Sheriff Doug Harvey at Dawn Basom crime scene

As a 12 year old in 1967 I was living at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO with my family. News came from our relatives and friends about the "Coed" Killer in Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area. Female college students from Eastern Michigan University were disappearing. Soon it was to include University of Michigan and West Junior High students as well.

We were back living in Ypsilanti in 1968 because my Dad was heading off for his first tour of Vietnam. The murders were still not solved and there was a mass panic across Washtenaw County and the entire country knew about this little town of Ypsilanti. The murders really put us on the map. Our parents were terrified to let us play outside even in our own yards.

Students were on the alert and coeds were being escorted to and from classes every day for security. The most frightening part was the fact that they thought the "killer" himself might be a local student. Trusting anyone became a huge problem.

The murders began with Eastern Michigan student Mary Fleszlar from Willis, MI on July 10, 1967. Her body was later found with multiple stab wounds, and grotesquely maimed on August 7. Mary was found just north of Ypsilanti near a farm where two teenage boys found her body and called police.

Dawn Basom was last seen walking these tracks

The youngest victim Dawn Basom, 13 was a year older than me. She went to my junior high but I didn't know her.

Old newspaper photo of Roy's Squeeze Inn, in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins was spotted here in 1969 at the time of the coed murders

Dawn was found near Gale and Vreeland Roads on April 16, 1969. She was last seen the day before leaving a house close to Eastern Michigan University. She was strangled with a black electrical cord, and official believed she was killed in the barn where her clothes were found, and she was moved to where she was found.

By this time in 1969, my Dad had returned unharmed from Vietnam and we moved to Ft. McClellan AL. Far away from the threat of the "Coed Killer" The murders just kept happening.

The many different area law enforcement offices were at their wit's end trying to capture this guy. Thousands of tips poured in and just as many were crank calls and mentally unstable people.

Then famous psychic crime solver Peter Hurkos was called in to assist in the investigation. His services failed to help solve the case and the police officers were furious at his show boating for the media.

The last victim was Karen Sue Bieneman 18, of Grand Rapids, MI. This was her first year at EMU taking summer classes.

July 23, 1969, Karen Sue was seen accepting a ride on a motorcycle from a man she did not know. She sent a letter to her parents assuring them that she would be careful.

She was found off Riverside Drive near Huron River Drive strangled, beaten, and in the nude. She was killed elsewhere and then moved like the majority of the victims. This was the last body found before Collins' was caught, and evidence found on her led to his conviction.

John Norman Collins was born on June 17, 1947, in Center Line, Michigan. His father abandoned him, and left his mother as a single parent. She then remarried an abusive alcoholic, for whom John took his last name. She then divorced him when John was four years old.

He was described as a polite, yet timid young man as a child. Me made good grades, and played sports. He attended St. Clements High School, where he was an honors student, tri-captain of the football team, president of the C-Club, and star pitcher on the baseball team.

He dated regularly, many of the people who knew him said he was "quiet", "polite", "respectful" and "nice". However, his girlfriends claimed that he was angry most of the time. He was sexually aggressive, which was a possibly his killing motive.


My friend Anne whose Dad was the Mayor of Ypsilanti at the time told me she once went on a "date" with him and he terrified her. She refused his advances and he choked her in his car. She managed to wriggle free and ran to a phone to call her parents.

It was mentioned that the Coed killer may have been the "real" Boston Strangler as a lot of people believe Albert Desalvo wasn't the real strangler. The Boston strangler used very complicated nautical knots when strangling his victims. Anne's father told me that those same knots were used on JNC victims.

It seemed his pattern to pick brunettes with pierced ears . A similar pattern to Ted Bundy. The killer wasn't Ted he was busy back in Seattle and then Utah. It was also rumored that an older friend of JNC was the "real" killer. This friend was with him in California where another girl was murder in a similar fashion.

If it was the "friend" then he left town and thus stopped the killing spree when JNC was arrested. Oddly enough, right after we moved to MO JNC moved into the house next door to where we had just lived. We lived at 617 Emmett St. and JNC moved into 619. It was here that police found motorcycles and recently painted parts that may have been disguised.

John Norman Collins on August 19, 1970, was found guilty and sent to prison for life with hard labor. He is currently encarcerated at Marquette Prison and has been in prison nearly his entire life. Collins will be 62 years old this year and has spent 39 years behind bars.

There have always been lots of speculation on whether or not JNC killed all of the victims. He was convicted based on hair and fiber evidence found on the body of Karen Sue Beineman and in the basement of his Uncle's the state policeman's home.

What really mattered to me was this... The murders stopped after JNC was arrested.

