Oakland County Child Murders

I’ve always said that there is a special place in hell for those that harm children.  During a 13-month period, from 1976 and 1977 residents of Oakland County Michigan were gripped with fear.  Children were disappearing and no one knew who was next. Soon bodies of the missing children were being found and it became evident that a child murderer was operating in the area.

After informing his mother that he was going home to watch television, 12 year old Mark Stebbins was seen leaving an American Legion hall on February 15 1976. His body was found on February 19, neatly laid out in a snowbank in the parking lot of an office building at Ten Mile Road and Greenfield in Southfield, Michigan. Though he was fully clothed in the outfit he was wearing when he was last seen, alive authorities concluded that he had been sexually assaulted with an object, and had suffered two lacerations to the left rear of his head. Rope marks were evident upon both his wrists and ankles, indicating he had been bound throughout his period of captivity.

Ten months later, Jill Robinson, of Royal Oak, Michigan; would have an argument with her mother. On Wednesday, December 22, 1976, the twelve-year-old packed a backpack, grabbed her bicycle and ran away from home. The following day her bicycle was found behind a hobby store on Main Street in Royal Oak. Unfortunately, her remains were found on December 26th along the side of Interstate 75 near Big Beaver Road in Troy, Michigan. Young Ms. Robinson’s death had been caused by a single 12-gauge shotgun blast to the face.  Her body was found fully clothed, lying face-up and laid out neatly in the snow; a stone’s throw from the Troy police station. There was no evidence of any sexual assault.

It was Sunday, January 2, 1977, at approximately 3:00 pm, Kristine Mihelich was seen at a 7-Eleven store in Berkley, Michigan. Three hours later her mother reported the 10-year-old missing. Nineteen days later, a mail carrier spotted her body laid in the snow. The young lady had been smothered and her body placed in full view of nearby residents.

On Wednesday, March 16, 1977, eleven-year-old Timothy King borrowed 30 cents from his older sister and left his Birmingham, MI home about 8:30 pm to buy candy at a nearby drugstore. A witness spotted him leaving the store and reported that he seemed to simply have vanished. Already swamped with media coverage and public pressure from the previous three slayings, authorities executed an intensive search that covered the entire Detroit metropolitan area. Timothy’s father, Barry King broadcasted an emotional television appeal. Mt. King begged the abductor to release his son unharmed. In a letter printed in the Detroit News, Timothy’s mother, Marion King, wrote that she hoped Timothy could come home soon so she could serve him his favorite meal, Kentucky Fried Chicken; however, that meal would never be served. On the evening of March 22, 1977, two teenagers in a car spotted Timothy’s body in a shallow ditch alongside Gill Road, in Livonia, Michigan. He had been suffocated and sexually assaulted with an object. Ironically, the postmortem showed that Timothy had eaten fried chicken before he was slain.  Findings also showed that he had been suffocated approximately six hours before his body was found.

Several other murders of children occurred following these four murders; however, they lacked the= components that tied the four together. Reports of a serial killer operating in the Oakland County area sent Oakland and Wayne county residents into an uproar. The Michigan State Police formed a task force of law-enforcement officials from 13 communities that devoted their time and efforts solely to the investigation.

Oakland County Child Murderer Suspect

A woman claimed she had seen Timothy King with a skateboard talking to a man in a parking lot of the drugstore he had visited. The woman gave a description of the man and the vehicle that he drove. Other witnesses came forth and corroborated the testimony of the woman. The man was described as a 25 to 35-year-old white male with a dark complexion, sporting shaggy hair, and sideburns. The vehicle he drove was reportedly a blue AMC Gremlin with a white side stripe. Authorities would eventually question every Gremlin owner in Oakland County.

Investigators put together a profile of the killer based on witnesses’ descriptions of the man seen talking to Timothy King the night he disappeared. Authorities believed that the killer had a job that gave him freedom of movement and may have appeared to be someone that a child might trust, such as a police officer, clergyman or a doctor. He was also believed to be familiar with the area and had the ability to keep children for long periods of time without rousing neighbors’ suspicions.

