Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mother's Day Gator by the Bay Festival in San Diego


On Mother's Day weekend, for longer than I can remember, San Diego, California has been home to the Gator by the Bay Festival.

This year's Zydeco, Blues and Crawfish Festival is May 8th through the 11th. This annual joyous celebration of spring blossoms forth at Spanish Landing Park on Harbor Island along San Diego Bay. An outdoor venue doesn't get much better than this.


Don't be afraid to bring the kids and grandma and grandpa too if he behaves himself. If you love good music, fun dancing, and Louisiana food, dust off your dancing shoes, throw on some Mardi Gras beads, and join us for a great weekend.

"Laissez les bon temp rouler!"

For detailed information on this year's schedule and the musical performers line up, check out the official GBTB website:
http://www.gatorbythebay.com/

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Devil's Staircase and John Norman Collins


Levels of Hell as depicted from Dante's Inferno.

While doing research for The Rainy Day Murders, Ryan M. Place, came across the work of UCLA engineering researcher Dr. Mikhail Simkin. He has been studying the biological rhythm of serial killers. His theory is that "serial killers commit murder when the neuronal excitation in their brains exceed a certain threshold."

Ryan emailed Dr. Simkin and asked if the professor could plot out a graph of John Norman Collins' inter-murder intervals and help us draw some conclusions about his behavior.

Dr. Simkin wrote back stating, "Because of the limited data of seven murders and six intervals, it is out of the question to plot a probability distribution of inter-murders for Collins. The only plot we can do is that of cumulative number of murders as a function of the dates. The Collins chart can't stand on its own."

In his response to us, Dr. Simkin included an attachment of the Collins plot graph and the plot graph of Russian Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo, thought to be the most prolific serial killer in history. He was convicted in 1990 for the murders of fifty-three women and children and executed with a gunshot behind the right ear in 1994. The Russian newspapers dubbed him "The Butcher of Rostov." 

Dr. Simkin did a narrative comparison of both charts for us. "You can see that the Collins plot has some properties of the 'Devil's staircase' as there is a large step variation," he wrote. "The longest step is 15.5 times bigger than the shortest. However, for the Chikatilo plot, this ratio is 329 times bigger.... In the Collins plot, we can glimpse some features of the Devil's staircase which are far better developed in the Chikatilo plot."

"The Devil's staircase" is a statistical term referring to graph results that resemble a staircase of increasing values when plotted out. Mathematically, the results depict "a function not absolutely continuous." But the term also carries some metaphorical significance when you consider the subject matter under discussion, serial murder.


Both plot graphs show a behavioral trait common to most serial killers. As their murders increase, the intervals between the murders decreases. It is this grim logic of serial killers that often leads to their eventual undoing. As the body count rises, authorities have more data to work with and the killer's profile begins to take shape. When serial killers become overconfident in their abilities, they begin to feel immune to capture and make mistakes.

How much time it takes to solve these crimes varies with the circumstances of each case of course. Some cases are never officially solved. In the case of John Norman Collins and the six other murders he was thought to have committed, he was only convicted of the seventh and last murder. For the other six families, there has been no closure.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Boston Strangler Link to John Norman Collins Case Disproven


On March 25, 1969, the murder of the fourth victim in a string of unsolved murders in the university towns of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti set area residents into panic mode. The ensuing investigation took twelve police investigators from five separate police agencies on a series of promising leads that turned out to be blind alleys.

One such lead was the connection between the Boston Strangler case and the most recent of the Washtenaw County murders, twenty-three year old, Jane Mixer and sixteen year old Maralynn Skelton from Romulus, Michigan.

It was Dr. Ames Robey, director of the State Center for Forensic Psychiatry at Ypsilanti State Hospital, who telephoned Ann Arbor Police Captain Harold Olson with information on a possible suspect in the recent murders. Dr. Robey was asked to come down to police headquarters to give an official statement. He was greeted by Captain Olson and Sgt. Bill Canada.

During the 1967 criminal trial of Albert H. DeSalvo, Dr. Robey served as a defense witness and a major rebuttal witness for the prosecution. Dr. Robey's specialty was forensic psychiatry, helping the court evaluate defendants for competency to stand trial. He was a Harvard graduate (1952) and earned his medical degree at Boston College (1956).

Maralynn Skelton
Dr. Robey believed that there were strong similarities in the Boston Strangler murders and the slayings of Maralynn Skelton and Jane Mixer. The eleven to thirteen women who were murdered in Boston from 1962 until 1964 were "ritualistic" killings, that is, actions which go beyond the commission of the murder. With serial killers, their modus operandi and their ritualistic behavior reveal the murderer's signature, but unfortunately only as the death toll increases.

Dr. Robey believed that the recent two bodies discovered were brutalized in a way that matched the pattern of the Boston deaths. Both women were strangled with personal articles of clothing and their clothes were piled close by. Also, there were no apparent clues left at the scene. 

