Michigan murders

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John Norman Collins
John Norman Collins.jpg
2005 mugshot of John Norman Collins
Born (1947-06-17) June 17, 1947 (age 68)
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Other names The Co-Ed Killer
The Michigan Murderer
The Ypsilanti Killer
The Ypsilanti Ripper
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment
Conviction(s) First-degree murder[1]
Victims 1-7+
Span of killings
July 9, 1967–July 23, 1969
Country United States
State(s) Michigan
Date apprehended
July 30, 1969
Imprisoned at Marquette Branch Prison

The Michigan Murders were a series of highly publicized killings of young women committed between 1967 and 1969 in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area of Southeastern Michigan by an individual known as the The Ypsilanti Ripper and the The Co-Ed Killer.[2]

All the victims of the Michigan Murders were young women between the ages of 13 and 21 who were abducted, raped, beaten and murdered—typically by stabbing or strangulation—with their bodies occasionally mutilated after death before being discarded within a 10-mile radius of Washtenaw County. The perpetrator, John Norman Collins, was arrested one week after the final murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for this final murder attributed to the The Ypsilanti Ripper on August 19, 1970[3] and is currently incarcerated at Marquette Branch Prison.[4]

Although never tried for the remaining five murders attributed to the The Ypsilanti Ripper, or the murder of a sixth girl killed in California whose death has been linked to the series,[5] investigators believe Collins to be responsible for all seven murders linked to the same perpetrator.[6]


First known victim[edit]

The first known victim linked to the Michigan Murderer was a 19-year-old Eastern Michigan University accounting student named Mary Fleszar,[7] who was last seen alive on the evening of July 9, 1967.[8] Her body was found on August 7, decomposing on an abandoned farm two miles north of where she had disappeared. The corpse was badly decomposed, although police were able to ascertain that the body had been moved several times throughout the month it had lain undiscovered,[9] and the pathologist who examined Fleszar's remains was able to determine the young woman had been stabbed approximately 30 times in the chest and abdomen, and that her fingers and feet had been severed from her body. Although police theorized that Fleszar had been raped, the advanced state of decomposition of the corpse had erased any conclusive evidence of sexual assault.

Two days after the remains had been identified as those of Mary Fleszar, a young man claiming to be a friend of the Fleszar family arrived at the mortuary, asking for permission to take a photograph of the body as a keepsake for Fleszar's parents; this request was sternly refused.[10] The receptionist could not offer any clear description of the man beyond that he was a handsome young white male with dark hair, and that he had driven a blue-grey Chevrolet.[11]

Subsequent murders[edit]

Almost one year later, on July 6, 1968, the partially decomposed, mutilated body of a 20-year-old art student named Joan Elspeth Schell[12] was found by construction workers on an Ann Arbor roadside. She had been raped, then stabbed 47 times[13] in the back, lungs, leg, and head. In addition, her throat had been slashed, and her miniskirt then tied around her neck. Although Schell had been dead for several days, investigators were able to determine her body had lain in its present location for less than 24 hours. In addition, the wounds inflicted upon her body led investigators to establish a definite connection between this murder and that of Mary Fleszar.

Schell hailed from Plymouth, Michigan and had recently moved into a house on Emmett Street in Ypsilanti; she was last seen by her roommate on the evening of June 30, hitchhiking to a friend's Ann Arbor home. Her roommate had reported her missing within hours of her abduction.[14]

Subsequent police inquiries revealed Schell had entered a red car containing three white men on Washtenaw Avenue which had slowed to a stop before the driver had asked her, "Want a ride?" This driver had been aged around 20 with short, dark side-parted hair.[15] Moreover, two further eyewitnesses also informed police they had observed Schell walking with a young man on the evening she disappeared. Although neither student was certain, both believed this student to be John Norman Collins; a student at Eastern Michigan University majoring in elementary education[16] who lived directly across the street from Schell at 619 Emmett.

Questioned by police, Collins flatly denied even knowing Joan Schell and insisted he had spent the weekend of June 29-30 with his mother at her house in the Detroit suburb of Center Line and had not returned to Ypsilanti until July 1. Initially, police took him at his word.

