Friday, July 28, 2017

Chapter 13 - March

March of 1983 began with Detective Pratt contacting Det. Sgt. Eugene Ambs of the MSP Metro Post to have him interview Barbara Terrill, a friend of Janette’s. 

She worked in sales at the Cadillac 9 & 10 News office at the time. I spoke with Barbara on Saturday October 18, 2014 in the afternoon. She called me after I’d left a note for a relative, trying to get in touch with her.

“My niece was very intrigued by your message,” she said. Her voice was pleasant. 

Barbara said she was afraid she didn’t have much information to share. Her connection with Janette was that they were both Jehovah’s Witnesses and they’d drive to church together often when Janette lived in LeRoy with her mother. Barbara said the kids would come, too. Barbara also worked at Kaiser-Unitest with Alvin prior to moving to the job at 9 & 10 News in Cadillac. She said that while she didn’t know him well, it appeared to her that he adored his wife.

Once Janette moved to the Meadowview Apartments in Reed City, they stopped going to church in Cadillac together, so the two women began meeting for lunch sometimes at Dairy Depot, though she couldn’t recall if it was called Dairy Depot at the time or not. Barbara said the police questioned her about Janette and Alvin’s relationship. She said they also asked if she knew anyone that didn’t like Janette, or any enemies she may have had. Barbara told me she was at a loss because both Janette and Alvin seemed like very nice people. According to her, Alvin did not seem the type to hurt her and she knew of nobody that would.

“Janette was such a nice person. I couldn’t understand it,” Barbara said, and then recalled that in the couple months leading up to the murder, she hadn’t seen Janette or Alvin at all.

March 3rd 1983 is the date the report says personal items of Janette’s were forwarded to Trixie Shepherd. 

That same day, two search warrants authorized by Osceola County Prosecutor James Talaske were obtained from 77th District Court Judge George Vankula “…in regards to obtaining fingerprints of the victim’s husband, Alvin Roberson.” They were authorized to obtain blood, saliva, and hair samples “in sufficient quantities for comparison analysis.” 

On that date, Detective Pratt also took two complete sets of finger and palm prints from Alvin Roberson at the Michigan State Police Post in Reed City.

March 7th 1983 a supplemental subject report was received from Det. Sgt. Carl Goeman regarding an interview done with a subject named Kris Mills, based on a tip called in by a woman named Cindy Trowbridge. The order of events leading up to this was as follows:

—Friday February 4, 1983, Detective Pratt called Post #21 regarding a tip they had received. Detective Goeman contacted Ms. Trowbridge on February 7th and interviewed her regarding the information passed along by Detective Pratt.

Only one line is left un-redacted from this interview:

“Contrary to what she had told Detective Pratt, she told me [Detective Goeman] that Mills’ parents do own a cat.” 

Below that it says Detective Pratt requested the officers interview Kris Mills.

—February 11th Detectives Goeman and Chapel drove to Bellaire to contact Kris Mills. The subject was not available.

—February 16th Detectives contacted Mills’ boss concerning his employment on the date of the murder, as well as his route times. Kris Mills drove a truck for Curtis Wire Products.

After numerous attempts to locate the subject, on March 4th Kris Mills contacted Det. Sgt. Goeman and was interviewed that evening. Based on the detective’s handwritten notes, it was determined that Mills had travelled through Reed City on a run on January 19, 1983. Where he ate lunch is scribbled next to the time period between 1:00 and 3:00pm, which is noted as the time he passed through Reed City. There is a sentence about Mills stating his parents had a cat, and he obtained scratches from the cat two days after the murder. A time of 6:00pm is given as Mills’ arrival time back in Petoskey. The last page of this report has June 23, 1983 as the date this complaint was CLOSED with Post #21. There is a notation about the Reed City case still being open, and they were advised there were no suspects at that time.

More lab reports came back on March 14, 1983, and a copy of the Northern Counties Evidence Service Crime Scene report was received by the end of the month. Also, in the March Issue of the Michigan Law Enforcement Bulletin #402 dated March 13, 2013 the information concerning this homicide was published.

On March 24th 1983, it appears the leads had run dry. A short article in The Pioneer was titled Police Asking for Help. “Numerous persons from the surrounding area who were in the [Gambles] store that day have been contacted by police. Those persons, and anyone not contacted, have been urged to phone the State Police, the Osceola County Sheriff, or the Reed City Police.” All three phone numbers were given. 

Michigan State Police had issued this press release on March 22, 1983 (two days earlier):

“Investigating officers of the Reed City Police Department, Osceola County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police are requesting public cooperation in the Janette Roberson homicide investigation. On January 19, 1983, numerous persons of the surrounding area were in the Gambles store in Reed City. Hopefully all of you have been contacted regarding your visit there on that date. Officers are asking that anyone, whether you have been already contacted or not, please contact the Michigan State Police, Reed City, 832-2221, and provide the requested information as asked. Officers are particularly interested in what was purchased/cash register receipt, time of the day the visit was made, and who may have been with you and/or who you may have seen.”

The above portion is underlined in the Michigan State Police report. 

Below the press release it states, “This information was released to the area television, radio, and newspapers. Unfortunately it was not published in the newspapers as given, however the radio and local television did carry it properly.

In the article, Detective Pratt said response to their pleas of help from the community had not been good. “We could sure use a few more (calls),” Pratt said. “A lot (of people) think they have nothing to contribute, but they may have something we really need.”

I can almost feel his frustration. Perhaps people didn’t think they had anything of value. Maybe they didn’t want to get involved. Whatever the reason, law enforcement was at a loss. The last notation in the supplemental report of March 31, 1983 states that the employment records of Janette Roberson from Nartron Corporation were reviewed. They revealed that she was employed by Nartron from October 7, 1981 thru December 7, 1981, at which time she was laid off. She was called back to Nartron in August of 1982 but refused, as she was already employed at the Gambles store at that time.

“Investigation into this case continues with the tips that are received being followed up and whatever other information that comes in.”

COMPLAINT STATUS: Open. be continued...

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