In late 1979, Chief Krasny announced that he was retiring from the Ann Arbor Police Department after 41 years of service. With his retirement announcement, it set in motion the hiring of the first chief from outside the department. This would also be the first time that the city council played such a large role in the hiring of the chief of police. Chief Krasny was to have retired on March 1, 1980, but the search for his replacement was lengthy due to the large amount of applicants.
By April, the city administrator stated that four finalists had been selected and after a final interview one of them would be selected. Lt. William Hoover was a thirteen year veteran of the department and was the only internal candidate.
In May, City Administrator Terry Sprenkel announced that William Corbett was hired to replace Chief Krasny. City council unanimously supported the hiring of Corbett, the first outsider to guide the Ann Arbor Police Department.
At the time of his hire, Chief Corbett was the commander of the 14th Precinct in Detroit. He had served with the Detroit Police Department for over 25 years.
Chief Corbett was formally sworn in during a ceremony on the promenade at city hall in July. All of the officers lined up in formation as Chief Krasny stepped down and handed his chief's badge over to Ann Arbor's new chief.
Chief Krasny saluted Chief Corbett and stated, “I have inspected the department and have found everything to be in order. I now turn it over to you.” With that, Chief Krasny officially ended 41 years of service with the Ann Arbor Police Department. I believe Chief Krasny was the longest serving police officer in the history of the department.
The first murder of the 1980's took place on April 20, 1980, when a 17-year old girl was found stabbed to death on a lawn at 2820 Page Street, a short distance from her home. Shirley Small was found early on a Sunday morning dead from a stab wound to her chest. There was also several cuts to her face. Small was not sexually assaulted.
Small had been out with friends roller skating at a roller skating rink in Farmington and then went to the Big Boy Restaurant in Ypsilanti. She never entered the restaurant with her friends as she was upset with her boyfriend, as they had just broken up. She began walking home to Ann Arbor from Ypsilanti, as her boyfriend was driving the path he thought she was walking home, looking for her. He found her walking up Packard Road, heading for her home at 3:45 a.m. He twice offered her a ride, but she refused and continued walking. At approximately 4:45 a.m., she was stabbed to death, just feet from her apartment.
Detectives searched for a motive and evidence, but could find neither. The murder was starting to fade from public consciousness when another, very similar murder occurred.
On July 13, 1980, Glenda Richmond was also found stabbed to death. She was found outside of her townhouse on Braeburn, on the city's south side. Richmond was employed at the Brown Jug Restaurant and had returned home from work. Her body was found by a neighbor, lying in the grass, 10 feet from her front door. Richmond was engaged to be married. Again, detectives lacked any motive or evidence.
On September 15, 1980, another murder, similar to the first two, occurred in the Waldenwood Apartment Complex on Pauline. Flight Attendant Rebecca Huff was returning to her apartment when, at approximately 4:30 a.m., she was stabbed to death. She was not sexually assaulted and robbery did not play a part in the death. Huff was studying business at the U of M, working towards her masters degree.
Huff had exited her vehicle and was walking toward the entrance when she was confronted by the killer. A witness heard screams and then saw a man running and enter a vehicle. She was found on the front steps to the apartment, mortally wounded.
After this third murder, Chief Corbett held a press conference to point out the similarities in the murders. Clearly one person was felt to be responsible for all three. Chief Corbett announced that all of the department's 31 detectives were working on the cases and asked the public to call if they knew anything about the crimes.
While Chief Corbett tried to reassure the public against the possibility of a “psychotic killer,” he said there were the following similarities in the three murders:
-All three had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest.
-None of the victims were sexually assaulted.
-All of the victims were found outside their homes or apartment buildings and killed in the predawn hours.
Prosecutor William Delhey stated, “If there is no connection between the three women and their killers, we're in trouble.”
Mayor Louis Belcher stated, “I want to assure all citizens that we will use our full unlimited resources in tracking down the killer or killers of the three young women, who were murdered so ruthlessly and in cold blood.”
The mayor was also disturbed that neighbors of the victims had heard screams but “not one of them called the police.” In two of the three murders it was found that neighbors did hear screams and moans, but did not investigate. One could only think that they did not take the matter seriously.
Most thought that one killer was responsible for the murders, but many felt that Shirley Small was killed by someone she knew and the other two murders were coincidences. There were many reasons for this, including the fact that she had just broken up with her boyfriend and his friend disliked her. But after an intensive investigation, no one she knew was charged with her murder and it was concluded that one killer was responsible for all three.
The facts certainly supported this theory. All of the victims were attractive females who were murdered around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings, all three bodies were found near their homes in large apartment or townhouses and all were stabbed to death.
During the investigation many rumors floated around the city about the murders. One of them was that several other women had been murdered and the police department kept these slayings secret for fear of panic.
Warnings of more murders were found on numerous occasions by “pranksters” as they had wrote “another woman will die tonight” in soap, on mirrors in the Michigan Union. Chief Corbett stated, “Either someone is trying to be funny, or it is the guy we are after. If it is a prankster he is taking valuable time away from the investigation and may be endangering other lives.
“If they were written by the guy we're after, we would like the student body to be especially vigilant and give us all the help they can in helping us find the person responsible.”
Detectives conducted an intensive investigation and found the person they believed was responsible for the murders. Coral Eugene Watts was this suspect and the investigators were positive he was responsible for the three murders. The key tip came from Detroit Police Officer James Arthurs, who had once worked with Chief Corbett. Officer Arthurs had helped Kalamazoo police execute a search warrant in Detroit, seeking evidence linking Watts to a Kalamazoo murder. Watts was the main suspect in the brutal stabbing death of Western Michigan University student named Gloria Steele in 1974. Steele had been stabbed over 30 times.
While there was not enough evidence to gain a conviction on the Steele murder, Kalamazoo police were convinced Watts was the killer. Officer Arthurs had read about the Ann Arbor murders and was convinced that Watts could be a suspect if he was in the area. He called Chief Corbett with his beliefs and this is credited with saving the life of a young woman that Watts was stalking in Ann Arbor.
When Arthurs phoned Chief Corbett it was not even known if Watts was in the Ann Arbor area. Photographs of Watts were distributed to Ann Arbor patrol officers with the instructions that Watts could be involved in the Sunday morning murders.
The break in the case came in a most unusual way, due to the theft of parking meters. Officers Al Doades and Don Terry were working the midnight shift and were assigned to investigate the theft of parking meters downtown. On November 15, 1980, they were assigned an unmarked detective vehicle and had raincoats over their uniforms. They were driving through the downtown area when they observed a female out walking by herself. She was walking along, looking behind her and they felt she could possibly be a lookout for the suspects stealing the meters. Also suspicious was the fact she was out by herself so early in the morning.
As the officers followed her she continued to walk downtown, unaware of their presence, as was Coral Eugene Watts, who also was following this very same woman. As the officers entered the intersection of Liberty and Fourth Ave., they stopped their car, keeping their eye on the woman. While they were stopped, a vehicle pulled up right next to them, the driver seemingly unaware of the officer's presence. The officers immediately became suspicious of the vehicle and ran the license plate through the computer. The communications operator advised them the vehicle belonged to Coral Watts, suspect in the murders. Watts was then stopped and arrested for these suspicions. An attorney came in to defend him and after questioning he was released due to lack of evidence. Officer Arthurs' suspicions about Watts may have saved the life of this woman that he was following that November night.