Spring 1969[edit]

Denton Cemetery. The body of 23-year-old Jane Mixer was found at this location on March 21, 1969

On 20 March 1969,[17] a 23-year-old University of Michigan law student named Jane Louise Mixer disappeared after posting a note upon a college ride-share bulletin board, seeking a lift across the state to her hometown of Muskegon, where she had intended to inform her family of her engagement and imminent move to New York. Her fully clothed body, covered with her own raincoat and with a copy of the novel Catch-22 placed by her side, was found the following day atop a grave in Denton Cemetery in Van Buren Township. She had been garroted with a nylon stocking, then shot twice in the head.[18] Despite the fact Mixer had not been sexually assaulted, beaten, stabbed or mutilated, her student status, the tying of a garment around her neck, and the proximity of her abduction and murder led investigators to link her murder to those of Fleszar and Schell.[19] (Another individual would be convicted of the murder of Jane Mixer in 2005.[20][21])

Two days after the murder of Jane Mixer, on March 22, a 16-year-old Romulus [22] high school student named Maralynn Skelton disappeared while hitchhiking in Ann Arbor. She was last seen alive outside a drive-in restaurant on Washtenaw Avenue. Her nude body was found the following day, a few hundred yards from where the body of Joan Schell had been discovered eight months previous.[23] An autopsy revealed Skelton had died of a skull fracture after being extensively beaten and tortured: her killer had placed a cloth gag in her mouth to muffle her screams as she received extensive blunt force trauma to the face, head and body,[24] including several deep lacerations believed to have been inflicted with a leather strap. Welt marks upon Skelton's chest and shoulders indicated that her killer had also used restraints to hold her prone as he whipped her legs with a leather belt[25] before inserting a tree branch eight inches into her vagina.[26] Although investigators noted similarities between this murder and previous killings attributed to the Co-Ed Killer, the dramatic increase in savagery exhibited against the victim and her lifestyle prior to her murder—Skelton was a known drug user and dealer[27]—led some investigators to speculate her murder may have been drug-related.[28] Nonetheless, Skelton's murder was linked to the series.

Three weeks later, on April 16, the body of 13-year-old Dawn Basom was found my a motorist, discarded beside a desolate road in Ypsilanti. Clothed only in a white blouse and bra, which had been pushed around her neck, she had been repeatedly stabbed,[29] slashed across the breasts, buttocks and stomach,[30] then strangled with an electrical flex still knotted around her neck.[31] A handkerchief found stuffed in her mouth had likely been placed there to muffle her cries throughout her torture.[32] An autopsy found no definite evidence of sexual assault.[33]

Basom had last been seen by school friends at 7 p.m. the previous evening, walking along a dirt road upon which Collins is known to have rode his motorcycle on a daily basis. Her orange sweater was found in a deserted farmhouse close to the desolate road on which Basom's body had been placed after her murder. Upon conducting a search of the basement of this farmhouse, investigators discovered a further garment of Basom's clothing and a length of electrical flex of the same type used to strangle the victim, indicating this location as being the site of Basom's murder.[34]

Less than two months after the murder of Dawn Basom, a 21-year-old University of Michigan graduate student named Alice Kalom disappeared on her way home from a friend's party.[35] She was last seen shortly after midnight on June 8, walking home walking towards her apartment on Thompson Street; her partially nude body was found by three teenage boys the following day in a field close to an abandoned farmhouse. Kalom had received multiple stab and slash wounds and a gunshot to the head before her neck had been cut through to the spine.[36]

By the spring of 1969, public outcry regarding the murders committed by the individual dubbed by the press as the Michigan Murderer and the Co-Ed Killer was increasing, particularly among the student population of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Police had noted common denominators in the physical characteristics of the victims, and the manner in which they died had led police to publicly conclude the same perpetrator was responsible for at least five of the murders thus far committed: all the victims had been brunette Caucasians; all the victims' bodies had been found within a 10-mile radius of Washtenaw County; each victim (excluding Mixer) had received knife wounds to the neck; most victims had been found with an item of clothing tied around their neck; and each woman had been menstruating at the time of her death.[37]

The increase in frequency in which the killer was striking throughout the spring and summer of 1969—coupled with the fact most victims had been connected to Eastern Michigan University, suggesting the killer may be a fellow student—further compounded the concerns of female university students.[38] Many female students opted to arm themselves with knives, with others adopting a "buddy system" whereby they would refuse to walk anywhere unless in the company of a trusted male friend or at least three other girls.[39] Sales of tear gas increased, hitchhiking became a rarity among students, and a reward of $42,000 was offered for information leading to the capture of the murderer.[40]

Following the murder of Alice Kalom, the Dutch psychic Peter Hurkos was brought to Ypsilanti at the request of a citizen's community in Ann Arbor. The profile generated by Hurkos shortly after his arrival in Ann Arbor on July 21 proved to be of little help, although he did predict that the murderer was a strongly built male under 25 years of age, who rode a motorcycle,[41] and that he would strike one more time.[42]

Final murder[edit]

The final murder attributed to the killer dubbed the Michigan Murderer and the Co-Ed Killer was that of 18-year-old student Karen Sue Beineman, who was last seen alive on July 23, 1969. She was reported missing by her roommate, Sherri Green, when she failed to return to her dormitory after curfew.[43] Upon questioning both Beineman's roommates, police were informed that she (Beineman) had last been seen shortly after noon on her way to a downtown wig shop.

