“He was an overly strict father and kept his wife a virtual social prisoner in their home. . . . [H]e felt that McKinney hated children as he was a harsh disciplinarian and was a homosexual person.”Posted: September 15, 2022
George Landino, an art teacher at Birmingham Groves High School who at one point worked for McKinney for about three years, told police McKinney “had a bit of anger a bit of a temper, which most people didn’t know about.” Landino indicated he had suspicions about McKinney’s sexuality (no surprise, as others had told police McKinney admitted to having an affair with another male teacher at Groves, FOIA 120, 198). Landino told police McKinney had a personality conflict with a male artist who had been Landino’s student and that McKinney had marital troubles. FOIA 278-82.
Landino begins his September 21, 1977, interview with Det. Richard Chambers by saying, “Okay, I will speak freely.” FOIA 278. Apparently not freely enough. On September 22, Dr. Bruce Danto sent Birmingham Police a letter, explaining that Landino contacted him after speaking with Det. Chambers because Landino would prefer to explain to Danto his suspicions about “a possible connection with the Oakland County child abduction murder cases.” FOIA 827, 828. The letter is found near the end of the stack of nearly 900 documents.
Here is a photo of the letter, which I have posted before:
And if there is any doubt that the person referred to is George Landino, the Daily Case Progress Summary & Index, entry no. 3, describes Dr. Danto’s letter “ref George Landino”:
This letter contains some massively fucked up shit and huge red flags. While Danto indicates he referred Landino to Jerry Tobias (OCCK task force member) and “[i]t was left that Tobias would contact” Landino, there is no indication in these files that the letter was ever followed-up on, that Landino was ever interviewed again, that the information was passed on to the OCCK task force, or that Tobias got back with Birmingham PD.
Pages referred to above:
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:
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.
Birmingham Eccentric, 12-29-77
Illinois police locate remains of man missing since 1994: “We never gave up”
— Read on www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/illinois-police-locate-remains-of-man-missing-since-1994-we-never-gave-up/ar-AA11MxtB
Thanks to a reader for this example of a police department never giving up, even with seemingly no investigative leads to follow. And I bet the PD didn’t give the family a bill for the exhumation and DNA cross-checking.
On Tuesday, September 20, 1977, the Birmingham Police Department received a routine call from the fire department for assistance on a first-aid run at the Birmingham Art Gallery at 1025 Haynes Street. The owner of the gallery, John McKinney, was found murdered on the first floor of the gallery. He had been beaten and shot in the head. The gallery was closed on Mondays and the murder was thought to have taken place between 6 and 9 pm on Monday the 19th, 45 years ago. The murder remains unsolved.
Preliminary to taking a closer look at this homicide, which took place six months after my brother Tim’s murder, consider these awesome entries from another blogger:
In addition to an entry on McKinney, this is the bottom line on the OCCK case:
The Oakland County Child Killer (OCCK) case. An old cold case that took place around Detroit, Michigan back in the ’70s. It involved 4 children . This case is constantly covered up, obfuscated and misdirected by the authorities. Once this case is cracked and the truth is out there is an opportunity for the US to clean up its garbage. You will learn our country is NOT what it says it is.Wilson’s Words and Pictures
More on McKinney’s murder during a wave of unsolved murders in Oakland County:
https://podcasts.apple.com/na/podcast/no-apparent-motive/id1440383165?i=1000438084705 (Don’t Talk to Strangers podcast).
And of course the 2011 book Portraits in the Snow: The Oakland County Child Killings . . . Scandals and Small Conspiracies, M. F. Cribari (Outskirts Press, Inc. 2011), https://www.amazon.com/Portraits-Snow-Killings-Scandals-Conspiracies/dp/1432768026.
I had left for college when McKinney was murdered. I asked one of my brothers yet again if anyone from law enforcement ever asked my family if any of them knew, recognized or had heard of John McKinney. He said no, never. Police were apparently unaware (as were we) that our neighbors, the Coffeys, were art collectors and apparently investors in McKinney’s gallery and that they were friends with McKinney, who was often at their house for dinner. Tim was very often across the street at the Coffey house as well, where his good friend lived.
You would think that somebody would have thought to ask the families of the OCCK victims if they knew McKinney. Or Busch. Or Flynn. Or Hojnacki. Or Hastings. Or Johnson. Or even checked the photographs of those who attended the funerals to see if these people showed up at any of the services. Over the years my dad was asked every few years about numerous priests, living and dead. But never these homegrown Oakland County men. You would also think that before a blanket announcement was made in the press, very early after McKinney’s murder, that he was in no way connected to the child killings, that somebody would have thought to run his name and photo by our family. But you would be wrong.
