Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Larry and Danny Ranes: Serial Killers in the Same Family

Sex Crime

Danny Ranes
Danny Ranes

By this time, it was his older brothers' turn.  Danny Ranes was said to be equally angry from the abuse received at the hands of their father.  In their home in Kalamazoo, they were the middle two children of four; the oldest and youngest were girls.  Their father was an alcoholic who got mean when he drank and would hit whoever was close by.  Each of the kids took a share of the abuse before the man finally walked out, but by that time the damage was done.  He had modeled the use of violence to get through life, and the boys took out their frustrations on each other.

Danny Ranes went to prison for assault and was paroled early in 1972 when he was 28.  Within a month, he committed another crime.  Most of the details came from Brent Koster, 15 at the time, who said that shortly after he'd met Ranes in June, Ranes had described the incident to him in detail, even showing him where it had occurred at the east side of a store.  In March, Patricia Howk, 29, left home with her seventeen-month-old son, Cory, to do some shopping.  Ranes accosted and stabbed her to death, leaving her son to wander aimlessly until an elderly woman found him the next day and called the police.  The boy had blood on him, so they searched for his mother and found Howk's body behind the Independent Elevator Company building.  Her husband had reported her missing.  Her billfold was missing, so robbery seemed a possible motive.

Koster said that Danny bragged about having committed that crime.  He'd seen the woman go into a Topp's department store and had parked his blue Corvair van next to her car to wait.  An hour went by and she came out and put her son into the passenger seat.  As she came around to the driver's side, where the van was, Danny got out, walked up to her and pulled a knife.  She panicked and fell into the car, but he pulled her out and forced her to get into his van, where he bound and raped her.  He left her bound with her hands in front of her as he forced her into the front.  He tried to strangle her but she fought him, scratching his face.  They struggled so hard that they fell out of the van to the ground.

Ranes stabbed her in the back but he said that "it didn't seem to have much effect," so he gave the knife a twist to wreak more damage.  "That did it," he claimed.  Somehow the child had gotten out of the car and was standing near the van, crying.  Danny figured that the boy wouldn't recall anything because he was too young, so he left him alone.  Finally Howk stopped struggling and expired.

Koster said that Danny had bragged how well the method had worked and suggested that they do a similar deed together: they could grab a girl, rape her, take her money and valuables, and then kill her.  Koster's six-foot-six frame, which had earned him the nickname, "Stretch," may have been influential, since he looked as if he could subdue anyone.  Koster agreed to try it, so they put together a kit with knives, trash bags and ropes, and went cruising.  (However, in one trial, Koster admitted that Ranes told him about this incident in July after they had committed two murders.)  He said that they had once parked in front of a movie theater for four hours looking for an opportunity, and often went looking for female hitchhikers. They passed the time with talk about sex and killing women, although Koster said that Ranes initiated most of it.

As they roamed around, the police were still trying to solve Howk's murder.

 

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