Two days after the disappearance of Beineman, her nude body was discovered face-down in a wooded gully alongside the Huron River parkway. A medical examination revealed Beineman had been extensively beaten about the face, raped, burned, forced to ingest a caustic substance,[44] and strangled to death, with her killer again having placed cloth in her throat to muffle her screams throughout her torture. In addition, Beineman had received extensive brain injuries, and her panties had been forcefully placed inside her vagina. A forensic examination of these panties revealed the presence of human semen and 509[45] human hair clippings measuring less than three-eights of an inch upon the material.[46] These hair clippings did not belong to the victim.[47]

Mindful of the fact the killer had evidently returned to sites of his previous murders to move the bodies, possibly in a sexual ritual, police theorized the killer may attempt to return to this crime scene. Having replaced Beineman's body with that of a tailor's dummy and successfully ordered a news blackout relating to the discovery of this latest victim and surrounded the gully with undercover officers (attempts to enforce news blackouts following the discoveries of victims Dawn Basom and Alice Kalom had earlier proved unsuccessful.[48]) Shortly after midnight the following morning,in the midst of a heavy, humid storm, one officer observed a young man running from the gully; the heavy rain and insect irritation had prevented the officer from observing the young man actually approaching the gully. Although this officer attempted to radio his sighting to his colleagues, the rain had rendered his radio inoperable.[49]


Upon retracing Beineman's movements on the day of her disappearance, police questioned the proprietor of the wig shop which Karen Beineman had visited immediately prior to her disappearance, a Mrs. Diana Joan Goshe. Goshe recalled Beineman visiting her store to purchase a $20 headpiece in the early afternoon of July 23; she also recalled having observed, for three or four minutes,[50] a young man with short, side-parted dark hair, wearing a horizontal striped sweater, waiting on a motorcycle outside the shop[51] as Beineman made her purchase. Reportedly, Beineman herself insisted Mrs. Goshe observe the man with whom she had accepted a ride, stating that she had made two foolish errors in her life: purchasing a wig; and accepting a ride from a stranger,[52] before stating: "I've got to be either the bravest or the dumbest girl alive, because I've just accepted a ride from this guy." Mrs. Goshe then observed Beineman climb onto the motorcycle before the young man with whom she had accepted the ride drove away.

Although Mrs. Goshe would initially—and incorrectly—described the motorcycle as being possibly a Honda 350 model,[53] when police questioned Carol Wieczerca, a clerk in the store adjacent to the wig shop, Wieczerca was able to state that the model of the motorcycle upon which Beineman had rode away from the wig shop was actually a Triumph.[54] (One of several motorcycles owned by Collins in 1969 was a Triumph Bonneville.[55])

A patrolman who heard the description of the young man with whom Beineman had last been seen alive opined his belief that the person described by Mrs. Goshe and others may be one John Norman Collins: a former fraternity member of his who had previously been interviewed but eliminated from police inquiries.[56] When this patrolman showed a photograph of Collins to both Mrs. Goshe and her assistant, both women were adamant the man in the photograph was the same individual with whom Beineman had last been seen alive.[57]

Police had already established that Collins was a known motorcycle enthusiast,[58] majoring in elementary education at Eastern Michigan University.[59] He had been an honor student and football co-captain at his high school;[60] however, he had established a reputation while studying at Eastern Michigan University as a habitual thief, and although casual acquaintances harked to his politeness around women, close female acquaintances who had dated Collins described him as an aggressive, short-tempered, oversexed individual: one woman revealed to police that on one occasion, when Collins had begun groping her breasts, she had informed him she was experiencing her period; in response, Collins had yelled at her before angrily walking out of her apartment.[61] In addition, police had established Collins had occasionally engaged in violence against women, including one instance in which Collins had raped a woman who resisted his advances. Moreover, on one occasion, upon finding his unwed sister with a man, Collins had beaten the man so badly that he was hospitalized before labeling his sister a "tramp" and beating her.

Upon questioning Collins' co-workers, investigators learned that Collins had repeatedly taken delight in describing, in graphic detail, press reports detailing the injuries inflicted upon the victims' bodies to his female colleagues.[62]

Suspect identification and questioning[edit]

Following her identification of a photograph of Collins, police further questioned the proprietor of the wig shop in which Beineman had last been seen alive, asking her to identify the man she had seen with Beineman in a police lineup. In this lineup, Mrs. Goshe positively identified the man she had seen with Karen Sue Beineman as John Norman Collins.[63][64] In total, seven witnesses would be found who would later testify to having seen Collins in the area between the university campus and Mrs. Goshe's wig shop between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on July 23; including three young women who stated Collins had attempted to entice them onto his motorcycle.[65]

On Sunday, July 27, police arrived at the apartment on Emmet Street Collins shared with his roommate, Arnold Davis. Although Collins emphatically protested his innocence and insisted the eyewitnesses' identification of him had been an error, he refused to return to the police station to take a polygraph test. The following evening, Davis observed Collins emerging from his bedroom carrying a box covered in a blanket. As Davis opened the door for his roommate to leave the apartment, he observed that the box contained women's shoes and clothing, and a handbag.[66]


