From David — A weblog (with full archive)

March 14, 2017 — Laurie Ann Swank was paroled last fall

I read with interest a story by John Agar of mlive chronicling the drug dealing and prison sentence of Michael Paiva, the son of Arthur Carlton “Carl” Paiva, the ringleader in the murderous crew who left Janet Chandler dead in a snowbank, Jan. 31, 1979. Paiva senior died several years ago in prison. He was there for life after a 2007 trial that saw five others also sentenced for the crime. Four–including Paiva–for life. The other two for lesser terms.


It was sad to see that story and it served as a reminder that there are many victims when a murder is committed. I wrote to John noting one mistake in his story. He reported that all six who went to prison were Wackenhut guards in town at the time to protect a “struck” plant. Wasn’t so, I reminded him. There was Janet’s roommate, purported best friend (at the time) and supervisor at the Blue Mill Inn–Laurie Ann Swank. He agreed that he knew that. It’s a small mistake. I make some along the way, too.

Then I went to check the Offender Traking and Information System, OTIS, and discovered that Laurie Ann had been paroled Sept. 20, 2016. And she was paroled to her home state of Pennsylvania.

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February 10, 2017 — The court’s rationale in denying the Jones brothers’ appeals

And here are the words that accompany the denial of appeals for Matthew Jones and Paul Jones for the 1989 murder of Shannon Marie Siders in Newaygo County. The brothers have the right to appeal those decisions to the Michigan Supreme Court. The high court is likely to deny certiorari (a hearing), at least that’s been its usual method of dealing with these cases.

We were in court in early December for the appeals hearing, which you can see here in its entirety.

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February 9, 2017 — Jones brothers appeal come to naught

We’ve learned that the appeals by Matt and Paul Jones of their guilty verdicts for the 1989 murder of Shanon Marie Siders have been denied.

More later.


February 4, 2017 — A new report of the Melissa Simmons case. Jeffrey Willis?

Interesting that a Battle Creek television station would dig into a Scottville murder, and link it to alleged killer Jeffrey Willis. But it is what it is: Murder Mystery by Cody Combs.



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February 1, 2017 — Updates in the Deborah Polinsky murder investigation

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department had released the full update in the investigation into the 1977 murder of Deborah Lynn Polinsky. We are running it here and we’ve update the We Remember file on the case.


Media Release

Deb Polinsky Cold Case Homicide Investigation

Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office #77-00010018


Date of Incident: Last seen 07/23/1977 at 9:00 p.m. Body Found 07/26/1977

Location: 15123 New Holland St. Holland, MI 49424- Port Sheldon Township

Victim: Deborah Lynn Polinsky, also known as “Deb”

White female D.O.B. 02/16/1957 (20 years old at time of death)

Summary: Ms. Polinsky was found in her two-story, rented farmhouse located on New Holland Street near 152nd Avenue. Her body was discovered by a co-worker after Deb failed to show up for work on Monday, 07/25/1977. Deb worked second shift at Depree Chemical Company. Ms. Polinsky was stabbed to death. There is no known motive for her death.

Ms. Polinsky was known to frequent the Holland and Saugatuck areas and had attended Holland Public Schools. She was often seen in her red, VW Beetle and in the company of her German shepherd, “Thor”.

Update: The Ottawa County Cold Case Team has been actively investigating the Polinsky homicide for the past eighteen months. The team has interviewed over 180 person since taking on the case. With that detectives have sent 40 DNA samples to the lab for comparison and over 600 latent prints have been analyzed.   Advances in technology have allowed investigators to gain valuable insight into this crime. As a result of some of those advances the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying a female that they believe was at the scene at the time of the incident.

Contact: Anonymous tips to 1-877-88 Silent (745368) or or contact: (616) 738-4022

Authority: Captain Mark Bennett

Deborah Lynn Polinsky at age 20







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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/; or Detective Jeremy Baum/

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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

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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