One glaring difference that police didn't share with Dr. Robey was that the Michigan women were killed in one place and dumped in another. The Strangler killed the Boston women in their apartments and left them there to be discovered.

***

In Gerald Frank's book, The Boston Strangler, the suspect that Dr. Robey named was given the pseudonym "David Parker," but his real name was Peter H. Denton. Dr. Robey told Ann Arbor police he first examined Denton when Robey was the director of Bridgewater State Hospital. Another of his patients was Albert De Salvo, the self-confessed but never convicted Boston Strangler. 

Dr. Robey was convinced that DeSalvo didn't kill any of the Strangler victims. In a Boston newspaper article from that time, he described DeSalvo as a "convicted thief who suffers from schizophrenia. He is a very clever, very smooth, compulsive confessor who desperately needs to be recognized." 

Dr. Robey's public dissent with the Boston Police Department didn't win him any friends in Boston. Albert DeSalvo had confessed and given police a detailed account of the murders. Dr. Robey firmly believed that Albert DeSalvo didn't kill any of the women he was accused of. There was more than one Strangler, and he was reasonably assured that he knew who one of the stranglers was.

The name Peter H. Denton was put forth as a possible suspect in the Boston Strangler case. Mr. Denton had an IQ that ranged between 150 and 170, which is genius level. At Harvard, he was a counter-culture rebel who was known to Boston-area police. 

Charges against him ranged from disturbing the peace; making, selling, and using LSD; making a pipe bomb; and what Denton was at Bridgewater State Hospital under observation for, assaulting his pregnant wife who he had only married two weeks before. The incident occurred in the middle of Harvard Square in Cambridge.

Dr. Robey's prognosis of Peter Denton was that he didn't suffer from pronounced male chauvinism or homosexuality, but Denton's antipathy toward women was a "deep psychosis probably of primal origins, indicative of a child's helpless, agonized unfullfillment of basic needs and desires at the hands of either or both parents. A person like this is quite capable of rape and murder. He could even be a necrophile prone to castration anxiety in which women appear as threats to his virility."

***

The Ann Arbor Police officers wanted to know what prompted Dr. Robey to put forth Peter Denton as a possible suspect in these Ann Arbor cases. The psychiatrist said he hadn't heard anything about Denton for years but was startled when he saw his face and name on the front page of a recent Ann Arbor News story. Denton was named as the leader of a rent strike. It was at that moment that Dr. Robey felt it was his public duty to inform police.

John Sinclair in custody
 for selling a couple of joints
 to an undercover agent.
When Dr. Ames Robey told the Ann Arbor police about Peter Denton, he was already under partial surveillance because of his association with the leader of the White Panther Party, John Sinclair. The group was first known as Trans-Love Energies. They had recently migrated to Ann Arbor thinking they would have less police interference and harassment than in Detroit, but they were mistaken. 

The group soon morphed into the White Panther Party and attracted even more police attention in the form of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department. Try as they might, police were unable to connect Maralynn Skelton's murder to Sinclair's group.

Captain Olson and Sgt. Canada did not mention any of that to Dr. Robey nor did they mention that Denton was not present in Ann Arbor when Mary Fleszar was murdered on July 9, 1967. Denton was also in the clear for the Joan Schell's July 1, 1968 murder when he was on a European vacation. Police investigator's found no connection between Peter Denton and Jane Mixer, except that they were both graduate students at U of M. And the only connection between Denton and Maralynn Skelton was that they both moved loosely in and out of John Sinclair's universe. 

Ann Arbor Police did not question Peter Denton directly, but they now had him under close surveillance. Police made no mention of any of this to Dr. Robey because they didn't want to inhibit him from telling his full account of the story.

Both investigators were struck that two people were in Ann Arbor, who had ties to the Boston Strangler murders, and now they just happened to be in Ann Arbor. It was noted that Dr. Robey had been in Ann Arbor since the first unsolved murder in July of 1967. Investigators took a discreet look into the background and activities of Ames Robey. The good doctor had unwittingly made himself a suspect.

***

On March 28, 1969 at 4:10 PM, Ann Arbor Police Lt. E. Staudenmaier, contacted Peter Denton at his apartment on 917 Sylvan St. He and his girlfriend were present. After the lieutenant told Denton that he wanted to interview him, the officer was invited into the apartment. 

But Denton said that he was just preparing to go to Detroit to contact his lawyer, Ernest Goodman, to start a lawsuit against Robey for making public statements against him in the newspaper attempting to implicate him in the recent murders of Jane Mixer and Maralynn Skelton by associating him as a suspect in the Boston Strangler case. Peter Denton agreed to call the officer later when he returned home from his attorney's office.

