Between the summers of 1967 and 1969, a predatory killer stalked the campuses of Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan seeking prey, until he made the arrogant mistake of killing his last victim in the basement of his uncle's home. All-American boy John Norman Collins was arrested, tried, and convicted of the strangulation murder of Karen Sue Beineman.
I chose this photograph for my book cover because it sets an evocative mood of foreboding and establishes the setting of the story. Of the many photographs I've seen of the Ypsilanti Water Tower, none compares with this one taken by Ypsilanti Township resident Anthony Cornish. Two short blocks beyond this iconic landmark, John Norman Collins lived and preyed on his victims. Rather than choose a lurid image for the front cover, I wanted something to set a somber tone.
Many former and current EMU students may initially respond to the cover photo with a smirk remembering the Water Tower's legend: If ever a virgin graduates from EMU, the tower will topple. But reading the first few pages of my book will disabuse them of any such sophomoric notions.
My version of the Washtenaw County murders will be fundamentally different from The Michigan Murders. First, my rendition isn't a novelization--it is true crime. I use the real names of the victims and their killer. In addition, Terror in Ypsilanti benefits from almost fifty years of hindsight and includes insights from participants in the investigations and reflections from people who knew the victims and/or their assailant.
I've restored the essential details and dialogue of the contentious court battle from hundreds of newspaper articles obtained from the Michigan Press Clipping Bureau. Thank goodness for the Fourth Estate.
The official transcripts for the most notorious case in Washtenaw County history were purged from county records in the mid-nineteen seventies. If it were not for reporters hanging on every word of the trial, these proceedings would be lost to time. It is from their work that I've reconstituted the trial.
For the first time anywhere, using documents from the Michigan Department of Corrections, I've written a survey of Collins' tenure at Jackson and Marquette prisons. These accounts reveal a side of Collins never before seen by the public.
Included within my book will be an area map showing the body drop sites, twenty-six photographs, a timeline of significant events, a listing of the people's names, a listing of places mentioned, and a comprehensive index. These reader aids should be helpful because of the scope and quirky nature of this tragedy.
|Speaking at Brewed Awakenings in Saline, Michigan. Photo: Ryan M. Place.|