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CRIMECON: The Snow Killings

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The Snow Killings
Inside the Oakland County Child Killer Investigation
By Marney Keenan
Exposit Books (2020)

In 1976–77, over a period of 13 months, four children ages 10–12 (two boys and two girls) were abducted from their suburban Detroit neighborhoods in Oakland County, Michigan—the second-most populous county in the state, and among the most affluent in the country. Each was held by their captors for periods of 4 to 19 days before their bodies were dumped—still warm and dressed in the clothes they were wearing when they vanished—near roadsides at locations miles from where they were last seen. Autopsies found the boys had been sexually assaulted. The murders spread mass fear across southeast Michigan for years, with far-reaching effects on the community.

In what was then the largest manhunt in U.S. history, a multi-agency law enforcement task force—at one point operating with as many as 200–300 detectives and a sizeable USDOJ grant—spent two years investigating the murders, fielding 18,000 tips and following up thousands of leads before shutting down in 1978, having filed no charges nor naming any persons of interest.

In the end, law enforcement and prosecutors shrugged, telling the public they had exhausted all leads and resources and calling the case unsolved (but not closed). Forty-five years later, the Oakland County Child Killings case remains open (and in recent years is quite active again) but still officially unsolved.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, through a couple of incredibly felicitous discoveries, a few strong suspects were identified—all of them known pedophiles, overlooked (or buried) by the initial task force, or discovered through subsequent cold-case investigations by the longest-serving detective on the case, Cory Williams (now retired from law enforcement).

Each suspect is connected to the crimes by damning circumstantial or physical evidence. One, the son of a highly-placed General Motors executive, was freed on unrelated criminal sexual conduct charges a few weeks before the fourth victim was found dead in a ditch—and a year and a half before he himself was found dead of “suicide” under questionable circumstances.

His close associate, earlier convicted on 45 counts of CSC with minors in California, had no family influence backing him and went to prison for life, where he died in 1995, having never again been questioned about the OCCK crimes.

Three others are still living: two are serving life in prison on other CSC charges; one jumped parole in October and remains at large. But none are telling what they must know about the crimes.

All of these men were directly or indirectly associated with a large, highly-organized ring of child exploiters and pornographers operating out of Detroit and in other places across Michigan, including North Fox Island in Lake Michigan, where a wealthy Jeffery Epstein-type figure established a “summer camp” for wayward boys, with the help of government funding, that was in fact a front for a highly profitable child pornography and prostitution operation.

Marney Keenan’s The Snow Killings covers the 45-year investigation in comprehensive detail, and reveals evidence of a multi-faceted, decades-long cover-up in the case, beginning during the initial task force investigation and continuing today among authorities handling the case.