Michigan murders

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John Norman Collins
John Norman Collins.jpg
Mug shot of John Norman Collins, taken in 2005
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: 1 (convicted); 5 (alleged)
California: 1 (alleged)
Date apprehended
July 30, 1969
Imprisoned at Marquette Branch Prison[2]

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, the Michigan Murderer, and the The Co-Ed Killer.[3]

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 15-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 Michigan Murderer on August 19, 1970,[4] and is currently incarcerated at Marquette Branch Prison.[5]

Although never tried for the remaining five murders attributed to the Michigan Murderer, or the murder of a sixth girl killed in California whose death has been linked to the series,[6] investigators believe Collins to be responsible for all seven murders linked to the same perpetrator.[7]


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 Terese Fleszar,[8] who was last seen alive on the evening of July 9, 1967, by a neighbor walking towards her Ypsilanti apartment. This neighbor twice observed a young man in a blue-grey Chevrolet slow to a halt beside Fleszar and begin talking to her: each time, Fleszar had shook her head and walked away from the car.[9] Her nude body was found by two 15-year-old boys on an abandoned farm in Superior Township on August 7, and was formally identified via dental records the following day.

The corpse was badly decomposed, although 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 with a knife or other sharp object, that her feet had been severed just above the ankle, the thumb and sections of the fingers of one hand were missing, and that one forearm had been severed from her body (these severed appendages were never found). Despite the advanced state of decomposition, the pathologist was also able to locate multiple lineal abrasions upon the victim's chest and torso,[10] indicating that Fleszar had been extensively beaten before her death. Although police theorized that Fleszar had been raped, the advanced state of decomposition of the corpse had erased any conclusive evidence of sexual assault.[11]

A detailed examination of the crime scene revealed that the body had been moved three times throughout the month it had lain undiscovered:[12] initially, the body had lain upon a pile of bottles and cans obscured from view by elder trees, before being dragged five feet from this location into a field, where it had remained exposed throughout much of the time it had lain undiscovered. Shortly before the body was discovered, the murderer had again returned to the body and moved the body a further three feet.[13]

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 funeral home holding Fleszar's body prior to her scheduled burial. This individual had asked for permission to take a photograph of the body as it lay in the coffin as a keepsake for Fleszar's parents. When informed his request was impossible,[14] the young man had replied: "You mean you can't fix her up enough so I could just get one picture of her?"[15] Sternly informed a second time he would not be allowed to view the body, the young man had wordlessly exited the funeral home.

The receptionist could not offer any clear description of the man beyond that he was a handsome young white male with dark hair, that he had driven a blue-grey Chevrolet, and that he had not been carrying a camera.[16]

Subsequent murders[edit]

Almost one year later, on July 5, 1968, the partially decomposed, mutilated body of a 20-year-old art student named Joan Elspeth Schell[17] was found by construction workers on an Ann Arbor roadside. She had been raped, then stabbed 25 times with a knife estimated to have measured four inches in length. Several of these wounds had punctured her lungs, liver and carotid artery, with one additional wound inflicted behind her left ear fracturing her skull.[18] In addition, her throat had been slashed, and her miniskirt then tied around her neck.[19] Although Schell had been dead for several days, her entire lower body was in a remarkably preservative condition, whereas her head, shoulders and breasts were in an advanced state of decomposition, leading the pathologist to conclude her body had been stored in a naturally cool environment, but with the upper third of her body exposed to natural heat.[20]

Investigators at the location where Schell's body had been found were able to determine her body had lain in its present location for less than 24 hours, and that her murderer had drove to the location to dispose of her body, before making rudimentary efforts to conceal the body with clumps of grass. In addition, the "outstanding similarities" between the wounds inflicted upon her body and those inflicted upon Mary Fleszar the previous year led investigators to establish a definite connection between both murders, and four detectives were assigned to work full-time on both cases.[21]

Schell hailed from Plymouth, Michigan and had recently moved into a house on Emmet Street in Ypsilanti; she was last seen by her roommate, Susan Kolbe, at a Washtenaw Avenue bus stop on the evening of June 30. Schell had intended to travel to Ann Arbor to visit her boyfriend, and her roommate had had accompanied her to the bus stop.[22] Kolbe later informed investigators that Schell had informed her of her intentions to hitchhike when it became apparent she had missed the last bus, and that one of the first vehicles to pass when Schell had begun hitchhiking was a red-and-black Pontiac Bonneville containing three young white men. This vehicle 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.[23]

Kolbe later stated she had attempted to dissuade Schell from entering this vehicle, but that Schell had opted to accept the driver's offer, promising to call her roommate to assure her of her safety once she reached her boyfriend's Ann Arbor residence. Less than three hours later, Kolbe reported her roommate missing after failing to receive any contact.[24]

Despite tracing and eliminating more than 150 registered owners of red-and-black vehicles in the state of Michigan, and establishing the alibis of numerous individuals whose physical features bore a likeness to the composite drawing of the driver the police had obtained from Schell's roommate, all investigative lines of inquiry into both murders failed to bear fruition. On August 18, investigators announced that all significant leads had been exhausted, and that the number of officers assigned to investigate the case had been reduced.[25] Nonetheless, the inquiry into both murders remained active, and a reward then-totalling $7,800 for information leading to the conviction of the perpetrator of both homicides remained.[26]

Two months after the murder of Joan Schell, police inquiries produced two further eyewitnesses who stated they had observed Schell walking with a young man along Emmet Street on the evening she disappeared. Although neither eyewitness was certain, both believed this student to be John Norman Collins: a student at Eastern Michigan University majoring in elementary education,[27] who lived directly across the street from Schell at 619 Emmet,[28] and whose physical features bore a likeness to the composite drawing police had generated of the driver of the vehicle Schell had entered.

