Monday, December 5, 2016

S&H Green Stamps--Emblem of a Bygone Age



Sperry and Hutchinson Company were the originators of S&H Green Stamps, as much an American cultural icon as anything. The company began offering redemption stamps to American retailers in 1896. Stores bought the stamps and offered them as bonuses based on the dollar amount of the purchase. S&H Green Stamps was the earliest retail customer loyalty program selling and distributing stamps and books to merchants. With a unidirectional cash flow, this shoppers' incentive made its originators multi-millionaires.

Stamps were issued in denominations of 1, 10, and 50 points. Stamp pages were perforated with glue on the reverse side to mount in twenty-four page collector booklets. Each booklet contained 1,200 points. Reward gifts were based on the number of filled books required to obtain the object. Green Stamps had no real cash value.

S&H Green Stamps could be obtained at supermarkets, department stores, and gas stations. Completed booklets could be redeemed at one of 800 distribution centers located around the country. Most popular in the early 1960s, S&H boasted that its reward catalog was the largest publication in the United States. They issued three times more stamps than the United States Postal Service.

Economic recessions in the 1970s reduced sales and decreased the value of the rewards. Shoppers began to see the stamps as not worth the trouble, and stores started to drop out of the program. In 1981, the founders' successors sold the business.

Green Stamps entered the realm of pop art iconography when Andy Warhol used a three step silkscreen process to print a 23"x22.75" canvas in 1962. Three years later, he used offset lithography to print the classic green stamp images on forty-nine 7'x7' panels to act as wallpaper within a gallery exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Philadelphia. A single panel recently sold at auction for $6,250.


S&H Green Stamp founders Thomas Sperry and Shelly Byron Hutchinson are the subject of my next post. Hutchinson was from Ypsilanti, Michigan, and became the town's richest self-made man.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Little Richard Streicher--Ypsilanti's Depression Era Unsolved Murder

On the blustery afternoon of March 8, 1935, thirteen-year-old Buck Holt and his eleven-year-old brother Billy followed muskrat tracks in the snow and discovered the body of seven-year-old Richard Streicher, Jr., missing since the previous evening. He was found frozen solid under the footbridge leading to Island Park [now called Frog Island], adjacent to the Cross Street bridge spanning the Huron River.

Buck Holt ran to the Anderson Service Station [gas station] across the street and told attendant Raymond Deck (22) there was a dead kid down there. Deck investigated and immediately phoned the Ypsilanti police. Chief Ralph Southard was the first to arrive, followed shortly by Washtenaw County Deputy Sheriff Richard Klavitter, and his brother Sergeant Ernest Klavitter of the Ypsilanti police.

Scene under the footbridge where Streicher's body was discovered.
By the time police arrived, a crowd of curious bystanders had trampled any footprint evidence left in the overnight snow. To further complicate matters, a bucket of sand was spread on the snow to make it safer for investigators to climb down the slope to view the body. The shovel used to spread the sand was used to pry Richard Streicher from the cement ledge he was frozen onto. Then the body was taken to the Moore Funeral Home in Ypsilanti to thaw. Richard Streicher's stiff clothes were cut from his body and burned at the request of his parents. More potential evidence was destroyed.

The autopsy was done at the funeral home rather than a medical facility. Of fourteen knife wounds, three punctured the wall of the heart causing his death. A good-faith police investigation--by Depression era standards--was conducted. Seven months later, Richard Streicher's body was exhumed, with a second autopsy performed by the county coroner's office.

On September 27, 1937, a one-man grand jury was conducted by State Attorney General Raymond W. Starr. He took another look into the case and interviewed close to forty people, but no new evidence was disclosed. The result--nobody charged--nobody indicted. The case remains unsolved over eighty years later.

Richard Streicher, Jr. was buried in Highland Cemetery [Section 16 - Lot 66], but nobody in living memory can say if his grave site ever had a marker or headstone. It has been unmarked for decades. Perhaps someone misplaced the headstone when Richard's body was exhumed. More likely--someone removed it for a macabre souvenir. Nobody knows.

Last year, an article about Richard Streicher, Jr. by John Counts for MLive [December 27, 2015] moved John Sisk, Jr. to start a Go Fund Me page to raise money for a gravestone. With the help of Robison-Bahnmiller Funeral Home in Saline, Michigan, Tina Atkinson-Kalusha of Highland Cemetery, and private donations, a monument was designed to honor the memory of little Richard Streicher. A nineteenth-century sled is engraved in the granite headstone. Richard was last seen alive sledding with friends. A graveside memorial service was held on Saturday, October 15, 2016.

