A gruesome murder that created many weeks of Milwaukee Journal newspaper headlines created much, much more than the description of a crime and an acknowledgment of the fear that rippled through the city. International intrigue eventually grew from the violence and the remains of a teenaged girl who lay dead in a wooded area of a small park on the city’s northwest side.

The details of the ultra high emotions of everyone involved, from surviving family members of the victim to case investigators, was exposed because of the spectacular nature of the case. A beautiful, athletic, all around high achieving young woman was sexually assaulted and strangled. Ordinarily, there would be local news reporting from the scene and some follow up, and the family would gather and grieve. Of course, all of that occurred in the case to which I am referencing. And of course everyone hoped that the killer would be located and on his way to prison.

The second part never quite worked out. I hedge by using the qualifying “quite” word, because, after several years, the actor was known and in prison, but for other crimes. We think. We’re, like, 99.9% certain. If it sounds as if there had been problems for the legal community – the world-wide legal community – it is no coincidence.

How would they say it now days? There were problems times infinity? Whatever, that is how I’m saying it.

The murder occurred in July, 1979. The victim and all others involved, whatever their part, will not be named. But there are still many people who remember the case. I certainly do, because I myself had a part – a very small part – in investigating the matter.

A high ranking officer of the Milwaukee Police Department had, coincidentally, been a good friend of the victim’s father. The victim had been missing for three days, and her parents said that when she had been five minutes late arriving at home from a bicycle ride, they knew “something dreadful had happened.” The mother was a basket case, the father was holding on.

Came the report of the body being found, less than one half mile from her home, and the father immediately went to the scene. Of course the police were there and the scene was sealed off, and of course the father wanted to see his daughter’s remains, anyway. That’s what always goes on. And “sealed off” means no one but those with explicit authority can enter, including the closest relatives.

The high ranking officer arrived and spoke with his friend, the girl’s father, and immediately made a poor decision. He allowed the father to see the remains, as they were found, in the small park forest.

Side note: I saw photos of the victim taken almost immediately after she was found, before the scene was processed. They horrified the most experienced and hard nosed homicide detectives there are. They were as shocking and grotesque as those that were taken at Nazi war camps.

Imagine how the sight affected her father.

It was literally the end of his mental well being; the beginning of a life time of steadily progressing mental derangement.

The high ranking officer thoughtlessly figured he was doing his buddy an insider favor.

He was wrong.

That part of this article needs no further commentary. One can imagine the fallout for many people, in different ways and on different levels.

There were no suspects; all possibilities were examined and there was absolutely nothing. There were no clues. There was merely the victim’s remains and her bicycle, which the killer had flung up into some tree branches. A few days later her tennis shoe and some underwear were located in an open sewer pipe on the park grounds.

Being a brand new major crimes detective, I was more-or-less a gopher for the veterans. But I was aware of, and saw everything. We did follow up for many months after.

What’s about all this International intrigue, you may be wondering?

It starts like this: Less than a year earlier a woman jogging in a park in the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield, which is on the other side of the city, had been strangled and left in some bushes. That was the extent of the crime – no removal of clothing or sexual assault. One who commits rape and then kills is considered to be in a more twisted psychological area; not that murdering a stranger in a park isn’t savage enough on it’s own. But sexual assault is a decidedly more harsh, more complex throw-in with the premeditated murder of a stranger.

But it was all our lead detectives had, so they looked into the Greenfield Police Department’s investigation. A couple names of possible suspects had been thrown around, mostly out of desperation and as a common tactic to keep the news media and the people living in the nearby area a sense that their police are doing their job. (Which they are, by the way.) The cases were not related.

A possible witness eventually came forward. He’d seen a young man in the park around the time that the victim had been away from home on her bike ride. The witness viewed suspect photos in the Detective Bureau, with no success.

Meanwhile, the dead girl’s father grew frustrated and hired a private detective to get involved with the investigation. And that’s where the bizarre twist began.

The PI was somewhat wealthy and lived in a posh neighborhood, and had a reputation as an extremely hard worker who had exposed a fair number of insurance frauds, and the like.

It was soon to be learned that he did not know the difference between civil and criminal investigations.

Eyewitnesses in criminal matters must view a line-up of four or five people, and then successfully identify the person whom they saw committing whatever act is being investigated. A photo lineup, which uses photos of people casting the same pose in each picture. the same poses with each photo, can suffice. As everyone is aware, an artist’s sketch can be used as a look-out device, for the police to possibly find a photo or person who closely matches, and to show the public, so they might be able to name someone. Such scenarios have famously paid off through the generations.

An investigator does not take a single photo or drawing to a possible eyewitness, and then have said witness say “That’s the guy!” and then think that they can use that “identification” as evidence to get a warrant. Said investigator also does not go to his buddies at the cities main newspaper and have them print an above-the-fold copy of said drawing on the front page of the newspaper, with the declaration that “This is the suspect!” That there has been a positive identification of the perpetrator of the crime.

The reasons? It is considered prejudicial to show a single photo to a witness, and it is therefore not admissible in court. It also messes up further use of the photo in the investigation. Having the news paper print the drawing of what some people – not necessarily the police – believe is the actor also destroys the credibility of the drawing for purposes of use in a trial. This is fundamental law: Law thath law enforcement officials and attorneys and judges all well know.

Gets better.

The chief of police does not order the destruction of the police copy of the drawing, simply because he’s angry about the way it was misused. Said chief should not need a lieutenant explain to him the reasons why, like the defense has a right to see the drawing, and you can lose the case if you destroyed it. That was necessary in this case. I will allow the information I’ve cited to stand alone, without discussion or opinion attached.

Gets better.

One of the names the Greenfield police came up with appeared in the army roster in a troop in Germany. The young man had enlisted in the army a short while after the rape-murder of the young girl on the cities north side. The new soldier had been stationed in Europe after basic training. The soldier was arrested in Germany for molesting a woman in a bar.

The Milwaukee District Attorney said “That’s all we got,” and two Milwaukee detective were sent to Germany to interview the soldier-molester. He was questioned and denied everything about the Milwaukee murders. Our detectives – two of the best I ever saw – came back saying with certainty, “This is our guy!”

No proof, but these guys know their killers and rapists. The soldier-molester was dishonorably discharged and sent back to the ‘States. A short while later he was arrested in Chicago for the rape-murder of a woman in a park. He’s a slam-dunk, cold turkey, hanging upside down on a hook in a slaughter house, in their case. Our detectives go to Chicago to interview him. His attorney says the murder-rapist will only talk if he gets a deal. You mean, he did our Milwaukee rapes and murders, our guys ask his attorney? The attorney responds with a coy smile and raises his eyebrows.

The suspect tells his attorney: No deal in the Milwaukee cases, no confession. He’ll take his chances in Chicago. (He lost.)

Our D.A. – and everyone else in the legal community – says that’s as close as we’re ever gonna get. The soldier-rapist-murderer dude is doing life without parole in Illinois. Our cases in Milwaukee are, and will remain, 99.9% closed.

Addendum: The father of the Milwaukee teen-aged girl victim deteriorated badly, and did several rehabilitation stints in psychiatric wards. The word was that he’d never recovered. He passed away a few years ago.


ROb2This is number 21 in an ongoing series from Rob.

He spent thirty-two years as a Milwaukee police officer: seven years doing undercover narcotics investigations and twenty-two years as a major crimes detective. Writing and reading have been lifelong passions, and he began by writing short stories more than thirty years ago.

Rob is published by Orange Hat Press

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