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, and did not seek to verify his alibi.[29]

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

Spring 1969[edit]

On 20 March 1969,[30] 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.[31] Despite the fact Mixer had not been sexually assaulted, beaten, stabbed or mutilated, her student status, the tying of a garment around her neck, the fact her tights had been lowered to expose her thighs, and the proximity of her abduction and murder led investigators to tentatively link her murder to those of Fleszar and Schell, despite lingering doubts she had been killed by the same perpatrator.[32] (Another individual would be convicted of the murder of Jane Mixer in 2005.[33][34])

Five days after the murder of Jane Mixer, on March 25, construction workers discovered the nude, mutilated body of a teenage girl near Concordia College, just a few hundred yards from where the body of Joan Schell had been discovered eight months previous.[35] Investigators called to the crime scene noted a dramatic increase in the savagery exhibited against the victim, with one investigator describing the injuries inflicted upon the victim as being the worst he had seen in 30 years of police work.[36] A subsequent autopsy revealed the victim had died of a fracture covering one-third of her skull after being extensively beaten and tortured: her killer had placed a section of her own shirt in her mouth to muffle her screams as she received extensive blunt force trauma to the face, head and body,[37] including several deep lacerations believed to have been inflicted with a leather strap. Welt marks upon the chest and shoulders indicated the killer had also used restraints to hold the victim prone as he whipped her torso and upper legs with a leather belt[38] before tearing a branch from a nearby tree and inserting this instrument eight inches into her vagina.[39] Blood spatterings and churned soil close to the crime scene indicated she had been beaten close to where her body was discovered, and that she had attempted to escape her attacker.[40]

The victim was identified as a 16-year-old Romulus[41] high school student named Maralynn Skelton, who had disappeared while hitchhiking in Ann Arbor. She was last seen alive outside a drive-in restaurant on Washtenaw Avenue two days before her body was discovered (although autopsy reports indicated Skelton had died less than 24 hours before her body was discovered). Investigators noted strong similarities between this murder and previous killings attributed to the Michigan Murderer, including the fact that a garter belt had been tied around Skelton's neck[42] and her clothes and shoes had been neatly placed beside her body.[43] However, the dramatic increase in savagery exhibited against the victim and the fact that Skelton was a known drug user and dealer as opposed to a university student[44] led some junior investigators to speculate her murder may have been drug-related,[45] although Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter Krasny formally linked Skelton's murder to the series.

At 6:30 a.m. 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 in the chest and genitals,[46] had received multiple slash wounds across the breasts, buttocks and stomach,[47] then strangled to death with an two-foot length electrical flex still knotted around her neck.[48] A handkerchief found stuffed in her mouth had likely been placed there to muffle her cries throughout her torture.[49] An autopsy found no definite evidence of sexual assault.[50]

Basom had last been seen alive at 7 p.m. the previous evening, walking home from a friend's house located barely a mile from her own home. She had been accompanied part of the way by a friend named Earl Kidd, who informed police he and Basom had parted company at a desolate road just five blocks from her home, where Basom had begun walking alone alongside railroad tracks toward her home.[51]

The orange mohair sweater belonging to the victim was found in a deserted farmhouse just 100 yards from the desolate road on which her body had been placed after her murder. Glass particles found within this basement were of a similar consistency to those found upon the soles of Basom's shoes. Upon conducting a search of the basement of this farmhouse, investigators discovered a further garment of her clothing and a length of electrical flex of the same type used to strangle the victim, further indicating this location as being the site of Basom's murder.[52][53]

Less than two months after the murder of Dawn Basom, on June 9, three teenage boys discovered the partially nude body of a 21-year-old University of Michigan graduate student named Alice Elizabeth Kalom a field close to an abandoned farmhouse on North Territorial Road. Kalom had received multiple slash wounds to the body, two stab wounds to the heart,[54] and a gunshot to the forehead before her neck had been cut through to the spine. She had also been raped, although the pathologist was unable to determine whether this act had occurred before or after death.[55] Sections of her clothing were scattered around her body, although one of her shoes was missing.[56]

Kalom had disappeared shortly after midnight on the morning prior to the discovery of her body.[57] She was last seen walking home towards her apartment on Thompson Street, having attended a friend's party. The discovery of several dried bloodstains and two buttons missing from the victim's raincoat at a Northfield Township commercial gravel pit on June 10 indicated the victim had been murdered at this location.[58][59]

Although by June 1969 investigators had publicly claimed they were satisfied that the third victim initially linked to the Michigan Murderer, Jane Mixer, had been killed by a separate perpetrator, the fact Kalom had also received a gunshot wound to the head led investigators to consider the possibility Mixer may have been murdered by the same perpetrator.[60]

Public unrest[edit]

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. Following the April murder of Dawn Basom, police from the five separate jurisdictions where the murderer had abducted or disposed of the bodies of his victims had combined resources in an effort to compare information and identify the perpetrator. Although little physical evidence existed beyond eyewitness descriptions and forensic reports, 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 of the victims had been brunette Caucasians; all the victims' bodies had been found within a 15-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.[61]

Police diagram released to the news media June 10, 1969, depicting the locations of the first five victims linked to the Michigan Murderer

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.[62] 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.[63] Sales of tear gas and security locks increased, hitchhiking became a rarity among students, and the reward offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer increased to $42,000.[64]

By July 1969, as a result of the coordinated investigation into the killings, more than 1000 convicted sex offenders had been investigated and eliminated as suspects; over 800 tips from informants had been actively investigated; and several thousand individuals routinely interviewed. Although Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey conceded at a press conference held that same month that investigators had little physical evidence to act upon and that the perpetrator had yet to make a serious error, he was adamant the fact the murderer was still at large was due to pure luck, and not for lack of police effort.[65]

Following the murder of Alice Kalom, the Dutch psychic Peter Hurkos traveled to Ypsilanti at the request of an Ann Arbor citizen's community. The profile generated by Hurkos shortly after his arrival in Ann Arbor on July 21 proved to be of little help, although he did accurately predict that the murderer was a strongly built male under 25 years of age, who had been born outside the United States and who rode a motorcycle.[66] Hurkos also predicted that this individual would strike one more time.[67]

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.[68] 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.

