From David — A weblog (with full archive)

July 5, 2017 — Heritage Hill Bride to air on PBS July 19…VERY early

Yep, that’s pretty much it. Heritage Hill Bride: The Murder of Shelley Speet Mills will air at 3 a.m. July 19th. 3 a.m.!!!! Yikes! It’s all closed captioned thanks to the contributions of those who generously gave to a Kickstarter campaign. Thank you, thank you.

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June 9, 2017 — “Cold Case Files” = The Dog’s Breakfast

Wow, that was underwhelming and badly done. The piece, “Circle of Friends”, is at best a badly distorted rendition.

I’m still thinking my way through telling a part of that story.


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June 7, 2017 — A&E’s “Cold Case Files” tackles the Shannon Marie Siders murder story Thursday night

Ample Entertainment, a LA-based production company, has revived the old Bill Kurtis show, Cold Case Files. I have known for some time that they were going to tell the Shannon Siders murder story. And former Newaygo Police Chief Pat Hedlund and Shannon’s Father, Bob Siders, contacted me after Ample came to the area to do their interviews. And tomorrow night A&E will be show the finished product at 10 p.m. on A&E. Here’s the website.

I will be very interested to watch what they have done.

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June 4, 2017 — Closed captioning status and a new interview in the Tony Willis case

…Just a little slower than I anticipated, but not by much. WGVU has had the video and transcript files for a couple weeks now and it’s a matter of getting the work into and out of the schedule. My contact there says he does not anticipate problems. And he asked if there were a hurry. I assured him that there wasn’t; let it be in the order of things. He anticipated that it probably would be completed in this next week. These folks have been very pleasant to work with.

Then I need to fetch the captioned file, compress it for on-line posting, get it up on Vimeo, and make links for you all. Unlike politics and sausage, this is something you won’t mind seeing made, but it’s also not very exciting unless you understand what it represents.

We also are trying to get the film into the Michigan prison system. The idea is that somebody there most likely knows what happened in this case and the killer may indeed be inside. So far we’ve not had success with the Michigan Department of Corrections, but we will persevere. We’re hoping Representative Jim Lilly’s office might effect a meeting. We’ve asked. If you have other ideas, please let me know.

As well, yesterday I had the opportunity to interview Sandy Willis, Tony Willis’ big sister. Tony was killed August 6, 1994. On shot in the back and one to the back of the head, execution style. And I learned a whole lot more about the case. As their mother, Mary Hillman, had said, Sandy pretty much was “Big Sister” to the whole group of ten children, the one, really, who raised them. And it was Sandy who had to identify two of the bodies and tell their mother what had happened. And I am sure that somebody out there knows who killed Tony. I’m not thinking it’s necessarily (or even remotely likely) someone who reads these pages. If that ONE person would come forward, we’d be done with this right now. No more waiting, no more agony.

One person.

Again, my thanks to you all.


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May 18, 2017 — The transcript is ready to go…and a new case, or cases

The first step in ANY closed captioning is to have an accurate transcript of everything that’s heard in the film. I have had the great good fortune to work with Tanja Kelly during these last few years. She runs Kelly Reporting Services here in Grand Haven. Tanja is a retired court reporter. …Just as a for instance, she did pretty much the entire trial in the Janet Chandler murder case in 2007. That’s where and when I met her. And she is an excellent transcriptionist and has just finished Heritage Hill Bride. Aas usual, the file is exactly accurate. This work cannot be easy; she says that when she listens to the disturbing details of cases she just has to insulate herself. When we talked about it she acted out pulling a cowl around herself–down over her head, throat, and chest–for protection.

That’s something investigators, prosecutors, all the support personnel face: the brutality of crime. And they face it day in and day out. I am grateful that she continues to serve during her retirement from the courts.

As well, yesterday I sat down with Mary Hillman, the mother of three sons who died violent deaths (and a six-year0old daughter who died by fire after getting too close to a stove burner). Our main topic was the 1994 shooting death of her son Tony, still unsolved. Another son, Timothy, was shot by a friend in a case of mistaken identity in 1989, and a third son, Jeffrey, was drowned in Lake Michigan near the south breakwater at Muskegon in 1978. Mary described looking at his body. She said it was evident that he had been bound hand and foot. She said while there was a successful wrongful death suit in that case, the people who killed Jeffrey still walk free. I reminded her that there is no statute of limitations on murder. I am sure there is far more about these deaths than I yet know, and I have hopes that someone out there might be able to steer me to it. All three f her son’s death occurred during the month of August.

For now, here are some reminders.

Grand Rapids Press, August 7, 1994

Grand Rapids Press, August 18, 1978



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April 30, 2017 — Thanks to you we made the goal

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition. Thanks to the 23 donors, it’s ALL a go! We have exceeded our $2000 goal by $15. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen, amen, amen.

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April 30, 2017 – Almost there…93 percent raised to close caption the film

I believe and trust that the remaining funding, some $135, will find its way to complete our Kickstarter campaign to raise $2,000 to close caption Heritage Hill Bride: The Murder of Shelley Speet Mills. Only with closed captions will it be able to be shown on our local PBS station, WGVU-TV; that’s the law and it’s the right thing to do for those who have a hearing impairment. It’s my hope, too, that some other stations around the state will pick it up, but that’s up to them individually.

So, my thanks go out to those of you who contributed at this Kickstarter address. My thanks also go to those who even thought about it and sent up a prayer. It all counts.

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April 19, 2017 — Need to closed caption Heritage Hill Bride

WGVU-TV, Public Broadcasting for this west side of the state, has accepted Heritage Hill Bride: The Murder of Shelley Speet Mills for carriage. But in order to run on the station, the film must be closed captioned. That’s going to cost about $2K that I just don’t have now. So, with many misgivings I have started a Kickstarter fund-raising account. It is here. If you want to help make this happen I will be very grateful.

As well, we have made efforts to get this film into the Michigan Prison system and not had much luck. And, no, the prisons would not have to buy the films; I will provide them if they will show the piece. I can think of no better place to find people who may know about this 46-year-old homicide. If you have ideas please let me know. Prayers are always welcome.

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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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