Saturday, October 19, 2013

Treading on the Grief of Others in the John Norman Collins Case

It is not easy writing about terrible matters which stir up painful memories and open old wounds. So it is with the Terror In Ypsilanti cases in Washtenaw County that occurred between the summers of 1967 and 1969.

If these deaths were matters of private grief, interest would be limited to the family and friends of the deceased, but a lone murderer bent on venting his rage against defenseless young women held two college campuses hostage during his two year reign of terror.

Coeds at The University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University felt threatened by chronic fear. Parents whose hopes and dreams rested upon the fragile shoulders of their daughters lived in dread of getting a knock on the door from plainclothes policemen with the news that their daughter was the latest victim of the phantom killer.

When a sixteen year old Romulus, Michigan, girl and a local Ypsilanti thirteen year old junior high school student were found murdered only twenty-two days apart, the entire city of Ypsilanti panicked.
Sheriff Douglas Harvey on crutches watching John Norman Collins leave the courthouse.
The murderer was no longer killing only college girls, every young woman in town was now a potential victim of this at-large killer, and police were no closer to making an arrest than they were with the murder of the first victim almost two years before. 

Only two of the eight families of victims ever had their day in court--the Beinemans in 1970 and the Mixers in 2005. After forty-five years, most of the parents of the victims have gone to their graves never to see justice done. It is a persistent wound carried by the brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends of the victims. But generations further removed from those times want to know the facts about what happened to their relatives and the man accused of killing them.

Comments on John Norman Collins websites show a remarkable amount of misinformation about these cases. Some people have elevated Collins to the status of a folk hero who was falsely imprisoned for the deeds of another, then scapegoated and railroaded by Washtenaw County law enforcement anxious to prosecute this case. When the actual details and facts of these murders are generally known, it is my hope that such people will disabuse themselves of their fallacious notions.

Many young people in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor would like to know more about their history and discover what their grandparents and parents never knew, the full evidence as it exists in the unsolved murders of these six young women. A debt to history must be paid. The facts of these cases need to be documented and preserved for posterity, so time doesn't swallow up the memory of these young women whose fatal error was not recognizing danger before it was too late.

Soon, all living history of people with knowledge of these cases will be lost. If you can shed some light on these tragedies, now is the time to come forward. You can contact me confidentially at