Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Larry and Danny Ranes: Serial Killers in the Same Family

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On May 2, the triple homicide of a family in a nearby town, Cassopolis, had the police speculating over whether the killings were related to the Howk incident.  Timothy Roderick and his wife, nine months pregnant, were bound and slashed through the throats as their two children, ages 2 and 3, had watched. Dr. William Glaser performed the autopsies and said there were some similarities between the two crimes.  However, a man who had been living with the family had disappeared, so he was the immediate suspect.  He was arrested in Florida and quickly tied to the triple murder, and it appeared there was no link to Howk.

Map showing Galesburg, Michigan
Map showing Galesburg, Michigan

On July 17, motorcycle riders in the woods near Galesburg, Michigan came across an abandoned blue Opel Kadette with the decomposed bodies of two young women in the back seat.  The car's registration was traced to a Chicago-area man, who had reported his daughter missing.  She had gone with her roommate to see her brother in Ann Arbor, but had never arrived.  Fingerprints helped to identify Linda Clark and Claudia Bidstrup, both 19.  One was the daughter of a Chicago police detective.  An autopsy was unable to find the cause of death, but ropes around their necks indicated that they had been strangled.  The girls had been murdered more than a week before they were found, so the chances of pinning down leads were grim.  The gas tank was full, so it was surmised that they had encountered their killer not far from there.  The police began to check the immediate area. What they did not know and would learn only seven weeks later was that the girls had been the victims of Ranes and Koster.

On July 5, Danny was at work at the Sprinkle Road service station when Linda Clark and Claudia Bidstrup pulled in around 1:30 A.M. to get gas.  Koster filled the tank while Ranes popped the hood, both of them preparing for what they were going to do.  Ranes dismantled a wire to the spark plugs, making the car sound as if it had a problem.  He then had the girls drive the car into the bay so he could have a closer look.  When they did so, the two men pulled knives.  Ranes told them not to scream and they wouldn't be harmed.  He then instructed them to get into the back seat and he drove the car to the back of the station, where the lights were off.

Koster and Ranes tied them up.  One of them kept watch on girls while the other attended to customers.  Koster saw Ranes assaulting Linda, and said later that Ranes had told him that he'd also had sex with Claudia.  Koster than had sex with Linda in the van.  Ranes put Claudia back into the car and Koster killed her there, because Ranes had told him it was time for him to "taste the medicine."  He attempted without success to strangle her with a rope, so as she struggled to live, Ranes assisted and together they killed her.

They then turned their attentions to Linda, and Koster managed to strangle her on his own.  They put both women into the back seat of the Opel, covered them with a blanket, and Koster drove the car himself to a wooded area near Galesburg. He poured gasoline over it and lit a cigarette.  This he placed on the floor of the car and left before he knew if it had ignited the accelerant.  He hitchhiked back.  Ranes then showed him money, two rings, a pair of earrings, and some photographs that he had taken from the victims.

When the car was found, the girls' purses were empty of money.  The police and press considered that this incident could be related to the Howk murder.  All of the victims had been similarly tied, but the girls from Chicago were too recomposed to determine if they had been raped or how they had been killed.  Their deaths brought to twelve the number of murders in Kalamazoo County over the past eight months, considered significantly high.  Eight remained unsolved, but there was another to come.

 

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