Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Rainy Day Murders Preparing for the Next Hurdle - Representation

Photo courtesy of Nicole C. Fribourg

I am finally at a point with my true crime project The Rainy Day Murders when it is time to get outside people involved. Getting this book ready for publication has been essentially a two person operation. For over the last three years, Ryan M. Place of Detroit has tirelessly researched the Washtenaw County murders (July 1967 - July 1969) of seven young women and the person accused of killing them, John Norman Collins.

Together, we have gone through thousands of pages of vintage government documents and newspaper clippings from the era, searched various archives in the towns of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor where these events occurred, and conducted countless interviews with people who have first-hand knowledge of this case and/or the people involved with it.

Assembling these disparate elements has been akin to aligning a Rubic's Cube with some of the colored decals missing. Without the candid cooperation of the offender and the release of all government documents connected with these cases, the full facts will never be known. Still, by repeatedly invoking the Freedom of Information Act, Ryan and I have pieced together enough of the puzzle to reveal a gestalt of evidence and circumstance that goes far beyond the purview of random coincidence and lays the burden of guilt squarely at Collins' feet.
Originally, the working title for this project was In the Shadow of the Water Tower. I changed it in favor of The Rainy Day Murders (RDM), so as not to besmirch the city of Ypsilanti's beloved landmark which played no part in any of the murders. The sum total of the information we have compiled has been reduced to 645 pages of hard-wrought manuscript. During my latest rewrite and revision, it became clear to me that I really had two books worth of material, not only because of length considerations, but also because of thematic focus.

Ryan M. Place
The original scope of the project was to fill a void in the historical account of the Washtenaw County murders and restore the identities of the victims that have been obscured by time and a couple of misguided treatments of this subject matter. I have the benefit of over forty-five years of hindsight which those authors didn't have.

But new material started coming to us from the Michigan
Department of Corrections (MDOC) which goes behind prison walls and tells the story of John Norman Collins' years as MDOC inmate #126833. That story looks into his prison record, his escape attempts, Collins' many court appeals, California's extradition efforts, both Canadian treaty transfer attempts, his media manipulations, and a survey of some of John's prison letters which reveal his present life behind bars.

This story is still unfolding, but its climax will be John Norman Collins' fantasy defense in the Karen Sue Beineman murder case. It is quite amazing and lays bare the interior workings of his mind feigning the inability to separate fact from fiction.

My writing instincts tell me that the focus of the first book should be the crimes, the victims, the living history, and the facts as they stand or fall in the Karen Sue Beineman trial. That book comes in at 495 pages without supplemental material.

The second book has its focus on John Norman Collins since his conviction. It doesn't seem appropriate to include material about his life in prison in a book about his crimes against seven innocent, defenseless women whose fatal flaw was not recognizing danger until it was too late. As it currently stands, this second book is still in development. It is 150 pages long and has the working title of The Ypsi Ripper.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Prosecutor's Conundrum in the John Norman Collins' Cases

The Burden of Justice
Of the seven young Michigan women thought to be the victims of a sadistic serial killer in the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor areas in the late sixties, only one case was brought to trial, the murder case of Karen Sue Beineman on July 23, 1969.

Arrested on July 31, 1969 was an Eastern Michigan University junior named John Norman Collins studying to be an elementary school teacher. From the second floor courtroom of the Washtenaw County Building in Ann Arbor, Collins was found guilty of Miss Beineman's premeditated murder in the first degree on August 19, 1970. Nine days later on August 28, 1970, Circuit Court Judge John W. Conlin sentenced Collins to life in prison without possibility of parole. After twenty years of serving his life sentence, Collins could be eligible for a pardon by a sitting Michigan Governor. That is Michigan law.

Washtenaw County Prosecutor William F. Delhey made a deliberate decision not to prosecute John Collins for the other sex-slayings he believed Collins to have committed. The law enforcement community was confident that they had the right guy for the murders. The elusive serial killer was finally off the streets and the string of vicious, motiveless killings had come to an end after a reign of terror spanning three violent summers.

Because prosecuting the Beineman case was the most expensive criminal proceeding in Washtenaw County history to date, many people believed the other cases were not prosecuted solely for economic reasons, leaving the grieving families without answers. Somehow, the institutional belief that the greater good of the community had been served was little comfort to them. They had lost a loved one.