Three 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,[69] 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 skull and brain injuries which had been inflicted with a blunt instrument. These head injuries were so extensive they would likely have proven fatal.[70] (The blunt instrument used to inflict the injuries to Beineman's skull and brain was never found.[71])

The forensic examination of Beineman's body further revealed that her torn panties had been forcefully placed inside her vagina; these panties revealed the presence of human semen and 509[72] human hair clippings measuring less than three-eights of an inch upon the material.[73] These hair clippings did not belong to the victim.[74]

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.[75]) At approximately 2 a.m.[76] 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.[77]


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,[78] a young man with short, side-parted dark hair, wearing a horizontal striped sweater, waiting on a blue motorcycle outside the shop[79] 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,[80] 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—describe the motorcycle as being possibly a Honda 350 model,[81] 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.[82] (One of several motorcycles owned by Collins in 1969 was a blue Triumph Bonneville.[83])

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.[84] 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.[85]

Police had already established that Collins was a known motorcycle enthusiast,[86] who held a part-time job as an inspector at a firm which manufactured drum brakes.[87] He had been an honor student and football co-captain at his high school,[88] and was currently majoring in elementary education at Eastern Michigan University.[89]

Collins had established a reputation among his peers at Eastern Michigan University as a habitual thief who had been evicted from a fraternity house in which he had previously resided following allegations of his stealing from his roommates,[90] 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 who had occasionally engaged in violence against women, including one instance in which he had raped a woman who resisted his advances.[91] Moreover, several of these female acquaintances divulged that Collins would become enraged upon learning a woman was menstruating: 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.[92] (Investigators had established that each victim had been menstruating at the time of her death, and had theorized this may be a factor in the sexual violence exhibited upon the victims.[93])

Upon questioning Collins' co-workers, investigators learned that Collins had repeatedly taken delight in describing, in graphic detail, details of the injuries inflicted upon each successive victim linked to the Michigan Murderer to his female colleagues.[94] He had claimed these details had been provided to him by an uncle of his who served as a sergeant in the police force. The injuries described by Collins were consistent with those inflicted upon the victims which had not been disclosed to the news media, and Collins' uncle informed investigators that he had not disclosed any information regarding the Michigan Murders to his nephew. Moreover, Collins is known to have either been acquainted with most of the victims, to have currently or previously lived close to their place of residence, or to have had possible prior contact. For example, in interviewing a former girlfriend of Collins, investigators established she had lived in an apartment complex directly across the road from the home of Dawn Basom.[95] Furthermore, Collins is known to have been a neighbor of victims Mary Fleszar and Joan Schell.[96]

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.[97][98] 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.[99]

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, clothing, and a handbag.[100]


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 temporarily residing in the Leik family's Ypsilanti home; having been granted sole access to the house in order that he could feed their German shepherd.[101] 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.[102]

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.[103] 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[104] were discovered to be type A—the blood type of Karen Sue Beineman.[105]

The hairs found upon Beineman's panties and those recovered from the basement of the Leik home were subjected to a detailed forensic neutron analysis[106] to determine whether they had sourced from the same individuals. Both samples would prove to be a precise match. Evidently, 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.[107]

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 and his apartment thoroughly searched.[108] Despite recovering numerous stolen items from his apartment and being informed by Davis that Collins had been in the habit of committing burglaries with a former roommate of theirs named Andrew Manuel,[109] no incriminating evidence linking Collins to Beineman or any victim of the Michigan Murders 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 laundry box—partially covered by a blanket and containing women's clothing—from his apartment and towards his car.[110]


On August 1, 1969, John Norman Collins was formally arraigned for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman. He was held without bond.[111] At a press conference relating to the arrest and charge of Collins in relation to the last of the Michigan Murders held on this date, Police Superintendent Frederick Davids revealed that Collins had been a suspect in the Beineman case from the very day she had disappeared, and that these suspicions had heightened following their forensic examination of David Leik's basement; furthermore, Collins had been under surveillance since July 28, and he had been formally arrested upon an open charge of the evening prior to his arraignment.[112]

Link to additional murder[edit]

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 Phillips.

On August 3, two Washtenaw County detectives traveled to Salinas Police Department to review information and determine whether a connection existed between Phillips' murder and those for which Collins was suspected of committing in Michigan.[113] Reviewing information regarding the murder of Roxie Ann Phillips, investigators discovered that immediately prior to her disappearance, Phillips had informed a close friend that she had become acquainted with an Eastern Michigan University student named John, who drove a silver-grey Oldsmobile Cutlass and who was temporarily residing with a friend in a camper-trailer.

Upon tracing Collins' movements in relation to the dates of the disappearance and murder of the seven murder victims then-linked to the Michigan Murderer (which then included Jane Mixer), police discovered that, on 21 June,[114] Collins and Manuel had traveled to Monterey, California in Collins' Oldsmobile Cutlass, which the pair used to tow a camper-trailer they had rented under false names, and had paid for with a stolen check, for the vacation.[115] Collins had later returned to Michigan alone in his vehicle; Manuel would later be located in Arizona following Collins' arrest.

Through interviewing acquaintances of Phillips, investigators established that she had been introduced to the individual she (Phillips) referred to as "John from Michigan" through a 17-year-old friend named Nancy Ann Albrecht, who informed police she had herself become acquainted with Collins on June 29, and that she had mentioned her friend (Phillips) to Collins on this date.[116] Albrecht described this individual, whose surname she did not know, as being 5 ft 11 in in height, clean-cut, with dark brown hair and who had described himself as an Eastern Michigan University senior with aspirations to become a teacher.[117] Albrecht had provided Monterey County investigators with an identikit which, in addition to her descriptions of the suspect's possessions, circumstances and status, bore a striking resemblance to John Norman Collins. She had made arrangements to meet Collins at her home on the evening of June 30, but Collins had never arrived.

