Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.









Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Linked by DNA. The issue of contamination at the lab is key in the case
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 20, 1969
Date of arrest: November 2004 (35 years after)
Date of birth: 1943
Victim profile: Jane L. Mixer, 23
Method of murder: Shooting (.22-caliber gun)
Location: Washtenaw County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment on August 30, 2005

photo gallery


State of Michigan Court of Appeals


opinion 265821


The 1969 murder of law student Jane Mixer was believed to be work of a serial killer until DNA evidence linked retired nurse Gary Leiterman to the case.


The Elmer Fudd killer

By David J. Krajicek -

Sunday, July 8th 2007

Jane Mixer always seemed like an orphan among the sad sisterhood of young women slain by a serial killer near Ann Arbor, Mich., in the late 1960s.

The Coed Killer was believed to have done his demented work seven times over two years.

The first murder, of college freshman Mary Fleszar, was on July 10, 1967. The last, of Karen Beineman, also a freshman, was on July 23, 1969.

The third victim was Mixer, 23, a free-spirited law school student at the University of Michigan.

But her slaying stood apart from the others, who were raped, beaten and stabbed in classic acts of sexual rage.

The murder of Mixer was different.

Her body was found March 21, 1969, in a cemetery west of Ann Arbor.

She had been garroted with a nylon stocking - not her own - and shot twice in the head with a .22.

The killer had pulled up Mixer's jumper to reveal her underwear, then carefully covered the body with her yellow raincoat and positioned it atop a grave. The persnickety murderer had neatly set Mixer's shoes and her copy of "Catch 22" near the body.

She had not been beaten or sexually molested.

But proximity prompted police to lump the Mixer murder with the other six.

DNA offers new theories

The case was unofficially regarded as solved when serial killer John Collins, a clean-cut frat boy at Eastern Michigan University, was arrested in 1970, convicted in the Beineman murder and sentenced to life without parole.

But in 2002, a new generation of Michigan state detectives had begun perusing old cases for possible DNA testing when Sgt. Eric Schroeder was struck by the obvious deviations from Collins' modus operandi in the Mixer murder.

Lab technicians tested the residue from three drops of sweat on the victim's pantyhose and a single drop of blood on her hand - evidence saved for more than three decades.

The techs found a revelation in the sweat: The genetic code it held matched not killer Collins but a grandfatherly former nurse from southwestern Michigan.

In the fall of 2004, Sgt. Schroeder paid a visit to the Gobles, Mich., home of the man, Gary Leiterman, 62.

"I did not do this," Leiterman firmly declared.

Leiterman grew up outside Detroit and lived near Ann Arbor as a young man. After a stint in the Navy, he had worked as a traveling pharmaceutical salesman in that region in the late 1960s.

As spring break approached in March '69, Jane Mixer posted a note on a college ride-share bulletin board, seeking a lift across the state to her hometown of Muskegon. She told her father she would be traveling with a student named David Johnson, who had replied to her posting.

She never made it home. Besides the evidence with the body, police found only one clue: a phone book in a Michigan dorm on which someone - the killer, presumably - had written the words "Mixer" and "Muskegon."

Based upon DNA evidence, Leiterman was charged with being that someone.

He seemed an unlikely murderer.

A bald, big-bellied Civil War buff and former school board member, he had had a 27-year marriage and had helped raise the two children of his Filipino wife.

Jane Mixer's niece, a poet, wrote that Leiterman seemed more cartoon character than killer when she saw him in court.

"Where I had imagined I might find the 'face of evil,' I am finding the face of Elmer Fudd," she wrote.

But this Fudd had a secret or two.

Leiterman was arrested in 2001 for passing a forged prescription. In his car, cops found a stack of prescription blanks stolen from the Kalamazoo hospital where he worked.

He was charged him with illegally obtaining painkillers, including Vicodin and Lorcet. Leiterman, who said he lapsed into addiction after a bout with kidney stones, was allowed to plead guilty when he agreed to enter drug rehab.

As a felon, he was required to give a DNA swab under a state law that took effect just three days before his conviction. The test led to his murder arrest.

Police made a creepy discovery while searching Leiterman's home. They found concealed in his study two Polaroid photos of a 16-year-old South Korean girl who had lived with the Leitermans as a foreign exchange student.

The images showed the girl - drugged unconscious - lying on Leiterman's bed with her clothing pulled back to expose her genitals. Authorities said the pose was an eerie echo of Jane Mixer's corpse.

Leiterman pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography before his murder trial in 2005.

Too much evidence

The 36-year-old homicide case was a difficult prosecution.