As there was not enough evidence to detain Watts, every move that he made was watched by a team of undercover detectives. While positive that they ‘had their man,’ they were simply missing the necessary evidence to secure a conviction in court. Watts felt the heat of this intense investigation and moved to Texas. There he was eventually arrested for breaking and entering with intent to commit murder. In the Texas case he kidnapped a female in the parking lot of her apartment and forced her into the residence. He then tied up her roommate and attempted to drown her. The roommate jumped from the second floor balcony and called police, who arrested Watts as he attempted to flee from the apartment.
Texas authorities felt very strongly that Watts was responsible for a string of murders in their state. Like their Michigan counterparts, they also did not have enough evidence to prosecute Watts. They reached a plea agreement with Watts in which he pled guilty to the breaking and entering charge and confessing to 11 murders there, in exchange for a 60 year prison sentence. Under this agreement Watts was not charged with the murders but simply confessed to them.
While they strongly believed Watts committed the 11 murders, they simply did not have the evidence to charge Watts with them. It was felt the agreement would keep Watts in prison for the remainder of his life however.
This agreement came back to haunt the prosecution as the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the bath water Watts used in his attempt to drown the victim in the breaking and entering was not considered a “deadly weapon.” This decision by the court stated the parole department should consider Watts for a “normal parole.” This in effect meant that Watts could be paroled from prison as early as 1992. Needless to say this shocked many law enforcement officials who believed Watts was responsible for a string of murders in different states.
Texas Prosecutor John Holmes stated, “We've got film of him confessing to 11 murders and it looks like he's good for your three (in Ann Arbor) and a bunch more around the country. But our film doesn't mean a thing because he was granted immunity to clear up those killings.
“It was the only way we could go because we didn't have a clue one against him. By rights this bird (Watts) should be on Texas death row with the other 12 we've got there now. But he will be walking out of that cell one of these days.”
Texas authorities found that Watts stalked his victims. “He put them under surveillance before he killed them,” Holmes said. “One woman he followed for 150 miles from here (Houston) to Austin. Then he drowned her in a swimming pool. He's a calculating killer and he likes to kill. It leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. It mocks justice.”
Chief Corbett called Watts the “third or fourth worst mass murderer in the United States.” Officials lobbied the parole board to keep Watts in prison and were effective in doing so. Watts continues to come up for parole and it is believed he eventually will be paroled.
While no murders are explainable, the murder of two young University of Michigan students left questions unanswered to this day. On April 18, 1981, at 6:15 a.m., a firebomb was thrown in a sixth floor hallway at Bursley Hall, which is a dormitory for the university on north campus.
As the fire alarm sounded, students sleepily entered the hallway. They were unaware that another student had thrown the firebomb in the hallway and was waiting for them to come out of their rooms, as he lay hidden in his room with a shotgun. As the students began walking down the hallway, five shotguns blasts rang out mortally wounding two university students. These students, Edward Siwik and Douglas McGreaham, had been shot by fellow university student, Leo Kelly Jr. Panic ensued as at first most students thought the sounds were those of fireworks. Ann Arbor Officers Elbert “Bump” Barbour and Jim Stimac were near the U of M Hospital when the call went out. They responded to Bursley Hall and were informed of the location that the shooter was believed to be in. Officer Barbour stated they simply went to Kelly's door, knocked on it and arrested Kelly when he answered it.
Kelly was a junior majoring in psychology and had been a honors student at his Detroit high school. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and had no previous criminal record. Those who knew him said he was a loner, but there was nothing in his past which could have predicted this act.
Kelly was reported to have thrown a homemade Molotov Cocktail at a student that was walking down a sixth floor hallway. The clothing this student was wearing was showered with flaming liquid, but he was not seriously injured. The fire alarm sounded and McGreaham, a resident advisor on the fifth floor, ran up the stairs to assist in the evacuation of the students.
Siwick was the fire marshal for his floor and ran into the hall to wake fellow students. As both of them were assisting in the evacuation, Kelly was in a crouch against the wall. He jumped out and began firing a sawed-off shotgun down the hall. Both Siwick and McGreaham were mortally wounded.
To add to the confusing scene was the fact that the previous day was the last day of classes for most students due to the Easter break. There were many parties that night and many thought the shotgun blasts were firecrackers.
After the shootings, students fled out of the dormitory in shock, tears streaming down their faces. All could not understand what drove Kelly to the shootings. U of M President Harold Shapiro later stated, “I and all others in the university community are appalled that two students were shot and killed in Bursley Hall. I express my heartfelt condolences to their families. Words cannot convey my feelings of shock and loss. It is a horrible tragedy for the university community.”
There was no motive whatsoever for the crime. Siwick and McGreaham had no previous disagreements with Kelly and they appeared to be random victims. The students that knew Kelly stated he was loner and felt that he just “freaked out”. McGreaham was an art major and was scheduled to graduate the next month. Siwick was a pre-med student.
Most of todays officers only know police work from the inside of a patrol car. Most do not realize how important the foot patrol officer is to the history of the profession. Walking the beat is probably the best training ground for any new officer, as it offers them the chance to interact with people one-on-one. Sadly, most departments do not have foot patrol officers as the need for quick response to calls is deemed more important than the personal interaction that a foot patrol officer offers.
Luckily our department has a rich tradition of foot patrol officers, which continues today after several year absence in the 1980's. The tradition ended with the retirement of Officer Charlie Fleming, who retired from the department in January of 1981. Officer Fleming was the last officer that walked a beat and in all likelihood ended an over 100 year tradition, of having a foot patrol officer downtown.
When Officer Fleming retired he was recognized by the downtown merchants with a going away party. Charlie was given a plaque signed by many of them. Many of the merchants bemoaned the loss of Charlie, “their officer.”
Upon his retirement Officer Fleming gave good advice to new officers stating, “I couldn't offer any young police officer any better advice than to say that if you treat people right, you'll get it back two-fold. I've always tried to treat people decent.”
Luckily Officer Fleming was wrong when he stated, “I don't think there's going to be any more beat officers like I've been because the entire philosophy has changed somehow.”
It's apparent that he knew what a positive influence the foot patrol officer could have on people. Administrators within the department also realized this after a few years and the downtown beat officer was once again assigned to walk where officers had for over 100 years. Today the department has many foot patrol officers downtown.
On January 24, 1981, Officers Bob Lane and William Wise responded to a call of a robbery in progress at the China Garden Restaurant, located at 3035 Washtenaw. At 10:00 p.m. two men entered the restaurant and pulled out shotguns, which they had been concealing as they entered. The two suspects then began robbing the patrons of their valuables.
An employee of the restaurant was able to dial 911, but could not speak. He laid the phone down as the communications operator attempted to trace the call as she had no idea where it was coming from. Officers were advised that there was a robbery somewhere in the city, but the location was unknown. Luckily one of the restaurant customers was able to sneak out and went to the Arby's Restaurant to phone police.
Officers Lane and Wise were nearby and pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant just as the suspect's Pontiac Trans Am was leaving. As the officers pulled into the lot they nearly collided with the Trans Am. One of the suspects fired a shot at the officers as they tried to leave the lot. The officers then rammed their patrol vehicle into the suspect's, which forced the suspects to go out on foot. The officers gave chase, yelling for the suspects to stop, but they continued running. Both officers fired at the suspect's and one of them was hit. The other surrendered after his accomplice was shot. The suspect was transported to the hospital for his wounds but eventually recovered. All of the items stolen, ranging from jewelry, purses and wallets were recovered. In all over 20 customers were robbed during the incident.
