Monday, July 21, 2014

Coed Killer Composite Drawings and John Norman Collins


Shortly before midnight on July 23rd, 1969, another young woman from Eastern Michigan University was reported missing. Her dormitory resident adviser Verna (Ma) Carson called the EMU Campus Police and told the desk clerk on duty that eighteen year old freshman coed Karen Sue Beineman was last known to have been walking alone to Wigs by Joan in downtown Ypsilanti.

She left the dorm at about 12:20 PM after eating a small lunch with her roommates in the Downing Hall Dining Commons. Then she headed south across campus and strolled down Ballard St. to pick up and pay for a wig she had ordered the day before. The wig shop was less than a mile's walk, and it was a bright, sunny afternoon.

The next morning, two Ypsilanti City Police officers went to Wigs by Joan to interview the owner, Diana Joan Goshe, and her wig stylist, Patricia Spaulding. It was from their initial description that a composite drawing was made by a Ypsilanti Police artist. Both women agreed that "Yes" Karen Sue Beineman had been in their shop shortly after 12:30 PM. They remember the young lady because of something she said, "I've only done two foolish things in my life - buy this wig and accept a ride from a stranger on a motorcycle."

The hair on the back of their necks went up when they heard Miss Beineman say those words. Despite every effort of Washtenaw County law enforcement to discover the identity of the serial killer who they suspected had killed seven young women in the area, police were literally and figuratively clueless. The shop ladies tried to dissuade the young woman from getting back on the motorcycle. Mrs. Goshe even offered to drive Karen Sue back to her dorm, but Miss Beineman did not want to put the ladies to any bother.

While Karen paid for the wiglet and was shown how to wear it in her hair by Patricia Spaulding, Mrs. Goshe walked outside of her shop and squarely took a look at the handsome young man on the shiny motorcycle. He was parked only two car lengths away from the front of her shop, no more than thirty feet away. Goshe went back into her shop and again urged Karen not to get back on the motorcycle but to no avail. Karen left the shop, and after a brief conversation with the driver, hopped back onto the motorcycle and sped off.


The next day, the wig shop ladies gave the investigators the following description of the young man which was wired to every newspaper in the state of Michigan. The Ann Arbor News ran the description of the suspect, "a white male, about 22 years old, six feet tall with dark brown hair. The hair is curly in the front and extends down on the forehead and cut short with short sideburns. The suspect, of thin to medium build, wore a T-shirt with wide green and yellow horizontal stripes."

A composite sketch was drawn from that description and released to the press by the Ypsilanti City Police. Within days of Karen's disappearance, the Beineman family had four thousand handbills printed and distributed on the campuses of Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. Of the seven unsolved murders in the area within the last two years, three were students from EMU and two were from U of M.

Looking over the newest composite drawing, an EMU official noted the similarity between sketches of a suspect in the death of Joan Schell a year earlier, drawn by an Ann Arbor police artist. The suspect in that case was previously described as "five feet, eight inches tall, about 20 years old with dark brown hair, and wearing a dark green Eastern Michigan University T-shirt." On Friday, July 25, the Ann Arbor News publicly noted the similarity and the fact that Miss Beineman's body was found in Ann Arbor Township, and Miss Schell's body was found on the outskirts of Ann Arbor.

***

Tony Hale was a sixteen year old Ypsilanti High School student who participated in Eastern Michigan's Upward Bound program on the EMU campus in July of 1969. Summer session dorm residents were required to attend a meeting where the handbills were distributed and young women were urged to carry them in their purses.

Some of the girls in the Upward Bound program were from the Warren/Center Line area where John Norman Collins was raised, so he would hang out in the lounge of Goddard Hall dormitory and mingle with the girls. Tony and her roommate Linda got to know Collins, and Linda took a couple of rides on his motorcycle and dated him. On one date, she reported that they went to his room to watch color TV, and he tried to get her skirt off.

"I could force you," he told her.

But the teenager replied, "But that wouldn't be good," and he relented.

Linda told a Detroit News reporter after Collins was arrested on July 31st that only two days before she and Tony saw him riding his motorcycle on campus. Linda shouted out to him while waving the handbill, "Hey, John. You look like the picture," referring to the composite drawing of the suspected killer.

"You look like the other picture," he shouted back, referring to the photograph of Karen Sue Beineman on the handbill.

***

On July 30th, the day before Collins was arrested on suspicion of murdering Karen Sue Beineman, the Washtenaw County Sheriff released a more detailed, color composite drawing to the press from the description given by two wig shop ladies. This drawing was done in pastels but not in time to go on the handbill. The Detroit News ran the latest drawing with a psychological description of the probable murderer worked up by U of M psychiatrist, Dr. Donald J. Holmes.