If any of my Ypsilanti readers happen upon Richard's grave in Highland Cemetery, say a prayer for the little guy who deserved better than he got.

John Count's MLive  Richard Streicher article: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/12/ypsilanti_boys_murder_80_years.html 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gaslighting--A Sociopath's Favorite Tool

The psychological phenomenon know as gaslighting has become a colloquial term to describe a form of mental abuse where a dominant individual manipulates a weaker person's sense of psychological well-being to undermine the victim's mental stability. It is the manipulation of external reality to make someone doubt their sanity.

The term derives from the popular 1944 American film entitled Gaslight--based on a 1938 British stage play. Frenchman Charles Boyer plays the sociopathic husband of the psychologically frail Ingrid Bergman. This memorable film portrays a husband's attempt to destroy his wife's sanity by manipulating her perception of reality, so he can steal her jewels.

Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman
Sociopaths instill a high level of anxiety and confusion to disorient their victims. Information is twisted and spun by them so victims begin to doubt themselves. Targets lose faith in their ability to make judgments and become insecure about their decision-making abilities.

Gaslighting describes an antisocial personality disorder that relies on deception, denial, mind games, sabotage, isolation, and destabilization. It is a form of narcissistic abuse that occurs in all types of relationships and every walk of life. This syndrome is often associated with marital relationships, but anyone can be a victim. Gaslighting can be seen in abusive parent-child relationships and in the workplace with an aggressive boss brow-beating his employees. It is mental bullying that can escalate into physical violence. These narcissists are puppet masters who often manipulate people for their own personal gain or to play twisted power and control games.

Gaslighting is a deliberate and progressive method of covert control that imposes a form of psychosis on its victims. Brainwashing, interrogation, isolation, and torture are all forms of psychological warfare used by the military, intelligence agencies, law enforcement, and terrorist organizations. On any level, it is a human and civil rights violation. 



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For more detailed information on gaslighting and a link to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, view the following link: http://www.thehotline.org/2014/05/what-is-gaslighting/

Thursday, November 10, 2016

America Plays Its Trump Card


Respect the presidency regardless of who holds the office. Whether you like Trump or not, he will soon be our president. Either support him or become part of the loyal opposition. As Americans, those are our only viable choices. 

Denying reality is not an option and neither is cutting-and-running. We are all bound up in this moment of history together.

In Hoc Signo Vinces.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ambiguity Mars The Jane Mixer Case

Forty-eight years after the murder of University of Michigan coed Jane Mixer, a University of California San Diego professor believes the man convicted of the crime--Gary Earl Leiterman--may be innocent. After consulting with six DNA experts, Distinguished Professor of Psychology John Wixted has written an article in this month's Association for Psychological Science Observer in support of his belief that contaminated DNA evidence convicted the wrong man.

In 2005, Gary Earl Leiterman was identified through DNA analysis as Mixer's assailant in her March 20, 1968 murder. Mixer's presumed murderer, long held by the public to be John Norman Collins, was exonerated by default when Leiterman was convicted of Mixer's murder thirty-six years after her death. 

Perspiration stains found on a nylon stocking tied around Mixer's neck were examined for DNA. The FBI using their CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database came up with a direct hit on Leiterman. Complicating the DNA evidence in this case was a spot of blood found on Mixer's hand. It matched the blood of John Ruelas, who was only four years old at the time. 

The obvious contamination at the crime lab did not sway the jury. They found Leiterman guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberating less than three hours. Since his incarceration, Leiterman has been proclaiming his innocence because of irregularities at the crime lab where the Mixer forensic analysis was done.
 
Professor Wixted believes Collins may still be the prime suspect in Jane Mixer's murder. He believes there is compelling evidence pointing to Collins's involvement--though there is no hard evidence to support that finding. Leiterman hopes he and his lawyer can get a new trial clearing him of the crime after serving over ten years of his life sentence.

Giving Leiterman hope are updated FBI standards and protocols for DNA labs (Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories) effective September 7, 2011. Of its seventeen provisions, #7 Evidence Control, #9 Analytical Procedures, and #14 Corrective Action look the most promising for Leiterman's defense. The new provisions were tightened to ensure the quality and integrity of DNA data generated by these labs. Had these protocols been in place during the Leiterman trial, it is doubtful the DNA evidence would have been admissible in court. What that means for Leiterman's future is yet to be determined.

