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Notorious Michigan serial killers: Who were they?

Detroit Free Press (TNS) • May 13, 2018 at 12:00 PM

If Arthur Ream — who bragged in prison about killing 4-6 people — turns out to be the latest Michigan serial killer, he'll have plenty of company. Here are other notorious cases in the state's history:

Carl Eugene Watts

Also known as Coral Watts and nicknamed "The Sunday Morning Slasher," Watts was convicted in the deaths of Helen Dutcher and Gloria Steele — two Michigan women out of the dozens he is believed to have killed between 1974 and 1982.

He got immunity for a dozen murders as part of a plea deal and nearly was released on a technicality in 2006. He died of prostate cancer in prison.

Leslie Allen Williams

Williams, a parolee, was arrested in the kidnapping and attempted rape of a woman in a Springfield Township cemetery. She was discovered in the trunk of his car. He then confessed to the abduction, rape and slayings of four teenage girls in rural Oakland and Genesee counties in 1992.

He is serving a sentence of life without parole.

Victor Malone

Found guilty of the first-degree murder of a prostitute in Southfield in 1986 after he had been convicted of murdering two prostitutes in Detroit.

Don Miller

In August 1978, Don Miller forced his way into the bedroom of a 14-year-old girl and raped and tried to strangle her before he was arrested. A year later, a judge sentenced him to 30 to 50 years in prison for rape and attempted murder.

But months before he was sentenced, Miller was indicted on murder charges in the deaths of two women, one of whom had been his fiancée. And he admitted to killing two other women. In exchange for taking police to the bodies of two of the women he killed, Miller was allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter charges and was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison.

Because of his plea deal, Miller is eligible to be released on parole, which so far has been denied. In 1997, a group opposing his release discovered a prison infraction from 1994 that they relayed into criminal charges for possessing a weapon. It added 20 to 40 years to his sentence.

He's next up for parole in 2020.

John Norman Collins

Collins was convicted on Aug. 19, 1970, of murdering a female Eastern Michigan University freshman. Karen Sue Beineman, 18, of Grand Rapids was the last of seven college coeds murdered in the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor area during the late 1960s. The slayings began in 1967 and stopped two years later, when Collins was arrested. However, the then-21-year-old Canadian was never charged with any of the other half-dozen killings.

Despite the sole conviction, Collins — who later changed his name to Chapman — was one of 110 serial killers and mass killers featured on trading cards marketed by a California company in the early 1990s.

Elias Abuelazam

Accused in the serial stabbings of 18 men in the Flint area in 2010 that resulted in five deaths. He was convicted in one of the deaths and is serving a life sentence without parole.

Donald Murphy

In 1980, 11 prostitutes were among 18 young women killed in similar circumstances in Detroit. Murphy was convicted of two of the murders and confessed to four others.

But Murphy's confessions came only after David Payton, the former girls' basketball coach at Highland Park High School, had told police he committed some of the same killings. Payton quickly recanted, claiming coercion by police.

The murder charges against Payton were dismissed, and he also was acquitted of robbing and raping two other prostitutes. Payton in 1991 won $8 million from Detroit in a lawsuit after a jury found that police had coerced the murder confessions.

Anthony Guy Walker

Walker, who already was in prison for a rape conviction, in 2010 was charged in the 1979 cold case murders of Theresa Carey, Yolanda Madison and Floyd Beatty. As part of the plea deal in the case, he admitted to two other murders: Arleen Salcedo in 1975, and Daniel Staggs, who Walker arranged to have killed in prison, in 1986. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Benjamin Atkins

Also known as the "Woodward Corridor Killer," Atkins was convicted in the 1991-92 deaths of 11 women in Detroit and Highland Park, many of whom worked as prostitutes. One of his calling cards was leaving a sock in his victim's mouth. He died of AIDS complications in 1997.

Shelly Brooks

Brooks is believed to have killed seven prostitutes between 2001 and 2006 in Detroit and Highland Park. He was convicted in two of the cases and is serving life in prison without parole.

Mary McKnight

McKnight is believed to have murdered 12-18 people with strychnine poisoning, including her whole family, just because she liked to go to funerals. Her crime spree stretched from Alpena to Saginaw. Her story was detailed in a book by Michigan crime writer Tom Carr, "Blood on the Mitten: Infamous Michigan Murders 1700s to Present." (Chandler Lake Books, 2016).

Oakland County Child Killer

Four children in metro Detroit were found slain between 1976 and 1977, becoming victims of the unknown Oakland County Child Killer. The homicides remain unsolved.

Police have chased down multiple leads over the years. Early on, they zeroed in on Christopher Busch, a convicted pedophile who reportedly killed himself in his parents' home in 1978. At the suicide scene, investigators found ropes in Busch's bedroom closet.

The ropes were referred to by investigators as "bloody ligatures" and considered likely evidence that Busch tied up victim Timothy King, 11 — and possibly the other victims: Mark Stebbins, 12, Jill Robinson, 12, and Kristine Mihelich,10 — before killing them.

But in 2012, the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office tracked down the forensic laboratory scientist who examined the ropes at the time of Busch's suicide. "There was no blood, fibers, hairs or any other evidence on the ropes," David Metzger said in a sworn affidavit.

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