Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sue Clason


Sue Clason

Sue Clason was an agent with Century 21 in Cadillac, Michigan and was murdered while showing property in Osceola County on September 11th, 1984. "Mrs. B"* lived across the road from this property - a fairly secluded location where the realtor escorted the man who pretended to be a potential buyer and saw both Sue Clason and the man who killed her.

(*NOTE: I have REDACTED witness names to a first name/last initial format.)

Mrs. B's granddaughter told me that her grandparents’ house overlooked two ponds and the front of the house was mostly windows with a great outdoor view. Her grandmother told her that on the day in question she was cleaning the front living room and noticed a car pull into the property for sale. She grabbed her binoculars to get a look at what was going on and noticed a man and woman getting out of a car. After that, Mrs. B went back to her cleaning, but shortly thereafter heard a shot ring out. As the day wore on, she felt as if something wasn’t right. So much so that when her husband came home from work, she asked him to go over and check it out. As husbands often do, he told her it was probably nothing. 

So Mr. & Mrs. B went into town and had dinner, but it ate at her the whole time, that shot… When they got home she again asked her husband to go check things out. He headed out to feed the geese and ducks on the pond and then decided to humor her, jumping into his truck and driving over. He was looking at a group of deer in the field when he almost ran over what would eventually be identified as the body of Sue Clason.

Mrs. B's granddaughter told me that her grandmother lived in fear for a very long time, a loaded gun never far from her side. 

Because Sue Clason was another attractive female who was murdered around the time Janette Roberson was murdered in Reed City, there has always been concern on the part of residents as to whether the crimes were committed by the same perpetrator. While researching Janette's case, I was asked about Ms. Clason many times, so I have ordered more documents related to this case from Michigan State Police and will update this blog if/when I receive them. 

Below are news articles that show at one point law enforcement was trying to decide whether her murder was linked to that of a serial killer named Gary Robbins.






When I spoke to Detective Sgt. George Pratt, I asked him about it and he said Sue Clason’s case was determined to not be attributed to Gary Robbins. Based on the “25 points of similarity” mentioned in the article above, it appears the MO of the perpetrator and/or the injuries in the Clason murder are similar to that of Robbins' victims.

So far, I have been able to get a copy of the first responder's report on the Clason murder. The following information is contained therein:


(NOTE: These, as well as most of the other unsolved homicide reports associated with the Reed City area, were set to me almost completely unredacted, unlike the Janette Roberson file.)

"At 7:30 pm this date [Sept. 11, 1984] the complainant, WALTER W, contacted Tpr. ROBERT TAYLOR who was at the Reed City Post via telephone and advised that his neighbor had found a body across the road from his property. Tprs. JOHN RICHARDS and ROBERT TAYLOR were dispatched to the scene and made contact with Mr. W at his residence on Eighth Street which is approximately two miles east of the scene. At 7:46pm. Tpr. RICHARDS met with the complainant and SCOTTY B and was led to the driveway of the B's property which is approximately 50 feet east of the driveway leading to the "J" property*."

[*The property where the body was found, which was for sale at the time.]

"It was learned from the complainant that he did not have any actual knowledge of the body but only made the phone call to the post by request of Mr. B. "SCOTTY" B advised that at approximately 7pm this date he drove onto the "J" property because of what his wife had told him she had heard and observed earlier this date. Mr. B advised he drove up the driveway of the "J" property to almost the rear of the vacant residence. He observed a body laying in the tall grass and weeds and without getting out of his vehicle exited the property by turning around and going out the same way he came in. Mr. B advised that he had no home telephone so he turned westward on Eighth Street going to the ANDY and MARSHA N residence which is further westward from the "J" property situated on the south side to use their telephone. Also, Mr. N is a part-time employee of the Lake County Sheriff's Department. After finding no one home at this residence he then drove eastward on Eighth Street, passing the scene, going to the residence of KENNETH S also on Eighth Street being approximately two miles east of the scene who is a Lake County Sheriff's Department sergeant. Again, he could not rouse anyone at this residence, then drove to the "W" residence which is across the street from the "S" home. At this time it was learned from Mr. B that to his knowledge no one had checked the body for any determination as to the status."