February of 1982 saw the retirement of two longtime officers, Lt. Eddie Owens and Sgt. Greg Katopodis. Katopodis was the only officer that came to the department when the East Ann Arbor Police Department was disbanded as East Ann Arbor became part of Ann Arbor. He spent over 33 years in police work and stated, “I'll miss the people that I am leaving behind and have been working with for the last 25 years. It (retirement) affects you because you won't see the people you have been working with on a daily basis anymore.”
Lt. Owens started as a beat officer in 1954 and became the first black command officer in the department's history. Once promoted, he worked in the Youth Bureau under the direction of Lt. George Simmons and then headed the unit once Lt. Simmons retired.
“One of my biggest rewards was working with the kids,” Owens said. “They would come back and see me and you could see them developing. I had a heart attack in 1973 and many of those kids sent me cards, called and visited.”
On March 30, 1982, William Hackett, barricaded himself in a house at 314 S. First with a semi-automatic weapon. Officer William Wise was dispatched to the address reference a report of a man shooting a gun. As Wise was stepping from his car, a series of shots shattered a window in the home. Wise dove to the ground beside his patrol car, where he stayed for over two hours in a drenching rain. A run to safety for Wise would have meant a 15 yard dash, across open ground, in front of the suspect's dwelling. As Officer Wise was on scene, two roommates of Hackett's were at the police department to report that Hackett was acting strange. They stated that Hackett had just purchased a semi-automatic rifle and was smoking large amounts of marijuana.
The Special Tactics Unit responded to the scene and the area was evacuated. Chief Corbett arrived on the scene and was speaking with Hackett on and off during the siege. At one point Hackett stated that he wanted more marijuana and Chief Corbett told him a bag of marijuana would be on the porch, in an attempt to get him outside. Hackett never came outside where officers were waiting.
About 10:30 P.M. Hackett was on the second floor of the house when he observed Det. Greg Stewart on an apartment building across the street. Det. Stewart, a STU sharpshooter, was on the roof directly across from Hackett's house. Hackett began shooting at Stewart and Stewart was instructed by Chief Corbett to return fire. Det. Stewart did so and the slugs hit the wooden window sill where Hackett had been standing. Splinters from the sill struck him in the face and he then ran to the first floor of the residence. STU then broke down the front door and found Hackett sitting in the living room, weeping. Hackett was later transported to Ypsilanti Psychiatric Hospital for testing.
Det Stewart was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal from the department and a special award for valor from the Ann Arbor News for his actions.
Another serial murderer came to the Ann Arbor area in 1982. Two elderly women were murdered in the Ypsilanti area prior to the murder of 84-year old Louise Koebnick. Koebnick was murdered in her W. Jefferson home on October 1, 1982. The murder was thought to be the third committed by the same person who was targeting elderly females.
Mrs. Koebnick had lived in the W. Jefferson home most of her life. Chief Corbett stated, “Mrs. Koebnick was an active alert member of our community. From our preliminary inquiries she comes over as a highly respected older lady who was always willing to help those around her. Maybe she was trying to help when she became a murder victim. It could be her killer came to her door asking to use the phone or on some other pretext to gain entry. Certainly robbery was not a motive in this homicide.“
The Ypsilanti cases involved two elderly women living only blocks from each other. The first murder victim was 91-year old Florence Bell who was raped and stabbed to death in her S. Summit home in January of 1982. In September, the killer struck again, raping and killing 85-year old Margorie Upson who lived on W. Cross in Ypsilanti.
After the murder of Koebnick, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor Detectives began a cooperative effort in an attempt to find the suspect. Chief Corbett released a press release which stated in part, “On Friday, at approximately 9:30 a.m., October 1, a neighbor discovered the body of Louise Koebnick, 84, in her kitchen at 621 W. Jefferson in the City of Ann Arbor. Preliminary investigation disclosed that she had been brutally strangled and sexually assaulted. There are similarities surrounding the murder of Mrs. Koebnick and two other elderly females in Ypsilanti within the last nine months:
Overall responsibility for the murder of Louse Koebnick has been assigned to the Investigations Division under the command of Major Raymond Woodruff. Several Ann Arbor Investigators are assigned on a full time basis. The Ann Arbor Police Department has consulted with the Ypsilanti Police Department, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office and the Medical Examiner's Office toward the solution of these homicides.
The Ann Arbor Police Department is requesting that anyone having knowledge of these crimes please notify us at 994-2875. We are requesting that all Ann Arbor residents keep their doors locked and be absolutely certain of the identity of anyone they admit into their homes.”
Detectives began searching records for suspects who may have been paroled for previous types of sex offenses. One such case involved an escaped prisoner who had been convicted of sex offenses involving elderly subjects in Grand Rapids. This prisoner had been transported to the University of Michigan Hospital for treatment of a neurological disorder in 1981. Upon his arrival to the hospital he escaped from his prison guard and his location was unknown when the first murder occurred in early 1982.
The detectives also began receiving help from the Lansing Police Department as they were investigating four similar murders which occurred in their city, just prior to the murders in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Four elderly women in the Lansing area were raped and strangled and five others survived similar attacks. The nine victims ranged in age from 77 to 80.
A break came in the case came with the arrest of 19 year old drifter Michael Harris. Harris was arrested in Jackson for the rape and attempted murder of a 68-year old Jackson woman. It had been the third attack on an elderly women in the Jackson area. Chief Corbett called Harris a prime suspect in the murder of Mrs. Koebnick as evidence was discovered linking Harris to the crime. While there was evidence, there was not enough to gain a warrant for his arrest. Detectives doggedly worked the case but were unsuccessful in their efforts until February of 2001. Due to DNA technology, detectives were able to obtain an arrest warrant closing a 19 year old murder case.
On October 22, 1982, convicted murderer Kyle Johnson was being transported to the courtroom of Judge Henry Conlin for a hearing in connection with a riot at the Huron Valley Prison. Johnson had been convicted of a 1979 murder in Oakland County and was sentenced to a life term. Johnson was serving his sentence at the prison where he was alleged to have participated in a riot. Johnson was being taken to the court for a hearing as he was being charged with assault with the intent to commit murder in connection with the riot. Johnson was accused of assaulting a prison guard.
Johnson was being transported to the circuit court on Main Street with three other prisoners. The prisoners had leg irons tied to belly chains when they left the prison and were loaded in a transport van. When the van arrived at court, the guards opened the back door and the prisoners jumped them, as they had freed themselves from the belly chain. Johnson then fled on foot onto N. Main Street.
Johnson was believed to be extremely dangerous and a massive search began involving numerous police agencies. A roadblock was immediately established on Main Street, a tracking dog was called in, as was a helicopter to help in the search.
Word of his escape spread through the community as over 80 officers searched for him in one of the biggest manhunts in Washtenaw County history. The fear being felt in the community was well warranted, as Johnson had been convicted of a brutal murder. In 1979, Johnson bludgeoned Monica Hockey to death, stabbing her in the process with a meat fork.
The search focused on the area north of the courthouse and west of Main Street. Both of these areas are predominately residential and there was a great fear that Johnson broke into a home and was either hiding or holding someone hostage. Officers began a house to house search for him but were unsuccessful in locating him on the first day of his unscheduled freedom. Schools in the area kept the children inside on their recesses and most were picked up by their parents.
While officers searched for Johnson through the night, it was later discovered that he had been hiding under a porch near the Municipal Garage on Main Street. Johnson hid under the porch until midnight, then went to the Municipal Garage where he stole a city car.
