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:

January 13, 2017 — Deb Polinsky case update

Two young detectives–Jake Sparks and Jeremy Baum–have taken up the work of the Cold Case Team in the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. I had the pleasure to meet both of them last month when I went to speak with retiring Sheriff Gary Rosema about his career and memorable cases, especially those still open. Sheriff Rosema indicated that the department was getting closer to solutions of the 1970 Deborah Polinsky murder.

I called Detective Baum a little later and asked for an update on that case in particular and he responded with this e-mail:

Jake and I have interviewed approximately 170 people in 14 months. We have cleared 20+ people through DNA comparisons. There are several theories in this case which include; drug deal gone bad, family member, serial killer, motorcycle gang, jealous love, etc.… We definitely have not narrowed it down yet. We continue to try to clear people and get the clear motive which we believe will greatly reduce the time to solve the case. We do have DNA evidence in this case but are not releasing what it is at this time.

He said that the they were preparing an update to let people in the community know what was happening. We can look for that in the next few weeks.

Of course, if anybody has information about the case here are names, numbers, addresses: Detective Jake Sparks/jsparks@miottawa.org/616.994.4710; or Detective Jeremy Baum/jbaum@miottawa.org/616.738.4018.

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January 11, 2017 — Prosecutor Franz: Wilson case not closed; “Heritage Hill Bride” at Spring Lake Library this evening.

Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Franz called this morning with what was to me surprising news: “The Wilson Murder case is not officially closed. […] There was a point after the death of Mr. Oudemolen that we met with the [victim’s] family and discussed this case.”

That is at odds with the information from retired Sheriff Gary Rosema chronicled in the interview posted Jan. 1 at this website. It would seem the sheriff was in error about that detail. And does it really matter whether the case is closed out or, as the prosecutor says, is listed as inactive?

Maybe, when it comes to getting copies of records. I’d like to see them. Open cases can be difficult to review. For instance, I believe the Janet Chandler homicide is still listed as open but inactive. To receive or review anything I have had to file Freedom of Information Act requests with the Michigan Attorney General. That office has had my most recent request since July. In defense of the AG’s office: I asked for a whole lot and gave them extra time to respond.

I am pretty sure the prosecutor is not just going to chat about this case. In response to a question about David Oudemolen, Prosecutor Franz offered this: “I am not going to offer public comment on Mr. Oudemolen’s involvement.” Nor did he have anything to share about possible witnesses including Delwyn Berkompas.

So, we know more today. …Maybe more of what we don’t know.

——-

Tonight I’m showing Heritage Hill Bride at the Spring Lake District Library beginning at 6:30 p.m. Come if you like; there is no admission charge.

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January 10, 2017 — Thoughts and another call

The more I think about what I’ve learned the more I think that Delwyn Jay Berkompas had information that the investigators wanted or needed. Even in his lies he put himself at the scene of the crime at about the time of the crime. Was he there? Did he witness the murder of Debra Wilson? And ultimately was he able to provide truthful testimony? To what effect? Were there others who knew? It would seem that there would have to be confirmation other than the testimony from Berkompas, an admitted perjurer.

Had David Oudemolen survived to be charged who would have testified against him and what would they have said? What did they tell investigators?

I may be wrong, but all the foregoing seems logical.

I believe it is the Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney who can fill in the details, since according to retired Sheriff Gary Rosema, he was the one who closed out the case.

It’s only been a few days, but I left another message for him today; I am sure his office is very busy, especially with having two well-experienced assistant prosecutors ascend to both a district and circuit court seat.

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January 5, 2017 — Digging out some case elements

One of the names that surfaced in the inquiry about the murder of Deb Wilson was that of Delwyn Jay Berkompas. Sheriff’s Detectives had interviewed him and he slung them a load. And they could prove it through others who would provide testimony not necessarily of the murder and the murder scene but contradicting other assertions Mr. Berkompas made.

So, he faced a prosecutor’s investigative subpoena and was charged with six counts of felony perjury…potentially a life offense for each in a murder case. Today I had time to go to the court clerk’s office and get the public records. (Thank you Case Records Technician Amy Rooks.) They tell much, but not all.

Among other things that he had told officers were:

“[T]hat he observed the following injuries to have been inflicted upon Deborah (sic) Lynn Wilson at the time of her murder; 1. One of her feet was severed; 2. One or more of her fingers were severed; 3. She had been disembowled and her intestines were exposed at the waist area[….]

“[T]hat Deborah (sic) Lynn Wilson and he engaged in a lengthy conversation, wherein she made numerous statement to him, after she had been mortally wounded[….]

“[T]hat the person the defendant has alleged to be the murderer, [REDACTED], suffered a significant cut on his forearm during the assault on Deborah (sic) Lynn Wilson[….]

“[T]hat he was in the company of Deborah (sic) Lynn Wilson and [REDACTED] when he first met [REDACTED], at [REDACTED]’s mother’s house back in 1980[….]

“[T]hat he drove past the murder scene at Deborah (sic) Lynn Wilson’s residence the morning following her murder ad observed Steve Crum (sic) and Jeff Kreun walk around[….]

“[T]hat a neighbor of Deborah (sic) Lynn Wilson, [REDACTED], arrived at the murder scene shortly after she died and spoke to the defendant before he left[….]