The task force headed by Michigan State Police would check out more than 18,000 tips, resulting in over twenty arrests and the busting of a multi-state child pornography ring. However, task force members were never able to charge a suspect in the investigation. In December 1978 the task force disbanded and the investigation was turned over to the State Police. As quickly as the kidnappings and murders began, they seemed to end and the Oakland County child killer never struck again.

In our communities, we tend to look at police officers as our sole source of protection. If this true, we, unfortunately, will be faced with tragedies like this time and time again. It is our responsibility to look out for each other. Neighbors and friends, be conscious of each other and pay attention when a strange presence appears in your area. The only way to truly maintain the sanctity and peace in our living area is to have an established presence in our communities. Serial murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, etc. are all crimes of opportunity. Community unification removes a great deal of the opportunity and thereby lessens the chances for this situation and situations like this to occur.

The Clairemont Killer-Cleophus Prince Jr.

****WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES****

 

“It’s interesting when people die,” Don Henley, DIRTY LAUNDRY 1982. That phrase sums up America’s obsession with death. Whether its gang violence, serial killing or mass murder; each night we position ourselves in front of the television to receive our nightly fix, fed to us by the media. The focus of “The Darker Side of Evil,” was not only to bring to light the existence of Black serial killers in the U.S; the book also addresses the media’s ability to lessen the body count of these monsters through information and exposure. These predators, Black or White, normally operate within familiar circles and hide in plain sight, normally victimizing women within their own race, yet having no personal ties to. Female prostitutes and drug addicts comprise the target prey of most serial murderers. The disappearance of these individuals from the community go unnoticed a great deal of the time, enabling the perpetrator to continue to kill, virtually unnoticed

Occasionally, serial killers operate outside of the norm. Many choose young males as their choice of quarry. As in the case of Israel Keyes, some operate in multiple geographical areas. A select few choose to cross racial lines in their bloodlust. Such was the case of Cleophus Prince Jr., “The Clairemont Killer”. Prince terrorized the Clairemont community of San Diego County, California from January through September 1990. Though he chose to victimize women as most serial murderers do, his preference was to stalk rape and murder White women while he himself is African-American.

Cleophus Prince Jr. was born in Alabama on July 24, 1967 to Dorothy and Cleophus Prince Sr. Unlike the childhood experiences of most other serial killers, Prince Jr. Had not been abused in his youth and grew up in an environment that, described by his sister Tesa, was gentle and loving. However, Prince did not have a totally violence free upbringing. His father, Cleophus Prince Sr.; spent over 11 years in prison for murder.

As an adolescent, Prince never got into drugs, gangs or any other of the known pitfalls of youth. Growing up he never had any brushes with the law and became a role mode to his 7 younger siblings. After graduating high school in 1987 Cleophus Prince Jr. enlisted in the US Navy. In December 1989, not long after his stint in the service, Prince and his girlfriend Charla Lewis moved into the Buena Vista Gardens; an apartment complex in the Clairemont section of San Diego. Unfortunately, in January 1990, a 21-year-old Tiffany Schultz met her new neighbor.

On January 12, 1990 Prince spotted Tiffany Schultz sunbathing in a bikini just inside the door of her apartment. He then requested a hanger from the building manager; his reason was that he had locked his keys in his automobile. After receiving the hanger, Prince went back to the apartment building instead of heading to the parking lot. Moments later, neighbors that lived in the apartments below Ms. Schultz claimed that they heard noises and running water from her apartment. They described the noise as the sound of someone being beaten.

Neighbors noticed later that no one had seen Tiffany leave her apartment. Phone calls to her home went unanswered. It would be her roommate that endured the horror of discovering Tiffany’s lifeless body in her bedroom, lying face-up, clad only in bikini bottoms. Extending under the bed was her left leg and her right leg was posed at a 60-degree angle. A pathologist would later count 47 separate stab wounds around her left chest area, nearly half of which clustered around her breast. The murders were committed with so much rage that many of the punctures went all the way through the body. The other two areas that had sustained an attack were her neck and upper right thigh.

