Monday, July 21, 2014

Coed Killer Composite Drawings and John Norman Collins

Shortly before midnight on July 23rd, 1969, another young woman from Eastern Michigan University was reported missing. Her dormitory resident adviser Verna (Ma) Carson called the EMU Campus Police and told the desk clerk on duty that eighteen year old freshman coed Karen Sue Beineman was last known to have been walking alone to Wigs by Joan in downtown Ypsilanti.

She left the dorm at about 12:20 PM after eating a small lunch with her roommates in the Downing Hall Dining Commons. Then she headed south across campus and strolled down Ballard St. to pick up and pay for a wig she had ordered the day before. The wig shop was less than a mile's walk, and it was a bright, sunny afternoon.

The next morning, two Ypsilanti City Police officers went to Wigs by Joan to interview the owner, Diana Joan Goshe, and her wig stylist, Patricia Spaulding. It was from their initial description that a composite drawing was made by a Ypsilanti Police artist. Both women agreed that "Yes" Karen Sue Beineman had been in their shop shortly after 12:30 PM. They remember the young lady because of something she said, "I've only done two foolish things in my life - buy this wig and accept a ride from a stranger on a motorcycle."

The hair on the back of their necks went up when they heard Miss Beineman say those words. Despite every effort of Washtenaw County law enforcement to discover the identity of the serial killer who they suspected had killed seven young women in the area, police were literally and figuratively clueless. The shop ladies tried to dissuade the young woman from getting back on the motorcycle. Mrs. Goshe even offered to drive Karen Sue back to her dorm, but Miss Beineman did not want to put the ladies to any bother.

While Karen paid for the wiglet and was shown how to wear it in her hair by Patricia Spaulding, Mrs. Goshe walked outside of her shop and squarely took a look at the handsome young man on the shiny motorcycle. He was parked only two car lengths away from the front of her shop, no more than thirty feet away. Goshe went back into her shop and again urged Karen not to get back on the motorcycle but to no avail. Karen left the shop, and after a brief conversation with the driver, hopped back onto the motorcycle and sped off.

The next day, the wig shop ladies gave the investigators the following description of the young man which was wired to every newspaper in the state of Michigan. The Ann Arbor News ran the description of the suspect, "a white male, about 22 years old, six feet tall with dark brown hair. The hair is curly in the front and extends down on the forehead and cut short with short sideburns. The suspect, of thin to medium build, wore a T-shirt with wide green and yellow horizontal stripes."

A composite sketch was drawn from that description and released to the press by the Ypsilanti City Police. Within days of Karen's disappearance, the Beineman family had four thousand handbills printed and distributed on the campuses of Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. Of the seven unsolved murders in the area within the last two years, three were students from EMU and two were from U of M.

Looking over the newest composite drawing, an EMU official noted the similarity between sketches of a suspect in the death of Joan Schell a year earlier, drawn by an Ann Arbor police artist. The suspect in that case was previously described as "five feet, eight inches tall, about 20 years old with dark brown hair, and wearing a dark green Eastern Michigan University T-shirt." On Friday, July 25, the Ann Arbor News publicly noted the similarity and the fact that Miss Beineman's body was found in Ann Arbor Township, and Miss Schell's body was found on the outskirts of Ann Arbor.


Tony Hale was a sixteen year old Ypsilanti High School student who participated in Eastern Michigan's Upward Bound program on the EMU campus in July of 1969. Summer session dorm residents were required to attend a meeting where the handbills were distributed and young women were urged to carry them in their purses.

Some of the girls in the Upward Bound program were from the Warren/Center Line area where John Norman Collins was raised, so he would hang out in the lounge of Goddard Hall dormitory and mingle with the girls. Tony and her roommate Linda got to know Collins, and Linda took a couple of rides on his motorcycle and dated him. On one date, she reported that they went to his room to watch color TV, and he tried to get her skirt off.

"I could force you," he told her.

But the teenager replied, "But that wouldn't be good," and he relented.

Linda told a Detroit News reporter after Collins was arrested on July 31st that only two days before, she and Tony saw him riding his motorcycle on campus. Linda shouted out to him while waving the handbill, "Hey, John. You look like the picture," referring to the composite drawing of the suspected killer.

"You look like the other picture," he shouted back, referring to the photograph of Karen Sue Beineman on the handbill.


On July 30th, the day before Collins was arrested on suspicion of murdering Karen Sue Beineman, the Washtenaw County Sheriff released a more detailed, color composite drawing to the press from the description given by two wig shop ladies. This drawing was done in pastels but it came out after the handbill. The Detroit News ran the latest drawing with a psychological description of the probable murderer worked up by U of M psychiatrist, Dr. Donald J. Holmes.

"He is taunting authorities thumbing his nose at them, mocking them, daring them. Whatever else he may be, the killer is a very arrogant character. This taunting feeds his ego and supports his sense of omnipotence. He gets the idea that he is controlling the authorities."

Law enforcement was closing in on John Norman Collins. He was arrested late Thursday night, July 31st when Sheriff Douglas Harvey brought murder charges against him. Collins would sit in the Washtenaw County jail for over a year until his case came to trial where he was found guilty.