Detective Sgt. Pratt and Tpr. Richards then walked to the scene and found "the body of a believed white female lying in the tall grass and weeds in a prone position with her head pointed in a northerly direction and feet in a southerly direction. She was clothed however her clothing was disarranged and there was what is believed to have been blood visible in the back of the head area and on the off-white blouse being worn by her. A check was made for any signs of life however she was cold to the touch and no arterial pulse could be felt."

The wife of SCOTTY B was then interviewed by Detective Pratt as Tpr. Richards stayed with the body to protect the area.

"HELEN B, wife of SCOTTY B, was interviewed. She advised that at approximately 1pm her husband left their residence to return to work and she walked to the mailbox which is situated on the north side of Eighth Street approximately 25' west of the west edge of the "J" driveway and picked up her mail. She advised that she returned to their residence, did some household chores which included the dishes, and sat down in their living room area to read the mail and newspaper. After sitting down she observed a yellow vehicle which she described as a four door and large with two people in it come from the east going westward very slow. She next saw the vehicle coming from the west and observed it enter the "J" driveway on the north side of Eighth Street. Mrs. B advised that she had an eerie feeling that could not be described and after hearing a single gunshot she obtained her binoculars and going outside began to watch in the area of the "J" property/vacant residence. She advised that the car had pulled in facing westward in the drive of the "J" property towards the rear of the vacant home and she observed what she believed to be a white male who was bald headed with hair on the sides of his head near the car then walk towards the house and return doing what appeared to her as if putting something on the dash. At this time the vehicle began to leave and she re-entered her home observing what she thought to be only one person in the vehicle exit the "J" property driveway and go eastward on Eighth Street. Mrs. B advised that she could not explain the eerie feeling she had nor what called her attention to this particular vehicle as vehicles commonly go in and out of the "J" property and she also advised that there have been shots fired over there previously. Generally when shots are fired there is more than one and the single gunfire to her was uncommon. She described this as not being very loud and did not think it was a high powered rifle or shotgun. Mrs. B was not certain who was in the vehicle and whether or not they were male or female. She could only say that she saw a white male standing next to the vehicle when it was parked towards the rear of the vacant house."

It was noted that "her clothing appears to be on the expensive side and she had several pieces of what appeared to be expensive jewelry. No purse or other identification was found at the scene." 

"At approximately 4:45am on 9-12-84, information was learned that the vehicle of SUE CLASON who was known to post personnel of the Cadillac Post was believed to be located within the City of Cadillac. The undersigned [Det. Sgt. George Pratt] travelled to Cadillac and contacted D/Sgt. CHAPPEL who was at the vehicle's location on Power's Street which is approximately one-half block north of the Giantway Complex on the east side of west 131 and approximately three blocks south of the Century 21 office located at 1037 N. Mitchell (W 131) Cadillac, Michigan. The vehicle was parked on the south side of Powers Street just to the west of Benedict Court which is approximately one-half block east of US-131. The vehicle was parked in front of a vacant building which belongs to a building complex next to the Plaza Hair Studio which carries an address of 860B N. Mitchell Street. The vehicle appeared to have been driven into the parking spot which is the first actual lined parking spot to the west of Benedict Court from the west, ie. the vehicle travelled east-ward on Powers Street leading into the parking spot. The vehicle, a yellow colored 1977 four door Lincoln Continental... is registered to a VINA S. CLASON."

Sue drove a 1977 Lincoln like this one that day.


The vehicle was towed to the garage of the Cadillac Post for processing by the crime lab. An autopsy was performed on September 12, 1984 by Dr. Stephen Cohle, MD, Forensic Pathologist. 

Regarding the autopsy, Detective Pratt made these notations:

"The body in the fully clothed condition as found was checked utilizing a black light for any pieces of evidence with a stain being located on the right frontal ankle area of the victim's pantyhose. Subsequently, with the clothing removed, the body was again checked with the black light with the only area showing any fluorescence was the same area, the right frontal ankle area."

