Murder In the Mitten

Karlie Pfeifer’20   Photo Editor

Serial killers are more rare nowadays but still present. Many know of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and Patrick Keaney who are just a few of the most notorious. However, there was a serial killer in Michigan, very close to our home in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area that could just as easily be added to that list.

In 1967, a 19-year-old girl from Eastern Michigan University was murdered and left on an abandoned farm. A year later, (1968) a 20 year old student was found partially decomposed and heavily mutilated on an Ann Arbor roadside by a construction worker. As 1969 approached, more bodies of young girls, ranging in ages from 13 to 21 appeared. John Norman Collins was responsible.

Collins was a student at EMU. He grew up with a single mother who was an alcoholic, and he had no siblings. He kept to himself most of his life, but he was much smarter than what people gave him credit for. Known to many as either the Co-Ed Killer or the Ypsilanti Ripper, Collins killed seven different girls in the span of three years. He targeted each victim, most from two different Universities besides two girls who were not in college. His killing style was like no other, revealing Collins’ deranged nature. This case stuck out from many, and it was no joke that Michigan had a serial killer on their hands.

Collins’ first murder was of Mary Terese Fleszar. She was attending school at EMU, the same school he went to at the time. It was said by a witness that she was seen walking to her apartment and a man in light blue Chevrolet pulled up beside her and began to talk to her. Fleszar however was seen shaking her head and walking away from the car. That was the last time she was seen alive, and in a month’s time, her nude and beaten body appeared on an abandoned farm.

More and more victims then began to appear. All linking themselves together with some of his signature killing methods. These consisted of him tying an article of clothing from the victim around their necks and more often shoving it down their throats. His ruthless behavior showed in his murders. Everyone in the Oakland County community feared for their lives from the Co-Ed killer.

With a cold blooded killer on the loose, police began to investigate each murder and look for witnesses to their abductions. Luckily, they found an employee at the wig shop that Collins final victim had last been seen immediately prior to her disappearance. The employee, Diane Goshe recalled she had a very good recollection of 18 year old Karen Sue Beineman. Goshe recalled selling a $20 head piece to Beineman. With this news it created some of the most crucial leads to finding the Ypsilanti Ripper. She told investigators that Beineman had called a man outside the wig shop to Goshe’s attention during her purchase and stated that Karen Beineman said to her that she seemed to have made two foolish errors in her life that day: buying a wig; and accepting a ride from a complete stranger, “I’ve got to be either the bravest or the dumbest girl alive, because I’ve just accepted a ride from this guy.” She pointed outside to allow Goshe to see a young man with short brown hair waiting outside on a blue motorcycle.

The motorcycle that Collins last victim was seen on was incorrectly described by Goshe to the police, but then corrected by a shop owner just adjacent to the wig shop. Carol Wieczerza, the new witness stated that the model of the motorcycle was a Triumph. With these new leads, a patrolman, Larry Mathewson came forward to say that the description of the motorcyclist was very similar to a former fraternity brother of his. With a picture from Mathewson, Collin’s was quickly recognized by the two shop owners and the search for Collin’s began.

On July 27, 1969 policeman entered Collin’s apartment and he was arrested. In a months time, Collins was arraigned for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman. With much more investigating and collecting of evidence, Collins was soon put on trial. By August 19, 1970 he was pronounced guilty and sentenced to life without parole.

John Norman Collins was held accountable for the murders of the seven woman and then an additional a year later He was finally sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Looking at what he did to his victims it gives many a peace of mind that he will be forever locked away.
Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor District Library

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