Tuesday, June 18, 2013

John Norman Collins Supporters on Kelly & Company - Monday, October 3, 1988

On Friday, October 1, 1988, Marilyn Turner conducted a videotaped interview with convicted "coed killer" John Norman Collins. Clips from that interview were interspersed among the live portions of the popular Detroit morning talk show, Kelly & Company, on the following Monday.

This interview is the only footage of Collins I have been able to find, except for a couple of perp walks in and out of court.

Part four of the interview was reserved for the supporters of John Collins who gave their assessment of his innocence. First was Marlene Thompson, ordained minister in the International and National Universal Life Church of Love. She had been Collins "spiritual adviser" for almost four years. Her view was that he was a caring and intellectual person who "shows great concern for women and couldn't kill anything.

The other Collins' supporter on the panel was a reporter for the Oakland Press, Jackie Kallen, who had been writing Collins in jail and later in prison, since 1969 when he was arrested. 

Ms. Kallen had some "mutual friends" with the Collins family. She opined that he may have been "railroaded" into prison. Her fervent belief was that "Collins is open and tells the truth as he perceives it. Maybe he doesn't know what he did."

The most remarkable and probing part of the whole show was when Marilyn Turner asked John Collins, in a calm soothing voice, "Did you love your mother, John?"

With that one well-placed, personal question, she was able to penetrate his self-protective stratagems and catch him in an unguarded moment. Until that time, he asserted his control over the interview, then he lost control of his emotions and seemed disoriented from that point on.

There is a wise saying that applies here, "Never play a player." Marilyn Turner did a great job interviewing a difficult subject.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

John Norman Collins Interview Inside Marquette Prison With Marilyn Turner - October, 1988

After John Norman Collins and his various attorneys exhausted all of his appeal avenues, he decided to talk to the media and take his case to the people on Monday, October 3, 1988.

Kelly & Company, a popular morning talk show in Detroit, wanted to do a live satellite feed from the prison with the show's co-host, Marilyn Turner. The studio portion of the show with a panel of key people from the case and a live studio audience would be handled by John Kelly, who happened to be Marilyn's husband.

The Friday before, the prosecutor who tried the case, William Delhey, declined to appear. He did not want to be a "question-and-answer man" for a staged courtroom scene. 

Then the prison warden reneged on the live broadcast citing security reasons. Producers for the show managed to get him to agree to a taped interview.

The link below is the Collins interview portion of the show. Collins was forty-one at the time and had been behind bars for just over eighteen years. This twenty-five year old Kelly & Company video was the first time most people saw Collins or heard him speak.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dame Fortune Winks - I Smile Back

All in a day's work at Zug Island.

I had just dropped into Detroit for the day to do a segment on Zug Island with Joe Rogan for his new show, Question Everything, premiering July 16th on the Syfy Network.

Immediately afterwards, I headed south down deserted W. Jefferson towards Downriver but decided to stop at the Zug Island sign and take a picture for a blog post on my trip while I was there. 

I swung my rental car into a small parking lot across the street between some abandoned Delray ruins and pointed the nose of the Japanese car towards the driveway.

Why I felt I needed another photo of the sign isn't clear to me, but I snapped a quick one and returned to my car, shut the door, and turned the key. In that small amount of time, a large car came out of nowhere and straddled my only escape route, a weed ravished driveway. 

My first thought was "Oh, shit! Welcome to Detroit."

The power window on the passenger side of the full size car went down and a white guy with a fancy camera said, "I see we are doing the same thing."

Not wanting to feel trapped, I got out of my car and engaged the person in a conversation. "What's your interest in Zug Island?" I asked as if it were any of my business.

Blast furnace being tapped at night.
"I'm making a documentary film about the environmental effects of Zug Island on the area."

"Fascinating," I replied.

"What's your interest in the sign?" he asked.

I told him I wrote a book called Zug Island:A Detroit Riot Novel. "I'm..."

"I know who you are. I saw your book on the Zug Island website, and I've read some of your blog posts." 

With that ice-breaker, we shook hands.

"Would you be interested in doing a few segments about Zug Island for the indie film I'm making?"