The scribble from the phone book was linked to Leiterman's handwriting, and his roommate from 1969 testified that the suspect owned a .22-caliber gun and kept a peculiar archive of stories about the Coed Killer serial murder case.

But DNA was the star evidence, and it turned out police had too much of the stuff.

Although the sweat stains were linked to Leiterman, a test of the blood found on Mixer's hand was linked through DNA to John Ruelas, a Detroit man serving life in prison for an unrelated murder.

The prosecutor was forced to admit that Ruelas was 4 years old in 1969.

Defense attorney Gary Gabry insisted the state police lab had somehow contaminated the samples. While the lab boss could not explain the Ruelas foulup, he swore to the validity of the Leiterman results on the sweat stains.

The jury believed him. After just minutes of deliberation, jurors took a vote and convicted Leiterman of first-degree murder.

Sobs resounded in the courtroom - from both Mixer's loved ones, including her 90-year-old father, and the wife and stepchildren of Leiterman.

On Aug. 30, 2005, Judge Donald Shelton handed down the mandatory sentence: Leiterman would spend the rest of his life in prison.

From behind bars, he continues to proclaim his innocence and is appealing based on the curious DNA results.


Jury finds retired nurse guilty of murdering a law student 36 years ago

July 22, 2005

By Harriet Ryan - Court TV

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Thirty-six years after a young law student was shot in the head at point-blank range and dumped in a cemetery, a circuit court jury convicted a retired nurse of her murder.

The panel found Gary Leiterman, 62, guilty of the first-degree murder of Jane Mixer Friday afternoon following five hours of deliberations.

Leiterman showed no reaction to the verdict.

Mixer disappeared on March 20, 1969, after telling her family she was accepting a ride home for spring break with a stranger. For years, her death was grouped with a half-dozen murders of young women that were believed to be the works of a serial killer operating in this college area.

The jury verdict appears to be an endorsement of DNA evidence hotly disputed during the two-week trial.

Leiterman, who was a 25-year-old drug salesman at the time of the crime and has no known connection to the victim, was arrested last year after a reinvestigation of the long-unsolved murder turned up stains on Mixer's pantyhose that matched his DNA.

The same lab, however, also found the DNA of another man, a convicted killer who was only 4 years old when the murder occurred.

"The system works and justice has been served," the victim's brother, Dan Mixer Jr., said after the verdict.

His 90-year-old father, Dan Sr., sobbed in the first row of the courtroom as the jury foreman read the verdict. Later, he called the trial "an ordeal for the family."

"We appreciate the police officers that have done everything to make justice prevail," he said.

After the verdict was announced, the defendant's wife, Solly, and the couple's two children looked stunned and began sobbing.

Prosecutor Steven Hiller said he was pleased with the verdict.

"Gary Leiterman deserved to pay the price for what he's done, and he'll do that," Hiller said.

Leiterman, a grandfather and one-time school board member, will receive a mandatory life term when Judge Donald Fhelton imposes his sentence on Aug. 30.

Leiterman's defense argued that an alleged serial killer, Don Norman Collins, was actually responsible for the murder. They also claimed that the presence of the second man's DNA in the form of a blood drop on the victims hand proved there was a lab contamination.

Hiller acknowledged the prosecution is still unable to explain how the presence of convicted killer Don Ruelas at the crime scene.

"Its something we knew we had to deal with but it doesn't change and it never did change the nature of the evidence against Gary Leiterman," Hiller said.


Retired nurse accused of slaying woman once believed victim of serial killer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In the late 1960s, coeds in this college town lived in fear of a serial killer.

Over a two-year period beginning in the summer of 1967, seven young women who resided on or near the University of Michigan campus or the campus of Eastern Michigan University in nearby Ypsilanti were murdered, and their bloody bodies left for discovery in public places.

In 1969, police arrested a clean-cut Eastern Michigan student named John Norman Collins for the murder of the seventh victim, an 18-year-old freshman who had been strangled and dumped on a hillside. The killings stopped, Collins was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, and the case of the Coed Killer seemed closed.

But 36 years later, authorities here are revisiting one of the murders.

In a trial opening this week, prosecutors in Washtenaw County will try to prove that the third woman to die, a 23-year-old Michigan law student named Jane Mixer, was not the victim of a serial killer at all, but of a sexually dysfunctional young man who, in the decades after the murder, became a well-respected member of his community.

Gary Earl Leiterman, a 62-year-old retired nurse, former school board representative and Little League organizer, is accused of shooting Mixer twice in the head and leaving her partly clothed body in a cemetery on March 10, 1969.