Phillips' 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.[118] She had been strangled to death and, as with several Michigan victims linked to Collins, one earring was missing.[119] Several of Phillips' personal possessions would later be found strewn along State Route 68.[120]

The house trailer in which Collins and Manuel had traveled to California was located on August 1 in Salinas County, behind the home of Andrew Manuel's grandfather. A forensic examination of this trailer revealed it had been completely wiped of fingerprints.[121] Upon questioning Manuel's grandfather, investigators were informed that his grandson and one John Collins had temporarily resided in the trailer—which they had hired from a Ypsilanti rental firm—between June and July, before both men had abandoned the trailer and (he believed) returned to Michigan.

Having compared case notes, investigators in both California and Michigan agreed enough similarities existed between the murder of Roxie Ann Phillips and the Michigan Murders to establish a definite connection between the cases,[122] and on August 5, this connection was formally announced.[123] An FBI arrest warrant was issued against Andrew Manuel, who was located in Phoenix on August 6[124] and detained by FBI agents. Manuel was extensively questioned as to his potential involvement in both Phillips' murder and those committed in Michigan which investigators had linked to Collins, and agreed to submit to a polygraph test.[125] No hard evidence would ever arise suggesting his involvement in any murders, and the Washtenaw County prosecutor's office would publicly announce on December 18 their satisfaction that Manuel had "no knowledge of the murders."[126] (In November 1969, Andrew Manuel would plead guilty to charges of larceny by conversion and possession of stolen goods relating to the theft of and failure to return the camper-trailer, and the theft of property from a Michigan apartment.[127])

A formal indictment would later be served against Collins for the first-degree murder of Roxie Ann Phillips 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.[128]

Pretrial hearings[edit]

At a formal pretrial hearing held at Ypsilanti District Court on August 14, Collins was formally ordered to stand trial for Beineman's murder, with presiding Judge Edward Deake declaring his satisfaction that the six hours of testimony delivered by nine witnesses called by the prosecution to testify at this hearing had established probable cause that John Collins had committed the crime.[129]

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.[130]

In January 1970, Judge John Conlin set an initial date of June 1 as the date for the trial to commence.[131]


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.[132][133] 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 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.[134] Upon recommendation from his lawyers, Collins opted not to testify in his own defense.[135]

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.[136] 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. Delhey formally closed his opening statement to the jury by requesting they return a verdict of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. (The death sentence was not an option for the prosecution to seek as the State of Michigan had declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1964.[137])

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 of the crime 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 their intentions to introduce several witnesses who would provide an alibi for their client in the early afternoon hours the prosecution had earlier contended Karen Sue Beineman had been abducted and murdered. Collins' attorneys also alleged these 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.[138]

Witness testimony[edit]

Formal witness testimony began on July 20, 1970. The first two witnesses to testify were Beineman's two roommates; each of whom discussed Beineman's character, and her (Beineman's) movements on the day of her disappearance. These two witnesses were followed by the individual who had found her body, and the medical examiner called to the crime scene on July 26, Dr. Craig Barlow. Barlow testified as to the fact that although Beineman had been deceased for almost 72 hours, her body had only lain in the location where she was found for 24 hours before discovery.[139] The following day, Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey testified as to the discovery of the Beineman's body, and her autopsy. Harvey then testified as to his driving two eyewitnesses who had earlier helped construct a composite drawing of the suspect to East Lansing, to view an updated composite drawing of the suspect in Beineman's murder just two days prior to Collins' arrest. Both women had agreed the updated composite drawing was accurate, and only disagreed as to the structure of the suspect's chin.[140]

To expand on their allegations that certain defense witnesses had been subjected to police harassment, and that eyewitness accounts had been flawed, defense attorney Joseph Louisell subjected Sheriff Harvey to a 45-minute cross-examination as to this second meeting with the two eyewitnesses who had earlier helped construct the composite drawing of the then-missing Beineman. In this cross-examination, Sheriff Harvey conceded that one of these witnesses, Mrs. Joan Goshe, had identified a photograph of Collins as being the man she had seen with Beineman prior to formally identifying Collins in a lineup.[141]

Three days after both counsels had begun introducing witnesses, Mrs. Joan Goshe was called to testify on behalf of the prosecution. In response to questioning from prosecution attorneys, Goshe described how, on the afternoon of her disappearance, Beineman had informed her she had accepted a lift home from the man waiting outside the wig shop. When asked to formally identify the individual upon whose motorcycle she had observed waiting outside her shop,[142] Goshe pointed directly at John Norman Collins.

Although subject to intense cross-examination by defense attorney Neil Fink as to the credibility of her testimony, Goshe remained insistent in her identification of John Norman Collins as being the individual with whom she had seen Karen Sue Beineman before her murder. Nonetheless, Gosche conceded she had previously lied under oath on two occasions (one instance of which was unrelated to the trial).[143] In a further effort to discredit Gosche's testimony, Fink succeeded in revealing that Gosche had initially stated the model of the motorcycle she had seen Beineman ride away from her shop upon bore a resemblance to a Honda 350 model, whereas, on the date in question, Collins had been riding a Triumph Bonneville—a motorcycle bearing little resemblance to a Honda 350 model.