"Do steelworkers have dirt under their fingernails? Sure," I said. "But I don't live in the Detroit area anymore, I'm leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow."

We both looked disappointed. Then I was quick to add, "I'll be back in town in a few weeks doing research on my current project, The Rainy Day Murders, about John Norman Collins and the coed killings of 1967-1969 in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor."

"That works for me," he said. We exchanged contact information, and I waited a couple of days for a gmail with more information.

What this young filmmaker wants me to do is give a short biography of Samuel Zug at Zug's grave site and then do a couple of other segments about my experiences working on the island in 1967. Sounds easy enough.

Back then, the area was little more than a slum; now it is a ghost town, another casualty of rust belt technology impatient for redevelopment.

When completed, this film will be submitted to indie film festivals. Then, the producers hope to secure theatrical distribution and/or seek television broadcast opportunities. Whatever the outcome, it's a great experience for me that I couldn't miss.

I'm not one to believe in luck or fate, but if I'd been one minute sooner or later taking a picture of that sign, and if I hadn't been doing an interview with Joe Rogan that very morning on another project, I would have missed out on this opportunity. 

I think I'll put this experience down as dumb luck and follow Dame Fortune like a damned fool.

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:


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.



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!



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:

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.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Is Zug Island Guilty of the Windsor Hum?

Joe Rogan and I upwind of Zug Island
Last week, I spent two days in scenic Detroit amidst the ruins of the ghost town of Delray and an icon of the rust belt, the industrial complex known as Zug Island.

I was there taping a segment for a new Syfy Network show called Question Everything hosted by Joe Rogan. It debuts on Tuesday, July 16th at 9/8c. See the link below for more details.

Joe is looking into the theory that the Windsor Hum keeping Canadian residents awake at night emanates from United States Steel's Zug Island blast furnace, pig iron operation across the Detroit River.

One theory has it that the annoying sound and vibration is coming from a secret installation on the island, connected somehow with the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) in Alaska.

Work began on that sub-arctic government project in 1993. An array of high powered radio frequency transmitters covering an area of thirty-six acres excites a targeted portion of the ionosphere for scientific and military applications. What those applications are is not clear to the public which makes this program popular among conspiracy theorists.

The project is located in Gakona, Alaska, and it is funded by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, the University of Alaska, and the Defense Department. Its remote location contributes to the mystique of the project.

 Zug Island is on the United States/Canadian border and is considered by Homeland Security as a border installation, so security has been increased. 

While we were shooting my interview, a black SUV with heavily tinted windows watched our every move. The co-producer told me that the mystery truck had been following them at a distance for two days.

Because United States Steel refuses to comment on the HAARP allegations, it begs the question for many people, "What are they trying to hide?". For my money, the Windsor Hum controversy cuts a sorry figure as a conspiracy theory. It doesn't even make a credible urban legend. 

Now, what the government might be doing in the cavernous international Detroit Salt Mine, which runs far and wide under the area, is anybody's guess.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

John Norman Collins Canadian Prison Gambit Exposed

Acting on his own behalf, John Norman Chapman applied for and received the necessary transfer documents from the Canadian Consulate and applied for his Canadian prison transfer. 

On August 7, 1981, the Marquette Prison warden, T.H. Koehler, wrote the Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections Robert Brown, Jr. saying that he had "checked the qualifications for transfer to foreign countries and believe that this resident (John Norman Chapman) meets the necessary qualifications at this time." 

The warden must have felt relieved that he was getting rid of a hot potato. He was quoted as saying that Collins was the only prisoner in his lockup who had a book written about him that's for sale in the prison store.

After approval by the Marquette Prison Classification Committee, newly christened Prisoner Chapman was transported to Jackson Prison by prison shuttle on Tuesday, December 29, 1981, to await a verification hearing on his transfer to be held on January 11, 1982, at the United States District Court in Detroit.

Attorney Miriam Seifer was appointed by the court to represent  John Chapman at a Canadian transfer hearing. She was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor when John Collins was originally arrested in 1969. How odd that must have been for her.

Much to John Chapman's dismay, Ottawa (i.e. the Canadian government) had not completed the formal paperwork for the January 29th scheduled transfer date, so the hearing was postponed. John Norman Chapman was only one signature away from being transferred to a Canadian Prison, but he was so close, he could wait a little longer. Time was on his side now.