Leiterman, then a 25-year-old pharmaceutical salesman in suburban Detroit, had no known association with Mixer and apparently was not considered a suspect by the investigators searching for a break in the murders.

State police first linked Leiterman to the killing after detectives examining cold cases began focusing on the differences between Mixer's death and the other slayings. All but one of the other victims were stabbed, beaten and strangled to death. Mixer died from gunshot wounds. The others were sexually assaulted. She was not.

Detectives sent the old crime scene evidence for DNA testing in 2002. Technicians at the state police lab found a hit on genetic material gleaned from Mixer's pantyhose in 2004. It matched Leiterman.

Building a case

The hit initially provided little for police to go on. Leiterman was in the database because he had recently pleaded guilty to forging drug prescriptions. But he had entered a drug program and appeared to be leading a blameless life.

He was married to a Filipino woman, and they had adopted her niece and nephew after their parents died. The couple was also caring for his aging parents and had taken in a teenage exchange student from South Korea. Leiterman was also active in youth sports programs and was hardly trying to elude detection.

He "has maintained a home and the same telephone number since 1973," his wife, Solly, noted in court papers.

As police dug deeper, however, they found evidence of a darker side.

A search of Leiterman's home turned up pornographic Polaroid photos of the Korean exchange student. According to prosecutors, the teenage girl appeared to be unconscious and her clothing was pulled up towards her head and down towards her feet to expose her genitals.

Police noted that the positioning of the clothing was similar to the way Mixer was found. The girl told investigators she did not remember taking the photos.

Detectives also found a vial in Leiterman's shaving kit containing a mixture of valium and a sedative, a combination that would put users in a deep sleep, nearly to unconsciousness.

Detectives turned up a 1987 police report in which Leiterman reported a .22-caliber pistol had been stolen from his house. Mixer was killed by a .22-caliber weapon.

Police interviewed Leiterman's associates from the time of the murder. One former girlfriend said he was sexually strange. But the biggest break came in interviews with his roommate, Paul Esper.

Esper told police that he was highly suspicious of Leiterman because he collected news clippings about the coed murders and kept them in a closet. He said Leiterman, then selling prescription drugs to hospitals, bragged about a particular medication he had that would render a woman unconscious with just one drop.

He also told police that Leiterman had a makeshift shooting range in his basement where he fired his .22 pistol. Esper claimed that Leiterman had rather suspiciously nagged him to shoot the gun in the range.

"Esper fired the weapon on one occasion. Afterwards, the defendant lost interest in having Esper shoot the gun," Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steven Hiller wrote in court papers.

Based on this evidence, police arrested Leiterman and charged him with open murder, a count that could carry a life sentence.

Lab error?

If the strongest evidence at his trial, expected to last three weeks, is DNA, it is also the strongest evidence for the defense.

At a preliminary hearing last winter, prosecutors revealed that technicians at the state police lab had detected the DNA of a second male on crime scene evidence. Specifically, a spot of blood on Mixer's hand matched the profile of a man already serving a life sentence for murdering his mother.

The man, John Ruelas, is 40, however, making him just four years old at the time of the crime. There is no known connection between Ruelas and the victim, nor Leiterman, but evidence from the murder of his mother was tested in the state police lab on the same day evidence from the 1969 was examined.

The defense has suggested that Ruelas' DNA indicates contamination in the lab and calls into serious question the initial DNA match against Leiterman.

Leiterman, who is being held without bail, has maintained his innocence. He pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in the Polaroids of the exchange student, but has implied that the girl and a boyfriend took the photos and he was only holding them until he and his wife could decide how to handle the situation.


Prosecutor: The killer showed compassion

July 15, 2005

The killer of a law school coed 36 years ago demonstrated a sense of "compassion" for his victim that distinguishes him from a serial killer who targeted young women during the same time period, an investigator testified at the murder trial of a retired nurse.

Former state police assistant commander Earl James, who led the task force examining the spate of seven murders in the college towns of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor in the late 1960s, said the quick, relatively painless way Jane Mixer was killed and the meticulous arrangement of her body in a cemetery showed tenderness absent from the other killings.

"A coat had been used to cover her body, almost as if she were alive to keep her warm," James told jurors hearing evidence against Gary Leiterman, a 62-year-old linked by DNA testing last year to the 1969 killing.

"It almost looked like the perpetrator of that murder had compassion for the victim," he said.

Leiterman's defense claims the DNA match is the result of lab contamination and has suggested the real killer is John Norman Collins, who is serving a life sentence for one of the murders.

The killings stopped after his arrest in 1969, and James and others in law enforcement believe he is responsible for most of the murders.