"He is taunting authorities thumbing his nose at them, mocking them, daring them. Whatever else he may be, the killer is a very arrogant character. This taunting feeds his ego and supports his sense of omnipotence. He gets the idea that he is controlling the authorities."

Law enforcement was closing in on John Norman Collins. He was arrested late Thursday night, July 31st when Sheriff Douglas Harvey brought murder charges against him. Collins would sit in the Washtenaw County jail for over a year until his case came to trial where he was found guilty.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Montreal's Canadian Expo 67, a Souvenir Medallion Necklace, and John Norman Collins


Remembered as a source of Canadian national pride, the Montreal Exposition 67 was Canada's first world's fair. It also marked its centennial year as a confederation. The exposition's motto was "Man and His World/Terre Des Hommes." Expo 67 became known as one of the most successful world's fairs of the twentieth century but not without overcoming many obstacles.

First, the Soviets were awarded the fair by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIA) on May 5, 1960. The Cold War was heating up and Moscow cited financial and security concerns, bowing out as the host country in April 1962. Six months later on November 13, the BIA changed the location of the World Exhibition to Canada. Despite an Ottawa government report showing the likely failure of such a project, Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau convinced lawmakers that it was possible to prepare for the expo and have its grounds ready for the scheduled opening day.

It was Drapeau's idea to create two new islands in the St. Lawrence River and enlarge the existing Ile Sainte-Helene. The result would prevent wholesale land speculation which could rock the Montreal economy if the exposition was built on the northern reaches of the city as others had advised. The mayor's plan seemed far fetched at first, but it started to make more sense the closer Canadian ministers took a look at it. 


United States Pavilion - Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome.
Montreal was already in the midst of a huge public works project, the expansion of their Metro system. The rubble and excavations from that project would become back fill for the man-made islands. The first batch of twenty-five million cubic tons needed to create the islands was ceremoniously dropped on August 13, 1963.

Working around the clock, a legion of dump truck drivers and heavy equipment operators finished the job on time. The newly graded grounds were turned over to the Expo 67 Corporation by the City of Montreal on June 20, 1964. This left 1,042 days to have everything else built and functioning by opening day on April 27, 1967.

Expo 67 was politically and culturally seen as a landmark moment in Canadian history. In the six months it was open, the official attendance tally was 50,306,648 despite a thirty day transit strike in September. The exposition set the single-day attendance record for a world's fair of 569,500 visitors on its third day.

The Canadian Exposition was projected to have a deficit shared by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, but the exposition performed better financially than expected. In 1967 Canadian dollars, Expo 67 took in revenues of $221,239,872 with costs of $431,904,683. That left a deficit of $210,664,811 for the Canadian taxpayers to pick up. In return, Montreal got some new public land and improved infrastructure, and Canada received unprecedented global media exposure, a boost in international prestige, and a feeling of national pride for a job well-done.

***

Nineteen year old Mary Terese Fleszar convinced her parents to allow her to drive the family station wagon to the Montreal Expo 67 with her sister and two friends. Mary had planned out the trip in great detail. She knew how far Montreal was from Willis, Michigan, how much gasoline it would take to get there, and all the costs they might likely incur. Her mother and father had confidence in Mary's judgement and wished the girls well as they left on Thursday, June 1. Mary had even planned to beat the weekend traffic.

While on their visit, Mary purchased an Expo 67 medallion necklace with the logo of the exposition on it. The logo for the exposition was designed by Montreal artist Julien Hebert. The basic unit of the design was a pictogram of two "ancient men" linked together in friendship. This basic icon is repeated in a circular fashion eight times representing "friendship around the world."

If the viewer looks carefully at the symbol to the right, an M for Montreal can be seen in each icon. The rest of the icon looks like a W, perhaps representing the World. The fair's logo did not enjoy unanimous support from Canadians who felt it was too vague and cryptic. The design didn't include the name of the event or any reference to Canada or Montreal. But a nationwide contest was held by a group of Canadian intellectuals, and they choose Hebert's design.

After Mary Fleszar's return from her successful excursion to Canada, she sublet an apartment in Ypsilanti to be near her job at Eastern Michigan University. At about 9:00 PM on July 9th, Mary was last seen taking an evening walk by two people sitting on their front porch. The man and woman reported to police that she had been harassed twice on Ballard St. by someone driving a blue-grey Chevy. She waved the guy off a second time and then turned the corner on Washtenaw Ave leading to her apartment building. She was never seen alive again.

Mary's family believes she was abducted from the parking lot in front of her apartment building. One month later, her body was found by two teenagers among the weeds near the barn of an abandoned farm on Geddes Rd, one-third of a mile from LeForge Rd.

