Home — Murder, “cold” cases, and mayhem

This website is intended to deal with murder, brutality, corruption and hatred—all falling under what we call acts of injustice.  We tell the stories of open and unsolved homicides–what are called “cold” cases.  We also memorialize those whose lives have been taken from them in hope that somebody will come forward to tell the truth. So far our efforts center on Michigan.

David B. Schock, Ph.D.

David B. Schock, Ph.D.

“Somebody knows somethin’.  Somebody ALWAYS knows somethin’.”

That’s the way Jim Fairbanks put it when we made our first film, Who Killed Janet Chandler?  Detective Fairbanks (retired) was the lead investigator on the law enforcement team in 1979.  What he had to say then still applies today.  For nearly every unsolved homicide there is somebody out there who could solve it if she or he would come forward and make a contact.

To call an unsolved homicide a “cold” case is chilling in its own right.  Yes, these unsolved cases grow “cold” because there are no new leads; they more or less drop off the social and cultural radar.  But they are NEVER “cold” to the family members and friends, they are never forgotten or out of mind.  And there is always the hope that justice, however delayed, will be served.

We invite you to visit the We Remember part of this site, a place where families and friends of those whose murders remain unsolved contact us and can help to post details of the victims’ lives and the resultant investigations.

We also invite your view of what we are calling a Primary Documentary Investigation as we tell the story of the murder of Mina Dekker.

Our hope in all the cases we chronicle is that somebody who knows something will say something.

 

From David — A Weblog of investigation:

June 18, 2018 — Jessica Phelps’ killer still eludes investigators

Today I received an email from Angie Spade, Jessica Phelps’ cousin and the keeper of her public memory. The 21st anniversary of her abduction and murder is coming up July 1, and this reminder is well warranted.

The We Remember page includes this:

On July 1, 1997, Jessica Phelps wandered out of her home in Flint, Genesee County, MI.  Her body was found in an Atlas Township culvert on  April 2, 1998.

Here are some accounts from last year’s 20th anniversary:

Cousin hopes Facebook can help solve 1997 killing of 4-year-old Jessica Phelps

A WNEM news story

And here is the Justice for Jessica Phelps Facebook page.

Somebody knows what happened to Jessica. Now, how do you reach that person?

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May 11, 2018 — Is Arthur Ream the one?

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April 3, 2018 — NamUs legislation the key to solving “missing” and “unidentified” cases?

One central database? Would that speed the search for and identification of missing children. That’s the case Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Sarah Krebs of the Michigan State Police is making in her attempt to have the Michigan legislature move a bill that would require state agencies to work through the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). This is from an mlive story by Brad Devereaux:

But the public only hears about a fraction of them. 

Besides cases of an endangered person, which can trigger alerts to cell phones, missing person cases are made public only after an official missing report is filed and police submit case details to a public database, or otherwise publicize the case. 

That means while some missing people are featured on posters, displayed online and shared on social media, others are shelved in a folder at a local police department. 

If police departments were required to submit missing person cases to the U.S. Department of Justice’s public NamUs database, it could help them solve more of them, said Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Sarah Krebs of the MSP Missing Persons Coordination Unit. 

A bill making its way through the Michigan Legislature would do just that.

Legislation that passed the House 109-0 on March 1 would require police agencies to require reporting of certain missing cases to the federal database, including all missing children, immediately after they are reported missing.

It would also require details about unidentified bodies to be submitted to the database. 

“We need a more centralized database that the public can access,” Krebs said. “If NamUs was state mandated for all law enforcement, this database would be incredible.”

You can read the entire story here.

And you can visit the NamUs site here. If you have time, take a look at this little video.

Frankly, NamUs is what part of Delayed Justice wanted to be IF it grew up…only it’s better, has far greater reach, and is funded. So far it sounds like a better than good idea. Are there drawbacks? Does it mean just one more thank for law enforcement to tend to? Let’s hear from those who might be involved. Most officers of the law already do their best to reach out for leads. Most investigators I know already make use of NamUs. Is there a downside? If not, let’s go.