On July 27, Arnold Davies testified as to his being in the company of Collins throughout the late afternoon and evening of July 23, 1969 (hours after Beineman had last been seen alive). The following day, following a consultation with opposing counsels, Judge John Conlin allowed Davis to testify as to having observed Collins hurriedly remove a laundry box containing women's clothing and jewelry from his apartment and place this box in the trunk of his car on the afternoon of July 28, 1969.[144] The prosecution had initially intended to question Davis in detail as to each of the contents of the laundry box he had seen Collins remove from his (Collins') apartment, upon the grounds that the contents Davies had previously described to investigators may include Beineman's missing cut-off blue jeans; however, Collins' defense attorneys successfully objected to this motion upon the grounds that Collins was solely on trial for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman, and this testimony could suggest a link to the six other victims of the Michigan Murders then-linked to the same perpetrator.[145] The prosecution was therefore limited to questioning Davis with regards to whether the contents of this box included women's clothing and jewelry, without specifically describing any particular item.

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.[146] 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.[147]

On July 31, the prosecution introduced two forensic witnesses to testify regarding the physical evidence indicating the victim had been killed inside the Leik family home at a time Collins had been granted sole access to the property. The first witness to testify was the head of the Michigan Health Department's Crime Detective Laboratory, Walter Holz, who testified as to the human hair clippings found inside Karen Sue Beineman's panties being an exact match to those recovered from the basement of Sgt. David Leik,[148] 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 panties were a precise match to those found in the Leik family basement.[149]

Immediately following cross-examination of Holz, a colleague of his named Curtis Fluker testified as to the blood type of the tissue samples recovered from the Leik family basement being a match to Beineman.[150] (The day prior to the testimony of Holz and Fluker, the head of the state police crime laboratory had testified that although some partial prints had been discovered in the basement of the Leik family,[151] no fingerprints discovered in the basement had belonged to either Collins or Beineman.)

The 47th and final witness to appear for the prosecution at Collins' trial was a University of California chemistry professor named Dr. Vincent P. Guinn, who testified on August 5 as to his conclusions that the hair samples retrieved from Beineman's panties bore "a remarkable similarity" to those retrieved from the Leik household and that, upon statistical calculations he had begun the previous month, the odds of erroneous matching of the hair samples earlier testified to by Walter Holz were considerably low. Upon cross-examination, Dr. Guinn did agree with defense attorney Neil Fink that a statistical analysis of hair mixtures had never been attempted in a court of law,[152] although he did remain firm that his applications had been performed via scientific principles.[153] The following day, five independent witnesses were called to testify on behalf of the defense as to Collins' whereabouts on the dates Beineman had disappeared and which her body had been found.

On August 8, Collins' attorneys introduced a renowned neutron analyst named Dr. Robert Jervis in an effort to discredit the earlier testimony of the forensic experts who had testified on behalf of the prosecution as to their concluding the hair clippings found upon Beineman's panties as being a perfect match for those recovered from the basement of the Leik household. Dr. Jervis testified as to his belief that insufficient chemical samples had existed in the samples retrieved from the basement which the prosecution scientists had worked with to form their conclusions, and that they had therefore used "insufficient data" to determine their findings. (Jervis testified as to his opinion that, in order to provide a conclusive neutron activation analysis, at least ten components in a hair sample must be compared, whereas used only five components had been used by prosecution witnesses.)[154]

On August 13, both prosecution and defense attorneys delivered their closing arguments to the jury. These final arguments would continue into the following day.[155]

Following closing arguments from both counsels, the jury retired to consider their verdict. The jury would deliberate for over 27 hours over a period of three days,[156] with an additional five-and-a-half hours devoted to their re-reading portions of testimony, before announcing they had reached their verdict.

Conviction and incarceration[edit]

On August 19, 1970, John Norman 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.[157] On this date, Judge John Conlin formally sentenced John Norman Collins to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman. Prior to passing sentence, Collins was asked if there was anything he wished to state before mandatory life sentencing was imposed.[158] Upon hearing this request from Judge Conlin, Collins rose from his chair and made the following speech:

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.[159]

The Michigan Court of Appeals. Collins' attorneys filed their initial appeal against his conviction at this venue on December 14, 1970

Post-sentencing appeals[edit]

Upon receipt of the guilty verdict against their client, Collins' defense attorneys announced their intention to appeal the verdict upon the grounds of "tainted identification and the change of venue question."[160] The first motion by Collins' attorneys, contending denial of defense motions to move the trial outside of Washtenaw County and the prejudice of prosecution witnesses, was filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals on December 14, 1970.[161] This first appeal was formally rejected on October 24, 1972.[162]

Collins appealed his murder conviction on four further occasions between 1972 and 1976, citing contentions that the Michigan Murders had received extensive media publicity in Washtenaw County, and that his defense lawyers had issued five separate motions for change of venue (two of which had been filed throughout the actual jury selection process), citing pretrial publicity minimizing any chance of obtaining an unbiased jury in Washtenaw County, and that each motion filed had been reserved or, in the final instance, denied. His lawyers have further argued that, at an evidentiary hearing in April, 1970, shortly before jury selection had begun, Collins' indictment for the California murder of Roxie Ann Phillips had likewise received extensive media coverage in Washtenaw County, further reducing the chances of potential jurors being unbiased, and that a psychologist retained by the defense had testified as such on April 20, 1970. This psychologist had been adamant that Collins' trial should be held outside Washtenaw County, and yet this motion had likewise been reserved. Furthermore, Collins' lawyers have argued issues such as the admissibility of testimony relating to the microscopic analysis of hair samples presented at his trial, and the denial of defense motions to suppress prosecution witnesses testifying against their client.

