Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Norman Collins: The Co-Ed Killer

More Than One Killer?

There was some debate in retrospect as to whether Mixer actually fit the series. When found, she was fully dressed, unlike the other victims. In addition, she had been shot twice in the head and not mutilated in any manner or sexually molested. But the other victims had been dumped within a few miles of this cemetery, so it still seemed possible, and Mixer also had a stocking tied around her neck. Other victims were strangled as well.

John Norman Collins, recent
John Norman Collins, recent

Former state trooper Earl James had speculated that the perpetrator of this murder had been in the student union building on the University of Michigan campus where Mixer had placed an ad seeking a ride. She was hoping to get home to inform her family that she was engaged to be married. A man named "David Johnson" had responded but did not give her a way to reach him. Since the victim's coat was covered with soap granules, James believed she had been taken to a laundry room and held there. Then she was taken elsewhere and shot. She was dragged from a vehicle to where she was left in the cemetery, which could be viewed easily from several homes in the area, so the perpetrator had taken some risk. A green and white Chevrolet Caprice station wagon was observed near the cemetery that night, but was never tracked down. No "David Johnson" ever came forward to say that he was the man who had contacted the victim, and all other David Johnsons associated with the university had alibis.

James does offer a few links to Collins: he had lived in a frat house with a David Johnson and he owned a .22 caliber pistol. Also, a similar manner of catching the victim's blood had been used in another of the seven murders. Yet these are tentative links at best.

The arrest of Leiterman raises issues about the initial investigation and a possible assumption of guilt that might have caused police to overlook other suspects. Those same questions can be raised as well with the investigations of the other victims. In the event that investigators had decided at some point that the coed murders were all linked just because they were students on two closely-related campuses, they may have failed to note how dissimilarities among the crimes (and there were some) might link them to different offenders rather than to a single perpetrator. It's possible, in light of the recent arrest, that other perpetrators also remained free after Collins was convicted.


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