Collins' uncle was a State Police Sergeant named David Leik, who had been on vacation with his family at the time of Beineman's disappearance and had only returned home four days after the discovery of her body. Throughout their vacation, Collins had been granted sole access to the family's Ypsilanti home in order that he could feed their German shepherd.[67] Upon their return from their vacation, Leik's wife, Sandra, had noted numerous paint marks covering the floor of the family basement, and that several items including a bottle of ammonia, some washing powder, and a canister of black spray paint were missing from the household. The same day, July 29, Leik was advised by investigators of his nephew's suspect status. Upon being advised by Sergeant Chris Walters of the strength of the evidence against his nephew, Leik acknowledged that the evidence thus far gathered was compelling, although in this first interview, he did not advise officers of the items missing from his family basement; however, the following morning, Leik scraped away some of the black paint which had been sprayed in his basement to reveal a stain which looked ominously like human blood and immediately returned to the police station to report his findings.[68]

The basement of Sgt. Leik's home was subjected to an intense forensic examination. Although forensic experts would deduce later that morning that the stains covered by the black paint had actually been varnish stains, one of these experts discovered numerous hair clippings—many measuring less than three-eights of an inch—aside the family washing machine.[69] When questioned as to these clippings, Leik—who had not been informed of the discovery of the hair clippings upon Beineman's panties—informed investigators that his wife regularly cut their children's hair in this basement, and that she had done so shortly before the family had embarked upon their vacation. Moreover, the forensic experts would discover small bloodstains in nine areas of the basement. Two of these bloodstains[70] were discovered to be type A—the blood type of Karen Sue Beineman.[71]

Tests conducted upon the hairs found upon Beineman's underwear would prove to be a match to those found in the basement of the Leik home. Evidently, and despite Collins' protestations of innocence and denials of even knowing Karen Sue Beineman, the girl had been in the basement of Collins' uncle at the time of or shortly before her murder.[72]

Questioning of Leik's neighbors yielded additional circumstantial evidence: one neighbor, Marjorie Barnes, recalled having witnessed Collins leaving his uncle's home with a deluxe laundry detergent box prior to the Leik family returning from their vacation; another neighbor informed investigators she had heard the muffled screams of a young female emanating from the Leik household on the evening of Beineman's disappearance.

The same afternoon police searched the Leik family's basement, Collins was confronted with evidence thus far gained and deduced. Although Collins burst into tears when informed the stains on the floor covered with paint had been varnish, he quickly regained his composure and continued to deny any knowledge of Karen Sue Beineman. Later that day, having received laboratory reports that the bloodstains discovered in Leik's basement were of the same type as those of Beineman, Collins was arrested[73] and his apartment thoroughly searched; however, no incriminating evidence was discovered, although officers were informed by Arnold Davis on this date of the incident two days earlier in which he (Davis) had observed Collins carrying a blanket-covered box containing women's clothing from his apartment.[74]

Link to additional murder[edit]

In further interrogating Arnold Davis as to his roommate's behavior, investigators learned that Collins had been in the habit of committing burglaries with a former roommate of theirs named Andrew Manuel; upon tracing Collins' movements in relation to the dates of the disappearance and murder of the seven murder victims then-linked to the Co-Ed Killer (which then included Jane Mixer), police discovered that, on 16 June,[75] Collins and Manuel had traveled to Monterey, California in Collins' vehicle, which the pair used to tow a camper-trailer they had stolen for the trip.[76] In early August, investigators were contacted by their counterparts in Salinas, who stated they had reason to believe a Michigan individual named John may be responsible for the June 30 death of a 17-year-old girl named Roxie Ann Philips.

On August 3, two Washtenaw County detectives traveled to Salinas Police Department to review information and determine whether a connection existed between Philips' murder and those for which Collins was suspected of committing in Michigan.[77] Reviewing information regarding the murder of Roxie Ann Philips, investigators discovered that, prior to her disappearance, Philips had informed a close friend that she had become acquainted with Michigan student named John, who drove a silver Oldsmobile Cutlass (the vehicle in which Collins had driven to California). Her nude, battered body had been found in a ravine in Carmel Highlands on July 13, with the belt belonging to her culotte dress knotted around her neck.[78] She had been strangled to death and, as with several Michigan victims linked to Collins, one earring was missing.[79]

Having compared case notes, investigators in both California and Michigan agreed the circumstances surrounding Philips' death were "strikingly similar"[80] to the Michigan Murders, and a formal indictment would be served against Collins for the first-degree murder of Roxie Ann Philips in April 1970, although the evidence surrounding this indictment was ordered to be sealed until after Collins' trial for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman had concluded.[81]

Pretrial hearings[edit]

On August 1, 1969, John Norman Collins was formally charged with the murder of Karen Sue Beineman. He was held without bond.[82] At a formal pretrial hearing held at Ypsilanti District Court on August 14, he was formally ordered to stand trial for this murder, with presiding Judge Edwark Deake declaring his satisfaction that the nine witnesses called by the prosecution to testify at this hearing had established probable cause that John Collins had committed the crime.[83]

At a further hearing, held on September 5, Collins' defense lawyer, Richard Ryan, challenged the validity of the physical and circumstantial evidence against Collins before formally requesting the case against his client be dismissed and the evidence suppressed. Ryan stated at this hearing he was "undecided" as to whether the upcoming trial be held away from the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti district due to pretrial publicity (this motion was held in abeyance until an impartial jury could be selected). Collins refused to enter a plea at this hearing; in response, Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge John Conlin ordered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.[84]

In January 1970, Judge John Conlin set an initial date of June 1 as the date for the trial to commence.[85]


The trial of John Norman Collins for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman began in the Washtenaw County Court Building in Ann Arbor on June 2, 1970.[86][87] Initial jury selection began on this date, although this selection process extended until July 9. Several motions by the defense counsel throughout jury selection that the trial should be moved to a jurisdiction outside of Washtenaw County were rejected by Judge John Conlin, who ruled on June 29 that the the 14 members of the jury selected from Ann Arbor by this date and considered satisfactory by both counsels would serve as jurors through the trial.[88] Upon recommendation from his lawyers, Collins opted not to testify in his own defense.[89]

The prosecutor at Collins' trial, William F. Delhey, opted to charge Collins only with the murder of Karen Sue Beineman, with the state contending that she had been murdered by Collins in the basement of the Leik household.[90] In his opening statement to the jury on July 20, Delhey stated to the jury the prosecution's contention that the evidence to be presented would form a clear pattern indicating that Collins had been in the company of Karen Sue Beineman at the wig shop; that he had taken her to the home of his own uncle; he had tortured and beaten the girl to death at this location; and that he had then discarded her body, with the two primary questions before the jury being the accuracy of eyewitnesses who would be called to testify, and, ultimately, whether the more than 500 hair samples found upon Beineman's panties matched the hair clippings later recovered from the basement of Collins' uncle. Delhey also stated the prosecution's intent to prove, through forensic determination of Beineman's time of death, that Collins had had sole access to his uncle's home and basement, and that the blood samples recovered from this location were a match for the blood type of the victim.

The defense contended that although the murder of Beineman was a "vicious, sadistic attack" which had degraded her body "almost beyond comprehension," the prosecution's case that Collins was the perpetrator was a weak one at best. Defense attorneys Neil Fink and Joseph Louisell, in their opening statement, labeled the eyewitnesses' identification of both Collins and his motorcycle as flawed and unreliable, and stated that his (Collins') alibi witnesses had been subjected to police harassment. Moreover, the defense challenged the reliability of the tests conducted upon the hair samples found upon Beineman's panties and added that Collins' uncle, Sgt. David Leik, had refused to divulge the blood type(s) of his family to defense attorneys.[91]

One of the prosecution's primary witnesses called to testify was the head of the Michigan Health Department's Crime Detective Laboratory, Walter Holz, who testified on July 31 as to the human hair clippings found inside Karen Sue Beinema's panties being an exact match to those recovered from the basement of Sgt. David Leik.[92] Although subjected to intense cross-examination by Joseph Louisell as to the reliability of his findings, Holz remained adamant the color, length, type and diameter of the hair samples found upon Beineman's underwear were a precise match to those found in the Leik family basement.[93]

Also to testify at the trial on behalf of the prosecution was Marjorie Barnes, who testified on July 30 to having observed Colllins leaving his uncle's home carrying a laundry box covered with a blanket prior to his uncle's family returning from vacation on July 29. In addition, Mrs. Sandra Leik testified to Collins being given a key to the family home in order that he could feed the family's German shepherd.[94] Mrs. Leik also testified to having cut her children's hair in her basement two days prior to she and her family embarking on their vacation, and that when they had returned home, she (Mrs. Leik) had noticed that several items from her basement had been moved, that she had discovered a wet, soiled cloth containing hair aside a laundry tub, and that other items—including a nearly-full bottle of ammonia—were missing.[95]

Formal testimony would last 17 days, with 57 prosecution and defense witnesses called to testify.[96]

Conviction and incarceration[edit]

Following closing arguments from both counsels, the jury retired to consider their verdict. These deliberations would last over three days,[97] with an additional five-and-a-half hours devoted to the jury re-reading portions of testimony. On August 19, 1970, Collins was unanimously found guilty of the first-degree murder of Karen Sue Beineman. He displayed little emotion upon hearing the jury foreman announced the verdict. Formal sentencing was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. August 28.[98]

