The Detroit News

Fresh eyes scope out cold case

- Crime · Law Enforcement · Law · London · North America · United States of America · Wisconsin · Metro Detroit · Detroit · Michigan · Michigan State University · Oakland County · Oakland

Michael Arnt­field and his stu­dents at The Cold Case In­ves­tiga­tive So­ci­ety aren’t in the busi­ness of bash­ing law en­force­ment. But af­ter spend­ing eight months ex­am­in­ing the 36-yearold un­solved Oak­land County Child Killings case, they have con­cluded the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is crip­pled by “a com­plete in­sti­tu­tional break­down.”

This shouldn’t come as a shock to those who have fol­lowed the case. Ever since a new sus­pect emerged in 2008, nu­mer­ous in­ves­tiga­tive agen­cies have been spin­ning their own the­o­ries about sus­pects, both dead and alive. The con­cur­rent assembly of two grand ju­ries con­vened by du­el­ing pros­e­cu­tors is con­fus­ing, to say the least. Mud­dy­ing the wa­ters are the odd re­ports from a so-called in­for­mant named “Bob” who claims the killer is in­volved with rogue police of­fi­cers.

“This case was frus­trat­ing just to read, be­fore we even got in­volved,” says Arnt­field. “Some of the stuff is just mind­bog­gling. At some point, some­body needs to step up to the plate and take own­er­ship of this case.”

If you haven’t al­ready gath­ered, Arnt­field is not your av­er­age, eru­dite, sweater­vested col­lege pro­fes­sor. He’s a 14-year vet­eran homi­cide de­tec­tive in Lon­don who also holds a Ph.D. in me­dia stud­ies.

Two years ago, Arnt­field be­gan a course called The Se­rial Killer in the Me­dia and Pop­u­lar Cul­ture. Armed with ba­sic police in­ves­tiga­tive tech­niques, stu­dents an­a­lyzed decades-old cold cases from all around North Amer­ica.

“The idea was to com­bine the in­for­ma­tion-age ex­per­tise of Gen­er­a­tion Y and X-ers, with their youth­ful en­thu­si­asm and lack of bias, to look at th­ese cold cases and see what de­tec­tives with the same jaded per­spec­tive they’ve held for 20 years might have missed,” he says.

Some cases even got close to be­ing solved. In one 40-yearold un­solved mur­der case in Wis­con­sin, Arnt­field says stu­dents used so­cial me­dia to track down a per­son of in­ter­est whom police didn’t even know was alive.

The stu­dents’ fi­nal re­ports, which in­clude anal­y­sis and rec­om­men­da­tions — are turned over to law en­force­ment.

The course evolved into The Cold Case In­ves­tiga­tive So­ci­ety, a now ex­tremely pop­u­lar “club” made up of a dozen hand­picked grad­u­ate and un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents from a va­ri­ety of dis­ci­plines from math­e­mat­ics to bi­ol­ogy to the vis­ual arts.

“The more dif­fer­ent life ex­pe­ri­ences, de­mo­graph­ics and, even left- and right-brain dif­fer­ences, the more unique and valu­able per­spec­tives they bring to the ta­ble,” Arnt­field says.

Last fall, the So­ci­ety chose the se­rial child mur­der case that has been a thorn in the side of Metro Detroit in­ves­ti­ga­tors for decades. The stu­dents poured over news ac­counts; they stud­ied sev­eral thou­sand pages of police re­ports, in­ter­viewed the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and vis­ited ev­i­dence scenes.

Last week they turned over their 25-page anal­y­sis to the Michi­gan State Police. It was di­rect, suc­cinct, and did not mince words. Among their find­ings:

Prime sus­pect Christo­pher Busch, if alive, would be on trial for one or more of th­ese mur­ders and there is com­pelling ev­i­dence that oth­ers con­spired and col­luded with him.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors missed an op­por­tu­nity to draw a nexus be­tween those in­volved in child pornog­ra­phy and th­ese mur­ders.

Busch’s sui­cide was most likely staged to im­pli­cate him or he was mur­dered by a co­con­spir­a­tor look­ing to place all cul­pa­bil­ity on him.

The con­ven­ing of two grand ju­ries is “at best, a re­dun­dant prac­tice” and “at worst, is yet an­other ex­am­ple of state of­fi­cials seek­ing to dif­fuse their re­spon­si­bil­ity to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and the re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties.”

Arnt­field says the method­ol­ogy used in the So­ci­ety was gleaned from a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions that came out of an in­quest into “hor­rific over­sights in an On­tario se­rial mur­der case not dis­sim­i­lar to this case.”

“Law en­force­ment needs to be self-crit­i­cal some­times,“Arnt­field says. “To look at our mis­takes and move for­ward.”

Still, he adds: “This is not an ex­posé on who screwed up. This is lend­ing our anal­y­sis and ex­per­tise for law en­force­ment’s ben­e­fit. It’s up to them to lis­ten, right?”

 ??  ?? Heather Travis Michael Arnt­field is a Bri­tish de­tec­tive who led an­other look into the Oak­land County Child Killings case.
Heather Travis Michael Arnt­field is a Bri­tish de­tec­tive who led an­other look into the Oak­land County Child Killings case.
 ??  ?? MAR­NEY
RICH KEENAN
MAR­NEY RICH KEENAN

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