In each appeal instance, Collins' conviction has been upheld, with successive appellate judges of the Supreme Court announcing in October, 1974, their refusal to review his conviction[163] and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit announcing their own satisfaction with the earlier findings of the district court. Each ruling stated no evidence existed to suggest extensive publicity had interfered with pretrial or trial proceedings, nor had police broken any protocol in showing two eyewitnesses photographs of Collins following his arrest and prior to his partaking in a police lineup.[164] Nonetheless, in one instance, Collins appeal lawyers did succeed in securing the partial striking of the testimony of Dr. Vincent P. Guinn, the final witness to appear for the prosecution at Collins' trial, who had testified on August 5, 1970, to the odds of erroneous matching of the hairs found upon Karen Beineman's panties to those in the Leik family basement being "more than a million-to-one".[165] This appeal motion was partly upheld upon the bases that Dr. Guinn's testimony relating to probabilities was based upon on the statistical probability of another prosecution expert, and therefore, this part of his testimony was impermissible. Nonetheless, the three appellate judges at this 1972 appeal hearing concluded thus: "In our view, improperly admitted testimony that is merely corroborative of properly admitted evidence is not the basis for holding the error reversible."[166]

Subsequent developments[edit]

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 Phillips in Monterey, California. The physical and circumstantial evidence linking Collins to this particular murder was stronger than any of the six outstanding murders then-linked to Collins in Michigan, and authorities in Monterey did file several motions to extradite Collins to California to stand trial for Phillips' murder in 1970 and 1971. These motions were repeatedly contested by Collins' attorney, Neil Fink, who opposed and successfully delayed his client's extradition upon the grounds of due process.[167]

The state of California postponed their requests to extradite Collins to face charges relating to Phillips' murder in June 1971; citing then-ongoing appeals against his (Collins') convictions in the state of Michigan as the cause, and their likely resubmittal should any of his Michigan appeals be successful.[168] Just six months later, in January 1972, Monterey County District Attorney William Curtis formally announced, via a spokesman, the intention of California authorities to waive all extradition proceedings against Collins for Phillips' murder. This spokesman indicated the reasoning being that, as Collins had already received a life sentence in Michigan, the case therefore was undeserving of "priority attention" by California authorities, in part due to the fact Collins would be returned to Michigan to serve his sentence if convicted.[169] At the time of the announcement of this decision, preliminary legal maneuvers between Michigan and California authorities had been ongoing to extradite Collins to Monterey County to face trial for Phillips' murder.[170]

"If a person wants something, he alone is the deciding factor of whether or not to take it, regardless of what society thinks is right or wrong ... if a person holds a gun on somebody—it's up to him to decide whether to take the other's life or not. The point is: It's not society's judgment that's important, but the individual's own choice of will and intellect."

Evaluation of individual will and moral restraints within society, written by Collins while enrolled at Eastern Michigan University.[171]

Evidence of culpability in remaining cases[edit]

Although never tried for the murders of Fleszar, Schell, Skelton, Basom, Kalom or Phillips, physical and circumstantial evidence exists in each case indicating that Collins had indeed committed these murders. For example, in the case of Mary Fleszar, investigators discovered that at the time of her disappearance, Collins had worked part-time in the Eastern Michigan University administration unit, and that his office had been located directly opposite the hallway from the office where Fleszar had herself worked. One of the personal items missing from Fleszar's body was an Expo 67 Canadian silver dollar she 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 of the existence of this item and insisted it had never been in his room.[172] 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.

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 was Collins' roommate, Arnold Davis, who later informed police the girl had indeed entered the car he had been driving, 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 Davis's car together, and he (Davis) had not seen his roommate for almost three hours before Collins returned to their apartment, alone, referring to Schell as a "bitch," claiming he had "dropped her [Schell] off" in Ann Arbor and complaining that he had not obtained the sexual encounter he had hoped to achieve with her. Collins had been carrying a red handbag, which he claimed Schell had left in his car,[173] and had informed his roommate he had agreed to drive Schell from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti the following day. Davis informed police he had long suspected Collins had murdered Schell, but had been too afraid to report his suspicions.[174]

The circumstantial evidence obtained linking Collins to Schell's abduction and murder was stronger than that of any other Michigan victim linked to him, and police would formally announce this fact within days of Collins' arrest,[175] although the decision of the prosecution at his 1970 trial was to try Collins solely with the murder of Karen Sue Beineman. (Police had never sought to verify Collins' 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 on 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 hide 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.[176] 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 although Collins had evidently cleaned his car in an effort to destroy evidence prior to his arrest, investigators would find bloodstains in Collins' car and upon a raincoat he owned which were determined to match Kalom's blood type. Moreover, although the prosecution at Collins' trial had been unable to question Arnold Davis in detail as to the contents of the laundry box he had observed his roommate hurriedly remove from their apartment and towards his car two days prior to his arrest, one of the items within this laundry box had been a distinct purple high-heel shoe which may have belonged to Kalom.[177]

In the case of California victim Roxie Ann Phillips, 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 the trailer Collins and Manuel had towed to Salinas on 21 June.[178] Moreover, a sweater found in Collins' 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, Phillips' 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 Phillips' 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.[179] In addition, prior to his returning to Michigan, Collins is known to have visited a California hospital to receive treatment for poison oak anaphylaxis.[180]

Investigative error[edit]

Three days prior to Collins' July 30 arrest, in direct breach of a Washtenaw County Prosecutor order,[181] police arrived at the Emmet Street apartment Collins shared with his roommate to question him as to the circumstantial evidence then-obtained against him. Collins had protested his innocence on this occasion, and insisted the eyewitnesses' identifications of him had been erroneous, although he refused to return to the police station to take a polygraph test. No search warrant had been sought prior to Collins being questioned on this date, and his apartment would only be searched on July 30—two days after Arnold Davis had observed Collins hurriedly remove a box of women's clothing and jewelry from his apartment.

