A conversation at a law enforcement conference in Florida last year led to an arrest in the cold-case rape of a Tulane University student 45 years ago.
The evidence was tested using the most modern DNA testing.
“It’s a truly remarkable story and a credit to all the dedicated people involved,” said Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.
The new Oakland County prosecutor must demand an accounting from the Michigan State Police of the status of all of the evidence in the OCCK case.
- List all evidence in the four cases.
- List all DNA test results whether nuclear, mtDNA or Ystr.
- Was evidence extinguished during testing? Describe.
- Was evidence subjected to multiple tests? Describe.
- Is there any evidence as yet untested using the most modern technology?
- What labs were used for testing?
- Dates for all tests.
- Has the physical evidence been returned?
- Where is the physical evidence stored and how is it being stored?
- If it is not all being stored at the same facility, why is that?
- Do any local PDs or the FBI have any of the evidence?
- What evidence should be retested using the most modern methods?
- Has a genetic genealogist been consulted?
- Consult with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy about the difficulties getting the MSP to locate and test evidence over the years.
- Have the actual pieces of evidence–anything from these cases, or the actual physical files been used over the years for POST training, thus contaminating it?
- Why was the evidence unaccounted for and mishandled and improperly stored for decades in the biggest unsolved serial murder case in Michigan history?
The MSP and the current Oakland County prosecutor have unfairly elevated this case to a DNA-hit-solve-only case. If investigators are at the end of the road with DNA testing (samples extinguished during testing or in such poor condition they will not yield usable samples), that’s it. The case can no longer be considered “open” under FOIA law (and as of this minute I would argue authorities can no longer hide behind the “active investigation” exception) and steps must be taken to open all of the files for public examination. There must be an accounting to the public about where the case stands. I would also argue for an accounting of all of the funds allegedly spent in this case.
Let web sleuths or a Michelle McNamara solve these cases. At a minimum, the state police have to explain themselves. They have provided cover not only for their inadequate investigation but for the local PDs and the Oakland County prosecutors over the years who did not want to touch this case. Time’s up.
The last day to register to vote is rapidly approaching in many states. In states that make it difficult to vote, the deadline may have already passed. Make sure you are registered to vote and check your state’s voting requirements and other information at these sites:
If you are one of those people who think voting is a waste of time, or that your day-to-day life doesn’t depend on who you vote for at every level, think again. If you think I exaggerate about voting like your life depends on it, if you voted for L. Brooks Patterson for prosecutor for his term covering the years 1976 and 1977, think about how that vote impacted my brother Tim’s life and the course of a 43-year-old, still unsolved investigation into the serial murder of four Oakland County children. I believe this was due not only to Patterson’s direct actions in January 1977 (going along with voodoo doctor/MSP polygrapher Ralph Cabot in clearing Chris Busch and Greg Greene despite a mountain of evidence that should have required further investigation, then publicly stating both men had been cleared in the OCCK case in the weeks before my brother’s body was found in Wayne County after Busch got pass after pass from prosecutors and judges and was roaming the streets) and in 1978 after Busch was found dead, but also because of the kind of person he was. Concerned only about himself, his image and his political advancement and power. Sound like someone you know of today?
This article from the Ann Arbor Sun, dated November 5, 1975, was referenced by a reader:
Here is a nauseating 2011 interview of Patterson, sent by another reader:
Again I cite to the most cogent comment I have ever read on the subject of Patterson’s involvement in the OCCK case by a reader of my blog. The comment is in the center of the body of the post. I reread this comment from time to time after someone gaslights me in this case. It reassures me that I am not crazy:
Yes, the corruption was already baked in. While Chris Busch was getting pass after pass–special treatment reserved for those with big money and a parent with big influence–from Birmingham PD, Bloomfield PD, the Oakland County prosecutor, Oakland County judges and judges and prosecutors from other counties around Michigan, and the BIG PASS from the Michigan State Police, the ticking time bomb was on the streets waiting to make someone like my 11-year-old brother another statistic.
Still think your vote for prosecutor, sheriff or a judge doesn’t matter? That it’s not worth a little consideration beyond “incumbent” or the designation R or D?