"The blouse was torn in the lower frontal portion of the right sleeve approximately six inches. All buttons to this blouse were still intact. There were several visible reddish-brown believed to be blood stains on this garment."

"The victim wore expensive appearing jewelry which included three gold chain-like necklaces around her neck; gold circular pierced-ear earrings; on her left wrist she wore a silver colored Bulova wristwatch with diamond-like stones appearing on each side of the face; on her left ring finger she wore a large oval shaped turquoise stone silver colored ring; on her left little finger she wore a believed white-gold ring with a single diamond-like stone in the center of it; on her right wrist she wore a gold colored single strand thin chain-like bracelet; and on her right ring finger was a yellow-gold type ring containing three diamond-like stones."

I think we can make an educated assumption, based on the jewelry left with the victim, that robbery was not the motive here.

"The clothing failed to reveal any type of dirt or grass staining it is believed would have been there in the event the victim had been dragged. As previously mentioned the right sleeve area of the blouse was torn approximately six inches and there was a snag mark approximately four inches long underneath the left great toe area. In addition to these two small, approximately 1/8 inch in diameter holes approximately mid-lower leg high were observed in the pantyhose near abrasions of both legs (left and right) beneath this area. The cause of these abrasions are unknown."

"There was a large contusion involving the right side of the face with smaller patterned contusions consisting of parallel linear contusions separated by 1/8 inch of uninvolved skin. These parallel contusions extend onto the upper eyelid and the lower part of the orbit in the right cheekbone area. There is a large abrasion on the bridge of the nose but the nose is not fractured. Another large abrasion is on the right side of the nose and also abrasions and contusions within the oral cavity."

Sue Clason had multiple injuries including evidence of manual strangulation and a single bullet wound to the back of the head. Also, "A large bruise or contusion was found on the inner aspect of the left upper arm consistent with having one's hand clamped/grasped around that part of the arm."

The cause of death was listed as a single gunshot wound to the head; manner of death, homicide.

Evidence from the victim's clothing, as well as scientific evidence (orifice swabs) collected at autopsy, along with hair, nail clippings and "slides of unknown particles along with believed gun powder and the bullet [were] removed from the victim..." and turned over to the East Lansing Crime Lab.

In her car was found Sue Clason's purse "containing personal papers and identification, a Michigan operator's license, social security card and birth record." Just over ten dollars and change was also found in her purse, along with cigarettes, a pair of prescription glasses bearing her initials, and a checkbook with a notation in the register of the last check written to "Merrill's.*"

[* This was a gas station where Sue Clason was seen that day with the perpetrator.]

On September 13th, police searched the house Clason lived in with her son "in an effort to come up with a lead in this matter." They were looking at tax records, cancelled checks and "other writings found in the area of the home, including the victim's bedroom."

That day they also arranged with the co-owner of Century 21 on N. Mitchell St. in Cadillac to "obtain any records from the victim's desk at their office. Nothing was found to be of value, but copies of the two properties that were believed to be shown by the victim SUE CLASON to the possible suspect, the "J"  property... where the victim's body was found and the property of JOHN  M located approximately one-quarter mile east of Raymond Road to the north of 3 1/2 Mile Road... were obtained."

OLLIN C, former owner of the Century 21 office in Cadillac - employed at the time as regional manager for Century 21 in Indiana and Kentucky - was met with. 

"It was learned from Mr. C that SUE CLASON had worked for him for four years before he left the area and that he had asked Sue to marry him."

It was learned from fellow employees that "On September 11, 1984, the victim left the office with the possible suspect approximately 1:15 to 1:20pm and was to be back in two hours, as it would have been her turn to work on the floor. At the time she left GAIL K was working the floor along with LONNIE G who actually was gone at the time the possible suspect appeared."


Interviews 







On September 13th, GAIL K and VELMA R assisted Det/Lt. GARY POWELL of MSP Technical Services in producing a composite sketch of the subject.

"The suspect is described as a white male, 45 to 50 years old, 5'8" to 5'10', 180-200lbs. clean shaven, clean, round teddy bear face with either wire rimmed glasses or light colored frames, dark hair that was bushy in the back, suntanned skin, wearing a light brown with a darker brown band roll-up type hat, a tan colored waist length with elastic around the waist zippered spring/fall type jacket, dark brown casual slacks, and was soft spoken."

