Oakland County Child Killer

The Oakland County Child Killer (OCCK) is the name given to the perpetrator(s) responsible for the killings of at least four children in Oakland County, Michigan in 1976 and 1977. The victims were held captive before being killed, and forensic DNA testing has indirectly implicated two suspects, one of whom has since died, with the other serving life in prison for offenses against children. A DNA profile created from samples taken from some of the victims' bodies is from the main perpetrator, but does not match the DNA of anyone named in connection with the case, and his identity is unknown.[1]

Oakland County Child Killer
Oaklandcountychildkiller.jpg
Sketches of the suspect.
Other namesThe Babysitter Killer
The Babysitter
Details
Victims4+
Span of crimes
February 15, 1976–March 16, 1977
CountryUnited States
State(s)Michigan

BackgroundEdit

Between February 15, 1976, and March 16, 1977, two boys and two girls aged between 10 and 12 years old went missing outside their homes, en route to or from another location, in Oakland County, Michigan. Each child's body was discovered in a public area within 19 days of his or her disappearance. The children were all either strangled or shot, with the two boys having been sexually abused. The four deaths triggered a murder investigation which at the time was the largest in U.S. history,[2] with Detroit's two daily newspapers, as well as the area's numerous radio and television stations, covering the case. A presentation on WXYT radio, entitled Winter's Fear: The Children, the Killer, the Search, won the Peabody Award in 1977.

VictimsEdit

ConfirmedEdit

  • Mark Stebbins, 12, of Ferndale, did not return home from an American Legion Hall on February 15, 1976. His body was found four days later, wearing the same clothes he was last seen in, lying in a snowbank in the parking lot of a local office building. He had been strangled and sexually abused with a foreign object, and had two lacerations to the left rear of his head.[3] Rope marks were evident on both his wrists and ankles, indicating he had been bound during his captivity.[4]
  • Jill Robinson, 12, of Royal Oak, left her home on December 22, 1976, following an argument with her mother over dinner preparations. The following day, her bicycle was found behind a local hobby store, before her body was found alongside Interstate 75 in Troy, within view of Troy police station, on the morning of December 26. She had been shot in the face with a 12-gauge shotgun, and her body was fully clothed and wearing the backpack she had taken with her when she left home.[5]
  • Kristine Mihelich, 10, of Berkley, was reported missing on January 2, 1977, after she failed to return home from a 7-Eleven store on 12 Mile Road at Oakshire. A mail carrier found her fully clothed body 19 days later on the side of a rural road in Franklin Village. She had been smothered to death less than 24 hours earlier and her body lay within view of nearby homes.[4]
  • Timothy King, 11, left his home in Birmingham and went to a drugstore on the evening of March 16, 1977. After he failed to return home, an intensive search covering the entire Detroit metropolitan area was conducted, before his body was found on the evening of March 22 by two teenagers in shallow ditch alongside Gill Road in Livonia. He had been sexually assaulted with a foreign object and suffocated approximately six hours earlier.[4]

SuspectedEdit

There were other abductions and murders around the Oakland County area within the same period. These are not specifically tied to the four victims above due to variations in the cases.

DisprovedEdit

  • Sheila Srock, 14, was raped and shot dead while babysitting in Birmingham on January 20, 1976. Her killer, Oliver Rhodes Andrews, had burglarized several homes in the neighborhood earlier that evening, and a neighbor was a witness while snow shoveling his roof.[8] Andrews was sentenced to life imprisonment.[9]

PossibleEdit

  • Kimberly Alice King, 12, disappeared from Warren on September 15, 1979. Authorities believe she was abducted and that her disappearance is connected to the unsolved killings.[10]

InvestigationEdit

After the discovery of Kristine Mihelich's body, authorities noticed similarities shared by her case and those of Mark Stebbins and Jill Robinson, and reports were released warning the public that a serial killer was possibly operating in the Oakland County area. The Michigan State Police led a group of law-enforcement officials from 13 communities in the formation of a task force, devoted solely to the investigation into the killings of the three children.

After Timothy King disappeared, a woman told authorities that she had seen a boy with a skateboard (like King) talking to a man in the parking lot of the drugstore that King went to on March 16, 1977. A composite drawing of the suspected kidnapper and his blue AMC Gremlin was released, and authorities questioned every Gremlin owner in Oakland County. Investigators created a profile based on witnesses' descriptions of the man seen talking to King—a white male aged between 25 and 35 with a dark complexion, shaggy hair and sideburns, who had a job that gave him freedom of movement and made him appear trustworthy to children, was familiar with the area and could keep children captive for long periods of time without rousing neighbors' suspicions.