 

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March 27, 2018 — Captain Roger VanLiere has walked on

Captain Roger VanLiere, Holland Police Department, retired, has died as a result of a bad fall. Captain VanLiere was one of the essential operatives in the investigation that solved the 1979 murder of Janet Chandler. This is what I wrote of him at his retirement in 2010:

Captain Roger Van Liere of the Holland Police Department is retiring today.  There is likely to be no party or cake; that’s just not his way.  I hope to drive down a dozen donuts.  It’s likely he won’t eat ’em, but he might pass them about.  

Roger is very special to me.  He was one of the team members who worked so diligently to crack the Janet Chandler murder.  With Rob Borowski (also of the HPD), and David Van Lopick, Michael Jaffrey, and Geoffrey Flohr of the Michigan State Police, Roger stayed the course for almost two years.  There were times, he’s said, when he and he team members would come home from interviews and their families would have to scrape the crud from their souls, so toxic was this investigation.  These investigations are never conducted in a vacuum; there is always spill over, always a price to be paid.  The support staff for these investigators also face the same kind of nastiness, even at second hand.  I think of their administrative assistant, Cheryl Achterhof, and their supervisors  John Kruithof of the HPD and John Slenk of the MSP.  Both of the latter also have retired.

But for Roger today…it’s pretty much what I said to him the afternoon that he told me they were bringing Robert Michael Lynch back to Holland under arrest: “Well done good and faithful servant.”

As it turned out, there WAS a party that day for Roger. I was not there, but I did manage to get those donuts down to him for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here was the Holland Sentinel coverage at his retirement.

Yes, well done good and faithful servant. The world is much better for his having been in it.

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February 16, 2018 — Not good, but not nearly as bad as it might have been

By accident I managed to catch the episode of Betrayed last night on Investigation Discovery. The show chronicled the 1979 murder of Janet Chandler via a highly speculative first-person point of view. We were supposedly hearing Janet’s postmortem thoughts about what was going on and how long she had yet to live or her descriptions of how she died.

The show was not good, but not as bad as it might have been. It could have been as ugly at the case itself; the producers toned down a lot of what actually happened.

We were approached last year about taking part in this, as were all the primary investigating officers, the prosecutors (Assistant Attorney General and Ottawa County), the family. Janet’s family wanted nothing more to do with this and certainly didn’t want her death to wind up as entertainment. All the rest of us respected that and we declined. So, the producers went searching far and wide and scooped up mostly peripheral players. A “friend.” A “teacher” (certainly not from Hope College). Lt. John Slenk (retired), who had served as the commander for the Michigan State Police had the lion’s share of time and was most knowledgeable. And we heard from Bob DeVries, who had been the public information officer in 2003 when he and I first talked about the case. At the time he was preparing to leave the Holland Police Department to take over as chief in Kingman, Arizona. I had been meeting with him and some of my broadcast journalism students to talk about the complicated  relationship between police officers and reporters. When he said he was leaving after 30 years, I asked him if there was one that got away. Janet Chandler. “That’s the case that keeps us all awake at night.” I had the impression that he was passing it over (he was long gone by the time the cold-case team got to work in 2004). The result was the result: the film, the cold-case investigation, the arrests, pleas and prosecutions. Finally, the producers tossed in Rich Harrold, a former managing editor and reporter with the Holland Sentinel. Rich was certainly not around when Janet was abducted and murdered. He came to Holland in the early ’90s from Mt Pleasant. (He and I both had the honor of editing the Morning Sun there in different decades.) And he left shortly after the trial concluded. I viewed his participation in the Betrayed show with coolness.

There were many things factually correct about the show. After all, John Slenk had his recollection and probably some records. And there was the film we made, the Dateline piece produced by Jack Cloherty after the trial, all the news coverage, and the material on this website. But there were lots of mistakes, little ones, that cropped up when the storytellers were trying to put together a cogent narrative. They were jarring and discordant. For one, you can bet the police talked with Carl Paiva long before he left town (per the show).

So, now it’s entertainment. I’m sure the producers would assert that it’s a production with the purpose: the dangers young women face and the relentless pursuit of justice by law enforcement. Both of those things were true in this case. And in keeping with the premise of the show, Janet Chandler was absolutely betrayed by people she trusted. But never lose sight of the fact that the true purpose of the show is to keep eyes on the screen so that somebody makes money.
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