James noted that while other victims were tortured with sexual assault, beatings and stabbings, Mixer's only injuries were two point-blank bullet wounds to the head.

When her body was found, her dress was pulled up to reveal her genitals, but she was otherwise fully dressed. The others were found naked or partially clothed and in more remote areas, including garbage dumps, a ravine and an abandoned farm.

"They were just dumped, whereas it appeared that Mixer had been placed in the cemetery with care," he said.

The 23-year-old vanished on March 20, 1969, after accepting a ride with a stranger to her parents' house in western Michigan for spring break. She was planning to tell them she had become engaged to a graduate student.

Signs of a serial murder?

On cross-examination, however, James conceded that there were some similarities between Mixer's death and some of the others.

A woman killed three months after Mixer was also shot with a .22-caliber gun. She was seen in the company of Collins on the night of her death.

He also agreed that others had garrotes around their neck, such as the stocking wrapped around Mixer's neck. A medical examiner said the silk stocking was placed on the law student's neck after she died from the gunshots and did not contribute to her death.

James also acknowledged that police in 1969 did not follow proper procedure when storing evidence related to the case. The items related to the murders were kept together in a bomb shelter at the police station, which could have led to contamination.

James, who spent 24 years with the state police, said he had continued studying the case since his retirement in 1979. He listed the dates and circumstances of each murder without looking at his notes.

As he described the youngest victim, a 13-year-old from Ypsilanti named Dawn Basom, James stared at the ceiling and his voice shook.

"That little girl was running home on April 15 [1969] along the rail tracks and disappeared," he said. "She was taken to a farmhouse. She was raped and strangled with a copper wire and then placed alongside a road ... she was stabbed in the left chest probably to make sure she was dead after she was murdered."

James was one of four retired police investigators to testify.

Lab questions

Jurors also heard from two forensic technicians from the state police crime lab.

The issue of contamination at the lab is key in the case. DNA from Mixer's pantyhose and the silk stocking matched Leiterman, but technicians matched a blood drop from her hand to a convicted murderer who was just 4 years old at the time of the murder.

Evidence from that man's murder case was being tested in the lab at the same time and the defense contends the finding is proof of contamination.

Sarah Thiabault, a lab technician, said she tested the man's clothing, but never handled evidence from the Mixer case. She said she worked on a sterile surface and only used her own personal tools. More technicians are expected to testify later.


Deadly Ride

After 30 Years, A Suspect Is Charged In Coed's Murder

By Gail Zimmerman

(CBS) This story originally aired on Nov. 26, 2005.

Jane Mixer was a law student, remembered as being brilliant and passionate. In 1969, she was murdered, her body left in a remote cemetery. For years, some suspected she was the victim of a serial killer.

But as 48 Hours correspondent Maureen Maher reports, a fresh look at old evidence led investigators to a suspect.


Jane Mixer was murdered in Ann Arbor, Michigan in March 1969. She was 23 – about the same age her niece, Maggie Nelson, was when she resolved to learn all she could about the aunt she never knew.

“Jane was many things I wanted to be – driven, disobedient, brilliant, independent. And I also knew that she died horribly,” says Maggie.

Maggie says she didn’t feel she could ask anyone in her family for details about Jane’s murder but says the case has haunted her.

Maggie’s mother, Barbara, Jane’s older sister by two years, admits there was a pall of silence. “We didn’t talk about what had happened to Jane,” says Barbara. “One, it was painful. And it seemed almost lurid to think about it or talk about it.”

But Maggie felt compelled to unravel the mystery surrounding Jane. She went to the public library and pored over old newspaper reports, finally learning the details of her aunt’s death.

Back home, she dug up some of Jane’s diaries and began to read.

Maggie discovered that Jane was high school valedictorian and, over the objections of school officials, had given a fiery graduation speech calling for social justice. She went on to the University of Michigan and was committed to changing the world.

Maggie also tracked down Phil Weitzman, one of the people closest to Jane in 1969, when she was one of just 37 female law students in a class of 420.

“Whatever she got involved in, she was extremely passionate about,” remembers Phil.

And she was passionate about Phil. Early that spring, Phil says, they were ready to announce their engagement. “Jane said that she wanted to go home and talk with her parents, and felt that she could convince them that this was a good thing.”

Jane planned to go home first, with Phil following a few days later. So she posted a note on a college ride board, looking for a lift from Ann Arbor to her home in Muskegon.

Phil says no one thought anything of it, because everyone did it in those days. He says Jane found a ride with a man named David Johnson.