Taking exception with that point of view is Cris Bronson, a former secretary in the office of Prosecutor William Delhey during the span of the trial. She recently shared her insights with me regarding Delhey's decision not to prosecute Collins for the remaining murders.

"This oversight was not due to negligence or incompetence on the part of William Delhey. Nor was it about the amount of money which would be spent prosecuting John Norman Collins (for the other murders). Mr. Delhey had a strategy which was designated to keep Collins in prison for the rest of his life. Further prosecution was designated to occur successively if there was any risk that Collins was to be pardoned or otherwise released. This decision by William Delhey may have given rise to doubt over Collins' guilt in the other cases. But not so!

"Mr. Delhey had prosecuted another murderer of several individuals, throwing the full weight of each murder in one case against the defendant. The offender pleaded guilty by reason of insanity. Some time after this multiple murderer was committed, the State of Michigan changed its laws regarding those offenders who plead insanity defenses and were remanded to mental hospitals for the rest of their lives. The intent of the new law was to prevent mental health facilities from acting as prisons. The result in this specific instance was that this multiple murderer was released onto Michigan streets.

"Mr. Delhey tried to refile criminal charges against this defendant because the time for filing an appeal in the case had long run out. But the circuit court judge who had been assigned the second trial threw the case out as 'double jeopardy.' State and Federal laws prohibit charging an individual twice for the same crime once an official decision had been rendered in the first trial. Prosecutor Delhey was mindful of this and was determined that Collins would stay behind prison bars in Michigan to serve out the full measure of his sentence - life in prison.

"With respect to the law, the public release of evidence collected in the murders of the other victims held in abeyance cannot be made public. But Mr. Delhey had enough evidence to bring charges for each successive case as follow up to prevent this serial killer from being released to harm anyone else again. Although these cases are cold, they still remain officially open. There is no statute of limitations on murder."

There you have it. The State's evidence in these other cases would be inadmissible in court if the chain of custody were broken or if the facts were released to the public. This evidence will likely never be revealed, even after fifty years or when all the parties to these cases have passed on.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fornology Hits 100,000 Milestone

I started my Fornology blog in May of 2011 at the urging of my publicist Paula Margulies. She explained to me the importance of establishing a brand and building an audience. I was happy to have just completed my first publishing effort, Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel, and was less than thrilled with taking on a new, open-ended writing challenge. How do I get started? What will I write about? How much of my time will it take? Who will read my blog?

I had never even read a blog before, much less developed one, but I knew that I didn't want to get mired down with blogging when all I wanted to do was get started on my next project. I mentioned these concerns to Paula, and she put it to me like this, "If you are not willingly to take the time and the effort to establish and promote yourself as an author, publishers will not invest their time and resources in making you a success." Paula's logic was irrefutable, so I reluctantly headed over to the brick and mortar bookstore like any print-oriented Baby Boomer and purchased a copy of Blogging for Dummies.

What I had first regarded as drudgery, slowly developed into a routine. On my first month, May 2011, I received 288 hits. By October 2011, six months later, I was averaging 500 hits per month. I was starting to feel more comfortable with blogging. Not only was I getting some public exposure, I was also developing my writing voice.

I set a goal of producing a new post every week or so, and then it happened, I got hooked on the instant gratification of blogging. Since October 2013, I have been averaging 5,000 hits per month. After three years and three months, I've reached a total of 100,000 hits. My core audience is from the United States, but Fornology has gone global. I've been told by people in the publishing business that the 100K threshold is when agents and editors start taking writers more seriously.

The publishing business is changing dramatically. It has never been easy to rise up above the slush pile of unpublished manuscripts which clutter the offices of most agents and editors. Today, if people in the publishing business show an interest in handling your work, they first go to your blog to see what you write about and how you handle the subject matter. With 100,000 hits, 260 posts to my credit, and an almost complete manuscript of The Rainy Day Murders, I'm open for business.

