murder suspect a serial killer?
Todd Warzecha, 53, committed suicide last week in Texas
instead of surrendering a sample of his DNA.
He was a prime suspect in two unsolved Mid-Michigan
murders, and the investigator in the case says he should be a considered
a suspect in other killings.
Michigan State Police Det. Robert Lesneski says it's
never happened to him before. Never has someone killed himself just
before the detective was to ask for a DNA sample.
"I think it's an interpretation, but that's my
interpretation without a doubt," he said.
And that interpretation is that Warzecha had something to
hide, and that's why he hung himself in an Austin, Texas, storage shed
Warzecha was a suspect in the 1972 murders of Bay County
teenagers Norbert Peck and Oscar Garcia.
"I believe he knew I was there," Lesneski said. "He knew
what I wanted, and I think he, forgive me for saying this, like I said I
feel bad for the family, I think it's something he didn't want to face."
The 1969 Bay City Handy graduate was on the radar screen
of a lot of law-enforcement officers in Mid Michigan.
Never charged in the Peck and Garcia murders, he had
served two years in a prison for an attempted adduction and sexual
assault against another Bay County resident.
Police say sometime after Warzecha got out of prison, he
tried to pick up a hitchhiker in Ogemaw County along I-75.
He opened his car door, but as the man hitchhiking was
getting in the car, the vehicle was rear-ended. The hitchhiker lost a
leg in the accident, but investigators say the accident may have saved
Lesneski says Warzecha was also questioned in the
1976-1977 Oakland County child killings.
Four children were murdered, their bodies dumped along
roads much like Peck and Garcia, and Lesneski has been in touch with the
lead investigator on those cold cases.
"I'm assuming (the lead investigator) is going to do the
same thing, taking a closer look at Mr. Warzecha," Lesneski said.
Investigators in a number of states are also digging
through their cold case files to see if Warzecha could be considered a
Will DNA Sample Solve 1970s Child
Two Cases Found Dead In Texas
June 17, 2005
OAK PARK, Mich.
-- Investigators are hoping DNA evidence from another case will hold
clues to the 1976 slayings of four children in Oakland County.
The investigation began when Michigan State Police detectives reopened a
cold-case file on the 1972 homicides of two Bay County teenagers whose
bodies were left in ditches, Local 4 reported. Officers flew to Texas
Tuesday to interview a suspect in the case, Todd Warzecha, and take DNA
samples, according to the report.
Once in Texas,
officers found the 53-year-old man hanging from the ceiling of a storage
shed in an apparent suicide, Local 4 reported.
said the suicide could be "compelling evidence" in regards to the
killings of four children in Oakland County in 1976.
"He was a target and a suspect for a long period of time," said Oakland
County Prosecutor David Gorcyca.
previously questioned about the deaths of the four children, whose
bodies were also left along a roadside, Local 4 reported. The victims
include Timothy King, 11, who was kidnapped on March 16, 1977, outside a
Birmingham pharmacy; Mark Stebbins, 12, who was abducted while walking
to his Ferndale home in February of 1976; Jill Robinson, 12, of Royal
Oak, who disappeared on Dec. 22, 1976; and Kristin Mihelich, 10, who was
abducted 11 days later from a convenience store in Berkley, according to
Local 4 reports.
Investigators are now taking DNA samples from Warzecha's body to
determine if there is a match in the Oakland County homicides.
"The Oakland County child killings is probably one of the biggest
unsolved mysteries in Oakland County besides (Jimmy) Hoffa," said
Gorcyca said if there is not a match, it could still help the case.
"We can take him off the list as a potential suspect," said Gorcyca.
Investigators are expecting tests on Warzecha's DNA samples to take
several months for results.
Oakland County Child Killings
During the winter of
1976/77, four horrific murders of children
occurred in Oakland County, Michigan, that
remain unsolved. They created a palatable
fear in Oakland County and beyond because
people in the area had just not experienced
anything like it.
I remember this vividly
because I was the right age at the time
(ten) and even though we lived in the next
county, this was all over the news and
parents were freaked out throughout SE
Michigan. All the rules changed and no
children were outside alone, without an
adult, ever. No more, "Go ride your bike
but be back by summertime," no more, "Yes
you can ride your horse to Laura's." (Laura
lived over 5 miles away.) No more walking
to the library after school and Mom would
pick you up later. My bus stop was at the
end of our private road, a quarter mile away
and although all the families living on the
road were on rather uneasy terms, there was
always a parent waiting at the bus stop,
turns were taken and there were headcounts
done and that was just unheard of. (At
least I didn't get pudding thrown on me
anymore while walking to the bus stop.)
Anyway, this put the whole area into a state
of near hysteria and primal fear for
All four children, two
girls and two boys, were snatched out of
thin air and after a matter of time, turned
Mark, of Ferndale, was
twelve years old and last seen at an
American Legion on February 17, 1976. His
body was found two days later in Southfield.
He had been strangled and sexually assaulted
Jill lived in Royal Oak
and was 12. She had an argument with her
mother and told her mother she was running
away on December 22, 1976. Her body was
found December 26 on the side of I-75 in
Troy (a major thoroughfare). She had been
killed by a shotgun blast to the face.