At about 2:00 a.m., a very alert citizen observed the city car traveling north on U.S.-23, just outside the city limits. The citizen thought it was suspicious that the city car was out that late, outside the city. The citizen then phoned the police, who alerted all area police agencies.
Shortly thereafter, a Green Oak Township Officer observed the city vehicle on U.S.-23 near Whitmore Lake Road. He gave chase as Johnson would not pull over. He led police on a six mile chase and abandoned the car on Eight Mile Road with officers pursuing him on foot. Johnson again was able to elude the officers as over 80 of them were brought into the area in an attempt to find him. Washtenaw County Sheriff Tom Minick searched the area in the county's helicopter and landed at Pontiac Trail and Six Mile Road to refuel.
As the officers searched, Johnson broke into the home of Carl and Mary Shopp on Pontiac Trail. He entered through a basement window, went to the kitchen, ate a banana and stole a change purse from Mrs. Shopp.
Mr. and Mrs. Shopp were sleeping and woke up to the sounds of Johnson going through the Mr. Shopp's pants pockets looking for car keys. Shopp yelled at Johnson and he and his wife jumped out of bed, confronting him, as he was armed with a knife. The two were able to take the knife from Johnson but he had another steak knife, which he had taken from their kitchen.
Mr. Shopp ran to his bedroom to get his shotgun and again confronted Johnson. Johnson then fled from the house to the homeowner's car but had taken the wrong set of keys. As he was trying to start the car, Shopp fired a warning shot over the top of it. Johnson exited the car stating, “Go ahead shoot, I don't care.” He then fled back into the woods.
Mr. Shopp later stated he had considered shooting Johnson but he was leaving and he had not heard the news that an escaped murderer was on the loose in the area.
Johnson ran through the woods and at 4:00 a.m., he broke into the house of Maris Marley, about two miles from the Shopp's. Johnson threw a brick through a window of the home in order to enter. Marley heard the crash and ran from her upstairs bedroom finding Johnson near the kitchen. Marley picked up a chair and tried to hit Johnson with it and he responded by punching her in the face. Marley was knocked to the ground only to be helped up by Johnson. The punch caused her eye to swell shut and the fall caused a cut to the back of her head. Marley later stated that she knew she had to stay calm and try to gain Johnson's trust.
Doing so she offered to cook Johnson breakfast to which he agreed. As she was cooking bacon and eggs she persuaded him to take a shower. For reasons unknown, Johnson agreed to this and while he was doing so, Marley made her escape from her home.
The sheriff was getting ready to take off in the helicopter after re-fueling and observed Marley's van speeding towards them. Sheriff Minick stated he thought the van was going to hit the helicopter due to it's high speed. As the van screeched to a halt, Marley jumped from the van screaming, “He's in my house.”
The sheriff radioed for assistance and they raced to Marley's home. They were met there by members of the Department's Special Operations Unit. The deputies entered the home by breaking through the door and yelled for Johnson to surrender. Johnson refused, yelling for them to come up and kill him.
The deputies ran up the stairs and entered the bedroom where Johnson was hiding. The deputies found Johnson sitting on the bed with a Coca-Cola in one hand and a knife in the other. Johnson was ordered to drop them both, which he did.
Johnson was transported under heavy guard to the sheriff's department. While he was being fingerprinted he told Sheriff Minick, “I should have killed that woman.” Marley remained amazingly calm under the circumstances and was credited with the capture of Johnson.
The Westland based Neo-Nazis began visiting Ann Arbor annually beginning in 1982. They continued to come for a number of years and their demonstrations always led to a confrontation with counter protestors.
Each time they came the police department suffered criticism for “protecting” the Nazis. Each time our city attorney advised us that we had to do just that as there was no way to keep them from holding their “recruitment rallies” in Ann Arbor. The Nazis were usually comically dressed in fatigues and Nazi SS uniforms.
The 1982 rally was the start of the violence as the crowd turned ugly as the Nazis rallied at the Federal Building. Over 2000 counterprotestors confronted the Nazis and smashed out two windows at the Federal Building, cornering the Nazis near the front entryway. The crowd showered the Nazis with rocks, bottles, eggs and anything else that could be found nearby. No one suffered serious injuries before the riot could be quelled.
The crowd was momentarily thrown into a panic as a guard inside of the Federal Building drew his weapon and pointed it toward the demonstrators after one of the windows was smashed out. Many people suffered minor injuries, including a protestor who fell and broke his leg when he was pursuing the Nazis.
During the rally of 1983 the Nazis came to city hall in a rental truck. The police were in full riot gear, waiting for the brick and bottle throwing that was sure to come. Even before the rally could begin, rocks and asphalt was flying through the air. Several Nazis were knocked to the ground and the rest ran behind the police lines.
The riot equipped officers moved in and arrested five people, while separating the crowd. The Nazis were grouped back together and loaded on the rental truck for their ride out of town. In all, the Nazi rally lasted 6 minutes before the violence brought it to a close.
The Nazis returned to Ann Arbor in March of 1984 to the same response they received the previous year. Six protestors were arrested and two officers were injured during the violence that followed.
Eleven self-proclaimed Nazis dressed in solid black with Nazi swastikas and riot helmets, carried signs protesting American involvement in Lebanon. The group's spokesman stated the Nazis came to Ann Arbor to protest the communist movement in the city. While he was speaking, a counter protestor broke through the police line shouting, “Your a god-damned killer.” The protestor knocked the spokesman to the ground but was quickly arrested.
Several other protestors then rushed the rest of the Nazis, while the officers rushed forward to stop them. This scuffle was broken up and Chief Corbett ordered the rally halted and the Nazis were then escorted out of town.
The Nazis continued to come to Ann Arbor for a number of years but stopped without comment in the early 1990's.
Relations between Chief Corbett and the rank and file officers were strained early in the his tenure and some looked for dent in the chief's armor and found it with the “A-file.” The “A-file” was a file kept on prominent citizens who allegedly were involved in criminal incidents. This file was kept separate from the police records section and was located in the chief's office. Only the chief had access to it and few within the police department even knew about this file, which came to light with the arrest of a prominent city worker's wife.
Rumors still exist that an officer sent an anonymous letter to the Ann Arbor News, detailing the arrest and missing file as the officer attempted to find it in police records, but could not. The police officers association became involved charging that Chief Corbett unfairly intervened on the behalf of the city official's wife. Mayor Belcher formed a committee to investigate the charge and the file itself. Chief Corbett was cleared of any wrongdoing in the original case, but the “A-file” came to light because of the investigation.
When confronted about the file Chief Corbett defended the “A-file” saying certain cases would gain notoriety just because of the stature of the person involved. Chief Corbett himself decided which files entered the “A-file” and which did not. In doing so he stated, “We consider the stature of the individual and the potential damage to reputation and career.” Also included were reports which alleged criminal offenses by officers.
Mayor Belcher reviewed the entire file which consisted of six reports. Belcher was not overly concerned with this secret file. “There are a lot of files in city hall I probably don't know about,” he said. He did not feel the file was a “covert thing” as the files were cross referenced in the regular filing system.
Mayor Pro-Tem Edward Hood felt differently about the files stating, “The potential for abuse is obviously great.” He suggested a written guideline for maintaining such a file.
Chief Corbett stated the only difference between the “A-file” and any other report is the “physical, logistical storage of them.” Responding to a question if any city council members had reviewed the files the Chief replied, “Our files are sacrosanct. I'm not going to share the records of the department on a routine basis with members of the council, the press or anyone else. They're not entitled.