Ernest Goodman, Denton's lawyer, called Lt. Staudenmaier at 8:00 PM. Goodman related that during April, authorities from the Boston, Massachusetts District Attorney's office came to Ann Arbor to give Denton a polygraph test in the office of attorney Arthur Carpenter. The result of this test was that his client was cleared of all implications in the Strangler case.

Goodman ended the phone call saying that he wanted to contact attorney Carpenter prior to making any commitment for an interview with Peter Denton. Attorney Goodman wanted all the information concerning Denton's involvement in the Boston Strangler case to be made available for their investigation. 

Without some leading evidence and a bench warrant, the police were unable to detain Denton, but he was listed as a person of interest and kept under surveillance until he was cleared of any involvement in the Boston Strangler case.


***

Detailed account of DNA match that proved Albert DeSalvo was guilty of Boston sex-slaying. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2370066/DNA-tests-prove-self-confessed-Boston-Strangler-suspect-Albert-DeSalvo-did-rape-murder-Mary-Sullivan-probably-10-killings.html

Friday, March 28, 2014

Two Adult Children of Rape Believe John Norman Collins May be Their Father


The crime of rape is a soul-wrenching experience for anyone to endure. As society has become increasingly open with discussing this issue, more and more children of rape are opting to discover their birth mothers and family histories. If any human experience is bittersweet, this is it. 

Today, there are organizations and support groups for adult children of rape to reconnect with their birth mothers. The stigma in our society against these innocent offspring still exists, but increasing public exposure of successful reunions is making it easier for more people to come forward.

In 2011, I was contacted by a woman who has asked that her name not be revealed. She was a child of a rape in 1968 and located her birth mother only several years ago. She has since established a loving, healthy relationship with her. Upon inquiring about her birth father though, her mother was uncomfortable and evasive when it came to revealing who he was. After some hemming and hawing, the mom admitted that she knew who the father was, that he was still alive, but that he was unavailable for a meeting. 

On a hunch, she asked if her father was in prison. "Yes," was the answer. Reluctantly, her mother told her that she believed her father to be John Norman Collins. When Collins was arrested in 1969 and his picture was in all the papers, she thought she recognized him as the man who raped her.

Only two months ago, I received another gmail from a woman who now lives on the East Coast. After reading some of my Collins blog posts, she decided to contact me believing that her father may be John Norman Collins. This woman searched for and discovered her birth mother and has since established a relationship with her. 

And of course, this woman also wanted to know who her birth father was. Whenever she inquired about him, her mother refused to tell her his name because she was still scared of him. Then her daughter found a copy of The Michigan Murders in her mother's house and read it. When she asked her mother about it, her mother looked quite upset. That was her daughter's first inkling that JNC could be her birth father, despite the antagonist's name being changed to John Armstrong in the novel.

I gmailed her back and asked if we could speak on the phone so I could report on what I knew. When I told her that she was the second person to contact me about JNC's possible paternity, she livened up. I told her the background of my efforts to contact Collins and his siblings to see if we could arrange for a paternity test to show kinship. They were unresponsive. I was told by the Michigan Department of Corrections that there is a statute of limitations for rape and we would need a court order to get a DNA sample from Collins.

John Norman Collins has often said that he loves children and would love to have been a dad, so I wrote to him in Marquette Prison telling him that he may be not only a father, but also a grandfather. If he would like more information, contact me. To date, he has refused to show any interest in his fatherhood. That's how strong his paternal instinct is. Again, it is not what he says, but what he does or doesn't do that is most revealing of his character.

On a personal note, I have spoken to the first alleged daughter many times on the telephone and am very familiar with her voice. When I heard the voice of the second woman on the phone, I'll be damned if I didn't hear a similar tone and tenor in the voices of both woman. It was eerily apparent. After receiving permission to have them contact each other, they both asked me to reluctantly inquire if there are any others within the reach of my blog who suspect Collins may be their father.

From my extensive research on Collins, I've found he was a practiced rapist, so other offspring may be waiting to be discovered. If you believe Collins may be your birth father, or if you have any information that might be useful in our quest, please contact me at gregoryafournier@ gmail.com. Your information will be held in strictest confidence.

See what one woman recently did to find her birth mom: 
http://www.today.com/news/burger-king-baby-finds-birth-mom-i-am-filled-emotions-2D79437635

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"The Rainy Day Murders" Spring Status Report


Writing has come a long way since its beginnings as cuneiform messages pressed into soft clay tablets over five thousand years ago. Once the tablets dried, they were permanent records of business transactions and simple messages primarily. A notable exception being the oldest known literature ever found, The Epic of Gilgamesh, discovered in 1853 buried in the desert of what is now Iraq.

Ancient scribes wrote their important messages on vellum, which was made of scraped and tanned sheep or goat hide. Charcoal was ground and mixed with oils to create crude ink and applied with crude reed brushes or sticks. Vellum was much more portable than clay tablets, but it was much more perishable also. 