The task force checked more than 18,000 tips, which resulted in about two dozen arrests on unrelated charges and the discovery of a multi-state child pornography ring operating on North Fox Island in Lake Michigan.[11] The task force was unable to make much headway in the investigation, disbanding in December 1978, with the investigation being turned over to the State Police.

Suspects and persons of interestEdit

A few weeks after the death of Timothy King, a psychiatrist who worked with the task force received a letter, riddled with spelling errors, written by an anonymous author ("Allen") claiming to be a sadomasochist slave of "Frank", the "OCCK".[12] "Allen" wrote that they had both served in the Vietnam War and that "Frank" was traumatized by having killed children, and had taken revenge on more affluent citizens such as the residents of Birmingham, wanting rich people to suffer for sending forces to Vietnam.[12] "Allen" expressed fear and remorse in his letter, saying he was losing his sanity and was endangered and suicidal, and admitted to having accompanied "Frank" as the latter sought boys to kill.[13] "Allen" instructed the psychiatrist to respond by printing the code words "weather bureau says trees to bloom in three weeks" in that Sunday's Free Press edition,[12] before offering to provide photographic evidence in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The psychiatrist arranged to meet "Allen" at a bar, but "Allen" did not show up, and was never heard from again.

Archibald Edward Sloan, a child molester who victimized young boys in his neighborhood,[14] became a person of interest after hair samples found in his 1966 Pontiac Bonneville matched hair found on the bodies of Timothy King and Mark Stebbins, but the hair was not from Sloan himself.[15] A witness claimed to have seen Timothy King being abducted by two men, one described as being in his late 20s and the other described as bearing a strong resemblance to serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was allegedly in Michigan around the time of the killings.[16] Gacy's DNA did not match DNA found on the victims' bodies.[17]

Police in Parma Heights, Ohio arrested Ted Lamborgine, a retired auto worker believed to have been involved in a child pornography ring in the 1970s. On March 27, 2007, investigators told Detroit television station WXYZ that Lamborgine was considered the top suspect in this case. Lamborgine pleaded guilty to 15 sex-related counts involving young boys, rather than accept a plea bargain that would have required him to take a polygraph test on the Oakland County child killings. Lamborgine also rejected an offer of a reduced sentence in exchange for a polygraph on the case.[18]

In October 2007, the family of Mark Stebbins filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Lamborgine seeking $25,000. The lawsuit alleges Lamborgine, who lived in Metro Detroit in the late 1970s, abducted Stebbins and held him captive in a Royal Oak house for four days in February 1976 before smothering him to death during a sexual assault. Lamborgine has never been formally linked nor charged in the death of Mark Stebbins. Attorney David A. Binkley has sought compensation, including funeral costs, for Stebbins' brother, Michael, but stressed that money is secondary.[18]

The case sparked new interest when Timmy King's father, Barry, and brother, Chris, tried to get the Michigan State Police to release information about Chris Busch, the son of Harold Lee Busch, a high level General Motors executive. Chris Busch had been in police custody shortly before Timmy's abduction for suspected involvement in child pornography. He allegedly committed suicide in November 1978. There was no gunshot residue found on him, though, and no blood spatter. Furthermore, there were four shell casings found in his room. He was also found wrapped neatly under his sheets. There was one bullet hole between his eyes. No blood, and bloodstained ligatures were found in his apartment, as was a hand-drawn image of a boy closely resembling Mark Stebbins screaming which was found pinned to the wall of the room in which Busch allegedly committed suicide.[19] There had been no confirmed activity by the Oakland County Child Killer for nearly 20 months prior to Busch's death.[20] The Michigan State Police have since released 3,400 pages of investigative records to Barry King.[21]

Resumed investigation and new evidenceEdit

Investigation reports released to family of the victimsEdit

Police reports obtained by Barry King included new revelations, including DNA testing of new suspects, a sketch found at the scene of Busch's suicide of a boy resembling Mark Stebbins screaming and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and a bloody rope also found at the scene of Busch's death.[22]

Catherine Broad, sister of Timothy King, compiled an archive of investigation material as the case grew.[23]

Upon researching the case records, the King family produced a documentary entitled 'Decades of Deceit'. The documentary condemns the investigators and prosecutors for alleged shoddy investigations and uncooperative communication, and, in particular, of disregarding leads the King family discovered in 2006. Funds generated from the sale of the documentary were donated to the Tim King fund, designated to help abused children and support child activities for Birmingham children.[24]