“The A-file is on a need-to-know basis. Those kinds of reports, involving people of that stature, and brother police officers, don't have to be fingered by 180 employees (on the police department payroll).”
The chief further stated the file was additional security intended to eliminate potential blackmail and gossip. According to the chief the file had been in existence for six years and existed when he took over the job from Chief Krasny.
There was a great amount of pressure on Chief Corbett to eliminate the file, including an editorial in the Ann Arbor News stating the value of such a file was “highly questionable”. The editorial also stated the file smacked as a “double standard” for those people of prominence. It called for the Ann Arbor City Council to demand an end to such a file.
Council was initially slow to move on any abolishment of the file, but pressure grew to do so. Without warning, Chief Corbett announced that he was dissolving the file and the six reports that were in it would be placed into the police department's central records. Council member Virginia Johansen commented on the demise of the file, “There's really no place for a double standard. We're all equal under the law, prominent or not prominent.”
Chief Corbett addressed the council stating, “Apparently there is some perception by the news media and the public that this is some type of sinister file. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“This (the A-file) is purely for the sake of the individual involved who may be completely innocent. We're talking about blackmail, extortion and character assassination by innuendo.”
The chief added that he had never given preferential treatment to any case in the A-file and all records maintained by the department fell within federal and state guidelines.
Ann Arbor seems to be a magnet for strange events and another of these occurred on June 27, 1983. Billed as a gay pride rally, gay activists staged a parade through the downtown streets. While this certainly is not unusual, an Ann Arbor man made it very interesting.
Officer Rick Cornell took it upon himself to assist the rally by blocking off traffic as the activists marched through the streets. Although the organizers had a parade permit, no one had informed the police department of the event so no special arrangements were made.
Robert Higgins attended the parade but was not an invited guest. For reasons unknown, he approached the marchers and began pushing them and yelling slurs such as “faggots.” A struggle ensued and one of the marchers claimed she was assaulted by Higgins, although he later said he was the one assaulted.
Higgins left the rally site, drove to K-Mart and bought a .20 gauge shotgun. He drove back to the rally and pointed the loaded shotgun at the marchers.
Officer Cornell had been called away so he did not observe Higgins pointing the shotgun. He did receive a call that Higgins was harassing the group and responded back to the Federal Building where the marchers had ended up.
Once he arrived there, he was told that Higgins had a shotgun and pointed it at the marchers, then entered his nearby vehicle. Officer Cornell snuck up on Higgins and through the car window, pointed his revolver at his head while disarming him, as he still had the shotgun in his hands. Higgins was then placed under arrest for the felonious assault.
After the incident gay pride backers attended a city council meeting voicing their concern over the way in which the situation was handled. They thought the police department took the incident lightly and were indifferent to the situation. They also said it took Officer Cornell over 20 minutes to respond to the incident, which was found to be false. They also felt the 911 operator did not take their call seriously.
What at first seemed like an outstanding arrest was tarnished by persons without any factual basis, questioning Officer Cornell's actions. Councilman Raphael Ezekiel said he was told it took 15 to 20 minutes for Officer Cornell to arrive after the first call was made. He also questioned why the police response was not handled in a more timely and professional manner.
Another councilman said the incident was an example of “homophobia” in our country. He pointed out that when the Nazis rallied in town they received more protection than the gay rights marchers.
Ann Arbor News Columnist Don Faber had a different view however, praising Officer Cornell for his actions and stating that Councilman Ezekiel “proves once again that he can rise to any occasion by cheapening it.”
If all this was not bizarre enough, it even took on another weird turn.
Higgins was released on bond and appeared for jury selection as he pled not guilty. The jury was selected and the trial was ready to begin. Higgins, who was married to a famous author and professor at the university, fled the country with her to avoid prosecution, fleeing to France. It's believed they thought the police department was searching for them all this time they were on “the run.”
The trial continued on without Higgins presence and he was convicted of the crime in abstentia.
During his years in France, Interpol was aware of Higgins whereabouts and notified the department. The police department did not want to extradite someone from France on a felonious assault warrant, however.
In 1998, the Louisville Kentucky Police Department began receiving information about Higgins. He assumed his wife's last name and they returned to the states to care for his wife's ailing mother. Higgins once again began his bizarre behavior, writing threatening letters to hospital employees.
Looking into these letters they discovered his real name and found the Ann Arbor warrant from 1983 on the computer. They contacted our prosecutor and officers were prepared to extradite Higgins from Kentucky.
Certainly it would have been surprising if Higgins received much, if any jail time on the original charge in Ann Arbor. In any event the Louisville Police Department attempted to arrest Higgins and he barricaded himself in his home. Negotiations with him and his wife lasted for over six hours but were unsuccessful.
Higgins committed suicide by cutting his throat with a kitchen knife, thus ending this 15-year bizarre story.
On October 18, 1983, a lone suspect entered the Taco Bell on W. Stadium brandishing a knife. He vaulted the counter and ordered the employees to empty the cash registers. While the clerks were doing so, he became upset as they felt they were taking to long so he cut one of them on the arm with the knife.
He then took another clerk into the manager's office and ordered him to open the safe. Once this was done the suspect stuffed the money into a bag and fled out the rear door.
Officer Bob Lane was on patrol when the call went out and began chasing the suspect on foot, as he located him nearby. The foot chase continued onto Burwood and Winewood, with the suspect throwing down money as he was being chased.
The suspect then turned on Officer Lane and lunged at him with the knife. Officer Lane fired two shots at the suspect, hitting him once in the arm and once in the stomach. The suspect was taken to the University Hospital where he eventually recovered.
Most murders are committed by someone the victim knows. When a stranger murders someone, it only seems to make the crime that much more unbearable. This occurred on November 23, 1983, as Nancy Faber was leaving the Kroger store on Green Road.
Faber had left the store and was found in the 1900 block of Green Road in her Ford Fairmont. A passerby thought she was having a heart attack and when police arrived it was apparent she had been shot in the neck and was the victim of a robbery. Faber was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital and died two days later, never regaining consciousness. Faber was a speech therapist in the Plymouth-Canton School District and wife of Don Faber, columnist for the Ann Arbor News.
Faber's groceries were still in the vehicle but her purse was missing. Investigation found that she had checked out of Kroger's at about 8:00 p.m. and was traveling the short distance to her home. Detectives theorized that she was robbed as she entered her vehicle and the killer forced her to drive the short distance down Green Road, where she was then shot. They also believed the killer could have been from out of town, due to the close proximity of US-23.
Investigating the crime, detectives were stumped and had no leads to go on. They searched the city landfill in the hope Faber's purse was discarded in a trash can near the scene and then taken to the dump. This search was fruitless however.
The break came in mid-December, when Machelle Pearson contacted Trooper Henry Tyler of the Ypsilanti post and began talking about the Faber shooting. He became convinced she was involved with the shooting and turned this information over to Ann Arbor Detectives. Guilt possibly made Pearson contact the police, who without this contact, may have never solved the case.
Detective Richard Anderson obtained a full confession from Pearson and she was charged with the murder. Pearson stated she had approached Faber in the parking lot of Kroger's and asked for a ride to the 1700 block of Green Road. Faber agreed and while they were enroute, Pearson robbed and shot Faber.
In Pearson's taped confession, she stated she was forced to rob someone by her boyfriend Ricardo Hart, who threatened to beat her if she did not. She also stated she did not mean to shoot Faber but the gun just “went off.”