The hold on power in OC and specifically in the OCCK case leaves us relegated to waiting for a whistleblower. Not for someone to come forward with a tip about one of the many dead pedophiles from that area, but a literal whistleblower from the Oakland County prosecutor’s office or the Michigan State Police. Someone knows how and why this case got sidetracked the way it did and where all of the hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly designated for the OCCK investigation went. I’d love to see your database in this case, MSP. Computerized yet? How about even a document detailing the status of every piece of evidence in this case, what has been tested, retested, extinguished in testing, where and how the physical is now being stored, what tests are pending?
Oakland County has always had an interesting way of doing business. See, for example, https://catherinebroad.blog/2019/08/10/delete-delete-delete-now/. You better keep your eye on the people preparing the “home cooking” in Oakland County. Not much appears to have changed over four decades. It doesn’t affect you, you might say. Until it does and then you are screwed. Need a whistleblower? It’s not happening on Planet Oakland County.
Someone asked me if I had any recommendations about the judicial races in Oakland County. I don’t. I’ve warned before about the recommendations provided by state bar associations governing attorneys. And give some thought to why criminal defense attorney groups or prosecutors or law enforcement groups would support certain judges. It’s all bullshit. I think the better course is to do your own research online and if you don’t know the judge personally and can’t find any reassuring information in your online search, leave the choice blank. Just because someone’s name is on the ballot does not mean they deserve the job, even if they are running unopposed. You might end up reaffirming a judge like this, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2020/10/03/judge-truman-morrison-sexual-assault-allegation/?arc404=true. Or keep a judge on the bench like the one in Flint who reduced Busch’s bond down from $75,000 to $1,000 after his January 1977 arrest for numerous CSCs with minors. You know, a “special treatment” judge.
As always, Oakland County has additional other little twists. A few years ago I received an email from someone in Michigan who described the following about Michigan judges, specifically in Oakland County. It’s worth considering.
As a rule no non-incumbent ever runs for Oakland County Circuit Judge unless it’s an election where there is an open seat meaning the candidate is not challenging an incumbent seeking re-election. Reason: if a lawyer runs against an incumbent and loses the entire Oakland Circuit bench will punish that lawyer for having challenged a member of their club and the lawyer’s practice can be ruined. A racket, and what a cesspool , indeed!
So when you vote, think about who that person has the power to oversee, the power to appoint, the power to crush; who they may owe favors to, what their biases are, and if they are one of the all-too-common types who will succumb to undue influence. From the guy on planning and zoning who throws all the decisions in favor of his developer/builder buddies; to a city council member who is afraid to take on a rogue police chief; to a judge too lazy to do the real work but knows how to avoid being reversed on appeal; to a sheriff who is a “make no waves/do no real good,” highly compensated good old boy; to a prosecutor who violates his or her oath on the regular. The ramifications can be serious indeed. And that’s just at the local level. This time shit’s gotten really real at every level.
Make sure you are registered to vote, vote early and follow every single instruction very carefully so your voice is heard. If you are lucky enough to live in a state providing vote tracking for mail-in or drop-off ballots, be sure to sign up for texts and emails so you will know about your ballot status.
Troy (Michigan) Police Department is revisiting the October 28, 1978 murder of of Gail Webster, 48. The mother of three was beaten to death and her case was never solved.
https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/local/2020/10/06/police-revisit-mysterious-fatal-beating-of-mother-in-troy-apartment-from-42-years-ago/. Thank you to a reader for forwarding this article.
Troy PD is “teaming up” with Gail’s three adult daughters to revisit the case. The department observed that “many investigative techniques have changed since the case was opened. Officials are in the process of exploring new investigative avenues, including possible new lab analysis.” Wow.
The article describes a car that could have been connected to the killer(s) as a blue or green 1968-1970 Pontiac Tempest or Chevrolet that was beat up, rusted, dirty, with body damage.
