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 stories of the murders of Shelley Speet Mills and 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:

April 5, 2014 — Joel Battaglia: A new film underway

We are working at the best of our ability to try to tell the story of the June 11, 1990, murder of Christopher Joel Battaglia in Grand Rapids. Videographer Phil Blauw and I are well along on the interviews, but there are a few crucial ones to go. And there is much to be done, converting old 8 mm film to video, securing permissions to use television news clips, a hundred and more things to fall into place, including a place to show the film June 11th, the 24th anniversary of his murder.

We first chronicled this case in our We Remember in 2009 and over the years we have waited for the right time. we think it’s now. The case recently came back from the Kent Metro Cold Case Team to the Grand Rapids Police Department.

We need help, we needs leads, we need your prayerful support. One of the things that has happened so far has never happened before. Someone close to the story asked us where the money came from to do the project. I explained that we never charge families; these were mostly back-pocket productions, done on our time and with our equipment. What has happened since is beyond any expectation: we’ve been receiving donations from those who were/are close to Joel and his family. These gifts are unexpected, unsought, but deeply appreciated; this will help us with hard costs on the project. We are humbled and grateful.

Onward.

Oh, and if you have leads, here is my e-mail, the simpler version: David Schock.

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March 31, 2014 — Ryan Wyngarden guilty of double murder

It took the jury four hours last Firday to convict Ryan Wyngarden of the murder of his sister and her husband, Gail and Rick Brink. John Tunison of the Grand Rapids Press provides this account.

I had promised in an earlier posting to related something about the case and it is this: in April of 2004 I had considered the Brink case as the second film, following up on the movie about Janet Chandler’s murder.  I believed that telling the stories of the murdered could help to refocus interest in their cases and could get people talking about them once again. I still believe it’s so. But which cases? My sine qua non has always been cases where the families want the stories told.

This case was brought to my attention by someone in the Communication Department at Hope College; I was teaching there at the time. This was the case that stayed in her mind. So, I reached out to Gail’s parents, Wendall “Connie” and Dorothea Wyngarden. I remember sitting in their living room, proposing a film project. They thought it would be a good idea. Then I contacted and visited Ida Brink, Rick’s mother. She, too, sat down with me and son Bud. She was willing.

Then it all came apart.

I was surprised to receive a phone call from one of Gail’s sisters, Cheryl Murphree (she who now upholds her brother’s conviction of sororicide), telling me in no uncertain terms that the film wasn’t going to happen, that her sister would never have wanted to be the subject of such a film, and she didn’t like what I said about Janet Chandler. Her husband at the time joined in. They were going to see to it that I was fired from Hope College. Then I got a call from brother Ryan who threatened me with a beating. I told them both that it was a matter for their parents’ consideration, knowing it was likely that the younger generation would sway the elder.

That day Hope College Provost Jim Boelkins called me aside at lunch and wanted to know what was going on; I had not been able to talk with him before, and he’d been blindsided by phone calls from Cheryl and wanted to understand what this was all about. We were in the school restaurant, The Kletz. I started to explain and he said we should be conducting the conversation in his office, instead. So, later, we met there. I explained the genesis of the project and this sudden disruption and assured him that if the Wyngardens, senior, and Mrs. Brink didn’t want the story told I wasn’t going to tell it; it was up to them.

Apologetically, Connie called in a few days and said they were going to back out. Mrs. Brink, too, felt it would be too much. And so it was dropped. I reasoned that the grief that arises from a murder can take many forms, not all of them expected.

And I thought that would be the last I heard from any of them.

Wrong.

While I had received e-mails from people who were interested in the crime, the most unusual came from Ryan Wyngarden in December 14th of 2011, right after Into the Dark, the film about the Newaygo area murder of Shannon Marie Siders came out. He wanted to know if I’d ever reconsider making the film about his sister’s murder. I reminded him that he’d physically threatened me, and he said that he’d had time to cool and now thought it was a good idea; besides, he wrote, it was Cheryl was was mostly against it. I was not certain if this was a true report. He said he’d talk with her. I said I wasn’t interested.

And so began a series of e-mails and telephone conversations that I considered bizarre. Yes, he thought a film would be a good idea…and what did I know about the crime? I knew that he had been a small-time drug dealer at one point in his life and that he was not temperate, certainly not calmly reasoning; he’d go on and on…much as he did in court. And after each encounter I would report same to Ottawa County Sheriff’ Detective Dave Blakely. It is he and Det. Venus Repper who have brought the investigation into this case to its conclusion. Interestingly, this is the case the Det. Blakely said he prayed he could solve before he retired.

Does this have anything to do with the investigation? Probably not substantively. One of Ryan Wyngarden’s attorneys–Kevin Uildriks–contacted me because he saw my name in the investigation file. After I related the above stories he didn’t think I’d have much to offer the defense. I agreed probably not.

Nor did it necessarily serve for the prosecution. But it gives some background. This is the kind of stuff that sometimes goes on behind the scenes here.

And I am left with the realization that I was very fortunate not to have made a film about that murder. I wondered what really was going on at the time that it blew up. It’s been made clear. …Well, more clear.

We still won’t make a film unless the family is in favor of the idea; that’s been proven a good policy. In this case I could never have envisioned how things would turn out; this goes beyond what I’d consider likely or even possible solutions. I call it a paucity of imagination.

I sorrow for the innocent members of the victims’ families; this is an especially difficult situation. Nevertheless, I am grateful that justice has been served.

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March 26, 2014 — Ryan Wyngarden takes the stand

John Tunison reported this latest account int he Grand Rapids Press. This trial is nearly done. In taking the stand Ryan Wyngarden has perhaps injured his cause. There is video posted that illustrates this with Judge Jon Hulsing cautioning Wyngarden to stop arguing and answer questions, warning him that things may not go well for him if he doesn’t desist in his rants.

After this is done I’ll tell you the little more that I learned from the Wyngardens, Ryan especially, through the last several years.

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March 20, 2014 — The Wyngarden trial and justice for Helen Tracy

Family members of victims have told me that the wait for justice seems forever long. The waiting and state of unknowing is almost more than a human can bear; their lives are on hold and will be until there are answers. For most of the the family members of Rick and Gail Brink the days of unknowing may be drawing to a close with the trial of Gail’s brother Ryan Wyngarden. There should be no rush to judgement here; the jury will weigh the evidence and decide. We pray for a true and just verdict…but that’s a little ways away yet. Here’s the most recent account from the Grand Rapids Press by John Tunison, an aces-high crime reporter.

And the murderer of 88-year-old Helen Tracy is now sentenced to spend between 20 and 60 years behind bars. Barton Dieters, another crime and court expert at the Grand Rapids Press, has this account.

 

 

 

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March 14, 2014 — Pam Wyngarden testifies

Much of the case against Ryan Wyngarden hangs on the testimony of his wife, Pam, who claims that her husband–before they were married–told her he had killed his sister and brother-in-law, Gail and Rick Brink. Beyond that, Pam Wyndgarden affirms, Ryan took her to show the bodies before the crime was discovered.

Here’s the Grand Rapids Press account of yesterday’s revelations by reporter John Agar.

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