Early in the investigation, police asked Mrs. Fleszar to take an inventory of Mary's things to see if anything was missing from her apartment. Mary's purse and wallet were there, but her keys were missing and her light-blue Comet automobile was parked across the lot from Mary's assigned spot. Mrs. Fleszar thought that was very odd.

Mr. Fleszar removed the ignition switch for evidence before selling the car in case a set of matching keys was ever recovered. The front door lock to Mary's apartment was also removed and turned over to police as potential evidence for the same reason.

In addition to her keys, there was one other missing item. The Montreal Expo 67 medallion necklace Mary had purchased at the fair a month earlier. It was conspicuous by its absence. As a piece of jewelry, it had no value beyond a keepsake souvenir.

Two years later, after John Norman Collins was arrested for the sex-slaying of Karen Sue Beineman on July 31, 1969, Michigan State Police had probable cause to obtain a bench warrant to search his room. Found on top of his dresser was an Expo 67 medallion necklace that was entered as evidence with about one hundred other items collected by police from Collins' room and Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Items not directly related to the Beineman case were returned to the Collins family. The only item they refused to accept on John's instructions was the Expo 67 medallion. Collins denied owning or having any knowledge of the medallion and accused the police of planting it as evidence against him. The necklace was placed in an envelope and stored in an evidence vault in East Lansing, Michigan where it presumably lies today.

For more information about Expo 67, check out the following link:
http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPISCONTENTSE1EP16CH1PA3LE.html

Saturday, July 5, 2014

John Norman Collins Associate - Andrew Julian Manuel, Jr.

Andrew Manuel's Arraignment in Ypsilanti.
It wasn't until Andrew Julian Manuel helped John Norman Collins fraudulently rent a seventeen foot house trailer in June of 1969 that his association with Collins made Andrew Manuel a person of interest to Michigan State Police.

Seventeen year old Oregon resident Roxie Ann Phillips was murdered while visiting Salinas, California. The prime suspect was someone named John, last name not known, who drove a silver colored car and was studying to be a teacher. He and a friend had driven a house trailer out from Michigan.

A search by the Salinas police found the abandoned trailer parked in the alley behind the home of Silver Manuel, Andrew's grandfather. Police soon learned that it was reported stolen from Michigan.

With only sandals on her feet and strangled with her own belt, Roxie's nude body was found at the bottom of Pescadaro Canyon in Monterey, California on Sunday, July 13, 1969 only two weeks after she was reported missing. Several weeks after that, a Salinas detective familiar with the Phillips case, sat down to his evening meal and turned on the national news. A university student, John Norman Collins, had been arrested for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Miss Beineman's nude and strangled body, wearing only sandals, was found in neighboring Ann Arbor at the bottom of a gully off Huron River Dr.

The similarities between the two cases were striking and a call was placed to the Michigan State Police. Michigan sent two State Police detectives and a forensic crime lab specialist to California to share information they had on Collins. A Monterey County grand jury was looking into the particulars of the case of Roxie Ann Phillips.

Before John Collins and Andy Manuel left for California, they told their landlady that they would be in California for two months picking fruit. They asked that she hold their rooms for them. When they returned early from their California trip a few weeks later, she was surprised. Then Manuel fled Ypsilanti again on Saturday, July 26, 1969, the day Karen Sue Beineman's body was found.

A nationwide FBI search was instituted for Andrew Manuel on a fugitive from justice federal warrant. He was charged with larceny by conversion when he and Collins fraudulently rented the house trailer in Ypsilanti, Michigan with a forged, stolen check. The trailer was found abandoned in Salinas, California. By the time the FBI went looking for Manuel, Collins was already in Washtenaw County police custody for the Beineman murder.

The subsequent police investigation revealed that Andrew Julian Manuel was born in Salinas on May 13, 1944. He was described as twenty-five years old, 6'1" tall and weighing 235#. He was dark complected with dark hair and eyes, and he had a tattoo of an eagle on his left forearm. Initially, Manuel was described as Mexican-American, but soon he was found to be Filipino-American.

Manuel moved to Michigan around 1965, taking a job at the Ford Motor Company in the Detroit area. Over the summer of 1968, he worked at Bond Warehouse before moving to Ypsilanti in September. There he took a job in the machine department at Motor Wheel Corporation where he met John Collins, a twenty-two year old Eastern Michigan University student who had worked part-time there since August.


507 East Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti.
In August 8, 1969, Sheriff Douglas Harvey revealed to The Detroit News that Andrew Manuel had sold three guns, one shotgun and two rifles, to the owner of the Roy's Squeeze Inn on East Michigan Avenue, on the same day Miss Beineman's body was discovered in Ann Arbor. When Manuel's connection to Collins became known to the buyer of the stolen guns, he came forward with what he knew and turned the guns over to the police.