According to Pearson, on the day of the shooting she was driven by Hart to Ann Arbor in his Ford Maverick. This vehicle was seen near the scene of the crime right before the shooting. Pearson placed the blame on Hart stating that he slapped her in the parking lot of Kroger's, gave her the gun and ordered her to rob Faber who was exiting the store.
Pearson stated she walked up to Faber and asked for a ride to the Green Road housing complex. “I got in the car with her and he (Hart) was right behind us. We were talking and she asked my name, she thought she knew me.....and then we started riding and got about a quarter mile away from Kroger's.
“Then I kind of glanced back at the rear view mirror and I seen Ricky back there and I pulled the gun out. I said look, I'm being forced to do this. I said I don't want to, all I want is your money.
“And then she started getting excited and started reaching and I had the gun, but I didn't have my finger on the trigger, it wasn't even cocked and it just went off. I didn't even pull the trigger.”
On January 6, 1984, Ricardo Hart was arrested and charged with armed robbery and felony murder for the death of Nancy Faber. The gun that was used to murder Faber had been given to Hart by his step-brother. This step-brother also implicated Hart in the planning of the robbery as did Pearson.
At the preliminary exam for Ricardo Hart, his half-brother's girlfriend testified that Hart and Pearson celebrated when they heard the news of Faber's death and gave each other high fives stating, “Now there won't be any witnesses.”
Hart's half-brother also testified implicating Hart.
A brutal unthinkable murder occurred in Ann Arbor on December 7, 1983. Brian Canter was found dead in the Huron River near Depot street on December 8. It was initially thought that he had committed suicide. A coroner's report found that he had been beaten and drowned, in what was obviously a murder.
Subsequent investigation lead to the arrest and murder warrants issued for Robert Williams and Lester Joiner. Canter was staying at the Salvation Army's Haven Shelter for the homeless where he met both Joiner and Williams. Canter was befriended by Richard Carr and they had been involved in an argument with Williams and Joiner. Due to this all four of the men were ejected from the shelter and began living on the streets.
On December 6, Williams and Joiner met up with Canter at a downtown arcade and talked him into going to an apartment located at 1122 E. Ann. There they proceeded to drink large quantities of liquor and Canter was forced to consume past the point of intoxication.
Williams and Joiner then began to beat up Canter as they are believed to have disliked him due to the Haven Shelter incident. They body slammed Canter to the floor and he suffered cuts and bruises during the assault.
After the beating Canter was locked in a closet while Williams and Joiner slept off the effects of the liquor. Once nightfall came, the two took Canter down to the Huron River where they continued to choke and beat him. Canter was then dumped, alive but unconscious, in the river where they then used a large stick to press his head under water until “there were no more bubbles.”
The arrests were made after a tip was supplied by a witness, who was present in the apartment when Canter was beaten.
In taped statements, both suspects blamed the other for the murder. Both did admit to taking Canter down to the river, tying him to a tree with a piece of a telephone cord. They both admitted to pulling the cord tight around Canter's neck, until the cord finally snapped.
Both told how Williams' penknife was used to try and cut Canter's throat, but the knife was too dull so, according to Joiner, “Williams stuck him a couple of times” near the throat. Williams had a slightly different version stating it was Joiner who was “sticking it in Canter's throat.” Both stated they then took Canter to the river and pushed him in. They then used a stick to hold his head underwater and drowned him.
Another significant piece of departmental history occurred in June of 1984, when three of the top command officers retired at the same time. Majors Walter Hawkins, Robert Whitaker and Raymond Woodruff, were all longtime members of the department. Their retirements came at the same time, partly to take advantage of a payout clause in their contracts which caused a bit of a controversy, due to the amount.
Chief Corbett stated he was worried about being accepted by the command staff when he was hired as chief in 1980. His worries were groundless as he stated of his retiring three majors, “I had the rare opportunity to meet three of the finest men I have ever met and the most terrifically professionally. They are unswervingly loyal, extremely supportive and very candid. There is no way to measure their advice, support and assistance.”
Their retirements simultaneously created a void in the command ranks that was quickly filled by Chief Corbett. When the majors retired their contracts had expired leaving the city with a decision to make about upper command within the police department. Their decision was to abolish the rank of major and replace it with one Executive Deputy Chief and two Deputy Chiefs.
In July of 1985, in what Chief Corbett called “a significant occasion in the department's history” three officers were promoted to Deputy Chief and nine others were promoted to various ranks. It was the most promotions to ever occur simultaneously within the department.
William Hoover was promoted to Executive Deputy Chief and was the second in command of the department. Chief Hoover was an eighteen-year veteran of the department when promoted. Walter Lunsford and Donald Johnson were promoted to the Deputy Chiefs positions with Lunsford heading the patrol bureau and Johnson the detective bureau.
Kathy Sharp was a very popular officer who was hired by the department in 1983. Kathy was an English major at the University of Michigan when her interest turned to law enforcement. After a short stint for State Security and the University of Michigan Public Safety Department, Kathy decided to become an Ann Arbor Officer. After she was hired by the department her outgoing personality was recognized by her superiors. Deputy Chief Lunsford stated, “She's got an infectious personality. She's one of those persons who enjoys public contact and the community service kind of role.”
Officer Sharp's career continued on a positive note until she went in for an annual medical check up on January 7, 1985. By the next day Kathy was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital for what would be a fatal case of leukemia.
Kathy began a series of chemotherapy treatments that would leave her nauseous and cause her hair to fall out. Kathy bravely fought the disease with the help of her family and her friends at the Ann Arbor Police Department. As Kathy was a recent hire, she had not been able to accumulate a great deal of sick time. This would cause her to go off the payroll and face financial difficulties that would cause additional stress at a time when she needed her strength to battle the leukemia.
Kathy's brother officers rallied behind her however with “The Kathy Sharp Fund”, which raised money for her during her illness. This money was donated by the officers and members of the community. A skating party was also held at the Ann Arbor Skate Company with the proceeds used to cover Kathy's living expenses.
Officers were also allowed to donate their sick time to Kathy and over 100 officers did so, which resulted in over 2000 hours given to Kathy. This act enabled Kathy to stay on the city payroll the entire length of her illness.
After the chemotherapy treatments, doctors decided that Kathy would need a bone marrow transplant in order to keep the cancer from reoccurring. As no Michigan hospital performed such treatments, Kathy was forced to go to Kentucky for the operation. Her brother, Cornell, was a suitable donor and arrangements were make for the trip to Kentucky.
While insurance covered the cost of the operation, money was needed for travel and living expenses for her brother. Once again, officers responded and over $6000 was raised for this purpose.
The operation took place in April of 1985 and was deemed successful. Kathy traveled back to Michigan to recover and eventually returned to active duty in October. From October to December she was assigned to limited duties within the department as she continued to recover. Doctors had told her that she could return to patrol duties in April.
While the doctors thought she was cured of the cancer, they were still concerned of infection as her immune system was weak. They cautioned her to stay away from large crowds for fear of infection.
Unfortunately this turned out to be true as Kathy took a turn for the worse in December of 1985, as she battled an infection that had set in. Kathy was soon admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital and died on January 2, 1986.
Detective Diane Diponio was another well-liked female officer. She was hired by the police department in 1970 and at the time she had been a teacher in the Livonia school district.
While she had no prior police experience, Diane was found to be extremely hard working and dedicated. She was assigned to the detective bureau and as she progressed she was transferred to the major crimes division.