Trutv/Crimelibrary has the most information though the author sides with Collins. Which of course is her opinion which she is entitled. Those of us that lived there at that time believe that John Norman Collins was involved in the killing of these young women. He may not have acted alone and there may have been more killers taking the opportunity to "copy cat". But he definitely deserves to be in prison for life.
The Coed Murders

floridanica moses
My mother actually met John at a party. She tells of a man sitting in a corner, alone, observing, but polite when she met him. Handsome and kind. I thank God at the time she was there with a boyfriend. Who knows if she could of been his next victim. S**T sorry Mom, but that's F up!!!!

Daniel W
I kinda knew Dawn Basom..Her sister Karen use to hang with us as a small gang of kids about 1953 or so..I saw Karen at K-Marts and said hi to her right after Dawn was killed and she woulden't speak..Guess I don't blame her..Dawn was a sweet little girl when I knew her so full of life..They should have put Collins to death..

Collins, now known as John Chapman, proclaims his innocence to this day. Funny thing, blood and semen evidence were collected from most of the victims and never once has Collins filed an appeal demanding a DNA test.

Gator Mcluski
Evidence in the basement was extremely flimsy. They did find blood, however of course there was no DNA profiling back then and they were only able to type it. California had a stronger case then Michigan did. Everything in Michigan was circumstantial. UNTIL, just in the past couple years, DNA is being recently checked on victims and Collin's DNA WAS found on undergarments collected at numerous scenes.

Dawn was my cousin. My mother hung with her when they were little and remembers this whole experience.

In 1969....my family had a coney island in Annarbor....across from the Michigan theater.....we all remember it well....I read the book and took the same tour....but at that time the old farm house was still standing....my brother and I went there late at night, and we walked the property....when U drive up the short driveway.....when U reach leavel....that's were the lilac plums were placed togather.....one extra flower to indicate there is an other death comming soon !

Thank you for doing this.I read a book called Michigan Murders, I think, in 1977 and I was shocked this happened.This really gives visuals to the descriptions the book gave and its interesting & sad to see where they were found, where they were last seen, where all the locations were.To this day, some 33 years after reading the book, it still haunts me.

dan c
dear retrokimmer & brother, I dearly love that you did this memorial to the poor victims of that sadistic monster, My father & I were going to do this very thing, but Then I got very badly injured,and couldn't finnish our memorial, (there;s next year) fine job thank you for remembering the girls !!!!!

I grew up on Leforge Rd. and used to walk those train tracks on Huron all the way down to Depot Town to buy comics. The two dilapidated houses, visible from the tracks, were owned by a strange man who used to try to get us to come in his house. We would find notes along the tracks telling us to come over and listen to polka music while playing hide and seek with him and his sister Mary. As it turned out his sister passed away years ago.

My father in law was first detective in the state police. I indeed questioned that hair evidence. I asked " is he guilty"....'absolutely"


KIMI said...

WOW I remember my folks not letting us off the street at night ...scary,scarey times in Ypsi! And when it got dark couldnt leave the yard!

Mike T said...

Didn't that guy try to escape by helicopter from prison awhile back?

Jodi said...

Yikes - i remember that Dawn Basum (sp) was murdered right around the corner on Roosevelt and Cornell. It was a cop's house and they found her in the basement! Paul and I were just kids and Mom & Dad were out of town at the time! Scary is right!!!

Kimi said...

It's tragic but it seemed like everyone knew someone that was that was killed by John N Collins. In my neighborhood (east side Hickory Hill by Gault Village) A young women Cogette( I know I spelled her name wrong, please no disrespect intended) was one of his victims! That's why parents all OVER Ypsi were concerned for their daughter's welfare!!

Retro Kimmer said...

Dawn was found out on Leforge. Karen Sue Beineman was the college student (last victim) on Roosevelt/Cornell. Karen Sue was the case that he was finally convicted on. Slim case with just hair fragments.

Rick P said...

"John Norman Collins is still wanted in California for a murder there"

JRiddle said...

I did a study on the Michigan Murders in high school, most of JNC victims were murdered at a mostly large cabin located directly across from a nursery on Geddes Rd in heavy wooded area,the victims were thought to be murdered there and Then dumped along Vreeland and Gale roads.
This cabin had two living rooms with a fireplace separating the two. above the fireplace's was a small crawl space that I guess you would say was an attic. It also had a garage, outdoor well and several sheds around the property

Retro Kimmer said...

That is the first I heard that theory. I know that one person was left at Vreeland and Gale but there we numerous dumping sites. I went to them all in the 80's. Earhart Rd, Huron River Dr Leforge Rd. I think the barn you are referring to might be the barn on Leforge that was mysteriously burned down after his conviction. Tell me more about your paper?

Tripper said...

I remember all of this quite well. I saw something on TV a few years ago that said this case was the beginning of the science of "profiling" by police to figure out the motives of serial killers. This was the first time profilers connected victims by things like hair color and the pierced ears.

Sheryl said...

My Dad would make sure me and my sisters didn't leave his apartment if he had to work. He would pick us up every other weekend being a divorced father, for our visitation. It seems like there were also bodies found in Loch Erin or am I thinking of another crime spree?

Sheryl said...

My Dad would make sure me and my sisters didn't leave his apartment if he had to work. He would pick us up every other weekend being a divorced father, for our visitation. It seems like there were also bodies found in Loch Erin or am I thinking of another crime spree?

Paul McGlynn said...

Is it true that Collins's old house at 619 Emmet is now a fraternity house?
Paul McG

Retro Kimmer said...

Yes it is ironically a frat house and they have added on more rooms to the west side of it and a parking lot in the back.

Paul McGlynn said...

Thanks. Do you know what fraternity it is at 619 Emmet?

Retro Kimmer said...

No there are greek letters on the front and my photos missed that but it might be in the video if you can decipher the greek letters

Paul McGlynn said...

Thanks, RetroKimmer.
Paul McG

Anonymous said...

scary times in michigan for sure,we also had the south lyon killer too, i hope all involved rest in peace/very sad...

Retro Kimmer said...

I don't remember the Sout Lyon Killer
Will go look that up. I did live in Whitmore Lake in 1973 what were the dates? Feel free to send me an email.

Anonymous said...

RetroKimmer: Can't recall a South Lyon killer. Please let us know when you've learned something about it.
Paul M

Paul McGlynn said...

Hi RetroKimmer: I too cannot remember any South Lyon killer. Let me know what you learn. Btw, good piece on your tour of the Harry Bennett Castle. Good photos, too.
Paul McGlynn

Retro Kimmer said...

We cannot find a "south lyon killer" found lots of people singularly that were killed but not a serial killer.
Can you give me more info?

mannMon said...

I lived in Ypsilanti from 1963 to 1970. My brother and sister went to West Jr High. My brother remembers Dawn Bason. My sister who went to Ypsi High school believed she had seen Colins around. I think he had a motor cycle or something. Not sure that's correct. I remember what an electric time that was.

Anonymous said...

I remember my Aunt telling me the story of this Serial Killer, she also lived in Ypsi for years, she was on her way to work one morning when this young guy pulled up beside her on his motorcycle and offered her a ride, Luckily she didnt accept it, she never trusted anyone she didnt know, I believe I was around 10or 12 yrs of age.

rick said...

i remember those murders ,i was 7-9 years old, and lived on west cross st,,anyways i had a friend named david that lived about 1/4 mile from the abandoned farmhouse/silow on leforge rd. right where there was a lot of old cars, like a junkyard. anyways, me & my friend went out goofing around the area,but before leaving his mother said NOT to go up the road to the farmhouse and we wound up at the farmhouse anyway, and his mom drove up and started screaming at us, and then told us why.the house still had police stuff around, tape,etc.and it was not long,maybe a few days after finding the gal,i forget her name, maybe dawn? but the scare, of it all still is with me today. also, i think john collins lived right near fazzies pizza place, and would be seen there at times.

Anonymous said...

@ Jriddle

that information is not correct.
there was never a cabin.
and only one girl was murdered on leforge.

Retro Kimmer said...

@anon: yes there was a Harry Bennett Cabin off Geddes road in fact I visited it and a friend of my resided in it.

As far as girls on Leforge Rd 2 girls remains were found on the west side of Leforge about 145 ft north of Geddes and I girl killed on the East side of Leforge Dawn Basom.
If you wish to elaborate email me at retrokimmer@gmail.com I am interested in your data.

Paul McGlynn said...

Hi Kimi, This has to do with your piece on the Harry Bennett Castle on Stark Strasse Road. Do you have any way of knowing when that road that leads to the castle from Geddes was first developed, that is, when houses were built there? Btw, this may tie in with John Norman Collins, who I think probably rode his motorcycle there.Maybe one of your readers knows.

Great piece on the castle, btw!

Paul McGlynn

Retro Kimmer said...

Thanks Paul! Try this link is it the house? http://www.trulia.com/property/photos/1086928042-5389-Stark-Strasse-St-Ann-Arbor-MI-48105#item-0
tell me more about it via email
retrokimmer@gmail.com I know nothing about this house and am dying to know a new piece of the puzzle!

Anonymous said...

I actually interviewed JNC in 1994 when I was in college studying Criminal Justice. It was interesting, to say the least!

Retro Kimmer said...

@Anon love to hear more about your interview...

DebS said...

Collins was suspected of killing three women in California although one of the murders, that of Virgina Lynn Smith, was solved at a later date. The other two were of Roxie Phillips, 17, who disappeared from Salinas on July 1, 1969 and her nude body was found in a gully near Carmel on July 15th. She had been strangled with the scarlet belt of her pantdress.

The other woman was a Jane Doe about 18 years old whose nude body was found on Old Stage Road near Salinas on July th 1969. She had been shot through the head and all of her clothes were missing. I have searched but I have been unable to find if this Jane Doe was ever identified.

I could never understand why California declined to extradite Collins to answer charges in the Phillips murder.

Retro Kimmer said...

My friend's Dad was Mayor of Ypsilanti during this time... He said that California was indeed going to extraditeCollins should he have not been convicted in Michigan. He was found guilty and has been incarcerated over 40 years at this date and not likely to be paroled. Thank you Deb S for the information...RK

Anonymous said...

To the person who interviewed John in 1994-I'm sure it was interesting! Would you be willing to tell what he is like? I have heard differing things, mostly that he is very nice and charming.

Amanda said...

I would like to know the name of the movie based off of the book. If anyone knows please contact me at amandanicetomeetya@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Hi, RetroKimmer:

When I had read the wikipedia article on the murders, it referred to his house as 619 "Emmett" street. However, the only street in Ypsi a block south of Cross street is "Emmet" street. I thought it was a typo, but you also referred to it as Emmett. Did the street name change over the years? (and why? haha)

Great posting/personal experience though!

Mary on Maple

Retro Kimmer said...

Mary...the old address used to be 619 Emmett and that was changed to 619 College Place..I lived in 617 Emmett which is the same....thanks for stopping by! xK

Anonymous said...

I lived at 318 Washtenaw. Was in the 7th grade at west junior high Dawn was in the 8th. I did know her and her brother Louis. I was 12 also deliveried the paper to JNC on emmit. I have two older sisters and remember mom being scared to death. I heard he escaped in 2008, is that true? Alan

Retro Kimmer said...

Alan you were in my class at West. No JNC never escaped..he is at Marquette Max Security and will remain so for the rest of his life..

Anonymous said...

Gary Addison Taylor was the killer who buried victims at his home in Onsted, Michigan/Loch Erin.

mannMon said...

I lived in Ypsilanti from the age of 5 to 11. My brother went to school with one of the victims at West Junior High. Dawn I believe was her name. My sister believed she had seen John Norman Collins around Ypsilanti High School (where she attended)

Unknown said...

I was going to U of M, 1966-1970; school full time and teaching swimming and life guarding for AnnArbor Rec.I traveled from pool to pool via a motorcycle, which included a lot of busy roads.I therefore bought a rearview mirror.One afternoon as leaving Tappan Jr Hi I was stopped on Washtenaw and extensively questioned by the AA police.They let me go only to be stopped 3 miles latter and then again in 2 miles.I really talked up the third officer and he revealed they had a tip that the co-Ed killer had a motorcycle fitting the description of mine,including the mirror ! I borrowed a friend's car for the next two weeks.



Anonymous said...

Would be really interesting if you would do an updated "field trip" to the sites where the bodies were found and the victims were killed. So much has changed over the past 45 yrs. that it is difficult to pin point. I know someone quite well who dated Collins and based on all that I have read over the years and her account of things - I am completely convinced of his guilt and believe that he probably committed other murders that they have not yet linked him to. I can't understand why there has not been more DNA testing. Surely there is some evidence out there that still holds DNA from some of the victims.

Retro Kimmer said...

@anon...there are 2 videos inside this story that show most of the available landmarks...filmed in 2009

Retro Kimmer said...

My blog is NOT a billboard for you to sell your book GREG...quit trying to poach my readers! Earn it yourself..geez take a hint will ya? You are not the authority on this case..nor will you ever be..

Anonymous said...

I met someone the other day who told me about the book "The Michigan Murders" when I told her I attended EMU from 1967-69. She asked if I remembered John Collins and the murders. It reminded me of the day he asked me if I wanted a ride on his motorcycle. I declined his offer and consider myself very lucky. He seemed like a nice guy at the time, but I was dating someone else. I remember hearing about Karen Sue Beineman a few days later and thinking I could have been his next victim. Until I heard about the book, I hadn't thought about it in years.

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