“We talked on the telephone and I thought she should come with Phil," her sister Barbara recalls. "She told me that she thought it would work out better if they came independently, and I said it wasn’t right and she said, ‘Trust me.’ And those are the last two words she ever said.”

Jane had told her parents she would be leaving Ann Arbor around 6 p.m. and was expecting to arrive by 9:30 p.m. that evening.

As time ticked by and Jane didn’t show up, her father grew concerned. Finally, around 11 p.m., he simply couldn’t wait around anymore, and Maggie says he set out looking for her in his car, driving around for several hours.

Sometime that night, Jane Mixer was killed.


Jane's body ended up 14 miles from Ann Arbor in an old out-of-the-way cemetery. Her killer left her out in the open atop a grave just steps from the gate. The next morning, a woman in a nearby home noticed and called the police.

“When we arrived there, it was 10:30 in the morning, and it was a cold, crisp morning,” remembers Detective Donald Bennett, now retired. “You could very quickly see that she’d been shot in the head. And then around her neck we could see a nylon hose, so she’d been strangled also.”

There was no apparent sexual assault, but Jane’s pantyhose had been pulled down. During the autopsy, Bennett scraped a single drop of blood off Jane’s left hand.

“It probably grabbed my attention because it was a singular round spot of blood dried,” says Bennett.

Three decades later, that tiny drop of blood would become a controversial piece of evidence, but back in 1969 there was little the police could do with it, so they searched for other clues.

On the night of the murder, a green station wagon was seen careening away from the cemetery. But it was never tracked down.

Police searched Jane’s dorm room and found a phone book that had a mark next to the name “David Johnson.” But that David Johnson, a University of Michigan student, had an iron clad alibi. He was acting on stage the night of the murder and said he had never offered Jane a ride.

The cops checked out other David Johnsons in the area as well as Jane’s acquaintances, including her fiancée.

“I was too numb to really care. I was much more concerned about dealing with the death of someone I was about to get married to,” says Phil.

Police were stymied and concerned. This crime seemed to fit a disturbing pattern: Jane Mixer was the third young woman in the area to turn up dead in the past two years. And four days later, the pace picked up when a fourth body was found.

By the end of July, there were seven victims. Most were brutalized before they were killed.

“They have young women being murdered and nobody can find the guy and stop him. That’s just something that had never happened here,” says Katherine Ramsland, who teaches and writes about forensics. Her latest book, The Human Predator, is about serial killers. In 1969, she was living near Ann Arbor.

As body after body was recovered, the Mixer family retreated but the community was clamoring for action.

Barbara Nelson says the murder of her little sister left her numb. “It was shock and horror and being scared,” she says.

Ramsland says the killings continued for two years, and back in 1969, the killer seemed unstoppable. “We did not know much about serial killers in those days. We didn’t even use the word serial killer.”

It wasn’t until the seventh victim was found that the police finally had a break in the case. When they made an arrest, it was a real shocker.

Police arrested John Norman Collins for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman. Collins was an education major at Eastern Michigan University and had no known criminal record.

A witness claimed she had seen Collins with Beineman shortly before her death.

And while it was widely assumed that he was responsible for all seven murders, Collins stood trial and was convicted for only one: Karen Beineman.

“Pretty much all they had against him was circumstantial evidence. I think when you put together the fear at that time and the need for the police to resolve it, I don’t think there was going be any other verdict than that one,” says Ramsland.

Although Collins maintained his innocence in Beineman’s murder, he was sentenced to life. He has never been charged with the murder of any of the other six victims. Still, back in 1969, people in Michigan breathed a collective sigh of relief.

“Investigators gave the media the sense that, even if we can’t prove he killed all of them, we know he did,” says Ramsland.

Barbara says the Mixer family came to accept that Collins killed Jane. “The murders stopped. So there was this sense of relief. I mean, I think that’s what made so many of us think that, ‘Yeah, they got the man.’ They stopped.”

Still, Barbara harbored a deep-seated fear from those days. And years later, her daughter Maggie would pick up on it.

“There was a lot of barricading of the doors, hysterical fear, a kind of fear that just doesn’t feel like it’s going to do you any good to hold onto it,” recalls Maggie.

It was that fear that fueled Maggie’s curiosity about her aunt’s short life.

Barbara says she was surprised when her daughter started asking questions, “I felt like it was a book that shouldn’t be opened. And then also wanted to say, ‘Yes, Maggie, yes, go for it,' you know?”

Maggie, a professor of writing and literature, went for it in a big way. Her research would eventually become a book Jane: a Murder. It was about Jane’s life. The book would also deal with the impact Jane had on other people, including Maggie herself.