She developed into an excellent detective and solved many cases that appeared to have no leads. Her supervisor Lt. Dale Heath stated, “We could all cite you cases that Diane solved but one in particular comes to mind involving a vicious double rape. The case really had no firm leads but Diane started digging on it.
Finally she traced the prime suspect to Minnesota and then to Texas. She got the evidence on him and he was arrested and is in jail today. She never gave up on the case.”
Diane was diagnosed with a rare lung disease in 1978. The disease, pulmonary leiomyomatosis, is an extremely rare disease and at the time of her diagnosis, only 60 people in the entire world were known to have it. The disease has no cure but Detective Diponio fought it with vigor and continued to work until 1985, when the disease finally weakened her and she was forced to stay home.
In August of 1985, Detective Diponio died at her Salem Township home. Diane was remembered for her hard work and dedication. Deputy Chief Johnson stated, “She did everything that was asked of her and more. She worked on her own time. She came up with the facts and was a first class cop. It is going to be hard to replace her.”
While she enjoyed her work with the police department, she had a love of horses as she was an outstanding horsewoman. Diane owned, raised and showed quarter horses and had done so since she was a child.
Captain Kenneth Klinge was a 29 year veteran of the police department who was in charge of the special services section. Captain Klinge was also in charge of the U of M football detail and often traveled with the team to away games.
On October 25, 1986, Captain Klinge traveled with the team to the University of Indiana for an afternoon game. Right before the game, while in the press box, Captain Klinge suffered a heart attack. His condition was quite serious and he was transferred to a Bloomington Hospital and eventually to an Ann Arbor Hospital.
Captain Klinge was eventually discharged from the hospital and went home to recover. On November 9, 1986, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was remembered as a very loyal employee of the police department who helped start the “Safety Town” program which teaches children traffic safety. He also taught numerous personal and traffic safety programs.
In October of 1988, Philip Carlock, a recovering “sexaholic” turned himself in to the Ann Arbor Police Department for a rape which he had committed in 1971. Carlock told detectives he was attending a sexaholic support group and this group encouraged him to take responsibility for his actions.
In May of 1988, Carlock phoned Detective Mark Parin to tell him of his involvement in the incident. Det. Parin then had to find the victim, who had since moved to Florida. Det. Parin had trouble finding the victim but finally did after discovering her maiden name was the same as a well-known federal prosecutor. Det. Parin called the prosecutor by chance to see if the victim was related to him and found that the victim was in the fact the prosecutor's sister. He said the crime “devastated the whole family.” Carlock was then extradited from Seattle, Washington, where he worked as a computer specialist for Boeing.
In an interesting sidenote, it's believed that Carlock did not know he could be prosecuted for the crime. The statute of limitations had not expired as he had fled the venue of the crime. When the detectives went to Seattle to pick him up, they advised him that he would be prosecuted for the crime. On the advice of his attorney he then would only state that he only “made a call to the Ann Arbor Police Department.”
During the summer of 1988, the downtown area was home to over 100 assaults, some of them extremely serious. These assaults were done by gangs of youth who were literally running wild, assaulting and robbing people. The situation was so bad that even local politicians voiced their support for the police department and any effort that could be taken to eliminate the problem.
These gangs of youth sometimes numbered over 20 and would approach a lone victim, beat them up and rob them. “It's not a case of just punching a guy in the face,” said Lt. Dale Heath. Once he goes down they just keep kicking him.” These youths would hang out on the street corners near Liberty and Maynard and also on the Diag. They would wait for the area to clear of police then pounce on their victims.
City Council demanded a report on the problem and Deputy Chief Lunsford completed this task. In it he stated the incidents are “a planned, almost gang-like activity. The youths are far more bolder and confrontational in groups of 10 to 15.” He also stated there had been several incidents where shots had been fired in the downtown area.
Chief Corbett called for the hiring of more officers but this request was not approved. Eventually a five officer special problems unit was formed and they were strictly used for the handling and aggressive enforcement of the downtown problems. This unit was very successful and the problems downtown soon subsided.
On November 25, 1988, a 2-month old baby was kidnapped from Mott's Children's Hospital. The infant and her twin brother were in the hospital for respiratory problems. Police dispatch received a 911 call from the hospital to report the infant missing and presumed kidnapped. Patrol officers searched the hospital and surrounding area for the infant but could not locate the baby or any suspects.
Officer Steve Johnson made contact with the floor nurse and he was advised that the baby was in its crib when the nurse left to attend other children. At 6:35 p.m., the infant's monitor sounded and the nurse went into the room to check on the baby and found her missing. The nurse ran up and down the hallway and checked the elevators, but could not locate the baby. It was later found the monitor had been unplugged from the wall.
Thinking the mother may have taken the child, Officer Johnson asked if the nurse knew where the mother was. The nurse believed she had stepped out of the hospital and Officer Johnson phoned the residence of the mother but was unable to contact her.
Officer Johnson interviewed hospital staff. A security guard told Officer Johnson the mother approached him on November 22 as she observed two subjects staring at her babies through the nursery room window. She confronted the pair who stated they were at the hospital to see the mother of the babies. The mother then thought they may have been friends of the father of the children and asked if they knew him. Both stated they did not and the mother called hospital security. When security arrived they found the mysterious pair gone. Its believed the pair observed the mother's name on the babie's bassinet.
The mother was located and initially thought the father of the children, the two were not married, may have had something to do with the missing baby. Investigation later revealed that the father was not involved in the kidnapping, nor was the mother.
Having ruled out the mother and father as suspects, detectives had little to work with other than the description of the woman who was seen looking at the twins through the nursery window. A lucky tip did provide the detectives with the break they were looking for.
On November 26, a female called the detective division to report what she believed to be a possible suspect in the kidnapping. She stated on the night of November 25, she was in a Howell bar, when a woman she knew came into it carrying a baby. She was told this woman, later identified as Sharon Newkirk, had just had the baby. The tipster did not think Newkirk was pregnant and had seen the news telecasts of the kidnapped child. She then called thinking Newkirk was responsible for the kidnapping and the baby she had was in fact the missing one.
The detectives immediately began investigating this tip, first calling McPherson Hospital in Howell, as the tipster was told Newkirk had the baby there. Personnel at the hospital told the detectives that no one by the name of Newkirk was registered as having a baby there recently.
The detectives then believed that Newkirk was in fact the one who kidnapped the baby and drove to her residence in Howell. With assistance from the Livingston County Sheriff's Department and the Howell Police Department, they went to the Newkirk home but no one was there.
Entering the home they searched for evidence of the baby and while doing so a car pulled into the Newkirk driveway. In this vehicle was Newkirk, her husband and the baby. Officers surrounded the vehicle and ordered the two out. Newkirk was asked if the baby inside was hers and she would not respond. From a photo the detectives confirmed the baby in the vehicle was in fact the missing baby. Newkirk and her husband were then placed under arrest. Detectives searched Newkirk's purse and found a false birth certificate and white out.
Newkirk would later give a full confession to the crime. She stated she had entered the baby's room, unhooked the monitor, placed the baby under a sweater and walked out of the hospital.
Newkirk's husband was interviewed and he denied any involvement with the kidnapping. He stated that he had been dropped off at a Howell bar on November 25 by his wife. She came back to the bar three hours later and stated, “Honey, I'm sorry its not a boy, it's a girl.” He believed his wife had gone to the hospital, gave birth to the baby and returned three hours later. He had hoped to name the baby, Harley Davidson Newkirk.
As bizarre as his statement was, it was in fact accurate as to his involvement with the kidnapping. He was under the impression that his wife was pregnant and had gone to numerous doctor appointments with her. He was cleared of any involvement and was not charged with any crime.