These were three of the four guns Collins was known to have owned. The sheriff showed the guns to Collins, who said they were his property and that Manuel must have stolen them from his room on Emmet St. So much for honor among thieves.

Sheriff Harvey's informant said he bought the guns from Manuel for $100, then he drove him to the Ann Arbor bus station where Manuel said he was going to California. Andy Manuel had offered to sell him a .22 caliber pistol, but he declined to buy it. The pistol has never been accounted for, said Harvey.

Andrew J. Manuel in FBI custody in Phoenix.
On a tip, FBI agents in Phoenix, Arizona seized twenty-five year old Andrew Manuel and arrested him on a fugitive warrant from Michigan on Wednesday, August 6, 1969. Manuel was arraigned before a U.S. District Commissioner in Phoenix shortly after he was arrested at his sister-in-laws apartment. A $10,000 bond was set and Manuel was taken to the federal detention center at Florence, Arizona to await his hearing.

It was reported in The Detroit News on Friday, August 8th, that Mrs. Ernestina Masters, Manuel's sister-in-law, said she would cooperate with authorities in any way possible. Manuel had stayed at her apartment with her and her roommate since the previous Saturday night. Manuel had called Ernestina from California and asked for some money. She sent him $50, and he traveled by bus to her Phoenix apartment.

"He was scared and afraid he would be sent to jail for something he didn't do," she said. "Manuel claimed that he knew Collins for only six months and was surprised and shocked when he learned of the murder charge against him."



Andrew Manuel was extradited to Michigan and convicted on the fraud and a burglary charge on November 17, 1969. He was in possession of a stolen diamond ring appraised at about $450 from a ransack burglary on March 14th, 1969 in Ypsilanti. Manuel pleaded guilty on the possession of stolen property charge. When District Judge William F. Ager, Jr. asked Manuel where he got the ring, he rolled over on his buddy and said, "John Collins." On the fraud charge, Manuel told the court that Collins had signed for the trailer, but he was with him and knew the trailer would not be returned.

Judge Ager gave Andrew Manuel the same sentence for both counts, five years probation, a $50 fine, and $300 in court costs. Additionally, the judge ordered Manuel to pay up to $1,500 restitution to Hendrickson Trailer Sales in Ypsilanti. Andrew's wife Betty Sue and his mother from Salinas attended the court proceeding. It was Manuel's mother who paid his fees and fines for him.

After the trial, Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter Krasny was quick to report to the press that no link had been established between Andrew Manuel and the other unsolved slayings in Washtenaw County. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Booker T. Williams made a point at the end of Manuel's trial to mention that there was no evidence to connect Manuel with the other Michigan murders.

Even after given immunity to testify against John Norman Collins, Manuel tried to skip out on his probation, was recaptured, and sent to the Washtenaw County Jail to serve out his term. When he was finally forced to testify against his associate in the Collins' trial, he had little to offer prosecutors in the way of evidence.

Finding any information on Andrew Julian Manuel has been almost as difficult as locating him. After lots of effort and false leads, Ryan M. Place was finally able to locate him in Yuma, Arizona. Andrew Julian Manuel died taking his secrets to the grave on Saturday, February 19, 2011, only three months shy of his sixty-seventh birthday.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Allen Park's Missing Champaign Park Train

Courtesy of Images of America - Allen Park.

Every time I visit Allen Park, I usually find a reason to drive past the high school and look on with approval at improvements made by the district. The remodeled high school has a pleasing facade, the windows throughout the school have been upgraded, and a Performing Arts Center has been added onto the west end of the building. I only get into town occasionally, but I usually make the pilgrimage and reminisce about the old days.

While I was thinking about my upcoming trip to the Detroit area, I flashed on something I had not thought about for decades. Whatever happened to the steam locomotive and tender car that was once on display in Champaign Park next to the high school? I remember the train having a ten foot high cyclone fence built around it which did little to deter anyone who wanted to climb over. What started out as a public school hands-on exhibit became an attractive nuisance and a public liability risk. 

I looked into the subject further and discovered that the train was built in Buckley, Michigan by Alco and owned and operated by the Detroit Edison Line. It was in service from 1923 until 1961, when it was driven under its own steam power to its display site in Champaign Park. A special track spur was built off a nearby railroad line. The Buckley No. 207 and its coal tender were removed in 1970 because kids playing on it often got hurt and the floor boards were rusting out. Old No. 207 left the park as it had arrived, under its own power.

On the day of its installation, a crowd of local youth, community members, and dignitaries watched the train roll in. Current Allen Park City Schools Superintendent John Sturock played trumpet at the steam locomotive's dedication when he was in sixth grade.