Maggie began to understand how strong the bonds were between her mother and her aunt Jane. “To Barbara, here’s to the hope that you’ll never stop growing up. Not only for what you are, but what I am when I am with you. Myself. Gratefully, your sister, Jane,” Maggie read from a 1966 entry in Jane’s journal.

Barbara says she was extremely close to her sister by the time they were both in college, and dealing with Jane’s death was “extraordinarily painful.”

After the horror, Barbara got on with her life. But there were still unanswered questions.

Jane’s case became inactive in 1970, when John Collins was convicted of Karen Beineman’s murder. “He thinks there was a miscarriage of justice,” says Ramsland, who in her research of the case has been corresponding with Collins.

Collins has been serving time in state prison for the last 35 years.

Ramsland says Collins has consistently denied killing anyone, including Jane Mixer.

On that one point, at least, Ramsland tends to believe him. She has never been convinced that Collins killed Jane. “Her murder just did not have the brutality about it that some of the others did,” she says.

The killer had taken the time to cover up Jane’s body and carefully arrange her belongings around her.


“And she had also had a raincoat pulled up over her face to protect her from the elements. Very unlike the other cases,” says Detective Eric Schroeder, one of many investigators who believe Jane’s case stands alone.

For years, Jane Mixer’s murder has bothered Schroeder. He was convinced that Jane’s case should be taken out of the cold case files.

At the same time, as Schroeder and his colleagues began to quietly re-investigate Jane’s murder, Maggie was still writing her book, and struggling.

“It was a terrible book to write. I had terrible nightmares, I mean, many times thought I should abandon ship,” she explains. “I had this phobia that Jane’s killer might be alive and free.”

Schroeder says he has never been involved in a case this encompassing and says he was deeply touched by the story of Jane Mixer. “This case had kind of fallen through the cracks and been forgotten about,” he says.

So, in 2001, when Schroeder was put in charge of cataloguing evidence from old cases, he jumped at the chance to finally do Jane justice. He hoped to find new evidence that could not be detected in the 1960s: DNA.

The evidence included the pantyhose that were found on her body, and Schroeder sent it to a lab where forensic scientists took cuttings of sections with possible staining for DNA analysis.

The lab also looked for tell-tale DNA on Jane’s clothing, the ligature, and a bloody towel found under her head.

About a year later, Schroeder says, he got a call from the scientists.

The lab had found incriminating DNA, but that DNA did not match John Collins, the man who had been blamed for the murder for more than 30 years. Now there was a new suspect.

Jane’s sister, Barbara, was surprised to get a call from Detective Schroeder. “There would be no reason to think it would be closed, but I had no idea that there were people that were actually aware that it was an unsolved case,” she recalls.

Maggie was just finishing her book about Jane and says she was shocked by the news. “It definitely was beyond the realms of anything I could’ve ever imagined,” she says.

The lab found that the DNA on Jane’s pantyhose matched that of 62-year-old Gary Leiterman from Gobels, Michigan. Leiterman, a retired registered nurse, is a husband of nearly 28 years and a father of two grown children.

Schroeder says investigators spent a two and a half to three months doing a background investigation on Leiterman and eventually decided to contact him directly.

When police came knocking on his door in November 2004, Leiterman says he thought nothing of it. He says he was leading a pretty normal life. “Thoughts went through my mind. Perhaps there’s some problems in the neighborhood? Maybe somebody had something stolen?” Leiterman says.

After talking with Leiterman for more than three hours, the detectives dropped their bombshell. They told him his DNA was found on crime scene evidence that had been sitting in storage since 1969.

“I was incredulous. I said, ‘What do you mean, my DNA?’” recalls Leiterman.


When Jane Mixer was murdered in 1969, Leiterman was 26 and single. He had served four years in the Navy and lived in a town about 20 miles from Ann Arbor. He says he did not know Jane Mixer.

Although the police kept grilling Leiterman, he stuck to his story. Schroeder says he didn’t believe him, because of the DNA.

The police lab could not pinpoint where the DNA came from but said it was not blood and not semen. It might be something like sweat, saliva or skin cells. It was enough for police to accuse Leiterman of murder.

What went through his mind? “They were wrong. I did not do this. My concerns for my family. Just the accusation is horrible,” says Leiterman.

He was taken into custody. “Detective Schroeder had put me on the phone with my wife, while she was in the car. I could hear the anguish, the terror in her voice,” remembers Leiterman.

At the time, Leiterman's wife was too distraught to talk with 48 Hours, so their close friend Rachel Kube stepped in to talk about the man she has known for three decades.