Kristine was from Berkley,
Michigan, aged ten. She disappeared on her
way to a 7-11 in Berkeley on January 2,
1977, being found 19 days later, dumped on a
rural road out in Franklin Village. She had
Timmy King was 11 and
lived in Birmingham. He disappeared March
16, 1977 and was found March 22 in a ditch
in Livonia. He had been suffocated and
sexually assaulted post-mortem.
At first, police were not
convinced that the killings were related,
since the victim selection and manners of
death were so different. However, when
comparisons started being made, the
similarities were glaring. All victims were
snatched off the street, seemingly into thin
air, in safe areas. They were all held
captive for a matter of days after the
abduction. They showed signs of being well
cared for and bathed. One victim even had a
favorite dinner after the parent made a plea
for the return and promised to serve a
favorite meal. All the victims were re-dressed
in their own clothing with most of their
There was evidence of
sexual trauma on both boys, none on the
There was a plea in the
media for help and a task force of over 300
officers and support personel was formed.
Rumors and suspicions ran rampant. Among
the most relevant: There was a blue AMC
Gremlin spotted near one of the snatch sites.
This has since be ruled out or discounted.
The task force tried
taking a proactive approach, taking out
decoy ads in gay magazines and frequenting
gay hangouts in hopes of uncovering
something, since both boys had been
sodomized post-mortem and neither girl had
been sexually assaulted in any sort of
The task force received
over 100,000 tips and over 20,000 were
investigated seriously. Every crackpot in
the state came out of the woodwork to
confess or offer their "vision".
A priest with a dubious
reputation was investigated. There was much
speculation that the kids were old enough to
know not to go with strangers and would have
had to have been fooled into a sense of
security. The priest was cleared.
There was no connection
between the kids, other than living in the
same county in a roughly close geographical
Some of the outcome of
this dread and fear was the "Nay Nay,
Stanger Stay Away" program brought into the
schools. It featured a cute little pony who
warned about the danger of strangers.
Eventually, the case
grew cold with no solid suspects and no DNA
at the time but investigators always hoped
they would someday catch a break.
They thought they had a
break when David Norberg, who had been an
initial suspect for the Oakland County Child
Killings and some other violent crimes, died.
Norberg had been an autoworker in SE
Michigan and had moved to Wyoming. He had
driven a blue Opal, very similar to a blue
Gremlin, and stopped driving it not long
after the killings. When he moved to
Wyoming, he resumed driving the Opal. He
died in a car accident not long after moving.
He was apparently a violent man who sexually
and physically assaulted not only his wife
but also his sister. There was speculation
he had killed two girls other than the two
who were victims of the OCCK.
When he died, his widow
found a silver cross inscribed "Kristine"
among his belongings. Kristine Mihelich had
owned a cross that her aunt said was
identical. Mrs. Norberg also found a St.
Christopher's medal, such as the one Timmy
King wore that was never recovered, and a
green worm pin similar to the one Jill
Robinson routinely wore. Sadly, Mrs.
Norberg gave these away after her husband
died and since so much time had passed,
could not remember who she gave them to.
Norberg's DNA was tested
and he was cleared.
The case recently went
from the back burner to the front again when
Michigan Law Enforcement zeroed in on a man
named Todd Warzecha, who had moved to
Texas. Warzecha had long been suspected in
the unsolved murder of two boys in Bay
County, Michigan. Police arrived to take
Warzecha's DNA samples and instead, found
him from hanging in a storage shed on his
property, a suicide.
In the dark underbelly of
the internet, this case has caused much
speculation and armchair sleuthing. I've
followed it for about the past five years.
Reading sites online, it's difficult to sort
the real from the fantasy.
There is one woman who
posts on every single forum I have ever seen
regarding the case. I'm not going to state
her name here but let it suffice to say, she
has been kicked off more than one forum,
dismissed as a crackpot by law enforcement
and has a criminal record herself. (I know
this for a fact because I looked her up on
Michigan's handy dandy offender tracking
system and confirmed it.) She posits that
she knew the OCCK, whom she refers to as
"John" and over several months of coffee and
gentle questioning, he eventually confessed
and indeed, detailed all the reasons why he
killed the children. She claims she has
presented this to law enforcement and at one
point, she had the support of a very active
All this panned out to
nothing and I put it in the fruit and nuts
category. What I'm trying to convey is
don't always take what you read online as
the gospel truth. If a law enforcement
official is quoted, take that seriously. And
you can bet, they are holding cards to their
vests as well.
The Law Enforcement types
are currently bringing a new perspective to
the case. They are once again forming a
task force, albeit much smaller, and
reconstructing all the evidence and
reviewing it case by case and resubmitting
it for more detailed DNA testing. I've read
that there are currently 12 suspects who
have not been cleared.
It will be interesting to
see how this turns out. I have my fingers
crossed for the officers. I know how much
this scared the ever loving crap out of my
mom and many other parents during the time.
I know people who were kids at that time who
are still traumatized by it.
And I apologize for
having scant information on the victims.
There just wasn't a lot of detailed victim
biography out there. I know they have
families who still miss them, still miss
seeing them go to high school, pursue
careers, have children themselves. E! is
doing a special on serial killers and this
case is featured and Timmy King's dad is
interviewed. My thoughts and prayers are
with the families of these innocent victims
and hopefully, justice will be done.
Justice delayed is not