Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Norman Collins: The Co-Ed Killer

A Midnight Jogger

That night it rained, diminishing visibility, and when a deputy spotted a man stop by the mannequin and then run out of the gully, he tried to radio a description to others, but his walkie-talkie failed. The sound of a car engine told them that whoever the midnight jogger was, he got away.

Between three witnesses from the area of the wig shop, a composite sketch was made and printed in the paper. One person who worked at an office supply was sure that the man had been riding a Triumph motorcycle.

At the same time a young campus policeman, Larry Mathewson, was putting together a profile. He was acquainted with John Norman Collins, who had already been questioned during the second murder investigation. He had seen Collins cruising around that day. Borrowing a photo of him from a former girlfriend who also said she'd seen Collins driving around campus, Mathewson took it to the girl who had noticed the make of the motorcycle. She readily identified him, so Mathewson decided to go investigate Collins.

He was inexperienced with murderers, however, and his unexpected visit gave Collins the opportunity to hide any evidence he had in his possession. Collins' housemate, Arnold Davis, recalled that he had taken a box covered with a blanket out of his room. As Davis opened the door for him, he spotted a woman's shoe, rolled-up jeans, and a handbag inside the box. Collins later returned without the box and said he'd gotten rid of it. He was put under surveillance, but no one could stop him from thoroughly cleaning out his car.

At the same time, police corporal David Leik, Collins' uncle, returned home from vacation with his wife and three sons. His wife noticed patches of black paint on the concrete floor. They had left their home in the charge of their nephew and wondered what he had been doing there. Leik noticed that a can of paint that he had left in the basement was gone. His wife said that a box of detergent and bottle of ammonia were also missing.

Soon they learned that their nephew was the prime suspect in the coed murder investigation. Leik was incredulous, but when he heard that Collins had agreed to take a lie-detector test and then had backed down, he acknowledged that something was amiss. He went into his basement and scraped up some of the paint, finding a stain that looked like blood. Immediately he called in some lab analysts. The stain turned out to be varnish, but suspiciously, Collins had called to ask if they had found out anything about it. (When Leik later told Collins that it was just varnish, Collins inexplicably began to cry.) Leik recalled that he had used varnish on some shutters, but that did not explain why someone had covered them with paint.


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