Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Facing Down John Norman Collins - Kristi Kurtz

The tale I'm about to tell really happened. It took over a year for me to contextualize the incident  that occurred one Sunday evening to me and my then girl friend, Kristi Kurtz, as we were walking to our apartment after visiting friends.

We stopped at the party (convenience) store on the corner of W. Cross St. and Ballard St, just off of Eastern Michigan University's campus. We bought a small bag of groceries, walked up the street a block, and turned right on Emmet St. heading for College Place where we shared an apartment.
This neighborhood was over a hundred years old and the old growth trees that lined the street provided a natural canopy of added darkness. As Kristi and I casually walked up the street, a car pulled along side us. It was a muggy July evening, and the windows were rolled down revealing three males in the car.

The driver addressed Kristi first saying, "Hey, baby. Want to go out with some real men?" My response was, "Hey, man. She's with me." The next thing I heard was, "Shut the fuck up asshole or the three of us will get out and kick the shit out of you."

Before I could respond, Kristi was impugning their manhood. "What a bunch of dickless wonders!" she scolded the driver. "Three against one, you cowardly faggots." Did I mention that Kristi didn't take crap from anyone and had a mouth on her?

I figured that it might be time for us to drop our groceries and sprint home, but something unexpected happened. Kristi's defiant response seemed to perplex the driver, then out of frustration, he punched the gas pedal and left us in a cloud of screeching tires and stinking exhaust.  That was sometime after nine o'clock on the evening of July 30th, 1968.

Although I thought this was an isolated incident, one day I was reading an article about the series of unsolved murders in the Ypsilanti area and focused on the second murder victim, Joan Schell. Suddenly, I was able to connect the dots. Joan had been hitchhiking and had taken a ride with three guys in a black and red, unidentified car some time after Kristi and I had been approached.

A year after John Norman Collins was arrested for the abduction and sex-slaying of Karen Sue Beinemen, Collins ex-housemate, Arnie Davis, testified in open court that he was in the black and red car with Collins that night when they picked up Joan Schell. Then Collins and Schell left him and a third person to cruise around town because John said he would drive Joan to Ann Arbor in his car. After that fateful ride, Miss Schell was never seen alive again.

In yet another cruel twist of fate, Kristi Kurtz (41) was found murdered in 1990 during a bungled burglary attempt at her horse farm in Whitmore Lake. More on that story in my next post.