On August 28, Judge John Conlin formally sentenced John Norman Collins to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for Beineman's murder. On this occasion, Collins was asked if there was anything he wished to state before mandatory life sentencing was imposed.[99] Upon hearing this request from Judge Conlin, Collins rose from his chair and made the following speech:

John Collins was then informed by Judge Conlin that if the jurors' verdict was wrong, the error would be corrected in due course. Collins was then sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to serve his term in solitary confinement at Southern Michigan Prison.[100]

Post-sentencing to present[edit]

John Norman Collins remains incarcerated at Marquette Branch Prison (having been transferred from Southern Michigan Prison in 1977). To this day, he still maintains his innocence of any of the Michigan murders, and insists that he is the victim of a frameup.[101] He has appealed his murder conviction on three occasions between 1970 and 1976, citing contentions that the trial should have been held outside Washtenaw County, and the prejudice of prosecution witnesses; although in each instance, his conviction has been upheld.[102]

In the early 1980s, Collins legally changed his surname to Chapman (his mother's maiden name) in the belief this would facilitate his repeated applications to be transferred to a Canadian prison, where he would have been eligible for parole as early as 1985. These requests have consistently been denied.[103]

John Norman Collins is currently serving his life sentence in the Marquette Branch Prison in Marquette, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula.[104]

Waive of California extradition[edit]

At the time of his 1970 conviction, a grand jury indictment against Collins remained outstanding in relation to the June 30, 1969 murder of Roxie Ann Philips in Monterey, California. In addition to eyewitness accounts placing Philips in Collins' company prior to her murder, a piece of the fabric matching the dress worn by Philips was later found in Collins' Oldsmobile upon his return to Michigan. Nonetheless, in June 1971, the state of California abandoned their requests to extradite Collins to face charges relating to Philips' murder; citing then-ongoing appeals against his (Collins') convictions in the state of Michigan as the cause, and their likely resubmittal should any of Collins' Michigan appeals be successful.[105]

Subsequent developments[edit]

Although never tried for the murders of Fleszar, Schell, Skelton, Basom, Kalom or Philips, physical and circumstantial evidence exists in each case indicating that Collins had indeed committed these murders. For example, in the case of Mary Fleszar, one of the personal items missing from her body was an Expo 67 Canadian silver dollar Fleszar is known to have worn around her neck; this item was discovered in Collins' dresser when police conducted a search of his room. When confronted with this item, Collins reportedly denied any knowledge it its existence and insisted it had never been in his room.[106] Collins had apparently neglected to dispose of this item as he had the personal possessions of other victims following his being questioned by police over the murder of Karen Sue Beineman, although a neighbor of the Leik family had observed Collins leaving the Leik residence with a deluxe laundry detergent box following Beineman's murder, and his his roommate at the Emmett Street boarding house had testified at the trial to having seen Collins "hurry away" from their apartment carrying this same laundry box shortly before his arrest, adding that it had contained women's clothing and jewelry, including a distinct purple shoe which may have belonged to victim Alice Kalom.

In the case of Joan Elspeth Schell, two separate witness accounts had placed the victim both entering a car with three men on the night of her disappearance, and walking alone in the company of a man believed to be John Collins later that evening. One of the men in the car Schell had entered, Arnold Davis (Collins' room mate), later informed police the girl had indeed entered his car, but that Collins had insisted he give Schell the lift she was seeking to Ann Arbor in his own car. Collins and Schell had alighted this car together, and he (Davis) had not seen his roommate for almost three hours before Collins returned, alone, referring to Schell as a "bitch," and complaining that he had not had the sexual encounter he had hoped to achieve with her. Collins was carrying Schell's red handbag, which he claimed Schell had left in his car.[107] (Police had never sought to verify Collin's claim that he had been with his mother in the Detroit suburb of Center Line on the weekend of Schell's disappearance.)

This same roommate also informed police Collins had been in the company of victim Alice Kalom in the evening of her disappearance. According to Davis, he had heard Collins and Kalom arguing behind closed doors, and that Kalom had then ran out of his (Collins') apartment, with Collins chasing after her. Collins had returned to their shared apartment shortly thereafter and asked Davis to hids a knife for him. Davis had reported this incident to police, and later handed them the knife Collins had allegedly asked him to hide. Investigators determined the knife was consistent with the weapon used to stab Kalom.[108] When Kalom's body was found, a distinctive boot print on her skirt was found to be a perfect match to a boot Collins had owned, and bloodstains later found in Collin's car and upon a raincoat he owned were determined to match Kalom's blood type.

In the case of California victim Roxie Ann Philips, who disappeared on June 30 1969, and whose strangled body was found discarded in a patch of poison oak two weeks later, nude and with the distinctive red-and-white floral patterned belt from her culotte dress knotted around her neck, police had discovered that, prior to her murder, the victim had told a close friend she had met a Michigan student named John, who owned a silver Oldsmobile Cutlass and several motorcycles.

