Time to kill
Neighbour from hell
Over the saxophones, tubas and electric guitars, love blossomed in a musical instrument shop.
The friendship between colleagues John Tarwacki, 40, and Carolyn Mcknight, 37, had grown after the pair bonded over their respective failed love lives. And in 2007, they married. Soon afterwards, they took in Kelan, Carolyn’s teenage nephew, who was having a hard time with his parents.
In February 2010, the house was up at 6am, with Kelan heading for an early morning club at school before his aunt and uncle went to work.
But later that morning, John’s dad, John Tarwacki Sr, had a call from their worried colleagues. They’d not turned up. So he went to their home in Niles, Michigan.
In the hallway, John lay motionless with several stab wounds and Carolyn had been beaten, before being shot.
‘They’re dead,’ was all John Sr could say to the 911 call handler.
Police found two trails of footprints in the snow that had blanketed the town that morning.
Deliberate ones plodding up to the house and a panicked flurry as the intruder fled.
Wrigley, the couple’s 200lb mastiff, was shut in a back room.
Police immediately decided it was personal – a beating, nothing stolen, the big dog who didn’t raise the alarm. It must have been someone known to them.
They knocked on the neighbours’ doors.
One, Keith Lintz, 29, was known to police, but his mum, Sherry, had said he’d been asleep until she’d taken him to work at a Walmart store.
Another neighbour said they’d seen a tall, young, white man in a hoodie running down an alley at 7.45am – it sounded like Kelan.
Detectives went to his school to break the news of his aunt and uncle’s death, and to question him. Kelan dissolved into sobs. He couldn’t be faking, and teachers said he’d been there all along.
Police turned to Kelan’s mum, Katie.
She admitted she couldn’t stand her sister, and accused her of trying to take Kelan away.
‘I’m not going to miss my sister, but I didn’t kill her,’ Katie said bluntly, and both she and Kelan’s dad, David, had alibis.
Interviews with John and Carolyn’s ex partners also came to nothing.
But two years after the killings, Carolyn’s mum, Sharon, called detectives.
While clearing the house, she’d found a bloody knife in the freezer. It was a match for the couple’s DNA.
Police had to apologise that they’d missed such a key piece of evidence.
Weeks later, a young woman called Patricia Wilds was pulled over for driving offences, and asked to make a deal.
She used to go out with Brian, the brother of one of the Tarwacki’s neighbours – Keith Lintz.
According to Patricia, Keith came round to their house the morning of the murder.
‘I left my f***ing footprints in the yard,’ he’d said. ‘They’re going to find me.’
She was too frightened of Keith to tell anyone.
Now though, Keith was 450 miles away in jail in Nashville, Tennessee, serving a sentence for minor offences.
He failed two lie detector tests, but still police didn’t have enough on him.
His cellmate, Shane Zimmerman, though, said Keith had confessed to him.
He agreed to wear a wire to trap Keith.
‘I don’t want anything for it,’ Shane said. ‘I’ve screwed up my whole life. For once, I’m going to do what’s right.’
Police pieced together the story from the wire tap.
On the morning of the murders, Keith set out to burgle a house to buy more drugs. He didn’t know John and Carolyn, but their house looked empty.
The huge dog was in the yard, but Keith kept pitbulls, so he wasn’t afraid.
He took Wrigley by the collar, let himself in through the unlocked back door and shut Wrigley in a room.
When Carolyn saw him, she screamed and John came running to her aid.
Keith pulled a knife and fatally stabbed him.
He savagely beat Carolyn, shot her and fled empty handed.
In October 2013 at Cass County Circuit Court, Keith was sentenced to life without parole for the two murders.
What seemed so personal was just a senseless, random killing.
But John Sr, said, ‘At least now we know how it all happened.’
He added that he still talked to the souls of John and Carolyn, and finally had some good news to send to Heaven.
‘I’m going to say, “We got him, Johnny. We got him.’”