Had this violation of the county prosecutor's order not taken place, Collins may not have realized how seriously he was considered a suspect at that stage, and thus may not have disposed of the physical evidence which would have assisted in linking him to other killings linked to the Michigan Murders.[182]

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,[33][34] who had initially been considered the possible third 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.[183] Leiterman, who had 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.[184]

Despite his conviction for Mixer's murder, Leiterman has continually 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.[185]

Marquette Branch Prison, where Collins currently serves his life sentence


  • For several years following his incarceration, Collins refused to grant interviews to the media. However, six years after his conviction, Collins formally requested a personal interview with reporters from The Ann Arbor News. In this interview, Collins vehemently denied his guilt in any of the Michigan Murders, before claiming key evidence attesting to his innocence had been suppressed by the prosecution team at his 1970 trial, the jury had been biased, and the scientific testimony as to blood and hair comparison had been invalid.[186]
  • In October, 1977, John Norman Collins was transferred from Southern Michigan Prison to Marquette Branch Prison. Reportedly, this move to Marquette Branch Prison (a more secure unit) was arranged due to Collins' continued dealing in contraband drugs, and his conspiring with a fellow inmate escape to from the facility in a plot which had seen his co-conspirator escape, but in which Collins himself had not been able to partake due to his sustaining a broken foot.[187] He remains incarcerated at Marquette Branch Prison, and is known to have unsuccessfully conspired with six fellow inmates to escape from this facility by digging a tunnel. This escape plot was thwarted on January 31, 1979,[188] and saw Collins and his co-conspirators transferred to a more secure cell block within the prison.[189]
  • In 1980, Collins legally changed his surname to that of his biological father: Chapman. The following year, he formally applied to be transferred to a Canadian prison, in the belief this would facilitate his prospects of eventual release from prison. (Collins holds dual citizenship and under Canadian law, would then have been eligible for parole after serving just nine years in a Canadian prison.) Although this initial application for transferal to a Canadian prison was granted, public protest at this decision saw judges renege this decision.[190]
  • Despite repeatedly challenging the overturning of the 1981 decision to transfer him to a Canadian prison, a federal appellate court ruled in May 1988 that Collins should remain incarcerated at Marquette Branch Prison.[191]
  • In September 1988, Collins agreed to participate in a live interview conducted by Detroit-based talk show Kelly & Company, to discuss his conviction. For security reasons, this proposed live interview was cancelled, although Collins agreed to submit to a filmed interview. In this interview, Collins again denied culpability for any of the Michigan Murders, and insisted the prosecution case against him was flawed.
  • Collins was transferred to the Ionia Correctional Facility in August, 1990.[192] Throughout his earlier incarceration at Southern Michigan Prison and Marquette Branch Prison, he had earned a reputation as a troublesome inmate who repeatedly flouted prison rules, was known to deal in contraband goods, and who had served several periods of isolation for various breaches of prison rules.[193][194] He would later be returned to Marquette Branch Prison.
  • John Norman Collins is currently serving his life sentence at Marquette Branch Prison.[195] He has never admitted his guilt in either the murder of Karen Sue Beineman or any of the other murders linked to the Michigan Murderer he is suspected of committing. Despite having refused a 1977 offer to submit to a polygraph test to prove his claims of being falsely convicted,[196] Collins continues to profess his innocence.[197]



  • An unreleased movie, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, draws direct inspiration from Edward Keyes' book, The Michigan Murders.[198] Filmed in 1977 and directed by William Martin, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep remains unreleased.[199]