Mrs. Newkirk was charged with the incident. The kidnapping itself led to a total security review of the nursery area of the hospital. The baby did not suffer any injuries as a result of the kidnapping and was returned to the mother after a short hospital stay.
On December 3, 1987, Officer Sherry Vail was promoted to sergeant, making her the department's first female command officer. Officer Debra Ceo was also promoted to sergeant, quickly making her the second. Sgt. Vail would later be promoted to deputy chief.
University of Michigan sports have always been a big part of Ann Arbor. U of M football has always been the passion of the university community and in 1989 this changed during the NCAA Basketball Championships. When Michigan entered the tournament they were not expected to win, much less proceed very far. Part of this was due to the sudden departure of head basketball coach Bill Frieder, who left the team just before the tournament began, to take the coaching position at Arizona State University.
While the police department was used to handling large crowds due to the football games, which bring in over 100,000 people to Ann Arbor six weekends a year, no thought had been given to what would happen if the basketball team won the national championship.
The team was quite successful as it proceeded through the tournament and eventually entered the semi-final game which was held on April 1, 1989. Officers were sent to S. University while the game was being played to assess the situation. S. University is an student area where there are many bars. Many people came from the surrounding areas to watch the game at the local sports bars on S. University, which added to the students already there.
The clock ticked down and the Michigan Basketball Team won their game against the University of Illinois, which sent them to the finals. Immediately after the game the crowd streamed onto S. University and began their “celebration,” causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to property.
Thousands of people filled the street fueled by liquor. All of the officers in the city were sent to the scene as the crowd began to become aggressive. Rocks and bottles began to fly and the officers were the recipients of them. Bottles crashed through windows of local businesses and parking meters were torn from their posts. The officers were vastly outnumbered as the crowd continued to pelt them with rocks and bottles. Eventually the crowd was dispersed and a handful of arrests were made.
The championship game was two days later, making many in the community nervous about the outcome. Deputy Chief Lunsford commented on the championship game and what the police were expecting, “We are prepared to read a developing situation during the game and respond if necessary. We simply do not have budget resources to field extra people unless really necessary.”
Needless to say the extra officers were certainly needed as the University of Michigan Basketball team won the national championship, defeating Seton Hall. The response was swift and immediate as crowds flowed out of area bars onto S. University. Again the crowd was fueled by alcohol and the large amount of people further lessened any inhibitions that keep most in check. Windows were smashed out, parking meters and street signs stolen, people were hanging from trees and throwing rocks and bottles at the police. One taxi cab was also overturned by the crowd.
When the riot was finally quelled over $78,000 worth of damage was caused to area businesses and city property. The crowd had swelled to over 7,000, which made it very hard to control. Officers were limited in arrests due to their numbers. Chief Corbett stated he only had 38 officers working in addition to 12 deputies. The department did come under fire for not making more arrests but the chief stated he only had enough officers to contain the area.
Business owners lashed out at the university for the students role in the riot and the university's “hands-off” approach to any discipline of those students who participated. One business owner stated, “The destruction of others people's property is obviously accepted by the university. It's obvious they (students) can and do what they want and when they want and there's no penalty. The law was suspended for four hours on S. University. There was no law.”
Police Chief Corbett could be very passionate at times and was when it came to officer safety. He led the way for the formation of the department's special tactics unit and was the oldest person to go through swat school. When officers were being confronted on the street with high caliber weapons, he changed departmental policy, enabling officers to carry 9 m.m. semi-automatic pistols. Up to this point the department issued officers .38 caliber, six-shot revolvers.
He did so with no consultation from city council and this fact was no lost with some of them. Councilman Jeff Epton stated, “It is laughable, this new internal policy. If they think that carrying semiautomatic weapons will somehow improve public safety or the personal safety of the officers, they're wrong.” City Councilman Mark Ouimet held a different view stating, “Our police department should be equally equipped as the people they deal with.”
Chief Corbett stated the new policy was spurred by three incidents in which Ann Arbor Officers encountered high powered weapons on the street. One of those incidents involved Officer Brian Zasadny, who was shot at by a suspect armed with a semi-automatic pistol.
The process to professionalize police work has been ongoing since its inception. Most professions have a procedure in which they are accredited by an outside board. In 1979, a non-profit organization was formed to accredit police departments. This board, the National Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, formulated 900 standards that departments would have to meet to receive accreditation.
The Ann Arbor Police Department decided to join the accreditation process in 1986. The process is very grueling and involved the addition and rewrite of the departmental policies. The policies give officers direction in everything from the use of deadly force to the correct wearing of their uniforms. Chief Corbett stated, “The members of the accreditation team look at all the warts and all the beauty spots and make a straight, honest assessment. If your lacking in something or if you're not doing the job, it becomes part of the final report.
“It will provide documentation that we have one of the finest police agencies in the country,” the chief said. “And by following the letter to the standards set out by the commission, we can respond adequately and fairly to any criticism which might arise within the community.”
Deputy Chief Hoover stated, “It opens a police department to a very intensive review by police executives who are strangers to the community. There's always the possibility of not passing the assessment and having to explain to elected officials, city administration, citizens and the media why that happened. But we have enough confidence in our department to be willing to take that risk.”
When the idea was first proposed to city council they were not overwhelmingly supportive of the project. Some thought it was a way to avoid a citizen's review board, which the department objected to. Eventually council agreed and the department went forward with accreditation.
The accreditation team consists of a three member team of police executives that inspects the policies and operations of the department. The Ann Arbor Police Department was awarded accreditation status in 1989, after three long years of work. Many people assisted in this project, which was a success because of their long efforts. Every three years the department is reassessed to assure the standards are still being followed.
Many Ann Arbor “traditions” have grown into major events without city approval and one of the most infamous of these Ann Arbor events is the Naked Mile. The Naked Mile began in the mid 1980's as a celebration of the last day of classes for University of Michigan students.
The first Naked Mile, started by a small group of students, ran naked on westbound S.Univeristy from Washtenaw through the Diag to the Administration building. Approximately 15 people participated and the event past without any arrests as officers were not even called to the scene. Most people thought the event was some type of fraternity prank, which are very common.
Year by year the event grew in size and I personally observed the “runners” in the second or third year it occurred. While on patrol my partner and I observed approximately 30 naked men running down the middle of S. University. At this point no one at the police department knew of the Naked Mile and we assumed it had something to do with a fraternity.
We watched the “runners” go by and we decided to go in another direction not wanting to become involved in any arrests with a bunch of naked students. Interestingly enough, we did not even get one call from a citizen in regards to these runners, as if citizens of Ann Arbor were used to naked people running down the street!
In any event, the “Naked Mile” grew larger and larger each year to the point where hundreds of students ran naked down S. University and thousands of spectators came to watch the event. In fact, at the 1999 Naked Mile, nearly 10,000 spectators came to watch the run.
The event really began to grow when large numbers of women began to run. In the 1999 run, well over 30% of the “runners” were women. National media outlets also heard of the run, further publicizing it.
As the run grew, city leaders were perplexed on how best to handle the Naked Mile. Initially the police department took a hands-off approach and simply provided traffic control and issued tickets, primarily for alcohol offenses. Obviously running naked down the street is illegal, but few arrests have been made at these runs.
The event still occurs but a decision was made to crackdown on the event during the 2000 run. Many arrests were made for indecent exposure and at the writing of this book, it appears the event has “run” its course.