“I believe they got the wrong man. It isn’t Gary. The Gary I know wouldn’t have done this,” says Kube.

Leiterman had never been accused of a violent crime before. “My personal life was pretty much wrapped up with my family. Taking vacations with them. Dragging the kids along to Civil War battlefields,” he says.

But Leiterman did have one scrape with the law in 2001, when he was caught writing himself fake prescriptions. He had become addicted to painkillers during a bout with kidney stones. He was ordered to a treatment program, which he successfully completed, but his DNA was put in a database. And that’s how he now finds himself accused of murder.

Leiterman says he has nothing to do with the murder of Jane Mixer.

Prosecutor Steven Hiller doesn’t buy that, and believes Leiterman should pay for this crime.

What would Leiterman’s motive be for killing a woman? “The fact that her pantyhose had been taken down, her jumper had been pulled up so that her genitals were exposed, I think it's fair to conclude that the motive was sexual assault,” says Hiller.

But, there was no physical evidence of sexual assault and that’s just one of the many challenges Hiller faces in this old case. “We had missing evidence. We had lost evidence. People’s memories fade. We didn’t have the murder weapon,” says Hiller.

The state’s biggest challenge may be that Gary Leiterman’s DNA wasn’t the only DNA found on Jane Mixer. The state’s own lab says the DNA from the spot of blood scraped from Jane’s left hand in 1969 matches another man: a convicted killer named John Ruelas.

But Hiller says he is sure Ruelas did not murder Jane, for one simple reason. “He was four and a half years old at the time.”

“A four and a half year old didn’t put a gun to Jane Mixer’s head and pull the trigger, and put it to her head again and pull the trigger, knot a stocking around her neck and drag her body into the cemetery and arrange her clothes around her,” says Hiller.

So how did a four-year-old’s blood get on Jane Mixer’s hand? The Ruelas and Mixer cases were processed in the lab around the same time, raising the issue of contamination. But Hiller says that didn’t happen.

Hiller says Leiterman got away with murder for 36 years.


Now, in 2005, Leiterman is on trial for the 1969 murder of Jane Mixer.

Leiterman, maintains his innocence. His friends and family are standing by him. “I talk to my wife three or four times a week. I know they pray for me,” he says.

Jane’s sister, Barbara, and her daughter Maggie, vow to be in court every day and weigh the evidence themselves. “I wanted to bear witness to Jane’s life and this is, in some sense, you know, a part of her life. I couldn’t not be here. I had to be here,” says Barbara.

Jane’s father Dan Mixer was the first witness called. “They took us to the morgue, exposed the body, and it was my daughter, Jane,” Dan testified.

Leiterman says he feels sympathy for Dan Mixer: “I could not think of a more terrible and sad and horrifying feeling than being told that your daughter is never coming home again.”

David Johnson, the man who was acting in a play the night of the murder, testified that he never spoke with Jane or even knew her.

What does Hiller think happened on that March night in 1969?

“I think that Gary Leiterman called Jane Mixer in response to her ad for a ride to Muskegon, and represented himself as David Johnson,” says Hiller.

Hiller believes that Jane got in Leiterman’s car and that some time that night he made a sexual advance that ended in murder.

“Ultimately, that night he put a gun to her head twice, pulled the trigger,” Hiller says.

Leiterman, an avid hunter, did own a .22 caliber handgun but there is no proof it was the gun that killed Jane.

The old detectives did their best to recall the case, and the evidence they found and lost.

But the crucial issue concerned evidence they didn’t know existed in 1969: DNA.

The new investigators who took over the case testified about three distinct spots of DNA on Jane’s pantyhose that they say clearly matches the DNA of Leiterman. And, they say, DNA in other places was a partial match.

Those places included three additional spots on the pantyhose, spots on the bloody towel found under Jane’s head and spots on the nylon stocking that was tied around her neck.

Hiller says that is a lot of DNA, and proof that Leiterman was there when Jane was murdered, perhaps sweating as he moved her body.

Leiterman denies that and says he doesn’t know how his DNA got there.

Defense attorney Gary Gabry says he can imagine some possibilities. “I believe there’s innocent explanations in which the DNA could have been on there,” says Gabry. “Such as having contact with the pantyhose in the laundromat.”

Or, as his expert testified, DNA could have been transferred in a public place, with a chance encounter, like a sneeze.

Hiller dismissed that, saying there’s just too much DNA to explain away.

“It was in places where it would not have resulted from casual contact. There is no innocent explanation for Jane Mixer’s pantyhose to have Gary Leiterman’s DNA on them,” says Hiller.

