Joke Gone Bad

Police officers certainly enjoy their practical jokes, but one of these went bad on August 13, 1972. Six officers were hosting a bachelor party for another officer. During the course of the party, they decided to take him hostage, handcuff him and tie him to a chair. They then decided to dump him at the doorstep of Captain Howard Zeck's house in Ypsilanti Township.

The officers did find Janet Street in Ypsilanti, but that is where the joke went bad. Instead of dumping the officer at the doorstep of Captain Zeck's, they dumped him at a neighbor's house by mistake. Placing their bound and gagged brother officer on the doorstep, they rang the doorbell and quickly fled.

Unfortunately that neighbor happened to be a relative of Chief Krasny. They came to the door and called the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department, who came to the scene to release the hostaged officer.

Meanwhile, Captain Zeck was awakened by the noise and went outside to investigate. He found the deputies releasing one of his officers from the restraints. As it turned out the officers read the address wrong and that is how the officer ended up at the wrong house. Chief Krasny stated no disciplinary action would be taken against the officers but, “we'll give them a course in house number reading.”

Bank Robbery Suspects Arrested with Assist from Animal Control

Many in the police department started their careers as civilian employees of the police department. One of these was Detective Steve Hill, who started out as an animal control officer.

In January of 1973, Animal Control Officer Hill was working when he overheard radio traffic of a bank robbery in progress, at an Ann Arbor Bank located at 1923 Packard.

He responded to the area and turned out to be the first unit there. Three suspects had entered the bank and robbed it, speeding away in a Ford Mustang. Hill followed the car and a suspect in it began firing at him. The suspect fired nine times at Hill, but did not strike him.

By this time patrol units were on scene and attempted to stop the Mustang. The car would not stop, but was forced off the road by the cruisers.

Sgt. Don Johnson and Officer Robert Flynn were riding together and Sgt. Johnson placed two of the suspects under arrest, while the other fled on foot. Animal Control Officer Hill and Officer Flynn pursued this third suspect. Officer Flynn fired a warning shot and the suspect then stopped running. Two of the suspects were armed with .22 caliber handguns.

Lt. Hill, Steve's father, was listening to the radio traffic and stated he was not nervous until he heard Steve say, “Hey, they're shooting at me.” Hill received a departmental bravery citation from the department and a valor recognition award from the National Police Officers Association.

Plane Crash Kills Three

A small engine airplane crash took the life of three people as it crashed on Independence Street near Pattengill School. The plane crash occurred just after school let out and Chief Krasny said it was “amazing that no one on the ground was injured.”

The plane had just taken off from the Ann Arbor Airport and was carrying Dr. Thomas Nicholudis, William Pollard and Carolyn Howke. Nicholudis was piloting the plane back to California, as he had been in town for a conference for orthopedic surgeons.

As the plane took off, it immediately developed engine trouble and one witness said the propellers stopped. The plane swooped over the school and nearby houses before falling to the ground with such force that the engines were buried three feet into the ground. All three on board were killed instantly.

Mystery Disappearance of Ann Arbor Mother

An Ann Arbor mother of three disappeared from her Braeburn Circle residence on October 1, 1973. Sandra Horwath put her three children to bed and left her home, her family never seeing her again. Sandra was employed at the University Hospital in the accounting department. She was divorced from her husband and dated occasionally.

On the night she disappeared, she put her children to bed, then it appeared that she was preparing for bed. For reasons unknown, she got dressed, took her purse and left the home, leaving behind her three children, ages 9, 7, and 6.

From all accounts she was a devoted mother and the disappearance was puzzling. Initial questioning with her ex-husband, friends and coworkers, revealed nothing suspicious.

Detectives investigated the case tirelessly but were stumped as to why Horwath disappeared. Detectives continued to investigate the case and had no new leads for nearly three years. After investigating dead ends for three years, detectives received a call from the Houston, Texas police department, in April of 1976.

Houston detectives had arrested a subject named Gary Taylor for sexual assault. While he was in jail, his wife told authorities that he had killed and buried three women and a man outside a rented house in Onstead, Michigan, which is in Lenawee County. Based on their investigation, it was believed that Horwath's body was one of those buried.

Due to this information, Michigan authorities dug up the site and discovered two of the bodies, both of whom had been shot. Horwath's body was not one of the two, but it was believed she was buried somewhere nearby. It was found that Horwath had dated Taylor when she worked at the university, while Taylor was on leave from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry at the Ypsilanti State Hospital.

Taylor had a bizarre background, spending 13 years in a mental institution beginning in the 1950's for shooting a trio of women in Royal Oak. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, telling authorities he “had a compulsion to hurt women”. You might think this crime would have kept him in the psychiatric hospital, but unfortunately it did not.

After being released, Taylor then went on to Washington and Texas where he was allegedly involved in numerous rapes and murders. He was accused of a murder and rape in Seattle and three charges of sexual assault in Texas.

Obviously it was suspected that Taylor was involved in the Horwath disappearance, but police could find no body and with no evidence, the case remains unsolved. I happened to speak with Lt. Tieman about the case when doing research and he stated, coincidentally, that he had read the Horwath file and was thinking of re-opening it.

It is still believed that Horwath's body is buried at the Onstead site and Taylor is responsible for her disappearance. In recent years the Onstead property has been excavated on two different occasions in the search for Horwath's body. Both of these searches have been unsuccessful, but it is still felt she was killed and buried in the area.