The Oakland County Child Killer AKA The Babysitter Killer
Today's episode is taking us back to the world of unsolved true crime. This episode deals with pretty tough stuff so consider this your trigger warning as the episode does talk about the killings of young children.
We are heading to the state of Michigan for this one. Oakland county to be exact. Oakland county is part of the metropolitan Detroit area, located northwest of the city. As of the 2020 Census, its population was 1,274,395, making it the second-most populous county in Michigan, behind neighboring Wayne County. The county seat is Pontiac. The county was founded in 1819 and organized in 1820. Oakland County is among the ten highest income counties in the United States with populations over one million people. The county's knowledge-based economic initiative, coined "Automation Alley", has developed one of the largest employment centers for engineering and related occupations in the United States. This county would spawn a serial killer. From February 1976 to March 1977 four children were abducted and murdered with their bodies left in various locations within or just outside Oakland County.
There were at least two other murder cases that investigators believe may have been victims of the “Oakland County Child Killer” or “The Babysitter Killer,” as some called him.
The ensuing murder investigation was the largest of its kind in U.S. history at the time. One suspect was even from our neck of the woods! We'll check out the victims and then get into the suspects. Again, this is definitely a touchy episode for some so if you're uncomfortable with this sort of thing, you might want to skip this episode.
Still with us? Ok so here we go.
Every 40 seconds, a child goes missing or is abducted in the United States. Approximately 840,000 people are reported missing each year in the United States and the F.B.I. estimates that between 85 and 90 percent of these are children. On a positive note, More than 99 percent of children reported missing in America in recent years have come home alive.
According to the Washington State Attorney General’s Child Abduction Murder Research:
In 74 percent of the missing children homicide cases studied, the child murder victim was female and the average age was 11 years old.
In 44 percent of the cases studied, the victims and killers were strangers, but in 42 percent of the cases, the victims and killers were friends or acquaintances.
Only about 14 percent of the cases studied involved parents or intimates killing the child.
Almost two-thirds of the killers in these cases have prior arrests for violent crimes, with slightly more than half of those prior crimes committed against children.
The primary motive for the child abduction killer in the cases studied was sexual assault.
In nearly 60 percent of the cases studied, more than two hours passed between the time someone realized the child was missing and the time police were notified.
In 76 percent of the missing children homicide cases studied, the child was dead within three hours of the abduction–and in 88.5 percent of the cases the child was dead within 24 hours.
Pay attention to your kids, folks. Be that parent. The one who annoys them constantly by asking where they are and knowing who they’re with. Protect the fuck out of them with every last fiber of your being. THAT is your number one job as a parent.
The First victim was 12 year old Mark Stebbins. Mark was from Ferndale Michigan and was last seen at 1:30 pm on Feb. 15 1976. His body was found three days later in Ferndale. He was sexually assaulted and suffocated to death.
Mark was last seen and heard from at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 15. He talked to his mother on the phone. He was letting her know that he was leaving the American Legion Hall to head home. He never made it and at 11 p.m. that night Mark’s mother called the Ferndale Police Department to report Mark missing.
At about 11:45 a.m. Feb. 19, 1976, a businessman named Mark Boetigheimer left his office building and headed toward a drug store located inside the New Orleans mall at 10 Mile and Greenfield roads. On his way something caught his eye in the northeast corner of the parking lot. He saw what looked like a mannequin dressed in a blue jacket and jeans. But as he got closer he knew he stumbled into a situation much more grim. It was a body, a human body. It was the lifeless body of 12-year-old Mark Stebbins.
Another person told police that they walked their dog around that parking lot, just so it could get some exercise. That was around 9:30 a.m. the same morning the body was found. The man said his dog was on a 20-foot leash and they walked that part of the lot. He said if that body was there at the time, his dog would have found it. If that’s true, Mark’s body wasn’t there at 9:30 a.m. But it was at 11:45 a.m. when Mark Boetigheimer found him. That means there was a 2-hour-and-15-minute window in which someone or some people dumped Mark’s body in the area.
Mark was a 7th-grader at Lincoln Junior High School. He stood 4 feet 8 inches and weighed about 100 pounds. He had strawberry-blond hair. The autopsy showed the cause of death as asphyxia by way of smothering, but the report also showed rope burns on his neck, wrists and ankles. It appeared that Mark was also sexually assaulted.
L. Brooks Patterson, who was the Oakland County prosecutor at the time, said Mark’s body was washed by an autopsy team, washing away any fingerprints.
The second victim was also 12 years old. Jill Robinson was from Royal oak Michigan.