One of the more notable moments in the train's decade long history in Champaign Park was when it was painted pink by some rapscallions as a Halloween prank in 1965. Two unnamed high school kids from Dearborn Heights and George Jolokai from APHS Class of 1966, decided to turn themselves in and went to the Allen Park Police Station. Reading George's account of the incident makes me wax nostalgic and want to be young and stupid again.

Anyone interested in taking a trip down Memory Lane can see Old No. 207 at the Buckley Old Engine Show in Buckley, Michigan, August 14-17, 2014 near Traverse City.

What follows is George Jolokai's reminiscence of the train painting incident in all its charming innocence.


Appropriately, the idea to paint the train in Champaign Park pink came to us while we were sitting on the roof of the engine of the train. It was early October, 1964 and some guys I knew from Dearborn Heights had come by. They were seniors, this was junior year for me. I lived across the street from the park, one house off the corner of Champaign and Buckingham. The train had been moved there a few years earlier and eventually the city put up a fence and locked gate, but going over there, hopping the fence and hanging out was not all that unusual. It was a few weeks before Halloween, somehow the talk had turned to pranks.
 

The notion of “Hey, we could paint the train!” was obvious and it would have died there except I hadn’t tumbled to the fact that blurting out things that just popped into my brain wasn’t always a good idea. Things like “Hey, my dad’s got a bunch of pink paint down in the basement that he forgot all about!”.
 

On a Friday night within a week of our rooftop epiphany we did the deed. I grabbed a couple gallons of pink paint and some black paint from our basement and we headed over to the train in the dark. My folks were out of town, I’m sure it was after 10:00 PM when we started. Maybe spent two hours painting at most. We were more into transforming the train and getting a reaction to the whole thing being pink instead of just painting initials or slogans. (An early Heidelberg Project?) We used rollers and big brushes, got a lot done before we ran out of paint, and stuffed all the paint cans in a park trash can.
 

The reaction after that was kinda cool, but I knew I couldn’t tell anyone, so in school it was a lot of listening to other folks tell me they “knew who really did it.” It ran in the Mellus paper, folks came by the park to look and pretty quickly it was just there, no big deal.
 

Until a few weeks later. My uncle was over, he and my dad were talking in the dining room about it. I was in the kitchen. My uncle was into building Heathkit electronic stuff and figured the guys who did it must have had a police scanner. And a lookout. And a whole bunch of guys painting and they must have worked until almost dawn. He and my dad started talking about tipping over outhouses and what a good prank the painting had been since the train looked better, and at least folks came to look at it now.
 

They are almost dropping the topic when my uncle says “Hey, so what was George up to that night?” Har, har. Choke, choke in the kitchen when my dad answers, “Oh you don’t have to worry about that kid. He was with us up at…no wait, he was home that weekend. Yeah, but ya don’t have to worry about him.”
 

Phew, it’s sounding like I’m in the clear. Until he adds, “Of course I do have all that pink paint down in the basement. Maybe I better count the cans!” Bigger har, har. Blam! The kick to my chest as I realize “of course”, it’s not like my dad was so stockpiled with paint he wouldn’t know the inventory was down by three or four gallons. I just knew he had never used it. It had been there forever bought from some sale at Sears. Duh! How could I have ever thought he had “forgotten” all about it?
 

Well, my uncle left and I figure I better confess before my dad goes and counts. Predictably dad does his real angry bit. Wants to know who I did the prank with. I wouldn’t tell him, so he made a simple declaration. I either go turn myself in, or I don’t leave the house. Forever. While I knew I might only serve three to five of that “grounded for life” sentence, that was still too bleak.

I called the other guys, told them they didn’t have to come with me, but that I was going to go to the cop shop and turn myself in. They manned up and said they would come with me. Next day, we went down to the Allen Park Police Station, asked for the detective in charge of the case, like they must have had a special inter-departmental task force assigned to it. The guy at the desk asks if we want to give our names or not, thinking we were there to rat someone out. I say “Uh, I think you’ll want our names.”
 

I seem to recall them not taking it too seriously, until they noticed we were being sort of too casual ourselves. Then the “We’ll turn this over to the D.A.’s office” started. Oh, and since I was fifteen, I was still a juvenile, but the other two guys had already turned sixteen, so “You guys could be in a lot more trouble!”

My friends both glared at me, probably figuring it was a setup all along. One of them had applied to the Air Force Academy, so a possible arrest might not go too well. Then the cops blew their edge when they told us “You know, we were getting pretty close on this case. We had tracked down where you got the paint!”. Wow, ace detecting, that and the ability to read the “SEARS Weather Beater” label on the paint cans.
 