But he could not so readily dismiss the crime lab’s finding that a spot of blood on Jane Mixer’s hand matched the DNA of a convicted felon who was only four years old when Jane was murdered.

In 1969, young John Ruelas lived in downtown Detroit, around 40 miles away from where Jane’s body was found. Police could not connect Ruelas to Leiterman or to Jane Mixer. The Mixer and Ruelas cases were in the lab around the same time, which begs the question: did something go wrong in the lab?


If a mistake was made with Ruelas, Gabry says, the evidence against Leiterman cannot be trusted. "It’s going out on quite a limb to say, 'well, there’s contamination in this part, but there’s not contamination in this part.'"

Hiller insists nothing went wrong at the lab and called witnesses who described the great pains taken at the lab to keep all evidence separate, to prevent and to catch errors.

Lab supervisor Jeffrey Nye says he retraced every step and he does not believe there is any issue of contamination. “No issue whatsoever,” he says.

But Gabry questioned how Ruelas’ blood ended up on Jane Mixer.

How that happened, the prosecutor says, is lost to history. But he insists the evidence clearly shows that somehow, some way, four-year-old Ruelas was there.

“His blood was on her,” says Hiller.

With Hiller's case hinging on DNA, defense attorney Gabry highlighted other evidence that points away from Gary Leiterman.

For example, Leiterman’s fingerprints did not match any of the prints still unidentified in the case. Nor did Leiterman own a car anything like the one seen speeding away the night of the crime.

Leiterman did not take the stand. Two weeks after opening arguments, the jurors began deliberating.

Leiterman’s close friend, Rachel Kube, says the case against him seems weak. "I don't believe Gary did this. There were way, way, way too many unexplained things."

Still, Leiterman's family was worried. And even the Mixer family felt sympathy towards them.

“Gary Leiterman is a loved person by many people. If he’s found guilty, that will be a very deep tragedy for his family,” says Maggie. “I try to put myself in their position. My heart goes out to them,” Barbara adds.

Even so, Barbara and Maggie have come to believe that the state has proved its case and Barbara thinks the DNA is the most incriminating evidence presented.


Long before there was a suspect, Maggie brought her mother Barbara to the cemetery where Jane’s body was found.

“I did it because she asked me. And, I think because I knew it was time. It was a healing experience. It was an extraordinary healing experience,” says Barbara.

Now, a year later, they waited anxiously to hear whether a jury believed that Gary Leiterman killed Jane 36 years ago.

With both families looking on, the verdict was read: guilty. Jurors had deliberated only four hours to determine Leiterman’s fate.

The verdict was an emotional moment for both families.

“There was just this kind of stunned silence, and I felt like I was sort of numb,” remembers Barbara.

Jane’s 91-year-old father, Dan Mixer, broke down crying after the verdict was read. “I think it became a reality to me when I turned to my father and my father began sobbing. And I knew then that this was a huge thing, a huge thing,” says Barbara.

Gary says he was devastated by the verdict.

"It would be wonderful to have Gary Leiterman actually say, 'I did it.' And, as long as he doesn’t say that, there always will just be this nagging doubt about what really happened," says Barbara.


At his sentencing, Leiterman spoke out in court for the first time and expressed sympathy for the Mixers. “It was probably an awful time in their lives back in 1969 to know that they lost their daughter and their sister. She appeared to be a lovely young lady,” he said in court.

But he also steadfastly denied having anything to do with Jane’s murder. “But, I also want to say that I’m innocent of this crime," he said.

Under Michigan law, his sentence is mandatory: life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Even with his fate now sealed, Leiterman still finds it hard to accept the jury’s verdict. “I wish I could say benevolent things about them, about the decision they made. But I simply have to deal with it and move on.”

Leiterman says he hasn’t accepted the verdict and is fighting it.

It will be an uphill battle but Leiterman’s new attorney, Mark Satawa, feels he has a shot. “The fact that there is not just some biological material but a blood drop from a person who was four years old at the time, I think calls into question the entire reliability of the testing in this case.”

Meanwhile, prosecutor Steve Hiller believes justice was served. "Gary Leiterman deserves to pay the price for what he has done. And he’ll do that."

And Maggie Nelson, after a long journey, may have found some peace.

Her search for answers has finally brought Jane Mixer home. “The horror of Jane’s death made her a forgotten person because it was too hard, via fear and via grief, to look at it, and in some ways she has come back to life, and my family got to remember how much they loved her.”

After Jane’s murder, the Jane L. Mixer award was created in 1970 at the University of Michigan. The award is presented to students who have made the greatest contributions to activities designed to advance the cause of social justice.



home last updates contact