Karol Robinson had three daughters and was recently divorced. She and her oldest, Jill, would butt heads and on one occasion in December of 1976 they did just that. It was an argument that led to Jill running away from home. She was last seen at a hobby shop on Woodward Avenue, then the Donut Depot on Maple Road between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Dec. 23. According to Karol, Jill’s mother, the two were arguing about biscuits. Jill was asked to help make them for dinner, she refused. Sometime after a heated back-and-forth, Karol told her to leave until she became part of the family. Jill went to her room, packed up her clothes and a plaid blanket into a denim bag. Before she left she dressed herself in blue jeans, a shirt, an orange winter coat and a blue knit cap with a yellow design on it, and then she would leave, just like her mother asked her to. She rode her bike away from her mother and her home.
Jill would later be seen by a family friend at a hobby shop on Woodward Avenue, just four and 1/2 blocks away from her mother’s home. The next morning, two witnesses said they saw her in the Donut Depot on Maple Road -- this was between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Jill’s father, Thomas Robinson, made a call to police at 11:30 p.m. the day she left. Jill was found on the side of I-75, north of Big Beaver Road. She was laying on her back, fully clothed, not bound in any way, but a ring of deep dark red surrounded her head. The killer had transported her here, then shot her at close range in the head with a shotgun. It was later decided that Jill was fed and cared after for at least three days. She seemed to be washed, clean and with no signs of sexual abuse at all.
The third victim was 10 year old Kristine Mihelich. Kristine was from Berkley Michigan. She was last seen on January 2nd, 1977. Her Body was found on Jan. 21, 1977 -- she was missing for 19 days -- she was found in a snowbank along Bruce Road in Franklin Village, Mich. The cause of death was suffocation -- she was not sexually assaulted.
Police said there were no signs of violence and that she was in the same clothes she was last seen in. Her body was on its back, knees drawn up. That’s when a Franklin Village mailman, Jerry Wozny, saw her. He saw her blue jacket in the snow on the same route he’d been driving for eight years. State police Sgt. Robert Robertson supervised the removal of the girl’s body. Thirty-five officers from nine different departments made a task force that Prosecutor Patterson called “the strongest effort I’ve ever seen in this county.” The task force was headquartered in Southfield. Police Sgt. Joseph Krease was charged with tracking down Kristine’s abductor.
Kristine’s mother, Deborah Ascroft said “people keep talking about the Royal Oak girl (Jill Robinson) but I’m just not even going to think about that.” Ascroft said that in an interview on Jan. 5, 1977. At the time, Kristine had two younger brothers and according to her mother they kept asking “when is she coming home?”
Shortly after Kristine’s disappearance, a child from the elementary school she attended was missing, which set off a panic at the school. A frantic search went on for about 20 minutes and the child eventually was found on school grounds. Tensions were at an all-time high.
Parents at Pattengill Elementary School were lined up outside school to pick up their children -- many of them used to walk home, but not now. When Kristine’s body was found in a snowbank at the end of a dead end street in Franklin Village, it was so frozen officials had to wait until the following day to perform an autopsy, because of the body’s frozen state.
Wozny -- the mail carrier who found her -- said: “I saw a hand ... It scared the hell out of me.”
Kristine was the fifth young person from Oakland County to die within the year. As of late January 1977, Patterson had no evidence to link Mark and Kristine’s deaths.
11 year old Timothy King was the fourth victim. He was last seen on March 16, 1977 and his body was found on March 23, 1977 in a ditch along Gill Road, about 300 feet south of 8 Mile Road in Livonia -- He was missing for seven days. The cause of death was again suffocation -- he also was sexually assaulted.
Timothy King left his Birmingham home with 30 cents he borrowed from his older sister, Catherine, and headed to the corner store. He wanted some candy and it wasn’t rare for him to make this trip of about three blocks. He left with his skateboard and football, headed toward the Hunter-Maple Pharmacy.
Tim’s older brothers -- he had two -- were not around. One was babysitting a neighbor’s kids while the other was rehearsing for a school play. Tim’s parents were out to dinner at a nearby Birmingham restaurant.
A clerk, Amy Walters, said she sold Tim candy and he left through the back door into a dark parking lot around 8:30 p.m.. Birmingham Police Chief Jerry Tobin said “whatever happened to Tim happened between the time he left the store and before he got home. It doesn’t look particularly good at this time.”
This was now the seventh child that had gone missing in the area. The six prior to Timothy had been found -- murdered. Tim was only the second boy. The hysteria was at an all-time high. According to Catherine, Tim’s sister, Tim asked that she leave the front door ajar, so when he got back from the store he could get back in easily.
Catherine also left for the night. It would have been the first time little Timmy would be home alone at night for any period of time. Timothy’s parents got back to the house around 9 p.m. to find the door ajar, but there was no sign of Tim.
