On January 19, 1983, Janette Roberson was murdered.
Today it has been 34 years since she was brutally attacked in the basement pet department of the Gambles store in Reed City.
What a horrible thing to be killed at the very place you go every day to earn your living. A place she probably felt safe... or maybe she didn't, I have no way of knowing what she felt.
That's the thing...
I wish I knew where it all went wrong that day, what happened in that moment that caused him to lash out in such an impulsive rage.
I wish I knew what she said right before you did it, what look she gave you, what it was that you took such offense to that resulted in her poor body ending up so broken.
Nobody heard a scream.
Nobody heard her call out.
Nobody heard a thing.
How is that—?
Well, either she didn't see it coming, or she knew the person who took to her like a rabid animal. One minute everything was normal and then—
I have said repeatedly that if I had one criticism of the investigation into how Janette's murder was handled, it is that the brutality I keep mentioning was not made clearer to the public. That the men and women and fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers of Reed City weren't looked directly in the eye and made to understand in perfectly clear terms that the violence perpetrated on this beautiful woman was so extraordinary, I think is likely that many of the officers involved had not seen anything like it, nor have they, since.
Not in a small town.
Not in Reed City.
Not here at home.
On this day, to honor her memory, I am asking you to think about your mother or daughter or sister or aunt... picture some woman you love dearly, who smells nice and cooks yummy food and always has a smile for you even when she's busting your chops.
Now I want you to think of her on that cold basement floor—your mother, your daughter, your sister, your aunt—broken, "partially clad" as the earliest news stories described, and that floor is covered in her blood.
...and the most gruesome insult to injury here is the idea that it would have been someone she knew. Someone who knew her kindness and decency and goodness...
There are some specific things I want you to think about:
Did anyone you know come home wearing different clothing than they left home in that day? There was a lot of blood. Hard to believe the perpetrator got none on him.
So what happened to those clothes?
In an article in The Pioneer dated January 21, 1983, just days after the incident, Prosecutor Talaske urged,
“Again, if anyone may have seen someone trying to get rid of something, or maybe even seeing someone who had blood on their clothing – which I’m assuming would have been somewhat obvious – please call the state police post…”
Also, if you were in the Gambles store that day (at any time, for whatever reason, no matter if it felt uneventful) and have never spoken to police, PLEASE contact them. Just your position in the timeline of the day could be a great help. You probably think you have nothing to offer. Let the investigators decide that. I assure you they will appreciate the effort.
I think one of the reasons some may not have come forward up to now is because over the years they were lead to believe "so-and-so-did it"— a friend told me this, I heard that, this person said their friend the cop told them it was—
It was the husband!
It was a hit!
The person who did it is dead now!
This could certainly give someone the false impression that what they may have to offer is useless. It’s a small town. There’s a lot of gossip, and even more conspiracy theories.
Don't assume any of those are true.
Don't assume anything.
Just make the call or send the email.
Don't assume. Please.
If you have any information, please contact:
Detective Sgt. Mike Stephens
Mt. Pleasant Post-Special Investigations Section
Michigan State Police