After an examination it was deemed that Tiffany had not been raped. Her boyfriend was immediately questioned and released by authorities. Tiffany worked part-time as an exotic dancer. Investigators thought that this was an isolated incident of one of her customers following her home and causing her untimely demise. They were dead wrong.

On February 16th, Janene Weinhold dropped her roommate off at work at about 9a.m. The two women were also residents of the Buena Vista apartment complex. Later that day the roommate waited patiently for Janene to pick her up from work. Oddly, the normally dependable 21 year-old was not only late but was not answering the phone. At approximately 8p.m., the roommate finally made it home. The young lady was horrified to find the body of the deceased Janene Weinhold.

The corpse lay on the bedroom floor wearing nothing but a bra. Similar to the first murder, her legs had been left open and she bore a concentration of stab wounds over the right breast. Not similar to the first, this woman had been raped. The frightened roommate soon found the phone and called police.

During the investigation police interviewed neighbors. The neighbor directly below Janene told authorities that earlier, at approximately 11:30 a.m. she saw a Black man sitting on the stairs; head in hands and with a saddened expression on his face. Moments later she heard noise coming from the apartment upstairs, the neighbor thought to call upstairs but just as quickly as they had begun, the noises stopped so she went on with her day.

The following month Anna Cotalessa-Ritchie, another second floor tenant of the Buena Vista apartment complex left her apartment heading to the corner store. On her way she noticed a Black man waiting at the bus stop. Returning from the store she noticed that the man was gone, assuming that he had caught the bus. The next time she would see this man he looked as if he was coming directly toward her in an aggressive manner. Surprisingly the man went right past Anna. Badly shaken, Anna hurried frantically to the door of her apartment. As she fumbled with the keys she heard footsteps coming up the stairs approaching her. Suddenly Anna had an epiphany, the man had never caught the bus, he had been stalking her since the time she saw him at the bus stop. Miraculously she found the right key, ducked into the apartment and locked the door before he made it up the stairs. Panic-stricken she listened with her ear against the door until she was sure he was gone. Anna Cotalessa-Ritchie had escaped the wrath of the Buena Vista Gardens murderer. Unfortunately, the next woman wouldn’t be nearly as lucky.

Eighteen year old Holly Tarr chose to visit her big brother, a Buena Vista Gardens apartment complex tenant, for spring break from her Michigan high school. She decided to bring along her best friend Tammy and both of the high school seniors were looking to enjoy a California spring break. On the morning of April 3rd the two young ladies enjoyed playing tennis in the rec area. The girls then headed to the pool to do some sunbathing and noticed a Black man in the weight room area watching them. Leaving Tammy poolside, Holly returned to the apartment to take a shower. Ten minutes later Tammy followed suit and headed to the apartment. As she approached she heard Holly scream. She ran to the door yelling her friend’s name but received no response. Eventually Tammy’s yelling and knocking at the door drew the attention of a member of the maintenance staff, who opened the door.

Tammy gained entry to the apartment just in time to see the same man that was watching them from the weight room scramble out of the bedroom. The man, holding a cloth to his face and a knife in his hand fell, got up and ran out of the apartment. Tammy ran into the bedroom and saw Holly, wearing only panties and bra, lying on the floor, barely alive. She had been stabbed once through the heart and like the others, her legs had been left spread apart. Tammy cried as she watched her friend gurgle blood and struggle for breath yet slowly expire. EMTs, though expeditious, could not save the dying teenager. As they removed the body, Tammy noticed that the opal ring Holly wore was missing.

As officers closed off the crime scene and searched for evidence they noticed several key clues. A Nike Air Jordan shoeprint was found near the door. The print did not match any shoes in Holly’s brother’s closet. Holly’s blood soaked T-shirt as well as a blood stained knife was found in the parking lot. Tammy told authorities of the Black man that watched them from the weight room. As officers checked the sign in sheet, there was only one name that they weren’t familiar with; a C. Prince. After further investigation it was found that C. Prince was Cleophus Prince Jr., a tenant in the building.

Officers tracked Prince down the following day and questioned him concerning his whereabouts on the day of Holly’s murder. During the interview he refused to be fingerprinted, answered the detective’s questions with a flippant tone and immediately asked if he could leave. Simply working out was not illegal and since the officers had no evidence to the contrary, his request was granted and Prince was allowed to leave without being charged.

The relationship that brought Prince to the Buena Vista apartments had ended earlier that spring. He now shared an apartment with Robert and Robin Romo. He confided to them that during a recent date he had that he in fact had raped his date multiple times during their night out. Not long after the police interview Prince moved out of the apartment complex.

In late May, Prince burglarized the home of Elissa Keller. The 38-year-old Keller shared an apartment with her 18-year-old daughter in the Top of the Hill apartment complex. On May 21st Keller had not reported to work nor was she answering phone calls. Co-workers thought this odd and contacted her about Elissa’s absence. Her daughter, who was away at the time, called and also got no answer. Worried she informed the police of her concerns. The daughter cut her trip short and returned to their apartment late that evening. She was horrified to find the dead body of her mother on the bedroom floor. Identical to the Buena Vista murders, the victim had a cluster of stab wounds to her chest. Elissa had also been beaten in the face, as well as choked. Next to her lifeless body lay her blood soaked underwear turned inside out. Devastated as she spoke with detectives, the daughter informed them that a gold nugget ring her mother wore at all times was missing from her finger.

Investigators walked the crime scene and soon deduced that the perpetrator entered through a window that had been left partially open.  Detectives also noticed a familiar shoe print on the floor nearby. They also noticed a peculiar honeycomb pattern in the blood that was found at the other murder scenes.

On the morning of September 13th, neighbors of the Clark family heard 18-year-old Amber Clark, arguing with a male. Suddenly they heard Amber cry out then silence. Not long after, Pamela Clark returned home from her morning workout. Pamela, who was due to be at work in the afternoon, never arrived to her office. Phone calls made by her colleagues went unanswered. Curious, Pamela’s friend from work stopped by the Clark home and was shocked to find the body of Pamela lying in the doorway of the home. Pamela was on her back, nude, with her arms spread out at 90-degree angles to her body. She had been repeatedly stabbed, with eleven deep wounds to the upper left chest area. From blood trails on the floor, it appeared that she had been stabbed elsewhere and dragged to this location. Near her head lay a bloody knife.

After regaining her composure the friend called the police, however unbeknownst to her, the horror wasn’t over. As she walked through the home she found Amber dead on the bedroom floor. Though she was partially clothed, her breasts were exposed. Like her mother, she too had eleven stab wounds in a cluster on her chest. Another bloody knife was found in the bathroom nearby.

Examining the horrific scene, officers found that money had been taken from the women’s purses. Also missing was Pamela’s wedding rings and other small items. Officers located a torn dining room window screen and identified the window as the point of entry. They also found footprints made by an athletic shoe near the window.

Law enforcement compiled all of the similarities of the recent murders and drew the conclusion that this was the work of a serial killer. The county of San Diego was in an uproar and citizens put great pressure on law enforcement to solve these murders. A city councilman whose district included Clairemont told reporters he was fielding some 300 to 400 calls a day from concerned citizens. He went to meet with some people and found that they were in a state of terror. A task force was assembled to work these cases day and night. The task force consisted of twenty-seven detectives, five sergeants, one lieutenant, and a police captain. The murders were highlighted on America’s Most Wanted to gather any information that the public may have.

Ironically, during the same time frame, San Diego was being plagued by a series of burglaries. The burglar wore socks on his hands to so not to leave fingerprints. The perpetrator of the burglaries was no big secret though, except to law enforcement. Cleophus Prince Jr. bragged to trusted friends at work of the loot he had come across by burglarizing homes, even offering his foreman at Nacomm Communications several pieces of jewelry.  A consummate talker, Prince now began to brag about women he was dating. Prince told friends he was dating an older white woman, a massage therapist. He had a wedding ring he said was hers, and he added that he was having sex with the woman’s daughter as well.

Eventually boasts from Prince’s mouth got to the ears of law enforcement. Neighbors from the various burglaries remembered the older model bluish-gray vehicle with a noisy muffler being present at the scene of burglaries. A BOLO, (Be on the Look Out) was placed on the car description. Soon officers got a tip that a member of the Family Fitness Center on Miramar Road (the same gym that Pamela Clark belonged to) drove such a vehicle. On February 4, 1991, an employee called police and reported that a man had just driven a 1982 Chevy Cavalier through the parking lot. The driver, Prince, was sitting there in his car when officers arrived fifteen minutes later. Though he had been a member of the club, Prince’s membership had been cancelled making him a trespasser and subject to arrest.

During the search of Prince’s vehicle officers found black leather gloves and wool gloves, along with a knife with an eight-inch blade, a steak knife, and two folding knives of different sizes. Though the items were suspicious, none were illegal. Prince could not be held for long on the trespassing charge so after being fingerprinted and having a blood sample taken he was released. Prince immediately left town and headed to his native Birmingham, Alabama.

Prince’s samples were sent to Maryland for testing along with samples from each of the murder scenes. Three weeks later, the police learned that there was a match between Prince and the semen samples from the Weinhold rape and murder. Police also learned that for each of the similar murders, Prince resided in the immediate area. Dispatched to his most recent address officers found that Prince no longer was in the area. However, during the search of his old apartment officers did find an opal ring that matched the description of the one removed from Holly Tarr when she was stabbed.

The police got a tip as to where Prince had gone and were elated to find that he had been arrested in Birmingham for burglary. The down side is that he had made bond and been released. After finding out the nature of San Diego’s interest in him his bondsman was contacted to find out where he was. Prince was then alerted to turn himself in. The following day, accompanied by his parents, he turned himself in to Birmingham authorities.

Initially on five murders had been linked to Prince until searches turned up another item that had belonged to a victim: a unique ring that matched the one missing from Elissa Keller. She was added to the victim list. Among the evidence against Prince was DNA matching several crimes. The Air Jordan shoes owned by Prince left footprints at several crime scenes also. The victims all fit a similar type: white, attractive brunettes that were physically fit. All except Holly Tarr had received the cluster type stab wounds. Her friend Tammy had interrupted her murder.

On July 13, 1993 Prince was convicted of murdering six women – Tiffany Schultz, 20; Janene Weinhold, 21, who was also raped; Holly Tarr, 18; Elissa Keller, 38; and Pamela Clark, 42, and her daughter, Amber, 18 – who were stabbed to death in their homes in Clairemont, University City and East San Diego. He was also convicted of 20 burglaries that occurred at the same time. Cleophus Prince Jr. was sentenced to die by lethal injection. Due to numerous appeals Prince currently resides on death row in San Quentin, as of this posting no death date has been set.Cleophus Prince 3

Normally I refrain from providing commentary on my posts, but I must get this out. Prince was sentenced to death in 1993 however, due to a vast number of appeals he is still alive 21 years later. These cowards find it so easy to prey on unsuspecting women, raping and murdering them without a second thought. But once they are caught, they make deals, file appeals, do any and everything imaginable to either avoid the death penalty or squeeze as many years as they can out of the state in which they are incarcerated. How many times have we seen the perpetrator agree to enter a guilty plea in order to take the death penalty; “off of the table?” Over and over again we have seen the defendant flee to Canada or some other sympathetic country to receive asylum from the death penalty when they gave no sympathy to their victims, brutally murdering just for the sport of it.

In every photo of Cleophus Prince Jr. he is shown smiling. The look on his face illustrates the arrogance and narcissistic demeanor of this individual. Each picture pisses me off more and more especially when I read that this punk is trolling for pen pals. In short, on behalf of the families of his victims and real men everywhere, I would love the opportunity to wipe that goofy ass grin off of his face and give him exactly what he is looking for; an old fashion ass kicking.

Cleophus Prince Crime Scenes
Cleophus Prince Crime Scenes