The King family searched everywhere for Tim. They called his friends, searched the neighborhood and surrounding area. By 9:15 a.m. the next day, Chief Tobin called on the task force, requesting their full involvement. By the afternoon -- the day after Timmy went missing -- headquarters were established in the Adams Fire House, just a few blocks from the King family home. Door-to-door searches were conducted and classmates questioned.
Tim was abducted on a Wednesday. By Thursday, 100 lawmen from Oakland County, volunteers, Oakland County Sheriff’s investigators, the county helicopter and the special Oakland County Task Force all were scouring the area. That Thursday the Kings stayed behind closed doors most of the day, but did say “we very much want Tim to come home.” That was Barry, Tim’s father.
“We love him very much. He had a basketball game Saturday and missed practice today (Thursday). He’s active in a school play. He’s an achiever and a participator. We just love Tim and want him to come home.” Barry said.
Barry told reporters that the week before Tim told his mother that he wouldn’t speak to strangers, that “he’d run away from them.”
“It’s awful,” said a neighbor of the King family who also had an 11-year-old daughter. “When it happens to other people, you feel sympathy. When it strikes your neighborhood, you’re scared.”
Other possible victims
Cynthia Rae Cadieux was 16 years old from Roseville Michigan. Last seen: 8:20 p.m. Jan. 15, 1976
Body found: 1:05 a.m. Jan. 16, 1976 in Bloomfield Township, Mich.
Cynthia Cadieux lived with her mother and stepfather. She attended Roseville High School, which was within walking distance from her home. Even though the school was close, one of her friends, Rose DeStesafano, offered to give her a ride home. On a cold January day in 1976, Rose offered Cynthia a ride.
“Cynthia refused, just like she always does,” said DeStesafano.
That decision may have been a fatal mistake.
The date was Jan. 15, 1976, and Cynthia walked, not to her mother and stepfather’s home, but to a girlfriend’s house. It was a planned visit. In fact, her parents thought Cynthia was spending the night there, but the girls didn’t think so. Cynthia planned to go home that Thursday night. Police were able to verify that she’d made it to the friend’s house that evening. They were also able to figure out she’d left her friend's home around 8 p.m., presumably heading back to her home. Her body would later be found that night -- technically morning in Bloomfield Township, which is about 26 miles away.
At 1:05 a.m. Jan. 16, a driver noticed something on the side of the road. What the person saw was the naked, lifeless body of Cynthia Rae Cadieux. It appeared that her skull was crushed by a blunt instrument. Police revealed Cynthia was raped and sodomized -- possibly by more than one person.
This case was looked at under a proverbial microscope that was designed to find the link or links between several other dead children in the Oakland County area.
Sheila Srock was 14 years old and from Birmingham Michigan. Last seen: 8:20 p.m. Jan. 19, 1976
Body found: Jan. 19, 1976
Birmingham is “the place” most consider to be the model community in southeastern Michigan. It’s a place everyone wanted to live, but most couldn’t afford. Those who knew of Birmingham would never have associated it with violence or crime, but that would change Jan. 19, 1976.
January in Michigan is a cold time and place, usually snow-covered. That’s why a resident on Villa Street was shoveling snow from his roof a little after 8 p.m. Monday. While he was up there, he saw something through a neighbor’s window -- something horrible.
Inside the next house over was 14-year-old Shiela Srock. She was babysitting her brother’s baby while he was out. Shiela and the baby were upstairs, likely playing. At the same time a dark figure slithered in and out of homes in the neighborhood, stealing anything and everything he could. Eventually this intruder found himself on the doorstep of Shiela’s brother’s house. He rang the doorbell, and there was no answer. From there he popped the lock open and made his way in. The neighbor was able to see him as he ran into Shiela, gun drawn. The robber was upset that he didn’t find anything of value and that now he’d been seen. According to police, the robber had Shiela remove her clothing. He then raped her, sodomized her and ultimately killed her.
The neighbor apparently saw most or all of these horrible actions. Obviously, he didn’t have a cell phone in 1976, so he couldn’t call for help right away since he was on the roof.
The assailant was described as a thin, white man between 18 and 25 years old, who stood about 6 feet tall. He had a prominent nose and a pointed chin, according to witnesses. The attacker’s car also was identified. He drove away in a 1967 Cadillac. People at the crime scene said the killer mingled and chatted with onlookers. He asked questions about what was going on as he subtly fit into the crowd.
Eventually a man did admit to this killing. In March 1976, Oliver Rhodes Andrews confessed to and later was convicted of the murder of Srock. He is serving a life sentence in prison. According to a March 4, 1976 report from the Ludington Daily News, Andrews was wanted for questioning “in some 200 burglaries in several states.”
“(He) admitted in a four-hour confession late Monday that he raped the girl and shot her five times when the babysitter surprised him as Andrews broke into a home he thought was empty,” reads the report.