This car was seen a number of times in the area of Gail’s apartment, as well as a few weeks prior to the murder in a parking lot of Piper’s Alley, after Gail’s daughter’s keys to the apartment were stolen while she was there. One tip described the driver as a 25-year-old white man standing about 6 feet tall and weighing 160 pounds with black, curly hair and wearing an Army jacket. Some 40 minutes before Gail’s body was found, this car was seen being driven in the vicinity by a blonde man.
The Troy apartment where Gail was living at the time:
I realize the odds of this particular car being the same Pontiac Tempest described by the witness who drove past a car pulled off of the road on I-75 in the very early morning hours of December 26, 1976, at the exact place Jill Robinson’s body was found in Troy are slim. But how about it, Troy PD–if you, unlike the MSP, are able to find out who drove the car connected with Gail Webster’s murder in 1978, how about sharing that information with someone associated with the OCCK investigation who will actually do something constructive with the information?
According to the article, Troy PD is tweeting more information about Gail’s case this week. If you have information about the 1978 murder of Gail Webster call #248-524-0777.
I bet this tip line is actually manned.
I have a file on Mr. McKinney. It is labeled: Fucking John McKinney. It did not contain the following items, which I thank a reader for sending:
Press from 2002 concerning Fr./Rev. Gary Berthiaume who Michigan AG Dana Nessel announced this week will be extradited to Michigan to face charges for a 1977 criminal sexual assault on a minor:
March 1, 2002, The Plain Dealer:
April 9, 2002, The Daily Herald
May 3, 2002, Cleveland NewsNet5
June 24, 2003, The Plain Dealer
Busch’s neighbor, John H.
Yesterday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced former Michigan priest Gary Berthiaume was charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy at the rectory of Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington, Michigan in 1977. https://www.mlive.com/news/2020/09/former-michigan-priest-accused-of-sexually-assaulting-14-year-old-boy-in-1977.html. I well-remember this fuck’s name from the OCCK days.
Berthiaume was 35 in 1977 when he was charged with criminal sexual conduct involving a 14-year old boy. I found two undated news clippings about his arrest in the box of news articles my Mom had kept once her son had no further need for photo albums.
While these two old news articles mention only one victim, coverage of the most recent charges filed against Berthiaume mention that he assaulted two boys in Michigan in 1977.
The book Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, the Search for a Child Killer, by Tommy McIntyre (1988), mentions this priest (using the name “Stephen Bethleham”) and his questioning by the task force. (Chapter 33, p. 222-29.). The book describes the priest taking and passing a polygraph exam. It also describes the priest as having a law degree and having practiced in Nevada before he found his true calling.
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing book discusses a widow who is the mother of a 12-year-old boy who asks “Bethleham” if anything “happened” at summer camp that he is aware of. (Chapter 26, p. 163-64). So this may be the younger of the priest’s two known victims at that time.
While the criminal sexual conduct felony Berthiaume was charged with was punishable with a maximum 15-year sentence, he ultimately pleaded guilty to “gross indecency between males.” and was sentenced to SIX MONTHS in jail and fined $1,000.
A simple Google search of this guy shows that after Berthiaume was released from jail (subject to 5 years of probation), he continued to prey on boys as he was moved from diocese to diocese and church officials hid his past from parishioners. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news3/2002_03_10_McCarty_DioceseConfronted_Allen_Bruening_2.htm. The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an impressive series of articles called “The Cost of Abuse” starting in 2002 about the tactics of the Catholic Church used to protect pedophile priests and to intimidate and crush victims, whom they treated with not one ounce of compassion.
Berthiaume, as a convicted pedophile on probation, was moved to Cleveland where he was even the sex ed teacher at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church and grade school. Eventually Berthiaume faced multiple accusations of sexual abuse of boys in Cleveland and he was moved to the Joliet Diocese in Joliet, Illinois in 1987, where he served as chaplain for Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Il.
As a pathetic, but almost predictable aside, the bishop who “accepted” Berthiaume in Joliet was Bishop Joseph Imesch. Imesch had been the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows when Berthiaume was a priest there in the 1970s, and during the time Berthiaume was being investigated by the OCCK task force. Father Imesch, in his capacity as Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit and representing Cardinal John F. Dearden, Archbishop of Detroit, WAS ONE OF THE CONCELEBRANTS AT TIM KING’S FUNERAL at Holy Name Church in Birmingham, MI.