It was the Egyptians who developed papyrus which led to the eventual development of paper. Papyrus could be rolled into scrolls for easy storage and portability. 

The ancient Egyptians also inscribed their writing on the walls and columns of their important civic buildings, as did the Greek, Roman, and other notable empires. Much of what we know of ancient history comes from the ruins of these monuments.


The printing press with moveable type was invented in 1436 by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany. Now, ideas could be mass produced and public opinion shaped. This invention helped change the political landscape of Europe. Bound paper books and libraries have been the repositories of the world's knowledge for close to seven hundred years of human history. 

In our own time, books have lost favor to digital methods of recording our thoughts and ideas in ways we couldn't have imagined possible, even twenty years ago. The digital computer age has revolutionized how we work and how we live.

What humans have used to write with has also evolved over the ages. The reed stylus created the wedge shaped notations in moist clay used by the Sumerians and Babylonians. The Greeks and the Romans used bone or ivory styluses to imprint notes and messages on wax tablets, not to mention metal chisels to immortalize their empire's achievements in stone and marble.

Quill pens were developed around 700 A.D. which was an advancement that lasted until the development of the first pencils and fountain pens in the 1800s. Then, in the late1860s, the modern typewriter was invented to mechanize how we write. Sometime in the late 1980s, word processing and personal computers took over from the mechanical typewriter.




Today, most humans tap out their messages digitally on a keyboard or a touch screen. Instantaneous messaging can reach a global audience, with far reaching implications for the future. Ironically, humans are once again writing on tablets, only digital ones this time around.

So that brings me to the subject of this post. With all the advancements in writing technology over the millenniums and today's high-speed computing, why does it take so long for a book to be published?
  1. First, the writer needs a solid idea to develop and write about. That can take years.
  2. Next, the book needs to be researched and checked for facts, corrected, rewritten, and revised.
  3. Then, the writer must hire a qualified editor to help bring the writing up to current publishing industry expectations.
  4. Finally, the writer needs to find an agent interested enough in the project to pitch the book to a publisher who is willing to invest time and money promoting it in the marketplace.
Interested readers of this blog have been asking me with increasing frequency, "When will The Rainy Day Murders be available?

Currently, I'm in the rewriting stage and have lined up an editor to help me over the summer. When I feel I have a quality, professional manuscript, I will solicit an agent. Then, it is anybody's guess when I can attract a trade publisher.


Despite the high-speed internet age we live in, the publishing business is notoriously slow. The only thing I can say about when The Rainy Day Murders will be available is "Stay tuned."


Check out this link for five charts showing the current trends in the publishing business. I have my work cut out for me.
http://janefriedman.com/2014/03/21/5-valuable-charts/

Monday, March 17, 2014

"The Rainy Day Murders" Reflections

When I set out to write the full story of The Rainy Day Murders and the man accused of killing seven young women in and around Ypsilanti, Michigan (1967-1969), I was primarily concerned with recounting the facts and paying a long overdue debt to history.

What began as a simple attempt to recount the details of these ghastly slayings and the evidence against John Norman Collins became a much more personal and far reaching endeavor than I could have ever imagined.

In the last three and a half years, I have researched every bit of government documentation about these cases that Ryan M. Place and I have been able to lay our hands on. As valuable as that factual material is, it tells only the official part of the story.

Newspaper accounts from back in the day were helpful to me with providing commentary, revealing public opinion, establishing times and dates, and filling gaps in the public record of which there are many.

But without this age of internet personal communication, the story I am writing now could not have been told. I have been able to reach out to many people across the country who had information and were ready to share what they know from those times. 

Still, other people have contacted me through my blog, Gmail, or Facebook accounts wanting to tell their stories about their connections with the victims or the accused. Suddenly, the writing of this book became very personal.

It is this living history that adds texture and depth to this story. More often than not, these memories were difficult to share, but most people felt relieved telling their long hidden memories after forty-five years of silence.

Finding background information on the unfortunate victims began to give them personalities beyond the facts and the headlines I began my research with. The layering of one tragic case upon another has made this a difficult story to tell, but every bit of physical and circumstantial evidence I have been able to find points to one inescapable conclusion - the State of Michigan convicted the right guy. 

St. Patrick's Day Movie Pick - "The Quiet Man"

The Quiet Man is a masterful film realization of a wonderful short story by Maurice Walsh. This Technicolor movie won Republic Pictures its only best picture Oscar. 



If you want to do something to celebrate St. Patrick's Day that will make you proud to be of Irish descent, make yourself a corned beef and cabbage dinner with some boiled potatoes, pour yourself some Irish whiskey or some Guinness, and watch this sentimental movie. Ireland never looked lovelier.

Have a Happy St. Patty's Day.