Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Norman Collins: The Co-Ed Killer

Cold Case, New Issues

At the time that John Norman Collins was arrested for the murder of 18-year-old Karen Sue Beineman in 1969, the police decided that he was good for the string of seven murders in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area of Michigan. The murders took place from 1967-69, of which five clustered between March and August 1969, and while Collins was only convicted of the Beineman murder, he nevertheless entered crime archives as a serial killer. In part that was because Edward Keyes published The Michigan Murders, which implicated Collins circumstantially in each of the seven cases, as well as one in California and possibly a few in other states.

Collins resides in Marquette Branch Prison
Collins resides in Marquette Branch

Yet Keyes wrote much of his book based on newspaper reports, police suspicions, and the notes kept by a professor at Eastern Michigan University. He did not speak to anyone in Collins' family, Collins himself or his attorneys. In short, Keys' book offered a one-sided account. But then former state trooper Earl James penned Catching Killers, in which he described the physical, circumstantial, and testimonial evidence that tied Collins to the murders. Yet there were rumors that some of this evidence had been planted so that if Collins managed to get through the Beineman trial they could prosecute him for others.

Collins was convicted and received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. From there he protested his innocence, and still does to this day. He was never charged in any other case.

On November 25, 2004, more than 35 years after these incidents, a new development was announced in the Ann Arbor News and the Associated Press. Gary Earl Leiterman, 62, was charged with one count of murder in the death of Jane L. Mixer, a 23-year-old University of Michigan law student. She was last seen on March 20, 1969, after she had tried to arrange for a ride home in Muskegon. She was found on March 21 atop a grave in a cemetery near Denton Road, and because she was a student she was considered the third victim of the area serial killer. Only four days later, another girl was found murdered.


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