Following Collins' arrest, a section of a red-and-white belt bearing the same distinctive floral pattern was found in his car; moreover, a sweater found in his closet was found to contain 22 pubic hairs which did not match Collins or any of the Michigan victims. At the request of Michigan authorities, Philips' body was exhumed in California in order that pubic hair samples could be obtained from her for comparison with those upon the sweater: The pubic hairs upon Collins' sweater proved to be a precise match to those obtained from Philips' body, and investigators believe they may have transferred from her body to Collins' sweater as she was carried to the location in which her body was discarded.[109] In addition, prior to his returning to Michigan, Collins in known to have visited a California hospital to receive treatment for poison oak anaphylaxis.[110]

Belated conviction in Jane Mixer murder[edit]

In 2005, a 62-year-old former nurse named Gary Earl Leiterman was tried and convicted of the first-degree murder of Jane Louise Mixer,[20][21] who had initially been considered the fourth victim of the Michigan Murderer despite the modus operandi of her murder being significantly different to that of the other victims linked to the perpetrator.[111] Leiterman, who lived 20 miles from the University of Michigan at the time of the murder, had never been considered a suspect in any of the Michigan Murders. He was convicted of the murder based upon advancements in DNA analysis leading to this cold case being reopened in 2001, and the discovery of DNA belonging to Leiterman upon the victim's stockings. This DNA had not originated from blood or semen, but from either sweat, saliva, or skin cells.

Other evidence presented at Leiterman's trial included a handwriting comparison of two words written on the cover of a phone book found in the basement of Michigan's law dormitory. These words were the victim's last name, "Mixer," and her hometown "Muskegon" (misspelled as "Muskegeon"), although the prosecution witness stated he had found many similarities and no fundamental differences when comparing these handwriting samples to Leiterman's handwriting, he did concede under cross-examination that he was only able to examine photos of the phone book because the actual book had been destroyed in 1975, also preventing the performing of standard microscopic tests upon the document.[112]

Despite his conviction for Mixer's murder, Leiterman has continually claimed claimed he is innocent and that the clothing samples were contaminated; adding that DNA belonging to a convicted killer named John Ruelas (who was 4 years old in 1969) had also been found upon the victim's clothing. As the Ruelas and Mixer cases had been processed in the same crime lab at around the same time, Leiterman's defense attorney, Mark Satawa, had argued before the jury the test results had been contaminated and were unreliable. Nonetheless, Leiterman was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Leiterman did appeal this conviction, but his conviction was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2007.[113]



  • An unreleased movie, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, draws direct inspiration from Edward Keyes' book, The Michigan Murders.[114] Filmed in 1977 and directed by William Martin, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep remains unreleased.[115]


  • Buhk, Tobin (2011). True Crime: Michigan: The State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0713-X.
  • Keyes, Edward (1976). The Michigan Murders. Reader's Digest Press. ISBN 978-0-472-03446-8.
  • Marriott, Trevor (2013). The Evil Within. John Blake Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85782-798-9.
  • Wilson, Colin; Seaman, Donald (1988). Encyclopedia of Modern Murder: 1962-1982. Bonanza Books. ISBN 978-0-517-66559-6.