The city soon contacted our parents, told us to be at the park the next Saturday at 9:00 AM sharp to repaint the train. We spent the next two Saturdays at it, painting all day with some guy supervising us who knew we were saving him a whole lot of work. He made sure we did a job that would last. A few weeks later, they sent my mom a bill for the paint and she went ballistic. No way was she going to pay. The city already had budgeted for the paint, they were going to repaint the train soon anyway, and we saved them the labor. So no way! The guy’s mom who was applying to the Air Force Academy, however, paid it immediately. Case closed.
 

George is to the right. Photo taken by his brother.

That was it. No repercussions, no arrests, no court records. Simpler times, yeah, but then again it wasn’t like we were out to destroy capitalism or anything. We were just dumb guys with a dumb idea and an overactive sense of mission. The one friend of mine did eventually make it into to the Academy and graduated. I talked to the other guy a few years ago. He had made a career of the Army and had recently retired as a colonel.
 

Me, I didn’t paint any more trains. It was a fairly thoughtless prank that didn’t take anything to pull off but might have been a whole lot more consequential. We were lucky. The repainting seemed fair, so lesson learned: Do something dumb and you could be held responsible. What a concept! Certainly wasn’t a bad take away lesson…though I still think the train was more interesting when it was pink. // gj

Images of America link: http://www.amazon.com/Allen-Park-MI-Images-America/dp/0738551090

Monday, June 23, 2014

John Norman Collins Playbook Formula


For over three years, Ryan M. Place and I have been actively looking into the unsolved Washtenaw County Murder cases from 1967-1969. We have interviewed countless numbers of people connected with these cases from friends and family of the victims who allowed us to speak with them, to law enforcement officials who were involved with these cases, to various people drawn into the investigation one way or another, and some few supporters of John Norman Collins.

My contacts with Collins supporters usually take the form of hit and run verbalism because their arguments in his defense are unsustainable. John's ability to inspire loyalty in his supporters says less about him and more about their willing suspension of disbelief on his behalf. It is particularly difficult for his teammates who played high school sports with Collins at St. Clements High School in Center Line, Michigan. It is a shame that this tragedy casts a long shadow.

Although Collins' high school girlfriend has denied this to me, I've discovered from several unrelated sources, Collins himself for one, that she has been corresponding with him since he was imprisoned. He speaks about her with adoration in some of the prison letters I have obtained. In any case, she has shown John loyalty and refused to speak with me about her on again/off again relationship with Collins. After all these years, he still exerts some influence over her. She is only one of a number of people who still grant John Norman Collins a certain amount of power and control over them.



In a Facebook message I received on March 25, 2014, someone named Marcy Miller asked me if I had emailed her last year about John Norman Collins. I thought that sounded weird. I had no memory of contacting her, so I asked my Rainy Day Murders researcher to check his records of our contacts. Ryan was certain neither of us had made so much as a courtesy call to Marcy Miller, nor had her name ever come up in any of our research. That in itself made her contact with me interesting. Who is this mystery woman and what is her interest in this case?

But as I read on, I saw a pattern emerge from her message that I recognized from reading a number of Collins' prison letters from other people who have written to him. Collins was attempting to solidify his diminishing number of supporters and obfuscate the facts of his case with his own talking points. She began with an if this/than that statement setting me up for a straw man argument:

"Remember when I told you that (Collins) sends me a birthday card every year? [No!] Well, John said that you said some not so nice things about me. I can't imagine what you could have said to hurt my reputation. [Me either.]"

Not for the first time has John Norman Collins used a woman for a third-party proxy to shield himself from our direct inquiries and poison the well of truth. What Marcy wrote next put things in some perspective for me:

"When you said you were a friend of John [Those words have never left my lips.], you misrepresented yourself. [Really?] "(John) says you are not a friend and that I should stay away from you [Now I really want to meet her.] because you only want to do harm and not give your readers the option to think otherwise."

From reading Collins' prison letters I have been able to discern a formula that he uses in his personal correspondence. It is the only way he can vicariously assert himself into the lives of his supporters to perpetuate the mythology of his innocence and persecution at the hands of the State of Michigan.

"I also told you [I still don't remember.] that we [Who?] got a hold of Ted Bundy's attorney before his (Ted's) execution, and he admitted that he (Bundy) was in Ann Arbor during the time of the murders, but he didn't admit to any of them (the murders)."

Now I had something concrete to dispute with her. There is evidence that Ted Bundy did cruise through Ann Arbor one weekend in 1974 while evading law enforcement out West. But Collins had been behind bars since July 31, 1969. That's a five year gap, yet this myth still circulates out in cyberspace. Marcy also asserted that the murders didn't end with Collins. They just moved over to Oakland County. This is another Playbook myth that Collins takes every opportunity to perpetuate. After her two bogus examples, I was amused by her next sentence, "Are you sure you have all your facts straight? Call me!"