DNA tests of hairEdit

Forensic DNA tests conducted in 2012 showed that hair found on the seat of Sloan's 1966 Pontiac Bonneville and on the bodies of Stebbins and King were a match and came from the same unknown man. The hair DNA does not match Sloan, but implicates someone he knew or lent his car to.[25][26]

Current developments/2012 case reopeningEdit

In 2013, an anonymous informant reported a blue AMC Gremlin buried in a farm field now being developed in Grand Blanc. Police are investigating the Gremlin for ties to the crime as Timothy King was last seen in a blue Gremlin.[27]

"Jeff Gannon"Edit

In 2005, an unidentified man, who would later emerge to become a common figure in the case and has been referred to by the alias of "Jeff", was reminded of a relationship he had in 1977 with an acquaintance. In an interview given to Oakland County investigators in 2010, Jeff informed them of atypical observations and actions while driving and conversing with the acquaintance, such as taking him to buildings where satanic rituals were performed according to the acquaintance. The acquaintance navigated through lesser-known routes associated with the case with ease. The acquaintance also spoke of details written in "Allen's" letter (see above).[28] Jeff requested information about the "Allen" letter to help confirm his suspicions, but was denied.[28]

In 2010, Jeff gave a recorded interview to Oakland County investigators and Prosecutor Jessica Cooper to present evidence pertaining to the investigation.[28] Jeff claimed to have tried to approach her with his findings and to convince her to place the case under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice to expedite the case. The department was already involved as FBI investigators and through resources such as the ViCAP database.[29] Prosecutor Cooper dismissed his suggestions and, as there was no new evidence presented, his request to inspect the "Allen" letter was denied. Cooper describes the interview on the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office blog as "a rambling statement outlining a theory that the Oakland County Child Killer abductions and murders were related to pagan holidays, the lunar calendar, and Wiccan rituals".[30]

Jeff proceeded to correspond with Deborah Jarvis, mother of victim Kristine Mihelich, and investigative journalists such as[29] Bill Proctor and Heather Catallo in 2010. He claimed that he was among a team of a dozen investigators involved with the case and could identify the perpetrator of the crimes, but refused to indicate which law enforcement division he worked for.[31][32] He claimed to have invested 10,000 hours into the investigation over several years, but was reluctant to release his results as he doubted the competence of Wayne and Oakland county investigators. In a press release email, Jeff indicated possible meddling by Jessica Cooper and other reasons as to why he had not made his investigation public.[33][34][35] According to Paul Hughes, an attorney representing Jarvis, Jeff's investigation discovered the murderer. However, according to Hughes, Jeff refused to identify the culprit unless the authorities divulged crucial information which Jeff requested during the initial phone questioning in 2010. Jeff wanted to positively confirm the identity of his suspect using the police evidence before proceeding further.[36]

In 2012, Jeff presented his findings to a select group of Detroit journalists on Hughes' cell phone. To preserve his anonymity he insisted that his phone interview with Hughes not be recorded. He theorized that the killers were conducting Wiccan human sacrifice rituals coinciding with pagan celebrations or the lunar calendar.[citation needed]

According to Jeff, there was a total of approximately 11–16 victims, significantly more than the four officially confirmed victims.[32] Jeff claimed his team found a number of similarities among the cases that were highly unlikely to be purely coincidental.[citation needed]

Based on this information, Hughes attempted a lawsuit against the Oakland County authorities for $100M citing mishandling of the investigation and demanding Cooper's resignation. The lawsuit alleged a cover-up conspiracy and obstruction.[29] Hughes' website solicited donations, and offered a copy of Jeff's report for a donation of $1,500. The families of the victims and Cooper claimed that Hughes and Jeff were attempting to profit on their distress. The case was dismissed in March 2012 for lack of evidence.[citation needed]