  • Buhk, Tobin (2011). True Crime: Michigan: The State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0713-X.
  • James, Earl (1991). Catching Serial Killers: Learning from Past Serial Murder Investigations. International Forensic Services. ISBN 0-9629-7140-5.
  • 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.[200]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ St. Petersburg Times Aug. 20, 1970
  2. ^ state.mi.us
  3. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 110
  4. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3982
  5. ^ state.mi.us
  6. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases pp. 100-101
  7. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3964
  8. ^ World's Infamous Killers p. 158
  9. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3964
  10. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 18
  11. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  12. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3965
  13. ^ aadl.org archives
  14. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 110
  15. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 20
  16. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3965
  17. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 2, 1969
  18. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 37
  19. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 110
  20. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 38
  21. ^ Ann Arbor News Jul. 7, 1968
  22. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3965
  23. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 93
  24. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3966
  25. ^ Ann Arbor News Aug. 18, 1968
  26. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 41
  27. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3966
  28. ^ Toledo Blade Jun. 1, 1970
  29. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3967
  30. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3967
  31. ^ The Argus-Press Jul. 22, 2005
  32. ^ N.Y. Daily News Mar. 25, 2008
  33. ^ a b http://www.state.mi.us/mdoc/asp/otis2profile.asp?mdocNumber=527052
  34. ^ a b "Deadly Ride". 48 Hours Mysteries (CBS News). 22 November 2005. 
  35. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 94
  36. ^ Michigan Daily Mar. 26, 1969
  37. ^ Toledo Blade Mar. 27, 1969
  38. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 95
  39. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3967
  40. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 62
  41. ^ Toledo Blade Mar. 28, 1969
  42. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 95
  43. ^ Toledo Blade Mar. 27, 1969
  44. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3967
  45. ^ Times-News Mar. 27, 1969
  46. ^ The Bryan Times Apr. 18, 1969
  47. ^ The Free Lance-Star Apr. 17, 1969
  48. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3971
  49. ^ Legendary Lawman: Johannes F. Spreen p. 170
  50. ^ The Nashua Telegraph Apr. 18, 1969
  51. ^ The Free Lance-Star Apr. 17, 1969
  52. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3971
  53. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  54. ^ Toledo Blade Jun. 10, 1969
  55. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 110
  56. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 96
  57. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3972
  58. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 110
  59. ^ "The Rainy Day Murders"
  60. ^ Toledo Blade Jun. 10, 1969
  61. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 97
  62. ^ The Nashua Telegraph Apr. 18, 1969
  63. ^ The Nashua Telegraph Apr. 18, 1969
  64. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3972
  65. ^ The Times-News Jul. 2, 1969
  66. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3980
  67. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 111
  68. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 14, 1969
  69. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 96
  70. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 15, 1969
  71. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 21, 1970
  72. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 1, 1970
  73. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jul. 30, 1970
  74. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 111
  75. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3972
  76. ^ aadl.org archives
  77. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 pp. 3974-3975
  78. ^ Sarasota Herald-Tribune Aug. 2, 1970
  79. ^ The Times-News Aug. 14, 1969
  80. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3973
  81. ^ The Michigan Daily Jul. 24, 1970
  82. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3973
  83. ^ The Michigan Daily Jul. 24, 1970
  84. ^ On Trial for Murder p. 60
  85. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3975
  86. ^ The Milwaukee Journal Aug. 2, 1969
  87. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3980
  88. ^ The Milwaukee Journal Aug. 2, 1969
  89. ^ Toledo Blade Jun. 1, 1970
  90. ^ American Murder: Criminals, Crime, and the Media p. 75
  91. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 102
  92. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 102
  93. ^ MLive.com Oct. 13, 2013
  94. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 93
  95. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  96. ^ MLive.com Oct. 13, 2013
  97. ^ The Times-News Aug. 14, 1969
  98. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 111
  99. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 23, 1970
  100. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3975
  101. ^ On Trial for Murder p. 60
  102. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3979
  103. ^ On Trial for Murder p. 60
  104. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 1, 1970
  105. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 112
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  107. ^ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers p. 111
  108. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3980
  109. ^ Ann Arbor News Aug. 6, 1969
  110. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3980
  111. ^ The Milwaukee Journal Aug. 2, 1969
  112. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 2, 1969
  113. ^ Lodi News-Sentinel Aug. 4, 1969
  114. ^ Toledo Blade Apr. 17, 1970
  115. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3969
  116. ^ San Francisco Chronicle Aug. 6, 1969
  117. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  118. ^ The Morning Record Aug. 6, 1969
  119. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3981
  120. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  121. ^ The Morning Record Aug. 6, 1969
  122. ^ The Times-News Aug. 5, 1969
  123. ^ Ludlington Daily News Aug. 5, 1969
  124. ^ St. Petersburg Times Aug. 7, 1969
  125. ^ Ludlington Daily News Aug. 5, 1969
  126. ^ Toledo Blade Dec. 19, 1969
  127. ^ The Dispatch Aug. 5, 1969
  128. ^ Toledo Blade Apr. 17, 1970
  129. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 15, 1969
  130. ^ Lodi News=Sentinel Sep. 5, 1969
  131. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jan. 22, 1970
  132. ^ The Michigan Daily Jun. 3, 1970
  133. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3981
  134. ^ Kentucky New Era Jun. 2, 1970
  135. ^ Ludington Daily News Sep. 12, 1988
  136. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jul. 30, 1970
  137. ^ Constitution of the State of Michigan
  138. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 21, 1970
  139. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 21, 1970
  140. ^ aadl.org archives
  141. ^ aadl.org archives
  142. ^ The Michigan Daily Jul. 24, 1970
  143. ^ The Michigan Daily Jul. 24, 1970
  144. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 28, 1970
  145. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 28, 1970
  146. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 28, 1970
  147. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jul. 30, 1970
  148. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3982
  149. ^ Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 4, 1970
  150. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 1, 1970
  151. ^ Toledo Blade Jul. 30, 1970
  152. ^ Ann Arbor News Aug. 6, 1970
  153. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 19, 1970
  154. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 8, 1970
  155. ^ Lodi News-Sentinel Aug. 13, 1970
  156. ^ The Pittsburgh Press Aug. 19, 1970
  157. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Aug. 19, 1970
  158. ^ The Michigan Murders p. xiv
  159. ^ Gettysburg Times Aug. 29, 1970
  160. ^ Palm Beach Post Aug. 20, 1970
  161. ^ Ludlington Daily News Dec. 15, 1970
  162. ^ The Argus Press Oct. 25, 1972
  163. ^ Michigan Daily Oct. 24, 1974
  164. ^ The Argus-Press Oct. 25, 1972
  165. ^ Toledo Blade Aug. 5, 1970
  166. ^ People vs. Collins (1972)
  167. ^ Ann Arbor News Mar. 5, 1971
  168. ^ The Bulletin, Jun. 11 1971
  169. ^ Toledo Blade Jan. 21, 1971
  170. ^ The Owosso Argus-Press Jan. 6, 1972
  171. ^ The Michigan Murders p. 199
  172. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  173. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 99
  174. ^ Ann Arbor News Aug. 5, 1969
  175. ^ Ann Arbor News Aug. 5, 1969
  176. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases pp. 99-100
  177. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 96
  178. ^ Ann Arbor News Feb. 26, 1971
  179. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 100
  180. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 100
  181. ^ Ann Arbor News Mar. 12, 1992
  182. ^ Murder Casebook ISBN 0-7485-3520-9 p. 3975
  183. ^ N.Y. Daily News Mar. 25, 2008
  184. ^ Ryan, Harriet. "Testimony focuses on handwriting". CNN. 
  185. ^ MLive.com Jul. 25, 2007
  186. ^ Ann Arbor News Jan. 14, 1977
  187. ^ The Argus-Press Sep. 8, 1977
  188. ^ Toledo Blade Feb. 14, 1979
  189. ^ True Crime: Michigan: the State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases p. 105
  190. ^ aadl.org May 3, 1988
  191. ^ The Evil Within ch. 8, section 12
  192. ^ aadl.org Aug. 17, 1990
  193. ^ aadl.org Aug. 17, 1990
  194. ^ aadl.org Feb., 24, 1989
  195. ^ state.mi.us
  196. ^ The Michigan Murders p. xiv
  197. ^ MLive.com Oct. 13, 2013
  198. ^ Ann Arbor Police Department Online History: The Co-ed Murders
  199. ^ The Michigan Murders p. xiv
  200. ^ 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. 
  • James, Earl (1991). Catching Serial Killers: Learning from Past Serial Murder Investigations. U.S.A.: International Forensic Services. ISBN 0-9629-7140-5. 
  • 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]