Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Norman Collins: The Co-Ed Killer

Anatomy of a Killer

John Norman Collins led away after verdict
John Norman Collins led away
after verdict

John Norman Collins was a 22-year-old student at Eastern Michigan University, majoring in education when he was arrested for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman. He was from Center Line, a suburb north of Detroit, where he had lived with his mother and stepfather. At six feet tall, he was wiry and muscular, with neatly trimmed dark brown hair and sideburns. Many people thought him handsome and easy to talk to.

He had a part-time clerical job at EMU's McKenny Union, and he shared a house near the campus with another man. He had belonged to a fraternity, but had been kicked out under suspicion of theft. He had also engaged in petty burglaries for fun and kept his four motorcycles running with stolen parts. One of his professors suspected him of cheating.

He also got involved in grand theft when he wrote a bad check for a camper-trailer to take to California in June of 1969. He never returned the trailer, and the name on the check he wrote was lifted from a student whose wallet and ID had been stolen the week before.

Collins' family life was unstable, having been abandoned by his father soon after his birth in Windsor, Ontario, on June 17, 1947. His mother's second marriage lasted only a year, and her third husband was an abusive alcoholic, so she divorced him when Collins was nine, although Collins took the man's last name.

In high school at St. Clement's in Center Line, he was an honors student and an athlete, lettering in three sports. He dated regularly, was president of the C-Club for lettermen, star pitcher for the baseball team, and a tri-captain of the football team. Those who knew him called him "polite," "quiet," "respectful," and "nice." However, one former girlfriend said he was "mad most of the time."

He began attending Eastern Michigan in 1966, after a year at Central Michigan, because he wanted to major in education so he could teach the upper elementary grades. While there, he became vice president of the ski club, played sports, and was in the Theta Chi fraternity until he was asked to leave. Thereafter he became more of a loner, preferring to ride his motorcycles over dating girls. His teachers said he was a quick, alert student, but noted that his grades had declined by the second half of his sophomore year. He should have graduated in 1969, but was 24 credits short and had made no attempt to make them up over the summer. He seemed in no hurry to get out of school.


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