Police did a great deal of work between the 13th and October 9th - the date of the next supplemental - including administering lie detector tests and getting background information on Ms. Clason as far as her work and finances. On October 9th, 1984, "Due to the investigative leads in this case beginning to slow without a determination as to who may have committed the murder, hypnosis was discussed as a means of developing additional leads."

Case law with regard to hypnosis was researched and discussed among the investigation officers in charge of the case and it was decided to use it as a tool with GAIL K, one of the Century 21 employees who had seen the suspect. She gave a tape recorded statement prior to the hypnosis session, which was described as being "very little difference in the information obtained this date from that previously, although Mrs. K did go into more detail as to what occurred in the office during the time the suspect was there."

On October 12, 1984 GAIL K underwent hypnosis administered by D/Lt. GARY POWELL of the MSP Technical Services Bureau, a Forensic Hypnotist.

"The session, which lasted from approximately 1:45 to approximately 3:18pm including the pre-session and post-session briefings, was recorded and will be transcribed. Under the hypnosis, Mrs. K was able to take herself back to the early afternoon of September 11th and provide information as to what occurred at that time."

"The suspect was described under hypnosis by Mrs. K as a white male in his fifties (like her father), not real tall 5'11" at most, heavyset - stocky not fat - like he may work outside or exercise, a little round heavy set face, he wore a dark brown hat like a dress hat with a narrow brim that curled up on the edges and was indented above the brim forming a rounded point in front, he had on gold colored wire rimmed glasses with rectangular lenses with rounded corners, dark eyes but not blue, a tan colored zippered close to the throat waist-length jacket, dark brown believed to be corduroy pants, brown colored lace-up oxfords that were nice looking but dusty, he carried the paper with SUE'S ad in his left hand, his hands were clean and large, his hair was dark brown with gray in it and it curled around on the back of his neck/hat - it was mid collar in length - he looked like he needed a hair cut - it was unruly, he spoke in a low soft gravelly voice."



"In addition to being quite explicit as to what occurred while the suspect was in the office, Mrs. K heard SUE ask him what his name was and she said '--?ON whitm? - something that starts with a WHITmmmm, JOHN WHITMAN?' Under hypnosis GAIL thought she saw SUE writing something down on her yellow pad described as from Michigan Bell Telephone with Century 21 on it. SUE asked him where he was from and he said JACKSON. When GAIL was asked the name she heard the suspect say, she said JOHN WITNER (sp?)"

"As Mrs. K was involved in the original composite she was asked if she would change any details of it. While still under hypnosis she looked at the composite she previously made and said the face should be rounder, cheeks puffier but not fat, thinner lips with a droop at the ends like a frown, wider nose at the bridge, a change in the hat with the brim rolled up on the edge, and the different style with it being pulled down touching the ears causing them to stick out."

After the hypnosis, the second composite sketch was made based on the changes, and along with a "revised suspect description" was released on October 12, 1984 to the news media throughout the state.

Also, a photo ID book was established and photos regularly added. Witnesses were requested, and did, look at the book more than once during this time, with no photos identified as the perpetrator.

On December 28, 1984 there is mention of a report received from the Serology Unity of MSP in East Lansing, "however indication was not listed that certain testing as requested had been done so Assistant Lab Commander FRANK SCHERR was contacted and it again was requested that this testing be done." This was with regard to that unidentified spot near the right ankle that was picked up by the black light.

LATENT PRINT CHECKS:

"As of this writing [January 22, 1984] 106 requests for comparison of individuals prints either submitted or on file have been made with 64 of these being completed and no identification being made with the latent prints obtained in this case."

Under REMARKS on this date: "Investigators are reviewing this case including responses from out of state agencies with similar cases to see if during the initial phase of this investigation something may have been overlooked that would assist in solving this crime."