In 2002 Berthiaume was relieved of his duties at Good Samaritan under mounting public pressure. Bishop Imesch, noting that the Catholic Church is one “of forgiveness,” had only told Berthiaume’s immediate supervisors about his past. “I don’t know that it’s necessary to tell people this is his past. Why not accept him as he is?” (From NewsNet5.com, ABC Cleveland report dated 5-3-02).
I knew this shitbag had ultimately been sent to a “retreat home” in Warrenville, Illinois, years ago. I looked him up and realized he was one suburb over from where I was living in Illinois at the time. I’m glad he is being extradited to Michigan.
Commenting on the charges against Berthiaume, AG Nessel said:
Criminal sexual conduct at any level must not be tolerated, and we must ensure justice is served to those who assault others–particularly those authority figures and people in powerful positions who prey on the weak and vulnerable.
Her office will have its hands full investigating sexual abuse within the seven Catholic dioceses across Michigan. It’s impressive that the AG is moving on these cases. Including Berthiaume, the investigation has resulted in criminal charges being filed against 11 individuals with ties to the Catholic Church.
We knew you’d be back, Vince. Parolee James Vincent Gunnels is back under parole supervision in Michigan. Thank you to a reader. https://mdocweb.state.mi.us/otis2/otis2profile.aspx?mdocNumber=186011. If you have read Marney Keenan’s book, The Snow Killings, Inside the Oakland County Child Killer Investigation, you know that in June 2019 Vince Gunnels suggested to interrogators that maybe if he was taken to a hypnotist it would help him remember details about the OCCK case. (p. 238.). Months later, no arrangements had been made for this hypnosis session and Gunnels failed to report to his parole office in December 2019 and was once again a parole absconder.
Keenan describes that one of two state troopers present stated at this meeting with Gunnels that the hypnosis could be set up. Well, now’s the time, MSP. If you blow this off, that is strike #3 for 2020. First, you ignored important confidential but credible evidence that was given to you in January 2020. Next, you failed to address the tip about Bloomfield Township/Village cop and pedophile Richard McNamee–the cop who responded to the Busch “suicide” scene on November 11, 1978. A victim came forward in July and she was ignored. Here is opportunity #3. Gunnels is back in Michigan and his parole officer could help set up a hypnosis session. I’d call the tip line, but you know how that goes.
At some point the system has to work; those with the authority to advance this investigation have to do some work, not stall things out. All the books, documentaries and blog posts in the world can’t solve a case the cops don’t want solved.
It bears repeating that the name James Vincent Gunnels was first revealed by the MSP when they sat down with family members of Kristine Mihelich and had three binders on a table, one each for a person of interest in the investigation. Garry Gray was going to show off Cory William’s hard work. Gunnels was the subject of one of those notebooks. Gunnels ran with Busch and Greene. The MSP knew that. Was that notebook put together just for fun? They haven’t been able to get anywhere with the poor, drug-addled victim, Gunnels, who claims to know nothing. Two other young men who were similarly victimized–one of them by Busch–spoke openly with police. But Vince just can’t access that tiny conscience of his. Now that Gunnels is back in your fine state, take him up on his offer to be hypnotized.
This Time’s article is interesting for its parallels and contrasts to the OCCK case. For a decade after 16 bodies were found near a stretch of Ocean Parkway in New York–a burial ground used by a serial killer–no person of interest, no suspect–no comment by the Suffolk County Police Department. For many years, the police commissioners “seemed reluctant to discuss the case publicly and those who lived in the affected beach towns had tried to wish it away.” (Sound familiar?)
Most of the victims appeared to be young women who had worked as escorts. Commissioner Hart acknowledged how poorly the police were regarded in the public eye, “seen as showing little more than apathy and even disdain for the victims.” One senior detective in 2011 said it was a “consolation” to the community that the victims were only prostitutes. This man is the kind of detective that makes me hate police. Seriously.
