Tuesday, June 11, 2013

She Lived to Tell Her Tale - Don't Get in a Car with a Stranger - Part Two

Note to the Reader: In my previous blog post, a University of Michigan alumna wrote me about narrowly escaping an attack and possibly much worse in 1969 when she accepted a ride from a stranger one rainy spring afternoon in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In Part Two, I give her my response to the details of her email, as together, we try to work out "the  who and the what" of this forty-four year-old incident.

*****

My response to [her name withheld by request],

I'm beside myself. You were very lucky indeed. The car John Norman Collins drove then was a 1968 silver Oldsmobile Cutlass, a car much like you described.

Picking up women on rainy days was his specialty.

Collins was a devout Catholic, I'm told by some of his friends at St. Clement's High School. Your religious talk with him may have saved your life. He was a confused and tormented person who must have felt like a condemned soul by then. How could he not? 

[He may have felt like she was in a "state of grace" and that may have put him off his plan, though I didn't mention this theory to her.]

The "I was going to rape you" and "Say a prayer for Dave" remarks made my eyes well up. This is a direct link to the murder of Jane Mixer (third alleged victim of John Norman Collins), which another man is in jail doing life for. Look up Gary Earl Leiterman. 

Now things get complicated. Someone used the name "David Johnson" when he answered the ride board ad in the basement of the (Michigan) Union. Jane Mixer wrote the name down on a page of her campus telephone directory. She disappeared that night and was found dead the next morning laid out neatly at Denton Cemetery in neighboring Wayne County.

[I didn't tell her that "David Johnson" was a Theta Chi fraternity brother of Collins who had "bad blood" between them. I'm thinking that Collins may have tried to implicate Johnson by throwing out a false lead.]

Your general description of the driver fits Collins. A number of people have come forward with interesting stories, but what you have written here is by far the most useful and has the ring of truth.

May I use your story in some contextual way in my book? The fictionalized version of these murders did a disservice to the memory of the girls and to the history of this era. That's why I am writing this difficult book using real names and up-to-date information.

Thank you.

*****

Here is the message chain that followed:

Greg,

I really had no idea that your reply would link my incident with Collins. I had thought all these years that it was more than likely not related at all to the famous murders.

You may indeed use my story in your writings, but I would prefer that you not use my name.


*****

 My response:

You may want to read The Red Parts, by Maggie Nelson. It is about the Gary Earl Leiterman case and what impact it had on Jane Mixer's family, thirty-five years after the fact. I have a hunch you will find it very interesting. I wrote a blog post on it. Search in the <fornology.blogspot.com> archives for it.

*****

Greg,

I found the archives and am reading the information. I read quite a lot about Leiterman yesterday. Funny that the first site I found when searching for him had his high school picture on it. It was a shock to see him just as I remember him. The more recent pictures would have been of no use to me.

I've been wondering if it would have done any good if I had reported the incident to authorities at the time. I was a terrible witness... no license plate number or make of car. I don't know what I would have told them. Maybe I could have described him.

I'm glad to know that he was convicted of Jane Mixer's murder. I only pray that somehow our close encounter had an influence on him. I really did pray for him off and on over all these years.

*****

My response:

I hate to admit this, but every big campus in America has a serious problem with rape and the abuse of young women. University authorities go to great lengths to downplay incidents, so they don't cause a panic or tarnish the reputation of the institution.

Just last summer, there was a serial rapist in Ann Arbor. Don't beat yourself up about not going to the police; the report would have been of little use to them. DNA nailed Leiterman; he was an unknown quantity at the time. I feel a sense of satisfaction at helping you solve your nagging mystery. We did it together!

*****

Greg,

And thanks for that. I am grateful to have closure and to know that he is behind bars. There is no question in my mind that he killed the girl, grandfatherly persona be damned.

*****

And so it goes.... this wasn't the outcome that I had anticipated, but as a seeker of truth, I'm very pleased and satisfied with the outcome.

If anyone has information about the Michigan murders or about John Norman Collins, please don't hesitate to contact me at www.gregoryafournier@gmail.com or mail me at: