What’s New In The Michigan Murders
John Norman Collins was convicted of premeditated murder in the first degree of Karen Sue Beineman on August 19, 1970, a week before I began attending Eastern Michigan University.
When I began writing The Wrong Guy seven years ago, it was because the late 60s and early 70s had played such a profound role in my life. I attended Eastern Michigan University on the heels of the Michigan Murders, the brutal slayings of seven college coeds. John Norman Collins had been arrested, but the atmosphere was still one of uncertainty. As a young college freshman shot straight out of a protected parochial high school cannon into the “real” world, I was naïve, but smart enough to be just plain scared. What if the cops had the wrong guy behind bars?
Our house mother conducted meetings about the importance of using the buddy system whenever traveling on or off campus, and we were advised to carry mace on our key rings, wear whistles around our necks, and lace our keys through our fingers should we find ourselves in a life-threatening situation. Not the typical college experience.
The fear was palpable. What I didn’t realize then, and what I didn’t realize until after I’d written The Wrong Guy—fiction loosely based on these serial murders—was how deeply tied our community still remained to those murders, and how my writing the book would affect those who had lived through those times.
Since the book’s release, many people have spoken to me about their particular connections to the Michigan Murders. I’ve spoken to women who’d sat in front of Collins in college classrooms, played cards with him at their family’s kitchen table, heard stories about Collins warning women not to go out alone after dark, and offering to walk them home. I’ve spoken to someone whose family member discovered one of the girl’s bodies, and to another who attended the trial, and to the surviving sister of one of the victims.
About a year ago, I met someone else who was gripped by the murders, Gregory Fournier, who is in the midst of writing a true crime account of the Michigan Murders, called The Rainy Day Murders. Interestingly enough, we both attended EMU, both became teachers, both ended up turning our desire to become authors into reality.
Greg has become a friend and a resource. He has done years of extensive and exhaustive research into the crimes, the victims, and the perpetrator. Most recently he posted The Prosecutor’s Conundrum in the John Norman Collins Cases, a blog which explains why the prosecutor chose to try Collins for only the murder of the last victim, Karen Sue Beineman. I find all of Greg’s research fascinating, and so often he answers so many of my questions.
I’m sure you’ll find his blog informative, and if you’re a follower of true crime as I am, you’ll be interested in learning more about the Michigan Murders.
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