Professor Wixted's article: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/2016/nov-16/whether-eyewitness-memory-or-dna-contaminated-forensic-evidence-is-unreliable.html

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Jane Mixer Murder--John Norman Collins or Gary Earl Leiterman

In her profoundly personal memoir, The Red Parts, Maggie Nelson gives readers a glimpse of what lies behind the curtain of American jurisprudence and its affect on the surviving members of one family. Miss Nelson is the niece of Jane Mixer, John Norman Collins' alleged third victim.

Thirty-six years after Jane's perplexing murder on March 20, 1969, the Mixer family had to endure testimony of the details of her tragic death in a trial held in Wayne County, Michigan, in 2004. For over three decades, Jane's murder was lumped together with the six other unsolved killings in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area, despite fundamental differences including where, how, and what condition the body was found.

Armed with a positive DNA match, as well as convincing circumstantial evidence, Gary Earl Leiterman, a retired male nurse working in Ann Arbor at the time, was found guilt of her murder. John Norman Collins claimed since the beginning he never knew Jane, now he was exonerated for at least one of the seven Michigan murders he was accused of. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

With unflinching honesty, Miss Nelson tells us the ins-and-outs of her aunt's case with brutal clarity and a benumbing sense of self-awareness that only comes from profound emotional trauma. Early in her book, she asks herself, "Who am I to tell Jane's story?" I can think of nobody better. Later in the book, she finds herself getting drawn into the media vortex of the trial and its aftermath. Miss Mixer has some insightful things to say about American media's fascination with the "dead-white-girl-of-the-week" club.

After reading Maggie Nelson's memoir, I am reminded that disturbing the feelings and memories of the families of the other victims in the Collins case is not to be taken lightly. These girls deserve to be remembered as living human beings, rather than victims of something wicked that happened in another time no longer relevant today. For their memories and what happened to them to simply fade away is unacceptable.

This is Ypsilanti, Michigan history, however unpleasant for some individuals or for the city. The six other murdered girls deserve to have their stories told for the record as well, like Maggie Nelson did for the memory of her aunt, Jane Mixer. I want to honor these lost young women by relating the most accurate account of these matters as possible and bringing some degree of closure to people who cared about these young girls. In the end, the public deserves the truth.

http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/predators/collins/13.html

Saturday, October 22, 2016

John Norman Collins Trolls Strike Back



Early on in my writing of Terror in Ypsilanti, my primary goal was to pay a debt to history and restore the real names of the victims which were changed in the novelized treatment The Michigan Murders. John Norman Collins's name was also changed to mask his identity--a courtesy he does not deserve. Many of the people in law enforcement who worked on these cases and others in the know were dissatisfied with Edward Keyes's version. Too many assumptions and presumptions.

Even John Collins criticized the liberties Keyes took with the descriptions of his family and his motivation for committing these crimes--his mother. Collins claims he never read the Keyes book, but how else could he comment on it? In Terror in Ypsilanti, I went easy on Collins's family. They never killed anybody.

Over the five years it took to research and write this book, I received nasty emails from a number of people using fictitious names. For example, one goes by the handle Disrobing Furball. Some complaints came from Collins acolytes and some from fraternity brothers who took exception with any re-examination of these cases. Some few of these guys have reason to feel uncomfortable. They knew or suspected Collins of these crimes early on but remained silent.

Now that my nonfiction treatment of this subject matter is out, these same people have surfaced on my Amazon book page giving me particularly nasty reviews. They stand out because my reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but these have a distinct pernicious quality and are thinly disguised personal attacks. I would regard their comments more seriously if they were informed, and they had placed their real names on their reviews. But they hide behind pseudonyms. All I can say is consider the source.

In a recent Detroit News article [September 27, 2016], Collins claims he hasn't read my book but is quoted as saying it is "HEARSAY AND SPECULATION." For five years, he has refused to speak or meet with me but uses a go-between when he wants to communicate--knowing I'll get word of it. The woman he has chosen for this duty has been corresponding with Collins for years and speaks with him every Tuesday over the phone for fifteen minutes. She and I have been communicating for the last several years and have developed a cordial relationship.

Last Tuesday, Collins phoned and told her he was "Super Pissed! But my Ypsilanti and Center Line friends have my back." Now, I know the source of the toxic reviews. As an author, criticism comes with the territory, and I expect to get my fair share, but personal attacks are a horse of a different color. I welcome all fair and honest remarks and reviews.

Amazon Terror in Ypsilanti page: https://www.amazon.com/Terror-Ypsilanti-Norman-Collins-Unmasked/dp/1627874038/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477158434&sr=1-1&keywords=terror+in+ypsilanti