So I did. Marcy Miller and I spoke on the phone for about twenty minutes that morning. The conversation was cordial, and I found out some background. She was not an ex-girlfriend as I had suspected, but she was dating Collins when he was arrested. Marcy met Collins at a local Michigan lake when she was sixteen and vacationing with her family. Her parents thought John was a nice guy, and he soon attached himself loosely to their family.

When the Miller family discovered that Collins had been arrested as the prime suspect in the unsolved Washtenaw County murders, they fell into denial. It couldn't be John, he was so nice. I didn't hear from Marcy for almost three months, but on June 14, 2014, I got another message from her. She had checked out some of my blog posts on Collins and began to realize that what he had been telling her for over forty years was not strictly factual. Not even close.

"John sent me a birthday letter in March warning me about you. I have not written him back since we last talked. Knowing the truth is terrifying. I spent over forty years wondering. Fifty percent of me thought they had the wrong man. I knew in my heart that one day I would know the truth. I prayed for that day.

"I spent years talking to him about Jesus and how he would be set free if he only believed, but John just didn't get it. That's when I slowed down and only wrote him once a year. When DNA testing came out, I was so excited, but John didn't want to have anything to do with it. He said they would use it against him [Isn't that an indirect admission?] and mix it all up. After that, he was lucky to get a letter from me every five years. I talked to an old boyfriend who was locked up with him. He told me John was strange, but I defended him. Boy was I an idiot!"

"(John) called me LC for Linda Carter (TV's Wonder Woman). I looked like her clone. I heard that from everybody, but he really knew how to charm me. Even after forty years, I'm still his LC. I just want to thank you for writing this book, doing this investigation, and setting me free."

What prompted me to write and share this post was a contact I had last week with a Collins family associate who accused me of exploiting the family's pain for profit and insisted that Ryan and my efforts are harmful and will do nothing to help anyone.

Really? I have received many thank yous from people who didn't have a platform or a community to share their memories about this terrible time. Some are now able to articulate their feelings and come to grips with these cases and John Norman Collins.

Rather than run every piece of correspondence I get, I chose to post remarks from this one because it clearly shows the formula Collins uses in his correspondence to his dwindling numbers of followers. I wrote Marcy asking if I could run her story and use her name.


"Marcy, can I use your recent responses in a blog post? Your remarks will resonant with some women and maybe help someone else break free from Collins' grip. He has a letter writing formula which your posts clearly depict. I would like to reveal that equation to my readers because he uses the same approach with everyone."

"Yes, use my name and photo. My family and friends will be glad I finally came to my senses. I normally would never believe an inmate, but I knew him before he went in. I was a fool."

"Thanks, Marcy. There are people who suspect and accuse me of making this stuff up."

After reading many of Collins letters and/or speaking with people he has written to, a definite pattern emerges from his correspondence. First, he creates an exclusive nickname for his pen pals which creates a unique identity and a special bond with them. Marcy was called "LC" for Linda Carter. A woman he was courting by mail called Sandra was given the pseudonym of "My Georgia Peach." A British woman named Katie who wrote Collins for some time was given the sobriquet, "My Wild Irish Rose." A woman from Australia was called "Vix", and Collins' Canadian cousin was rechristened "Little Brother."

Collins always finds a way to interject himself vicariously into the personal lives and affairs of the people he is writing. He never misses sending people birthday cards/letters and Christmas greetings. They seem to be hooks that bind people to his claustrophobic circle of personal intimacy. He plays on their sympathies and complains about his prison treatment, the food, poor healthcare, the prison store, his family that doesn't write him anymore, and how he never has any money.

Within the last year or so, my researcher and I have been mentioned as bad guys to be avoided at all costs. Collins told his recent pen pal, Sandra, that my researcher Ryan had threatened John's Canadian cousin with a beating. I immediately called the cousin and told him what I had learned. He laughed and said, "Where does my cousin come up with this stuff?

It amazes me that some people still allow John Norman Collins the power to influence what they say and do. I can faithfully report that their numbers are declining as is his ability to manipulate people.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

John Norman Collins Strikes a Pose


In January of 1969, John Norman Collins did three photo shoots for a pocket-sized body building magazine entitled Tomorrow's Man (1952-1971). The popular subtitle for this "beefcake" magazine was "Hunks in Trunks." Readers may recognize the names of Steve Reeves (Hercules) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) as people who have posed for this periodical. The pictorials and covers featured prominent bodybuilders and amateurs.