Meanwhile, on the morning of January 14, 1982, a letter addressed the Detroit Free Press city desk editor - William Hart - landed on his desk. It was from a prison inmate who had written to him before about prison reform.

Although all the information contained in the letter was not strictly accurate, the information did get the desk editor's attention. 

It said that Collins had been released to Canadian authorities two weeks before (Collins was actually waiting in Jackson Prison), Collins planned to use a different name once in Canada, and he would be eligible for parole in two years with time served. 

The prison informant added that this happened "with dollars being spread in the right areas." The letter ended with, "I would normally not pass information like this out, but if he's guilty of butchering young girls, then he's not the safest kind of a dude to be put where he could repeat."

Detroit Free Press editor Hart assigned reporter Marianne Rzepka to investigate the story. She found and interviewed Miriam Seifer, the court appointed attorney handling the case. That evening, Rzepka's story "Transfer to Canada for Killer" was the front page headline.

A Detroit Associated Press reporter picked up several early copies of the paper and returned quickly to his office. The story was immediately sent out on their news wire service to thirty-three newspapers and eighty-five radio and television stations across Michigan. By Friday, January 15, the story was reported throughout every corner of the state.

When the parents of slain Karen Sue Beineman read the story, they called William Delhey, Washtenaw County chief prosecutor for the Collins' case, and they went on their own media blitz. 

Less than a week after Marianne Rzepka's article appeared, Michigan Department of Corrections Deputy Director, Robert Brown, Jr.,  revoked approval of the Collins' transfer.

In a letter dated January 20, 1982, Brown denied the transfer on the grounds that John was raised primarily in the United States and had minimal contact with Canadian relatives. It was with regret that he had to inform Chapman that "I am revoking our consideration of your request. I am sorry I could not give you are more favorable reply. Sincerely, MDOC."

When Mrs. Loretta Collins heard that her son's transfer had been rescinded, she told the press, "It's politics, dirty politics. John's hopes were raised; he was moved. Then, they slammed the door in his face. It's inhuman." Many Michigan mothers would disagree.

John Norman Collins took a toss of the dice and they came up snake eyes. Every craps player knows what that means. Instant loser!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

John Norman Collins and the Canadian Prison Gambit - Part One

International Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

On June 10, 1980, Michigan governor William Milliken signed an  agreement (HR4308) with neighboring Canada to exchange prisoners to serve out the completion of their sentences in their home countries. The act joined the State of Michigan to the terms of a 1978 United States/Canadian treaty.

After exhausting all appeals for a new trial, John Norman Collins became aware of the international prisoner exchange treaty. Collins was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. 

Collins' mother, Loretta, divorced for a second time by the time John was four, returned to her parents' home in Center Line, Michigan, with her three children in tow. 

John became a naturalized American citizen at five years old. Now, thirty-three years later and serving time in prison, he believed he still held dual citizenship.

John Collins in Jackson Prison Interview
On November 10, 1980, one month after Governor Milliken signed the international prisoner exchange agreement, Collins quietly applied to have his surname changed back to his Canadian birth father's name, Chapman. 

The name change was granted January 5, 1981, and certified by the Deputy Registrar of Probate Court for the County of Macomb.

John's biological father, Mr. Richard Chapman, lived in Kitchener, Ontario. Chapman had been estranged from his children at Loretta's insistence, but once John was charged with Karen Sue Beineman's murder, Mr. Chapman began to correspond and reconnect with his son. He even attended some of the court sessions.

John Collins certainly thought that he might be able to fly under the prison radar as Chapman and begin the process for a prisoner exchange under the international treaty. 

In Michigan with no possibility of parole, Collins had to serve a minimum of twenty years before he could be considered for a pardon by a sitting Michigan governor. The chances of that happening were slim and none. 

In Canada, an inmate serving a life sentence is eligible for parole after fifteen years. With time served in the Washtenaw County jail and various Michigan prisons, Collins could have been eligible for parole in 1985.

Part Two: John Norman Collins Canadian Prisoner Exchange Exposed