He put himself at the scene of the crime, tried to implicate someone else as the killer (for now I have redacted that person’s name and the name of two other persons), and made a bunch of other assertions that proved to be lies. So, facing six counts, each carrying the possibility of life imprisonment, Berkompas took a deal of some sort. That might–but doesn’t necessarily–mean that he actually had truthful testimony to offer. Or, he could just have been slinging stuff. For what reason? I don’t yet know. The agreement was subject “to appointment w/ vic. family to discuss plea offer. PA [prosecuting attorney] agrees to no incarceration and [defendant] agrees to five years probation.” That’s what transpired, along with mandatory substance abuse counseling and mental health treatment. Oh, and he had to pay $198 in costs and fines. The agreement was made Nov. 19, 2012.

As far as I know that is the only court record that deals with the murder of Debra Lynn Wilson.

And exactly how this ties to David Oudemolen is yet to be revealed–if it even does.Every complicated murder case I’ve studied has instances of false trails. And it’s not unheard of for someone to claim knowledge he doesn’t have. That can really make a case unnecessarily difficult. I have a call into Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Franz. I expect that he will fill in some of the details and exactly how the case was closed out, something called “Exceptional Clearance.”

According to Section 7 of The Michigan Incident Crime Reporting (MICR) Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook There are only five reasons to close out a homicide case with anything other than an arrest:

Exceptional Clearance Codes
10 = Death of offender
11 = Prosecution declined (by the prosecutor for other than lack of probable cause)
12 = In Custody of Other Jurisdiction (Formerly Extradition Denied)
13 = Victim refused to cooperate (in the prosecution)
14 = Juvenile/no custody (the handling of a juvenile without taking him/her into custody, but rather by oral or written notice given to the parents or legal guardian in a case involving a minor offense).

Code 10 applies to this case, but that’s only after all the elements of the crime have been satisfied:

The following four conditions must be met to exceptionally clear an offense:

The investigation must have clearly and definitely established the identity of at least one
offender.

Sufficient probable cause must have been developed to support the arrest, charging, and prosecution of the offender.

The exact location of the offender must be known so that an arrest could be made.

There must be a reason outside the control of law enforcement which prevents the arrest.

This case was closed out, not in a court of law but in the prosecutor’s office, so records of the final disposition are not readiy available. But they have to exist.

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January 1, 2017 — A sheriff’s career review and case updates: the Deb Wilson murder has been solved; two others may be soon

Newly retired Ottawa County Sheriff Gery Rosema has had a long and illustrious career. He’s been in law enforcement for 43 years, 42 of them with Ottawa County. During the last 24 years he has served as our sheriff. And he has led a department through some tremendous changes…in technology, facilities, budget, and department size. But some things have stayed the same: treating people with dignity and respect still is at the heart of all effective interaction.

So, imagine a sheriff who sends his staff through Disney training for customer service, and a sheriff who uses the illustrations of both The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game for ways to consider relationships with the communities his officers serve. I think you’ll find this an interesting discussion of his life’s work. This is pretty much the full conversation with the sheriff and his captain, Mark Bennett. And it’s long, almost 80 minutes. But there was a lot to talk about.

And there are updates on major cases within the community. There were a cluster of open homicides when he took over as sheriff in 1993…and there have been others since. Many of those cases have been solved in a very public way: the Gail and Rick Brink murders, the Jana Kelly murder. But there is one the that was quietly solved: the Dec. 24, 1987 murder of Debra Lynn Wilson. There were no newspaper headlines or breaking news alerts because the murderer–David Oudemolen–died before he could be charged. Here is the story (it begins at about 31:50).

There had been reports of the suspect dying before he could be charged that appear here and here in the Holland Sentinel, but never with a name.

And here, too, is the story of what’s going on with the July 23, 1977 Deborah Polinsky murder: Captain Mark Bennett says he has every confidence that Debbie’s case will be solved soon.

Finally–and this is where I came in–Sheriff Rosema says that he thinks his department now knows what happened to the unidentified man who in 2002 was beaten to death and dragged out into a little wood near a blueberry field, and set alight…what we’ve all come to know as the Jack in the Box case (it begins at about 50:45). I was teaching at Hope College when Sheriff Rosema reached out to me through his detective Steve Crumb to make a film about the case. I led a group of students in a documentary class I was teaching. (You can learn more about the film here.) We all got an education. It was the first time I had been granted complete access to a police file. Sheriff Rosema held nothing back. I explained to my students that not only were we being granted an unusual privilege but that it was incumbent on them to keep private things that should not be shared. They were as good as their words. At the time Gary said that if we could identify the victim–named “Jack” by members of the department–he would be able to solve the case. It looks that’s what has happened. The case now involves multiple jurisdictions, but he says the end is in sight: an arrest is coming.

There are still other cases that have so far resisted solution: the November 1989 Tamara Jo Radecki murder, and the murder of an unidentified woman in the Marne area long ago. (I need to do some digging on this. Sheriff Rosema said he thinks she may have been the victim of one of the murderers of prostitutes in the Grand Rapids and Rockford area. I don’t know enough about this to make intelligent comment.)

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