On January 23rd, 1985 Det/Sgt. Pratt contacted FRANK SCHERR again regarding the stain on the victim's pantyhose. "FRANK advised he told CURT FLUKER to do it as it was requested (ID the stain) but he didn't know what had occurred. He referred me [Pratt] to CURT who advised he would get on it."

On January 28th the lab in East Lansing called regarding all of the blood stains found on the victim's clothing. "...he advised that all blood stains were of the same type as that of the victim."

"The unknown stain on the right ankle area of the victim's pantyhose has been determined not to be semen or saliva however it has not been identified as to what it is. It was requested than an identification of this stain be made."

In March of 1985 the MSP report notes that "The tips have become sparse with only 13 being received with several of those assigned by Task Force officers to out-of-state similar case investigations that are being looked into." 

On April 9th, 1985 Detective Pratt again contacted the lab in reference to the unidentified stain. "He [Lt/Spl. ROGER BOLTHOUSE] advised that it could not be identified as to what caused the stain but that it could be human." He noted that he was going to get with his Lab Commander about sending the work out to another lab because "they had gone as far as possible in attempting to ID it."

In June Detective Pratt tried again. He was advised that the stain "will be sent to a private lab in Chicago for further testing. If it can be identified, this is the lab that can do it."

On October 23, 1985, Detective Pratt received a call from BOLTHOUSE who "advised that the independent lab was unable to determine anything more than the Crime Laboratory. He advised that nothing more can be done with the stain."

That had to feel like crap. Imagine, you're the lead detective, you've been hounding the lab for months about the one possible piece of evidence that could bring some fresh information about the case and then you're told, That's it. We're done.

By November 1985 the Investigative Resources Unit had forwarded several possible suspects for consideration, but none were found to "fall within the physical category as that of the suspect in this case."

There were multiple suspects followed up on who had murdered real estate persons in other states, as with Gary Robbins above, all to no avail.

The last line in the November 1, 1985 supplemental (a little over a year after the murder of Sue Clason) is as follows:

"Although several tips are yet to be followed up, there are no good leads in this case at this time."

NOTE: Because, as I earlier mentioned, this is the one case I got asked about repeatedly while working on Janette's case for the book, I have sent a FOIA request to Lansing for the remainder of what they maintain on this case, and will update the blog if new information is received.



12 comments:

Kim Clason Brown said...

Something prompted me this morning to look up my mother, father and both my siblings death records. As you can see Jeni, your blog is what came up when researching my mother. It is very unfortunate that you published all this information, actually I'm beyond shocked!!! My attorney asked to see some of this info and the autopsy report, he was given the run around by Srgt. Pratt. After months of fighting for the autopsy, I received a letter from Srgt. Pratt stating that he would prefer to spare my feelings of the information but could assure me she did not suffer--SINGLE GUNSHOT WOUND TO BACK OF HEAD GOING UPWARD AND KILLING HER INSTANTLY. Somewhat different than the one you posted with all the abrasions--needless to say I'm crying, is quite the understatement. Certainly wasn't ready to read that shocking news this morning, wonder what else I was deceived of from Srgt. Pratt. Last Friday marked the 31st anniversary of my mother's death and they are truly no closer to solving this case than when it happened 31 years ago. Many things have been said and shared, didn't know quite what to believe however I would like to thank you for being so cold and calculated in your blog.
Kindly,
Kim Clason Brown

Jeni Decker said...

Ms Brown,

I did not obtain the autopsy report, and only had Detective Pratts notes in that regard. Incidentally, I refrained from outlining all of the details from that report, as well as from the approximately 50 pages I was sent by MSP. I would be happy to help you obtain the information I was able to get from MSP, although I did not get everything they had archived in Lansing. The bulk of your mother's file, like Janette Roberson's, would still be in hard copy form and likely unavailable other than incurring a very high price quote. I do not believe that case was ever digitized either. Of all the cases of unsolved murders I obtained information about, other than Janette's, Mrs. Clason's was one that was asked about the most because the perception was that there was a possibility they were linked. I have no information in that regard. I was interested to see that they did not redact much from your mother's file as they did with Janette's. That often means that the case has gone as far as they are able to take it, for various reasons, but I am not sure if that is the case here or not. If you would like to contact me at deckerjeni@gmail.com, I can assist you getting the information that is available to you at this time. Det. Pratt is retired from MSP, so if you want to speak to detectives who would be "assigned" to this case you would likely need to contact the Mt. Pleasant Post. I am not sure where this case stands. I would be happy to help you in any way I can.

