One of the most surprising and disturbing discoveries on my recent trip to Ypsilanti, Michigan, was that the house where John Norman Collins lived and may have committed unspeakable crimes against young women forty-five years ago, is now occupied by a sorority. I'm told that in 1990-91, a dormitory wing was added to convert the original home, built in 1870, into the Alpha Xi Delta house just south of Eastern Michigan University's campus.
I noticed one of the young women was on the porch getting mail, so I cautiously approached with my researcher, Ryan M. Place from Detroit, who was beside me. "Hello! Can I talk to you for a minute?" I asked.
"Sure," she said.
"Do you know any history of the house you're living in?"
She answered, "I think so.
Then we started talking. Two of her sorority sisters came out and joined us. I told them I was writing a book about the John Norman Collins "Coed Killer" case, and they opened right up to me, a total stranger with a story. I was there with another male, and that didn't send up a red flag.
Considering the subject matter of my research, the serial killing and sexual mutilation of seven young women in Washtenaw County, I would have expected these young women would have been more guarded with me. It bothered me that they weren't.
After examining the case, I don't think John Norman Collins was as clever as many people gave him credit to be; it is just that too many people are naive or stupid. That neighborhood is still murky at night and gives me the creeps to this day. Over this summer, Ann Arbor was plagued with a series of assaults and rapes on young U of M women walking alone at night, on or around campus.
Caution and situational awareness is everybody's business. Women, when you are out in public, predators look for weakness and advantage; then, they choose their moment and killing ground. When you walk or jog alone with ear buds that impair your ability to hear what is going on around you, that sends a flag up that you are vulnerable. Your music or cell phone call can wait.
Walking in high heels also marks you as a potential victim, especially if your are walking alone on a quiet street. The tapping of your heels can announce that you are by yourself, even before a would be attacker has you in his sight. Heels also hamper your ability to flee.
Common sense is your first line of defense. Tune into where you are and what is going on around you. Avoid becoming another statistic.