Friday, September 30, 2011

In the Shadow of the Water Tower

My trip to Ypsilanti, Michigan in September, to research the John Norman Collins Washtenaw County killings, was more productive than I could have imagined. In addition to a wide variety of materials I had gleaned from the internet, my Michigan researcher, Yog Sothoth, presented me with two huge folders of photocopies of virtually every newspaper article written in the state about this case and its aftermath.

After we briefly scanned and discussed his research, Yog and I went to visit the Ypsilanti Archives in that city's historical museum. Once I explained our mission to the archivists, they were falling all over themselves to be helpful.

For some weeks, I had been trying to locate a former English professor of mine from Eastern Michigan University, who was writing a factual account of the murders forty years ago and lent Edward Keyes, the author of The Michigan Murders, his notes on the case.

Unsuccessful in finding the good professor, I mentioned that to George, one of the volunteers at the archives. He told me a retired EMU prof was just here last week researching this very topic.

"His name wasn't Paul McGlynn, was it?"

To make a long story short, George had his email address and contacted him, and McGlynn contacted me. What luck! But not so fast, it seems that my former professor and I are competitors. He still has plans to publish, but our treatments of the subject matter will be materially different. Not bad for my first day of researching in Michigan. 

This case still incites people's interest because five of the seven murders attributed to the "coed killer," from the summer of 1967 through the summer of 1969, were left unsolved and are cold case murders. John Norman Collins was arrested and convicted of only a single count of murder for the brutal sex slaying of Karen Sue Beineman.

The rest of my week was devoted to interviewing people who knew John Collins way back when and who were never interviewed. I discovered some very interesting things. Next time....