In 2012 Suffolk police abruptly locked the FBI out of the “Long Island serial killer” investigation and was sent packing before the bureau’s behavioral analysis unit could develop a profile of the killer. “Ms Hart said she learned this was happening for one reason: Suffolk County’s newly appointed chief of department, James Burke, seemed to want it that way. And there was a reason for that, too: The Justice Department was investigating him for corruption.” Seems Burke assaulted a suspect who had stolen a bag filled with pornography and sex toys from Burke’s car. Burke then did the police chief thing and pressured detectives who witnessed the assault to keep quiet. The Suffolk County district attorney then got in on the game and helped with the cover-up.
Eventually both Burke and the D.A. were convicted of conspiracy and Suffolk County became notorious as one of the nation’s most corrupt law enforcement jurisdictions.” Hey, Suffolk County, I have a county in Michigan that could give your’s a run for its money. Big time.
This past spring, two years into the job, Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart announced a major break in this case which had “confounded her predecessors for nearly a decade.” Hart had moved Suffolk County’s most notorious unsolved case forward “where others once seemed determined to keep it from going anywhere at all.”
Hart, who spent 20 years working as an FBI agent, welcomed the FBI back into the investigation now that the conspiring pornmeister and assaulter Burke was gone. After seeing the Golden State Killer arrested using genetic genealogy, Hart called a colleague at the FBI and asked “How do we get this done?”
As in the OCCK case, the evidence in the Long Island serial killer case has little in common with what police had to work with in the Golden State Killer case. Hart partnered with the FBI to engage a private lab to process an unidentified victim’s DNA. Identifying the victims may lead more directly to the killer. The identification of victim “Jane Doe No. 6” as Valerie Mack last May was the first successful genetic genealogy investigation in New York.
Commissioner Hart held a press conference in the wake of publicity on the case and a Netflix release for “Lost Girls.” She defended her decision to be more public about the case. “We’re coming up on the 10-year anniversary on this. It’s received a ton of publicity. So how do we get the message out? The thought is, somebody out there knows something.”
When have you ever heard a press conference from the Michigan State Police on the OCCK case? There has been momentum in the OCCK case with more publicity than ever before via books, podcasts, articles and documentaries in the last few years. Yet all the MSP does is respond to a well-written factual account of all we can know about these cases given the actions of a few dirty players at the top, by saying “We don’t comment on fiction.” Those are fighting words as far as I’m concerned.
The makers of the documentary Children of the Snow, based on the 2018 book The Kill Jar, written by J. Reuben Appelman, had to PRESS officials to provide a tip line number to give the public with the documentary. Who announces this and requests people with any information come forward–a member of the MSP? Oh, hell no. It’s left to Detective Cory Williams, with Wayne County–not Oakland County (as in OAKLAND COUNTY Child Killer), to make the pitch.
Have we ever heard from Birmingham P.D. or the Oakland County Sheriff’s office in the OCCK case? Hell no. So convenient that the information, such as it is and in the shape it is in, is shoved in a room at an MSP post. And they are never in the mood to talk about the OCCK case.
In the meantime, in Suffolk County, Commissioner Hart continues to press ahead with DNA identification of as-yet unnamed victims. How about this as a giant contrast to the OCCK case:
That’s a new sentiment in the Suffolk County Police Department: the idea that investigating the case and acknowledging the families’ pain are two sides of the same coin, that doing one helps the other. That realization could be the greatest step forward the police have taken in this case. “There’s a lot of work left do do,” Ms. Hart said. “But there is momentum. And I’m going to continue to use that momentum to move forward.”
Think about that the next time you cast a ballot for mayor or city council members (to whom police chiefs report), or for a prosecuting attorney (potentially especially dangerous), county sheriff (reports to no one except the voters every four years), or attorney general or governor (who should be keeping an eye on the state police). At the micro and macro-level, these elected officials can do some serious damage or some serious good. Do you want someone who can work with momentum or are you happy with the “consolation” that the killing stopped in Oakland County after just four kids were taken and killed in 1976 and 1977?
Final four segments of the interview with Alpena Witness–