JB King recalls a murder case in Michigan.
Once upon a time…….…..well actually every year that I worked for the Missouri State Highway Patrol I kept a yearly journal of my daily activity and notes on special events that happened on any given day. And so when I remembered another story I could safely tell around these parts I consulted with my box of journals. For this case I actually remembered the year that it happened as 1975.
On July 4, 1975, I was part of a heavy Fourth of July day traffic crew and I came on duty at 9:00am. According to my handy little journal I wrote 13 traffic tickets that day for moving violations and I bagged a murder suspect wanted by the Kalamazoo Michigan Police Department.
Just a minute or so after I came on the air Troop I radio repeated a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) message for a suspect wanted for murder who had left a St. Louis area motel right at 8:00am and was believed to be heading west on I-44. The vehicle was described as a Black/White 1975 Chevrolet with Michigan plate LMF-313.
During the next few hours little old me and every other Trooper on duty watched I-44 westbound traffic like a hawk. Nothing happened, the suspect car just vanished. And so around 1:00pm being somewhat tired and thirsty I left I-44 and started east on Mo. 17 in dear old Waynesville. About 100 yards west of what is now the Waynesville Middle School I met a westbound 1975 Chevrolet with a white body and black roof and as it went by me I thought it had a Michigan plate and I noted the last three numbers on the plate as 313.
My immediate reaction was no that can’t be the car……….…but as I hit my brakes, in the rear view mirror I saw the car floor it, and yes that was the car! I spun through the parking lot to my left and the chase was on. When the car got to Rt. T it turned north on Rt. T and increased speed. My first thought here was if you want to play chase on curvy Rt. T that I know well and you do not……..well I know which curve you will wreck out on. And so I continued to close the distance and was able to confirm the plate as correct.
Surprise! When we got to the top of the hill just north of Trower Hollow, right in front of Harvey Dye’s home, the suspect vehicle suddenly stopped in the right lane. I immediately bailed out with my trusty Remington pump 12 gauge and ordered the driver to get out of the car. He complied and also raised his arms high as ordered. As he was stopping I had just enough time to tell Troop I he was stopping. Nothing else.
I had no intention of approaching him until my backup arrived. But the suspect got nervous looking down the barrel of my shotgun and told me, “You have nothing to fear I threw the gun away after I killed her!” I told him to shut up and gave him his Miranda rights from memory and asked if he understood those rights and he said yes. He then repeated his statement that you have nothing to fear.
We then entered into a long period of time where chaos was the order of the day. Troop I was calling me on the radio and I was not answering. I had no intention of taking my eye off him to use the radio. I was quite comfortable with the situation as it was. Troop I was calling my backup cars and they were also not answering the radio. Troop I radio was getting much louder and somewhat more frantic as the passing minutes of silence rolled onward. Meanwhile the suspect continued to talk.
He told me where he bought the gun and ammo, two stores, he named both and their address, told me how he broken in and laid in wait for the victim in her dark garage and shot her eleven times when she entered the garage. He told me which underpass he had thrown the gun out of his car at behind some bushes …….…and he just kept on talking. After several minutes I knew I would never remember all of his confession but I kept the shotgun pointed right at him and he continued to talk.
I should probably mention that while all of this was going on I had to direct traffic on Rt. T around our vehicle stop location due to the fact we had closed down the north bound lane of travel. Got some wild looks from passing drivers that day.
Finally after one or two ice ages advanced and receded from the Ozark landscape a backup car arrived on scene and we cuffed the bad guy. I immediately jumped into my car and grabbed paper and pen and franticly scribbled down short notes on everything I could remember him saying. I did not get it all.
But it did not matter. When we got the bad guy to our local zone office he fessed up again after a second Miranda advisement in front of more witnesses. He also waived extradition back to Michigan in court.
A few days later two Kalamazoo Michigan Detectives flew into Ft. Wood in a chartered light plane and I picked them up at Forney Field. They were very happy to get copies of my written reports and his confession. And they got downright excited about the purchase receipt from the gun store for one new Ruger 10/22 rifle bought with his credit card number less than 48 hours before he killed her. I had spoken to the Detectives on the telephone the day of the arrest and they had already recovered the blood stained rifle from behind the bushes and now they had proof of the purchase by the suspect without having to apply for a subpoena. Can you spell premeditation?
Then the rest of the story. After shooting the victim Mr. Nice Guy had called the victim’s daughter and told her she better go to her mom’s house and check on mommy. She got a shock to say the least because the Detectives told me he had left out a few details in his confession to me. Like the fact that after the victim was down on the garage floor with eleven bullet holes in her he had reloaded and shot her ten more times. He then rammed the slender rifle barrel into one of the wounds and used the sharp and narrow front sight on the rifle to rip open her abdominal wall to expose the abdominal cavity and…..….…....like I said Mr. Nice Guy.
But the daughter got her revenge. She told the Kalamazoo Detectives that bad guy had been dating her mom for some time and she felt she understood his evil mind and she told the Detectives that he would call her the next morning and taunt her some more. So the Kalamazoo Detectives set up a recorder and a trace on her phone and bingo he called. During their talk daughter was able to goad him into several very nice statements that the Detectives felt would play right well in front of a Jury. They also traced the call to a specific motel in west St. Louis County where responding officers from that jurisdiction arrived on scene just minutes after he had left. And then the BOLO was broadcast statewide.
And so I loaded up the two detectives and Mr. Nice Guy in my patrol car and drove to Forney Field where special arrangements had been made and I drove him right to the waiting aircraft on a taxiway just off the main runway. Mr. Nice Guy went bye-bye up into the air.
The following year while driving to Kalamazoo for a second scheduled court appearance, the trial had been continued on the first try, as I was halfway across Illinois Troop C radio at St. Louis was able to get a message to me over the radio that he had entered a guilty plea to murder second that morning. The case was now officially over.
JB King is the author of “The Tilley Treasure,” a Civil War buried treasure true story, and “Justice: Military Tribunals in Civil War Missouri.” The books can be bought locally at the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau and online at www.amazon.com/J.B.-King/e/B06XKXV6JK. King can be contacted at Sheriff330ret@gmail.com. King is currently working on a book about Pulaski County's notorious murders by Johnny Lee Thornton and is looking for anyone with any information relevant to the story.
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