Eight months before the Mark Stebbins, the first victim in the Oakland County Child Killer (OCCK) case was murdered, Steven Spielberg’s film, Jaws, was released in theaters. The film had an indelible impact on society. Despite being a work of fiction, everyone was scared to go into the water. The closest thing the movie had to a human villain was a public official, the mayor of Amity. The mayor insisted on downplaying the threat and keeping the beaches open. He overrode the police chief because his primary concern was the tourist industry. The safety of his citizens came a distant second. The mayor finally came around and realized the error of his reckless decisions after a couple of people were eaten. He authorized the hiring of a shark hunter, got out of the way and fades out of the story. The primary threat and the looming iconic music remained focused only on the shark.
What if the mayor took it up a few notches? What if he publicly assisted with the effort to capture and kill the shark, but privately did everything in his power to undermine Chief Brody, Hooper and Quint? What if he insisted on not only joining the shark‐hunting expedition but leading it? Every time the shark is spotted, the mayor would turn the boat in the other direction. Every time the shark was hooked on the chum line, the mayor would cut it and pretend it was an accident. Every time the shark took another victim, the mayor would declare that there is no connection between that attack and the great white with a matching bite radius. The mayor would feign surprise and anger over the death of each victim, but secretly, his only agenda was to protect the shark. Is the shark still the primary threat in that film? Such an absurd and idiotic plot would cause the makers of Sharknado to blush. Now imagine being trapped and forced to live in that movie over a protracted period spanning more than four decades. That has been the experience and reality for the families of the victims in the OCCK case.
In the late 1970s, parents and children of southeast Michigan were terrorized by a very real threat that was permanently etched into our collective consciousness. Like many who grew up in the area at that time, I have a vivid recollection of sitting in a classroom being warned by police about talking to strangers. I remember the red “helping hand” placards that were taped to the inside windows of homes. We were told to run and ring the doorbell of any home displaying this placard if we felt threatened. The OCCK case stays with us because it was never solved. For more than four decades it remained a mystery. Every few years it resurfaces with a new, tantalizing piece of evidence piquing our interest. Each new piece of evidence, however, never amounts to anything. It only serves to reopen old wounds of the victims’ families. It only serves to distract us from realizing that someone has been steering the boat in the wrong direction.
This is book is a case study in depraved corruption that is possible in the absence of accountability. It only one of the countless cases of unreported crimes committed by public officials that go unnoticed in a state like Michigan. They were not “a few bad apples” who can be dismissed as an anomaly. We cannot afford to sit back and count our blessings that the public officials who enabled child rape and murder are no longer in power and/or dead. These cases are similar to the one described in this book and are happening right now. We will never know about these cases because there is no dedicated authority to investigate them.
Some states have established safeguards to fight and prevent public corruption. They have investigative authorities with tip lines for people who have knowledge of crimes committed by public officials. They have accountability when public officials abdicate the oath they took to protect their citizens. The OCCK case and the multitude of other unreported cases did not happen in one of those states. In a recent study of state laws on ethics and accountability for public officials, Michigan ranked dead last. After reading this book you will understand why.
The worst thing that can come of this book is for it to be read only as a compelling story of corruption and intrigue. The facts and events described in this book are, indeed, compelling, but it was not written to tell an interesting story. This is not a shocking work of true crime describing the horrific, unspeakable acts committed by wily, child‐raping murderers four decades ago. That story has been done to death and does not need to be retold.
It is essential that we reflect on why this case remained unsolved for 44 years. That we realize that countless other undetected crimes are being committed by public officials at this very moment. That we realize that we should not be learning about the crimes described in this book from some obsessive schmuck who had time on his hands. We should have learned of it decades ago from a dedicated investigative authority. The public officials who used their positions to protect child‐raping murderers should have spent the past 44 years in prison. They do not deserve to be celebrated and have buildings named in their honor. They should not be the beneficiaries of the largesse of a billionaire, pizza‐slinging philanthropist, and his misdirected dollars. The Tom Monaghan‐funded public official is still alive. Can Michigan guarantee that it will deliver justice in 44 years or less?
We have been fed a false narrative that the OCCK investigation is a culmination of missteps, screw ups and accidents. We are fed a list of convenient scapegoats including police, polygraphers and medical examiners who are suddenly known for their “shoddy work.” We accepted these lies and blinded ourselves to obvious evidence of the deliberate, command‐ level effort to keep this case unsolved.
Extending the Jaws metaphor, for 44 years every cop, journalist and armchair sleuth focused on hunting the shark. They are convinced that they are dealing with a shark demonstrating unprecedented cunning and guile. No one in the state of Michigan had the job of asking why the mayor was steering the boat in the wrong direction. For more than four decades, our focus has been misplaced about who the true villains are in the OCCK case. To be sure, the child‐ raping murderers responsible for sexually abusing and killing Mark Stebbins, Jill Robinson, Christine Mihelich and Tim King are monsters. There will always be monsters. We put our faith, trust and lives in the hands of public officials to protect us from them. What happens when those we trust leave the cage open and allow the monsters to run free?
This book is based on the records that were made available by the Michigan State Police (MSP), the Oakland County Prosecutor (OCP) and the Genesee County Prosecutor (GCP) pursuant to FOIA requests. The bulk of the FOIA requests were made by the family of Tim King, the last OCCK victim. This book is also based on news articles and publicly available information. The often heavily redacted MSP and OCP records do not even represent the tip of the iceberg. Untangling the deliberately muddled records took time and effort. Reviewing the records in context reveal enormous gaps in information that was deliberately withheld. The crimes described in this book will come as no surprise to those who knowingly withheld information. The fact that the story is being told despite their inept efforts might come as a surprise to them. Concealing evidence…Manufacturing evidence…Obstruction of justice. The statute of limitations does not apply when it involves crimes against children.
It was not my job to research and write this book. Unfortunately, it is not the job of anyone in the Great Lakes State to do this type of work. Every public official in Michigan should be embarrassed by this from the Governor down to the clerk working in the OCP’s office. But embarrassment is not enough. Embarrassment will not bring the dead children back. It will not undo the trauma suffered by their families. It will not fix the ruined lives of the countless sexually abused children—children who public officials knew were being molested and deliberately chose to do nothing. The first instinct of many public officials upon reading this book will be to declare, “I had no part in any of this!” Congratulations, you are part of the problem and should resign immediately. This book is a call to action, not an invitation to play CYA. How you choose to respond will be your legacy.