Othram Inc., Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Dade Co. Sheriff’s Office and Audiochuck collaborate to identify 1988 murder victim and her killerPosted: September 10, 2022
All over the country, even in Western Michigan, https://catherinebroad.blog/2022/03/21/msp-collaborates-with-identifiers-international-and-genetic-genealogists-ged-match-and-family-tree-dna-to-solve-35-year-old-cold-case/, law enforcement is collaborating and thinking outside of the box to solve decades-old murder cases.
Oakland Country has quite the list of unsolved homicides:
- Mark Stebbins (February 1976)
- Jane Allen (August 1976, her body found in Miamisburg, OH)
- Jill Robinson (December 1976)
- Kristine Mihelich (January 1977)
- Tim King (March 1977)
- Carson McDowell (August 1977)
- John McKinney (September 1977)
- Gail Webster (October 1978)
I’m sure there are others. There are also three suspicious suicides that stand out during this time period, but a suicide designation means neither the cops nor the press were going to dig very deep:
- Richard Hojnacki (March 1977)
- Berkley cop Chris Flynn (November 1978)
- OCCK suspect Chris Busch (November 1978)
It is truly hard to believe that then Oakland County prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson was busily focused on a U.S. Senate campaign during this time period with such a lousy track record as the county’s “Top Cop.” While he certainly would have fit in well with the current U.S. Senate, Michigan voters of that era were apparently not impressed by his obvious limited societal focus (anti-busing, welfare fraud, monied constituents always come first).
Cases like that of the murder of Stacey Lyn Chahorski demonstrate that where there is a will, there is a way to solve cold cases after leads are long exhausted, even in cases where the evidence is degraded and funds are scarce.
A genealogist who has been advising me said that the following question puts the focus where it should be–on what has/has not been done in the OCCK (and other) cases:
“HAVE YOU COMPILED A LIST OF LIVING RELATIVES FOR EACH OF THE SAMPLES THAT WERE TAKEN FROM THE CRIME SCENES?”
If, after using the most advanced techniques on degraded, improperly stored evidence, no actionable DNA can be recovered adequate for genetic genealogy review, an agency owes the public answers as to why this this the case and how they will commit not to repeat the errors of their predecessors.
The owner and operator of a pornography production company is charged with sex trafficking and production of child pornography.
— Read on www.fbi.gov/news/stories/michael-james-pratt-named-to-ten-most-wanted-fugitives-list-090722
If only Frank Shelden had been similarly listed.
Outed by a private citizen:
“Predators come in all forms. Police, regular people, rich people, poor people.” They sure do:
“Aren’t you 15?” “You know I’m 33 right?” Somebody better keep an eye on this POS.
A YouTube video about this incident has been removed by the uploader.
Take a listen to a new podcast about a kidnapper/serial killer who terrorized the country of Belgium. The first 3 of 10 episodes are online:
“In the 1980’s and 90’s a kidnapper and serial killer terrorized the country of Belgium. His unspeakable crimes had the nation on edge as he preyed on its most vulnerable. After law enforcement proved unable or unwilling to stop him, 400,000 Belgian citizens took to the streets to protest what they believed was a high ranking cover up and government conspiracy. Many of the criminals involved in these horrific acts, known and unknown, have never been brought to justice, and walk freely today. Host Matt Graves takes you on this investigative journey through one of Belgium’s darkest chapters, to unravel the mystery around a man who simply became known as Le Monstre.”
Sound familiar? Except of course for the 400,000 Belgian citizens who took to the streets in protest and to demand massive reform. That would never happen in Oakland County, Michigan, on any level. Ask no questions, keep your head down, make no waves. Reporters, too.
Podcast host and writer Matt Graves hopes that his podcast (and a French version he hopes to release) will help push towards resolution of some unanswered questions in this horrific case.
The hope is to bring an end to one of the darkest chapters in Belgium’s history. So far, nothing but nothing can scratch the dark surface of the OCCK case. Authorities in that case have perfected the bob and weave. Shame on you and your constituents. Still-living participants in these crimes and in the investigative cover-up will probably never answer for their actions. The lack of accountability is a terrible reflection on your communities.