Kennedy led directly to Lavey’s doorstep; the idea/implication/subtext being that Lavey commandeered groups of lawless individuals who could get this kind of thing accomplished.

    Also interesting that Hastings’ mother talks about the mafia and the Japanese. This is startling. See the takeover of MCA records in the 80s. They found that higher-ups there were working in coordination with members of the Yakuza. This case was shut down almost immediately, after wires provided incriminating information about these associates. How is it that John’s mother is versed on this? Why is it that John wants his mother’s interview attended by his sister? After reading the repot of her interview, I believe that while he was likely afraid of what his mother might reveal about his past, he was possibl even more concerned what she would say in general. I can see why.

    I’m troubled by Helen’s tactics, especially because this suspect seems viable to me as a lead, given what I’ve learned. Helen sabotaged these efforts. Is there any question about that? And she did this at a time where much was at stake for the sherrif department who had a lot resting on the Kevorkian case, so much so that the questionable practices of an informant would be even more of a liability than usual. Whatever an informant might bring in under these circumstances seems detrimental to the case – ensuring that the secrecy surrounding it will increase rather than diminish. She effectively functioned at the end of the day as a version of Danto, leading down her own squirrel road. Apologies to her apologists.

  4. By the way, the writings starting at page 426 are in Hastings’ handwriting (see maps and his statement he never wrote any other way) and would seem to relate to contacts in his business efforts – this would either be part of the materials taken by Helen, or they were associated with his earlier arrest for the no account check. They are names, I suggest, of prospective clients/targets/associates in these efforts.

    Also, in Hastings’ defense, my eyes might roll and I might just have gone into a trance when faced with Helen’s tactics, in person, in my own home, whether I could pay my rent or not.

  5. Correction: the skeptical writer was professor Marcello Truzzi, located in Michigan. He published a skeptic periodical for some time, then until 1979 published the Subterranean Sociology Newsletter. The imagery featured on the membership certificate showed two devils framing the page:

    Very much in the vein of Danto; and wrote extensively and predictably on alleged UFO sightings. See the lawyer arranged for Mckinney’s friend Douglas. The polygraph expert she suggested had been involved in a famous abduction case. My memory says Arizona, and that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Strange goings-on at the time in Arizona, including many missing persons cases and unsolved killings.

    This might not go here; however, Truzzi co-authored a book on “psychic detectives” with one Arthur Lyons, who several years earlier had written books on satanic groups which featured Lavey and Aquino prominently. He even mentions Wayne Forest West. There is a strong possibility that not Danto but Lyons wrote the book on the Oakland County killings by “Parrott” (sp). Lyons wrote a handful of crime novels, most of which featured casts of satanic and occult sects. I’ve read two of them, and they read somewhat like these case files. He was consulted by the Task Force for his expertise on occult activity.

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