  • Detroit-based talk show Kelly & Company broadcast an episode focusing on the Michigan Murders in October, 1988. This episode featured prerecorded prison interviews with Collins himself in addition to live interviews with police and legal personnel connected to the case.
  • The Investigation Discovery channel has broadcast an episode focusing upon the Michigan Murders. This episode, Enter the Monster, was first broadcast December 10, 2013.[116]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ St. Petersburg Times Aug. 20, 1970
  2. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 110
  3. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3982
  4. ^ state.mi.us
  5. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases pp. 100-101
  6. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3964
  7. ^ World's Infamous Killers p. 158
  8. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3964
  9. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3965
  10. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 110
  11. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3965
  12. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 2, 1969
  13. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 110
  14. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3966
  15. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 93
  16. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3966
  17. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3967
  18. ^ The Argus-Press Jul. 22, 2005
  19. ^ N.Y. Daily News Mar. 25, 2008
  20. ^ a b http://www.state.mi.us/mdoc/asp/otis2profile.asp?mdocNumber=527052
  21. ^ a b "Deadly Ride". 48 Hours Mysteries (CBS News). 22 November 2005. 
  22. ^ Toledo Blade Mar. 28, 1969
  23. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 94
  24. ^ Toledo Blade Mar. 27, 1969
  25. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 95
  26. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3967
  27. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3967
  28. ^ Times-News Mar. 27, 1969
  29. ^ The Bryan Times Apr. 18, 1969
  30. ^ The Free Lance-Star Apr. 17, 1969
  31. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3971
  32. ^ Legendary Lawman: Johannes F. Spreen p. 170
  33. ^ The Nashua Telegraph Apr. 18, 1969
  34. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3971
  35. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3972
  36. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 96
  37. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 97
  38. ^ The Nashua Telegraph Apr. 18, 1969
  39. ^ The Nashua Telegraph Apr. 18, 1969
  40. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3972
  41. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3980
  42. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 111
  43. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 14, 1969
  44. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 96
  45. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 1, 1970
  46. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jul. 30, 1970
  47. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 111
  48. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3972
  49. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 pp. 3974-3975
  50. ^ Sarasota Herald-Tribune Aug. 2, 1970
  51. ^ The Times-News Aug. 14, 1969
  52. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3973
  53. ^ The Michigan Daily Jul. 24, 1970
  54. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3973
  55. ^ The Michigan Daily Jul. 24, 1970
  56. ^ On Trial for Murder p. 60
  57. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3975
  58. ^ The Milwaukee Journal Aug. 2, 1969
  59. ^ Toledo Blade Jun. 1, 1970
  60. ^ The Milwaukee Journal Aug. 2, 1969
  61. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 102
  62. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 93
  63. ^ The Times-News Aug. 14, 1969
  64. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 111
  65. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 23, 1970
  66. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3975
  67. ^ On Trial for Murder p. 60
  68. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3979
  69. ^ On Trial for Murder p. 60
  70. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 1, 1970
  71. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 112
  72. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 111
  73. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3980
  74. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3980
  75. ^ Toledo Blade Apr. 17, 1970
  76. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3981
  77. ^ Lodi News-Sentinel Aug. 4, 1969
  78. ^ The Morning Record Aug. 6, 1969]
  79. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3981
  80. ^ The Times-News Aug. 5, 1969
  81. ^ Toledo Blade Apr. 17, 1970
  82. ^ The Milwaukee Journal Aug. 2, 1969
  83. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 15, 1969
  84. ^ Lodi News=Sentinel Sep. 5, 1969
  85. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jan. 22, 1970
  86. ^ The Michigan Daily Jun. 3, 1970
  87. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3981
  88. ^ Kentucky New Era Jun. 2, 1970
  89. ^ Ludington Daily News Sep. 12, 1988
  90. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jul. 30, 1970
  91. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 21, 1970
  92. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3982
  93. ^ Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 4, 1970
  94. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 28, 1970
  95. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jul. 30, 1970
  96. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 19, 1970
  97. ^ The Pittsburgh Press Aug. 19, 1970
  98. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 19, 1970
  99. ^ The Michigan Murders p. xiv
  100. ^ Gettysburg Times Aug. 29, 1970
  101. ^ MLive.com Oct. 13, 2013
  102. ^ The Argus-Press Oct. 25, 1972
  103. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  104. ^ http://www.state.mi.us/mdoc/asp/otis2profile.asp?mdocNumber=126833
  105. ^ The Bulletin, Jun. 11 1971
  106. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  107. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 99
  108. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases pp. 99-100
  109. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 100
  110. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 100
  111. ^ N.Y. Daily News Mar. 25, 2008
  112. ^ Ryan, Harriet. "Testimony focuses on handwriting". CNN. 
  113. ^ MLive.com Jul. 25, 2007
  114. ^ Ann Arbor Ponice Department Online History: The Co-ed Murders
  115. ^ The Michigan Murders p. xiv
  116. ^ AnnArbor.com Dec. 1, 2013

Cited works and further reading[edit]

  • Buhk, Tobin (2011). True Crime: Michigan:The State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases. U.S.A.: Stackpole Books. pp. 91–106. ISBN 0-8117-0713-X. 
  • Dobbert, Duane (2009). Psychopathy, Perversion, and Lust Homicide: Recognizing the Mental Disorders that Power Serial Killers. U.S.A.: Praeger. pp. 115–119. ISBN 978-0-313-36621-5. 
  • Keyes, Edward (1976). The Michigan Murders. U.S.A.: Reader's Digest Press. ISBN 978-0-472-03446-8. 
  • Lane, Brian; Gregg, Wilfred (1995) [1992]. The Encyclopedia Of Serial Killers. New York City: Berkley Book. pp. 110–112. ISBN 0-425-15213-8. 
  • Rossmo, Kim (2000). Geographic Profiling. U.S.A.: CRC Press. p. 166. ISBN 0-8493-8129-0. 
  • Wilson, Colin; Seaman, Donald (1988). Encyclopedia of Modern Murder: 1962-1982. U.K.: Bonanza Books. pp. 110–112. ISBN 978-0-517-66559-6. 
  • Wynn, Douglas (1996). On Trial for Murder. U.K.: Pan Books. pp. 59–61. ISBN 0-330-33947-8. 

External links[edit]