Thursday, July 5, 2012

The John Norman Collins Case - Dredging Up the Past

John Norman Collins Confident He Can Beat the Rap
As I continue to do research on the string of brutal sex crime murders in the university towns of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor in the late 1960s, I am amazed that John Norman Collins has his supporters, people who are not happy or sympathetic with my quest to tell this tragedy as truthfully and fully as possible. Collins, now in Michigan prisons for over forty-two years, still inspires loyalty.

Of several people in his hometown of Center Line who still think Collins was railroaded, none have provided any leads or evidence of his innocence, only the vague recollections that he was a local star athlete, the Golden Boy of his St. Clement's High School class of 1965.

A few people I've spoken with from his high school, grudgingly admit that Collins may have been guilty of one murder but not the others. They say something must have happened to John after he left his hometown. The theme I keep hearing is that he got involved in drugs at college and hung out with a bad crowd. He did drink beer and join a jock fraternity, but John was a servant of his self-will. He wasn't led by others; he was the leader. On motorcycle outings in the farm country north of Ypsilanti, John was always leading the pack, according to people who rode with him.

Karen Sue Beineman
Then there are the friends and family who don't want to be reminded of the pain and suffering of their loss. Of the eight murders John Collins is accused of committing, only two have been publicly solved: Karen Sue Beineman's murder, which Collins was convicted of, and the murder of Jane Mixer, which DNA proved thirty-five years later that Collins didn't commit.

Five other Michigan young women and one from Oregon visiting California at the time of her death are technically listed as "cold cases." Because of the expense of bringing these other cases to trial and the belief that law enforcement has their man, the other murders have remained officially unsolved leaving many questions unanswered.

Jane Mixer
Because of many factors, the facts of this dark chapter in the history of Washtenaw County are obscured by time and a desire of county officials to have this sad episode forgotten. Public documents for this case are not available. But history and the public interest need to know the facts as far as they can be shown.

Fortunately, a number of people who knew Collins and/or the victims in this case are now coming forward with new threads to this story which I hope to weave into whole cloth in the book I'm working on, In the Shadow of the Water Tower.

In the next several weeks, I will be interviewing as many of these people as I can. If you have any relevant information to offer, please contact me at gregoryafournier@gmail.com.