To learn more about Paula Margulies Communications, check out:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Zug Island Book Talk At Pasquale's in Royal Oak, Michigan - September 30th, 2014

I am pleased to announce that I will be in the Detroit area speaking about Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel on September 30th, 2014 at 8:00 PM. The event will be held at Pasquale's Italian Restaurant in the Mediterranean Room located at 31555 Woodward Ave. in Royal Oak, Michigan. The Book Club of Detroit (BCD) and the Detroit Drunken History Society (DDHS) are co-sponsoring the event. An elevator is available for disabled patrons.

In addition to discussing Zug Island and my experiences working there in the summer of 1967, I will give some historical background about the Detroit area in the Sixties and some of the factors that led to the worst urban riot in the history of the United States. The tremors and fallout from that "rebellion," as it was known by many intercity Detroiters, are still being felt by the city today.

Zug Island Where the Rouge and Detroit Rivers Meet

If you would like to join us for dinner before the book talk, the cost is $26 ($23 for DBC members). For attendees not interested in purchasing dinner, there will be a $5 admission fee for non-DBC members to help offset the cost of the banquet room. The dinner starts at 6:30 PM with the book talk starting just after 8:00 PM.

Available entree choices are eggplant parmigiana, chicken cacciatore, or boiled cod. All meals come with your choice of Caesar or Greek salad, mostaccioli with marinara or Alfredo sauce, green beans amandine, and Italian bread or garlic bread sticks. Coffee, tea, pop (soda), and juice are included with the meal, or a cash bar is available for beer, wine, or spirits.

Advance registration for dinner is required. Checks and entree choices should be mailed to:
Book Club of Detroit                                                   
Maurice Barie
860 Spencer
Ferndale, MI 48220

Link to BCD: 
Link to DDHS:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                              

Gregory Fournier Presents a Compelling Tale of Friendship and Racial Strife in

Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel

Santee, CA – The statistics remain legend: 43 reported deaths, 7,000 arrests, over 4,000 injuries, 2,500 buildings looted or burnt to the ground, 5,000 residents left homeless, 16,682 fire runs, and a river of fire ten blocks long. In 1967, the Model City erupted in flames as African Americans took to the streets to protest the city’s atmosphere of racial hatred and prejudice. Gregory Fournier’s debut novel, Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel (ISBN 978-1-4116-8691-5), takes place during this chaotic time, when the race riots in Detroit led to one of the most explosive episodes of civil unrest in United States history.

Set in rust-belt Michigan in 1967, Zug Island tells the story of Jake Malone, an eighteen-year-old college student who is kicked out of school and find works as one of the few white employees in the labor crew at Great Lakes Steels' Zug Island blast furnace and coke oven complex. Forced to prove that he can handle the grueling physical work on the island, Jake earns the respect of his African American coworkers and develops a tentative friendship with Theo Semple, a restless steelworker who longs to reunite with his wife and son in Memphis, Tennessee. The two men find camaraderie despite the racial animosity and violence that exists on Detroit’s mean streets. When riots break out across the city of Detroit, Jake must defend his friendship with Theo and reconcile his own mixed feelings about his position in the world. 

An unflinching look at segregated suburbia and the environment of civil strife that led to the race riots of the sixties, Zug Island explores the events leading up to the largest and worst riot in the nation's history, while providing an unconditional look at a young man forced to deal, for the first time, with open prejudice. Told with straightforward candor and an authentic voice, Zug Island is a coming-of-age story that explores the bonds of loyalty and friendship in the face of entrenched racial tension and civil unrest.

“After almost fifty years, the shadow of the riots still hangs over the Detroit area like a dark cloud, though many of the area’s youth know little or nothing about them,” said Fournier. “The lessons learned and the memory of the forty-three victims is fading from the collective consciousness. This is what prompted me to write Zug Island.”

Gregory A. Fournier received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Eastern Michigan University in English Language Arts and Sociology. He has taught secondary school for over thirty years in Michigan and San Diego, and he was an adjunct professor at Cuyamaca College in San Diego County for ten years. In addition to Zug Island, he has written a stage adaptation of Crime and Punishment. He is currently finishing up his next project, a true crime work about Ypsilanti serial killer John Norman Collins entitled The Rainy Day Murders.

       For more information on Gregory A. Fournier or Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel, please visit: or