Arch SloanEdit

In February 2019, the Investigation Discovery channel aired a two-part, four hour documentary about the killings.[37] At this same time WXYZ-TV investigative reporter Heather Catallo announced that a key suspect, convicted child sex offender Arch Edward Sloan, had failed a polygraph test when he was interviewed by the Oakland County Child Killer Task Force in 2010 and 2012.[37] Back in 2012 new DNA technology found that Sloan's car, a 1966 Bonneville, contained hair with the same mitochondrial profile as evidence found on the victims; however, it is not Sloan's.[15]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "DNA results revive 36-year-old Oakland County Child Killer case". mlive. July 18, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  2. ^ Martindale, Mike (August 24, 2007). "New DNA evidence surfaces in Oakland child killings". The Detroit News. p. 00.
  3. ^ Keppell, Robert (1995). The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer. New York: Pocket Books. p. 143. ISBN 0-671-86763-6.
  4. ^ a b c Barfknecht 1993, pp. 123–126
  5. ^ Keppell, Robert (1995). The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer. New York: Pocket Books. p. 144. ISBN 0-671-86763-6.
  6. ^ McIntyre 1988, p. 11
  7. ^ Keppel, Robert (1995). The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer. New York: Pocket Books. p. 152. ISBN 0-671-86763-6.
  8. ^ McIntyre 1988, p. 12
  9. ^ "Suspect". Ludington Daily News. March 4, 1976. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  10. ^ "Kimberly Alice King – The Charley Project". Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  11. ^ "Secrets and Lies". True Crime Diary. June 14, 2011. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  12. ^ a b c "Oakland County child killer still a mystery despite letters to the police". Ludington Daily News. 28 (264). Associated Press. September 28, 1977. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  13. ^ Tommy McIntyre (January 1, 1988). Great Lakes Books (ed.). Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: The Search for a Child Killer. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 173–174. ISBN 0-8143-1989-0. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  14. ^ Catallo, Heather (July 19, 2012). "Local man says he was assaulted by new Oakland County Child Killer person of interest Arch Sloan". WXZY 7 ABC. Archived from the original on December 25, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  15. ^ a b Catallo, Heather (July 19, 2012). "Local man says he was assaulted by new Oakland County Child Killer person of interest Arch Sloan". WXYZ-TV. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  16. ^ "Is the Oakland County Child Killer connected to John Wayne Gacy?". Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  17. ^ Heather Catallo (June 6, 2013). "Gacy DNA test results in Oakland County Child Killer case". WXYZ.com. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  18. ^ a b Martindale, Mike (October 19, 2007). "Victim's family in Oakland child killings sues molester over death". The Detroit News. p. 1B.
  19. ^ "DNA Links New Suspect to 1970's Oakland County Child Killings". May 19, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  20. ^ Keenan, Marney Rich (October 26, 2009). "Finding Timmy's killer: Family seeks answers 32 years after son's death". The Detroit News. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  21. ^ "Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ, December 28, 2010"
  22. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: New Person Identified In Oakland County Child Killer Case". Clickondetroit.com. November 2, 2011. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  23. ^ Dave Phillips (April 13, 2013). "Woman blogs about losing a brother to the Oakland County Child Killer". Theoaklandpress.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  24. ^ Heather Catallo (September 12, 2013). "Family of Oakland County Child Killer victim takes prosecutor, police to task for unsolved murders". WXYZ.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  25. ^ Dave Phillips (July 17, 2012). "Prosecutor: DNA presents first link in Oakland County Child Killer case; person of interest named". The News-Herald. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  26. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: New Person Identified In Oakland County Child Killer Case". Clickondetroit.com. November 2, 2011. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  27. ^ Tammy Stables Battaglia (August 20, 2013). "Cops comb blue Gremlin near Grand Blanc for ties to Oakland child killer". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  28. ^ a b c Ashenfelter, David (May 15, 2012). "With audio: In Oakland county child killings shadowy figure offers his theories". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  29. ^ a b c Catallo, Heather. 'Detroit lawyer files suit alleging cover-up in Oakland County child killer case'. April 23, 2012. WXYZ ABC 7 Action news. retrieved December 1, 2013
  30. ^ Cooper, Jessica R. 'The Oakland County children Killings: What about Jeff'. Retrieved December 1, 2013
  31. ^ Ashenfelter, David. 'Anonymous tipster Jeff has become part of the mystery of Oakland Child Killer case'. June 17, 2012. Detroit Free Press. retrieved November 29, 2013
  32. ^ a b Ashenfelter, David. 'Informant says he can connect Oakland County child killings to other deaths'. May 14, 2012. Detroit Free Press. retrieved December 1, 2013
  33. ^ 'Jeff'.'Press release from 'Jeff'.'October 16, 2013. Detroit Free Press. December 1, 2013
  34. ^ Ashenfelter, David. 'In Oakland county child killing case, man named Jeff makes many claims'. May 12, 2013. Detroit Free Press. retrieved December 1, 2013
  35. ^ Burns, Gus. 'Anonymous 'Jeff' releases secret Oakland country child killer details to select media.' October 16, 2012. Mlive. retrieved November 30, 2013
  36. ^ Catallo, Heather.'Source behind $100 Million Child killer is anonymous to even lawyer, family'. April 24, 2012. WXYZ ABC 7 action news. retrieved December 1, 2013
  37. ^ a b Catallo, Heather (February 19, 2019). "Investigation reveals Oakland Co. Child Killer suspect failed polygraph test about murders". WXYZ-TV. Retrieved October 25, 2019.

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit