Sunday, July 30, 2017

Chapter 20 - Albright & Vincent

The next supplemental in August is signed by Detective Vincent and is dated August 27, 1985. 

He went to the Mecosta-Osceola Career Center and spoke with Robert Miller, the administrator, regarding the records of two students, one of whom was “Dan,” the fellow who allegedly had a crush on Janette and lived in her apartment complex.

Both of these students attended Reed City High School for one half day and they went to the Career Center in the afternoon. Their classes at the Career center were from 12:20pm until 2:45pm.” The Student Services coordinator was spoken to in reference to missed time regarding the students. The Principal at the high school, Douglas Dodge, was also contacted in reference to these students.

The next day, Detectives Albright and Vincent interviewed Edna Lucha, Marion Fisher, (Janette’s mother) and Jeffrey Scott Lucha. 

The following day, on the 29th, they spoke with “Dan.”

[“Dan”] was contacted at his apartment. This apartment is registered in his mother’s name and he lives there with her. When contacted by Det./Sgts. Vincent and Albright, he was asked if he would go with the officers to the Manistee State Police Post to be interviewed in reference to the Janette Roberson homicide. He advised officers that he would be willing to talk to them and go to the post for the interview. At the Manistee Post “Dan” was advised of his Constitutional rights by Det/Sgt Albright, and he stated that he understood and knew those rights and was willing to talk to officers in reference to the investigation.”

Jerri Denton was also interviewed on the 28th regarding a letter sent to Detective Pratt. Detective Pratt had not opened the letter, but had forwarded it to Alvin Roberson. Jerri Denton, co-owner of Century 21 Real Estate in Beulah, told the officer that she had no personal contact with the Robersons, and did not know them, but read the request for reward money in the paper for the apprehension and conviction of the killer of Janette Roberson. She told the officer she sent the money because she had children approximately the age of Janette and sent it to be added to the reward money.

It appears the new guys were checking everything—even a letter that was never opened from a stranger in the hopes that something would pop out of the woodwork. 

I believe the technical term is called “dotting Is and crossing dead-end Ts.”

The last August 1985 notation is a trip Albright and Vincent took to Traverse City on the 27th in an attempt to locate Lee Peterson. They checked one residence and found he no longer lived there. The manager of the apartments gave them an alternate address, which was a home of “mentally retarded subjects,” according to the report. The manager of the home told the officers he no longer lived there, but gave them a third address. When they went to that address, they were told by an upstairs occupant that he lived in the basement at that location, but had gone on an outing and would not be home until later in the week.

September of 1985 begins with Detective Vincent checking Alvin Roberson’s employment and speaking with numerous people regarding his work ethic. He received answers likeHe was very quiet and reserved’ and An average employee with quality work but not job quantity.’

Kenneth Samuels told the detective he was the General Foreman at the Unitest Plant in Marion and that Alvin worked for him, having worked for the Unitest in Reed City and then moved to the Marion Plant. He was described by Samuels as being “Real quiet, real bright and intelligent, with a lot of automation application, and that he worked in the Heavy Duty Application Department rebuilding starters, generators, alternators and water pumps. Samuels told Vincent that Alvin rode to work from Reed City with Allen Foote from Chase, and gave him the name of another friend they might speak with, as well.

On September 6th Detective Albright talked to Kris Mills at the Antrim County Sheriff’s Department in Bellaire. Like with “Dan,” it is noted that Mills was advised of his Constitutional rights prior to the interview. 

Albright finally caught up with Lee Peterson on that same day, also advising him of his rights before Peterson was interviewed. The interview with Peterson is noted as having been tape recorded, with his permission. Directly after that interview, a notation is made regarding evidence being sent to the Bridgeport Crime Lab.

On September 9th, Detective Albright received a call from Detective Pratt referencing a call that had been made to the Traverse City post by a Cynthia (Trowbridge) Moore of Petoskey. Pratt advised that Moore wished to speak with the two officers who had interviewed Kris Mills in Bellaire. At that time, Detective Albright contacted Cynthia Moore in Petoskey. During that interview, it was learned that her last name used to be Trowbridge and she was the girlfriend of Kris Mills at the time of the Janette Roberson homicide. She advised Albright by telephone that she had initially talked to one of the sergeants at the Reed City Post. At this time she was interviewed and it was also recorded. After the interview, the Antrim County Sheriff’s department and the Bellaire Police department were contacted. The Antrim County Sheriff’s department indicated they had no arrest records on Kris Mills, but they were familiar with Cynthia Trowbridge Moore.

Research done on iCHAT—Michigan’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool—shows Cynthia Trowbridge Moore has a multi-state criminal history that includes charges of felony financial transactions, felony fraudulent activities, passing bad checks, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, driving without a license, and at one point was a fugitive from justice where an extradition was required. These crimes date back to the early 1990s through the early 2000s.

It appears, based on her multiple contacts with law enforcement involved in the Janette Roberson investigation, she wanted cops to look real hard at her ex-boyfriend.

I left a message for Kris Mills in order to get some background on his involvement in the Roberson investigation, and I heard from him on January 12, 2015, about two months later. After hearing his story, it’s no wonder why he was hesitant. Getting caught up in the Janette Roberson investigation had proven a sticky wicket for him in the past. 

In his words, “I can’t ever get away from this mess.”

In 1983, Kris Mills worked for Curtis Wire Products in Petoskey. He was a truck driver who hauled things like refrigerator wire and oven racks from Grand Rapids to Petoskey, which necessitated passing through Reed City by way of Old Highway 131. It was a regular route for he and his partner, who took turns driving loads. That was another thing he mentioned. 

“Man, it could have been him driving that day, but it was me. I was the guy stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

When he drove that route, Kris would stop at a restaurant called Miniers for lunch. He said he’d been stopping there for years, and based on his recollection, on January 19, 1983 he was there at approximately 12:30 or 1:00 in the afternoon. Earlier that day, Kris says he stopped at a business called Little Engines, which was on the south side of Reed City. They sold lawn mowers, chainsaws, things like that.

I still have a picture of that lawn mower somewhere!” he told me. Everything he said seemed to be exclamatory, hence the exclamation marks.

Kris said he stopped at Little Engines first because it was on the south side, and went to Miniers afterward because it was on the north end of town on the way to Cadillac. When he stopped at Little Engines, he had to park his rig across the street, along the side of Old Highway 131 because of its size. He was hauling a 47 foot trailer and with the rig, he believes it was around 60 feet long. 

You can’t just slide a vehicle that size into a spot and call it a day. There’s a bit of planning involved.

Kris mentioned the name of the business, Curtis Wire, was on the truck in red and white, clearly visible. He assumed that was how they tracked him down as having been in town on that day. Someone saw the truck, knew he’d passed through, and that’s why police wanted to speak to him. 

That’s not exactly the case, based on the report. Cynthia Trowbridge, his ex-girlfriend, called in a tip. When I spoke to him, he didn’t appear to have put that together.

Man, that was a bad time in my life,” he said. “I lived in Bellaire back then and I had an ex who was stalking me. She was breaking into my house and the police couldn’t catch her. I even took out a restraining order, but that didn’t help.”

Is this Trowbridge? I asked.

Yeah! How’d you know that?” Kris Mills asked, surprised.

I told him her name was in the report and that I was aware of her criminal history. 

Kris said it started like this. One day he woke up and found a note on his door that said two detectives were looking to speak to him. He had no idea what it was about, and at that time, had not even heard about the murder in Reed City. According to him, he’d never even been to the Gambles store. But the proximity of both Miniers and Little Engines, with Gambles in between, makes it perfectly understandable why cops looked at the guy. Little Engines was right there on Chestnut, near where the State Police Post was.

Kris couldn’t remember if the Detectives called him, or if he contacted them after seeing the note, but they came to his home and asked him to come to the sheriff’s department so they could talk to him. He was confused and didn’t know what it was about, but he went with them anyway. When they got to the sheriff’s department, they told him his truck had been seen in Reed City around the time a murder occurred. They questioned him regarding his whereabouts on the day of the murder, and then asked for a hair sample. Kris said he believes they also took his fingerprints. 

He did this willingly, as innocent men are wont to do when all they want is for cops to move past them so they can get the hell on with their lives.

After they questioned Kris, he said they took him home. Not long after that, the detectives showed up at a restaurant where he was with friends. They needed to talk to him again, they said. Kris told me it was embarrassing and he felt they were being intimidating. He said they started following him around after that and it was so bad, he had to get a lawyer. He described the whole situation as “intense.” Kris told me he spent around five thousand dollars, “for nothing” because, according to him, he didn’t do anything wrong, but they continued to harass him. At one point, he would no longer speak with police, and all communication had to go through the lawyer.

I didn’t know anything about a murder. I didn’t even know where the store was, and they kept talking about a basement. I asked them What kind of idiot would kill someone and then drive away in a truck that had their work name all over it? And where did they think I was supposed to park that truck in Reed City? Did they think I drove it up to the store, double parked, then went in and killed somebody, and nobody noticed?”

Kris mentioned that he had a scratch on his face, which they asked about. He told me it was from a tousle he got into with Trowbridge, she had scratched his face, though he also told me his folks had some cats, and he had some scratches from them on his hands, too. He said he later found out Trowbridge told police she had seen him washing blood out of a jacket.

Yeah, I was! My hunting jacket!”

Kris was not aware of what the interaction between police and his employer was, but he was glad they were a good company. 

“Anyone else would have fired me, between the cops asking questions and the stalker-ex constantly calling there.”

We had talked for a while when Kris said, “I really think I may have seen the killer that day, on 131 in that long stretch by the airport.”

He described a car driving really fast behind him, very erratic, and then almost hit his truck as it went to pass him. He said it was about 12:30 and he was on his way to Miniers for lunch. The vehicle was a dirty brown or blue sedan; an Olds or a Buick. Because the cab of the truck was high, Kris said he was able to see one male individual in the car and he described him as “driving real crazy, north on Old 131 towards Cadillac.”

But that’s not even it!” he said, exasperated. “There’s more to the story. About a year or so ago—last spring I think—I stopped at the Frankfort True Value hardware store. I moved to Alberta and was running a marina, so I sometimes stopped in that hardware store for bolts and stuff. Anyway, this time I got to talking with the store owner and he mentioned he used to own a hardware store in Reed City. I said, ‘Not the one where the murder happened?’ The guy said yes. I couldn’t believe it!”

David Engels—former owner of the Gambles store in Reed City—owned the Frankfort True Value, at least at that time. I told Kris I knew he’d purchased another hardware store, but I thought he’d sold it.
Not as of last spring, he hadn’t,” Kris replied. “Anyway I was shocked because here was this thing in my life again. I was just this hard-working guy who’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this thing that caused me and my parents such an emotional time, and all that money... and here it is again, popping up in my life! So we were talking and the manager says to me, ‘Oh, that case was solved.’ He told me it was the boyfriend or husband—someone like that who did it. I can’t remember which, but he said it was solved. So that’s why I was surprised when you contacted me and said it was still unsolved. He told me they solved it.”

Nope,” I replied, wondering why anyone would’ve told someone otherwise.

Man, it’s still unsolved? I hope they get who did it because they screwed up a lot of lives, I bet. Just like mine. I didn’t do anything but work that day and all I want is closure. It should be in my past, where it’s supposed to be, but it keeps popping up. First at the Frankfort Hardware, and now a book. I mean, I think it’s great you’re writing it, but I hope they get whoever did it so it can finally be over.”

Your mouth to God’s ears, Kris. be continued...

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