Doing research for The Rainy Day Murders has lead down corridors my researcher and I could not have envisioned when we began this true crime project over three years ago. But one key area of information has remained closed to us, the mental health records of John Norman Collins. That information is privileged and protected.
Shortly after Collins was arrested, his second attorney, court appointed Richard Ryan, arranged a "private" lie detector test for Collins to take. After the examiner revealed the results to the defense attorney, Ryan suggested to John's mother that they go for a diminished capacity plea, commonly known as an insanity defense.
Loretta Collins became unglued and fired Ryan on the spot. He is said to have left the conference room shaken but no doubt relieved to be off the case. When the legal team of Joseph Louisell and Neil Fink took over, there was no more talk of an insanity defense.
Early on in our investigative research, my researcher, Ryan M. Place and I invoked the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) documents. Every time the Collins' case comes up for review and reclassification, Collins is offered psychiatric services. In the space provided on the form, he always writes, "Not interested."
Most people would agree that it is impossible to help someone who doesn't want to be helped. What good are psychological and psychiatric services to a person whose existence is built upon the mirrored reality of delusion? To break through that wall of falsehoods would be to admit guilt and responsibility; a narcissistic, psychotic personality will not tolerate this.
Several months ago, I received an email from Kristin Bronson, whose father worked briefly with John Norman Collins in an official mental health capacity. What follows is a loving tribute to her father:
"My father (now deceased) was in mental health all his life, first at Mercywood Sanatorium and then at the University of Michigan Neuropsychiatric Institute. He worked with a vast number and all kinds of patients and always worked very hard to find a way to reach and help them. He usually succeeded, though not often enough. One lost is one too many.
"My father was involved in the evaluation and treatment of John Norman Collins. He was the only patient I am aware of that my father bailed out from his case. It gave him the shudders.
"My dad said that Collins was never going to change. He was too evil. It really got to him, even just being around Collins. He was wickedness incarnate! There were other killers my father worked with, but this one was too much even for him who loved every human soul alive.
"Rest in peace my beloved father, William Arthur Bronson, born September 7, 1926. You helped so many people regain their lives and paid a price to do so."