This pulp fiction relic was particularly popular in the 50s and 60s among gay men and curious newcomers. It was considered a crossover publication which could be found on newsstands in urban areas across the country, or it could be mail-ordered discreetly from home.

In those days, beefcake magazines were often the only connection closeted gay men had to their sexuality. But by the end of the Sixties, social conventions had relaxed and gay porn became legal. The market for beefcake magazines declined. The advent of home video in the Seventies struck the death knell for this pulp genre. Collectors of vintage beefcake magazines have made it next to impossible to obtain a copy of Tomorrow's Man.

***

In a prison letter written July 15, 2013, John Norman Collins tells his Canadian cousin the story of his brief involvement in the world of bodybuilding modeling. 

[The following excerpt is presented essentially unedited as written.]

"Oh my God, you found those pictures of me in that "Tomorrow's Man!" ha, ha. Those were taken when I was at Eastern Mich. University. I was a Junior I believe [January 1969]. The media tried to PLAY IT UP after my arrest and make me seem GAY. Here's the SCOOP, John [Collins' Canadian cousin]. I was a JOCK in college and loved all sports so I joined a JOCK Fraternity [Theta Chi] that had lots of football players, wrestlers, baseball players, etc. Well a couple of Brothers told me about this guy that took photo's of guys for some weight-lifting magazines and it paid really good for just 1/2 hour of work. I went to the studio with a few Brothers and I saw what they really did and I agreed to do it. I did like maybe 3 sessions and forgot all about it. I knew the photographer could use my photo's in any magazine he wanted to and he used Bill Kenyon as my name. I have no idea WHY he did that? Anyhow, he used guys from the wrestling team, swim team, etc. Anyone that was in decent shape. At the time he told me he would try to get me into modeling jobs (clothing), BUTT, that didn't happen. How many pictures were in the mag.? I'll never be an "Arnuld." ha, ha. Maybe I should have you send me a copy of the photo(s) they used in the mag.? :) Just curious! I lifted weights for football, hockey, baseball etc., NOT really to be a bodybuilder. Just want some size & strength."

Tomorrow's Man used only one of the photos from Collins three separate shoots, for which he was paid $5.00 a session. "Teenage bodybuilder" Bill Kenyon was, of course, twenty-one year old John Norman Collins. In addition to the photograph, which was placed to the right of an advertisement for wheat germ capsules, the photo's banner read "GREAT FUTURE."

Two Eastern Michigan University coeds had been murdered in Washtenaw County prior to the Collins photo sessions. Five additional unsolved murders of young women occurred in the nine months after Collins posed for Tomorrow's Man magazine. Only for the last of these brutal serial killings would John Norman Collins ever be tried and convicted. The six other cases have hung in limbo for almost fifty years.

For more examples of Tomorrow's Man covers, tap on the following link: http://www.pulpinternational.com/pulp/entry/Assorted-covers-of-Tomorrows-Man-bodybuilding-magazine.html

For more information about Beefcake magazines, tap on this link: http://www.bilerico.com/2011/02/a_short_history_of_physique_magazines.php

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Staying in the Writing Zone


An entrepreneur from another age came up with an ingenious invention for eliminating distractions for writers called the Isolator. As the above photograph depicts, there was a mechanical solution for even the most human of behaviors, our inherent distractability. I had to laugh when I saw this product and wished I could go on the Internet and order it.

Whether this photo was originally a sight gag or a serious attempt to keep the writer distraction free and focused, the thinking behind the Isolator is as true today as it was in the past. Writing requires intense concentration over sustained periods of time. Even the slightest distractions can derail a writer's train of thought.

When writers are deep into the creation process, time and space seem to disappear, their creative juices begin to flow, and they write as if they could go on forever poring wisdom and enlightenment from the ends of their keyboard tapping fingers.


Then the doorbell rings, a telemarketer calls, or the neighbor's dogs start barking nonstop and the spell is broken. Being in the writing groove is nothing less than sacrosanct for writers. Not every writer is lucky enough to have a sanctum sanctorum immune from such distractions.

The image of the pastoral poet who creates beautiful verse next to a babbling brook amid warbling songbirds is stereotypical. Most of those cavalier love songs were written in noisy taverns by young bloods under the influence of the local grog. My point is that most writers create amid the distractions and cacophony of everyday life. 

As much as writers try to control life around them, writing doesn't happen in a vacuum. Dealing with interruption is a part of life and unavoidable. As annoying as distractions are, it is too easy for writers to get lost in their manuscripts and forget the greater world around them. For serious writers, the act of writing is a solitary obsession.
 

What drives every serious writer is the knowledge that when the muse strikes, she better find you working. Passion for the work trumps everything else. Without that, it doesn't matter what you write or how long you have worked on it.