Jeni

unknown unknown said...

What officers in Mt. Pleasant? I'd like anon way to inform incase it is nothing.

Jeni Decker said...

Thanks for the question, Unknown...

Here is the contact info for tips on the Sue Clason investigation:

D/Sgt. Todd Parsons
MSP Mt. Pleasant Post
3580 S. Isabella Rd
Mt. Pleasant, Mi 48858
Office: 989-773-5951
Cell: 989-289-7127
Fax: 989-772-2854

Jeni Decker said...

...you can also reach Det. Sgt. Todd Parsons via email at this address:

parsonst@michigan.gov

Dawn August said...

Thank you for caring and sharing all of this info. I hope and pray that this blog will help find this evil murderer that snuffed out my beloved Aunt Sue. I hope and pray that out of all of this there will be justice and answers for my Aunt's family and friends.

Jeni Decker said...

I very much hope that there will be a resolution to this case. I cannot imagine how difficult this has to be for the family. Not knowing what happened to a loved one has to be heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

I just saw an old episode of unsolved mysteries. A drawing of the suspect in a kidnapping of a man looks like the drawing in the Clason murder. My dad worked for the Wexford county sheriffs dept. at the time and said he was probably the last person to see Sue alive. He said she always waved when she saw him. On the day of her murder, she drove by him, stared right at him but never waved. There was a man in the passenger side. He later thought it was strange. My dad has since passed away, but this always bothered him. Was this murder ever solved?

Jeni Decker said...

I remember reading the witness statement from your father about seeing her that day, and how she didn't wave. I know he took that as strange, but at the time he saw Sue, I don't think she felt she was in any danger. She and the killer actually made another stop after he saw her, to a little store, I think it was called Tustin Corners, where they were also seen by another witness. It may have been that she looked past your father and just didn't see him. I didn't get any indication from the report that she was concerned with her passenger, at least at that point. Maybe she was distracted and did feel something was "off" about her him, at that time, but I don't think it was to the point that she believed her life was in danger. I don't think she got an inkling of that until she reached the property that she was showing him that day.

No, the case hasn't yet been solved, and that is truly a shame. I have to wonder if this perpetrator had done this before, as he made some pretty bold moves, including going into her place of employment and was seen by multiple people. That makes me think he wasn't a local and may have travelled some way to do this. There are serial offenders who work this way. In order to catch him now through DNA, what would likely need to happen is they would need a full DNA profile to enter into CODIS and to get a hit, they'd need the perpetrator's profile to also be in the system - meaning he'd alraedy offended elsewhere and his DNA taken.

Or, they'd need someone with information to come forward.

I do hope the family gets some answers, at some point. The not knowing has to be very tough.

DR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DR said...

I am the best friend of Al Clason, Sue’s youngest son, now deceased. Thank you for your work. The last words Al ever spoke to me before his passing were regarding how very much he so loved his mother. She created a magnificent son in Al Clason before she was tragically taken from so many who loved her. I still pray for some justice for all of them.

Anonymous said...

I believe this homicide was a hired hit. One of the witnesses who was interviewed was acting very nervously during the interview. The witness and the victim were both friends and hung around with a local, successful owner of a car dealership in town at that time. I had heard whisperings of involvement with drugs (cocaine) and for whatever reason there was a falling out between Sue and the car dealer, to the point that he maybe wanted her dead. The man who came into Century 21 was brazen with being seen by everyone--likely a professional from out of town (and probably out of state--Florida?? He was quite tanned.). And the nervous witness couldn't remember what he did during his lunch break a couple days prior?! Give me a break. It was an absolute "tell" that said witness said he either went to lunch or went to look at a car. Subtle, Freudian slip to mention a car sale. I hope they eventually catch the person responsible for taking this woman's life.