Monday, June 10, 2013

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

To the Reader: For the first time in this blog, I am running a post of an email I received. A former University of Michigan student wrote me several days ago in response to my call for information on the John Norman Collins' series of sex slayings in the late Sixties.

I found her story compelling reading. She was having a bad day and accepted a ride from a stranger on a rainy day at the height of the "Co-Ed Killings" in 1969. In part one of this two part post, she tells her own story. My response to her and the surprising result will appear in part two in several days.

I have her permission to run her letter.


Dear Mr. Fournier,

In 1969, I was a sophomore coed living in the Alpha Chi Omega house on Washtenaw [Ave]. On a rainy spring afternoon I was walking with my umbrella up on University [Ave], a block or two from the corner of Washtenaw and University. A large, 4-door sedan (in my memory it was a Pontiac or something of that size, heavy and solid) pulled up beside me, and a man opened the passenger door and offered me a ride.

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would get into a car with a stranger, but for some reason that day I did. I had some sort of boyfriend issue at the time, so insignificant that I can't remember what it was about. I had been to St. Mary's Chapel for a little prayer time and was walking home in a dejected state. I'm sure my body language marked me as a target for the driver of the car.

As I closed the door, I got a sinking feeling that I was doing the stupidest thing I would ever do in my life. He asked me why I was so down and where I was going. I said I had just come out of St. Mary's and was heading out Washtenaw. He made the turn onto Washtenaw and drove carefully. I wondered if he would stop at my corner or continue on past towards Ypsilanti. I remember thinking if he didn't stop, or if he speeded [sic] up, I would open the car door and take my chances and leap to the pavement. I would definitely have done it. It crossed my mind to take my book bag with me.

We talked for the few minutes I was in the car about my praying and how I thought God would help me with my troubles because I was close to Him and was used to going to Him for consolation and communion. To my great relief, at the corner of Cambridge and Washtenaw he slowed the car and stopped.

As I opened the door and thanked him for the lift, he turned to me and said, "I was going to rape you, but I changed my mind." I pretended to laugh, as if it was a joke, but I knew he was serious. He then said to me. "The next time you are in church, say a prayer for Dave." I promised to do so as I closed the car door behind me and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

I was really not aware of the murders in the area at the time. I didn't connect this incident with local news. I've never forgotten the exact words he said to me, or the feeling that I had narrowly escaped from a very serious situation.

"Dave" was dark haired with a slick-backed haircut that was right out of central casting for the "Sopranos". I remember a prominent Roman nose and a "city clothes" style unlike the casual jeans and flannel shirt look of the day, a contrast to student attire. I really couldn't provide any better description of him or of the car, even at the time.

I was reading your blog today, asking for any small details. I don't know if this is helpful or not. I never reported it to any authority, although I used the story to scare the crap out of my own two girls as they went off to college.

(Name withheld by request)


Part Two will run in a few days.