Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Norman Collins: The Co-Ed Killer

Mixer Case Reexamined

The trial of Gary Earl Leiterman began July 11, 2005, in Ann Arbor, Michigan with jury selection. He was charged late in 2004 with the 1969 murder of University of Michigan law student Jane Mixer, 23, long believed to have been a victim of alleged serial killer John Norman Collins. The evidence from the 36-year-old cold case was controversial, and many trial watchers believed that there were too many problems for a conviction. Some of the police officers from the Collins investigation testified, and they admitted that three decades ago evidence had not been well-handled: People did not wear gloves and some key items had been lost. But it was the new DNA evidence that caught the attention of the national media, and the trial was covered daily by the Ann Arbor News and Court TV.

Gary Earl Leiterman
Gary Earl Leiterman

The Jane Mixer murder remained an open case for over three decades until DNA analysis connected her with Leiterman, a former nurse who is now 62, and who had no apparent association with her. Leiterman's DNA had been included in the FBI's national database after he was convicted in 2002 of prescription fraud. When evidence from the Mixer case was tested, they got a hit. The odds that it had come from a Caucasian man other than Leiterman were calculated at 170 trillion to one. That alone would have been compelling, despite his denial that he knew her, except for one thing: DNA from the body also connected another man to Mixer. A spot of blood removed from her hand had been tested and matched to John Ruelas, who was imprisoned in 2002 for the murder of his mother. However, Ruelas was only four years old at the time of the Mixer murder. It made little sense, aside from contamination in the lab while handling evidence, that he could have had anything to do with her murder. That's what Leiterman's defense team counted on.

Yet there were other things that set Mixer apart from the list of seven area victims attributed to Collins. Unlike the others, she was fully dressed when found, with a coat placed protectively over her, and she had been shot twice in the head with a .22 but not molested or mutilated. Still, the other victims had been strangled, and Mixer had a stocking tied around her neck. She was also found in the general vicinity of some of the other murders, and she had been a student at one of the universities that other victims were attending. She also looked like the "victim type," and she had accepted a ride with a stranger.

 

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