Saturday, October 04, 2014

We Have A Confusing Anniversary Coming Up Here...

October 8th is going to be a sad anniversary.  1980 was a terrible year to be a woman in the Detroit Metro area  -- one after another was being stabbed, beaten to death, strangled, shot -- and not nearly enough of these cases were getting cleared up by the police, so nobody knew where the killers were.  Was it just one guy?  Were there a dozen of them?  And the victims were all over the place -- safe, leafy suburbs or truly scary neighborhoods in the cratered zones, it didn't matter where you lived -- you felt in danger.  You WERE in danger. 

One of those killings was the one on October 8th.  Betty Rembert, aged 26, was murdered on that day, stabbed in the neck and bludgeoned over the head.  A young man named David Payton confessed to her killing, along with those of 22-year-old Diane Burks who was hog-tied and strangled on June 14th of that year, and Jeanette Woods, 24, who was raped, beaten up and strangled on April 18th, with her throat slashed for good measure. 


A man named Donald Murphy was arrested on December 18th, 1980, in the deaths of Cecelia Knott and Cynthia Warren, who died of the same sort of causes -- beating, stabbing, strangling -- in the same general area, in October and November.  Murphy apparently sat down with the detectives and told them all about what he'd done.  Great!  But then he explained how he killed Betty, Jeanette and Diane, too.  And funny thing, he knew an awful lot more about those crimes than David Payton did.  Payton explained that he'd had a confession forced out of him...


They sentenced Murphy to concurrent life terms for killing Cynthia and Cecelia.

They sent David Payton home after dismissing all his charges.

They left Betty Rembert, Jeannette Woods and Diane Burks in limbo.  Forever.


While all this was going on, there was definitely one other guy out there killing women in Metro Detroit that we know about.  He was even caught -- his name was Coral Eugene Watts (really Carl, but he liked "Coral" better) -- and he is thought to have killed women in Detroit, Ferndale, Grosse Pointe Farms, Harper Woods, then jaunted across the river a couple of times to try to kill women in Windsor, Ontario, and traveled as far as Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor to kill there as well.  He is also connected, more or less certainly, to dozens of murders in the Houston area and one in Jackson, Tennessee.

How did he kill them?  He would pick someone out, follow her until nobody was around to see, and then kill her with whatever he had ready to hand -- a rope, a bathtub full of water, a knife, a screwdriver.   He didn't care about age or race; they just had to be female.

So Watts wouldn't have been the worst suspect in the world when it came to the murders of Betty, Jeanette and Diane.  And he was a confessor.  He was funny that way.  He confessed to killing that woman in Grosse Pointe (Jeanne Clyne), and the one in Harper Woods (Joyce Bennett), after he was caught at last in Houston.   If you'd asked him if he'd killed Betty Rembert, he probably would have 'fessed right up, along with Don and Dave.

What did they do with all these confessions?

THEY GAVE HIM IMMUNITY, is what.  They do a plea deal with him for getting into a Houston apartment and drowning one of the women living there, while the other escaped to alert the authorities.  The drowned woman was revived, luckily, so he was only charged with aggravated burglary.

Because of the decision by a prosecutor in Houston to give a recreational killer immunity for a string of murders in a different state, the guy was almost released as a non-violent offender in the early 2000s.  That's a long, bizarre story in itself, but for a change of pace, someone recognized it was bizarre and the Michigan Attorney General, Mike Cox, asked the public to come forward with any information they had on Watts that might keep him behind bars -- where he surely belonged.   An eyewitness to one of his crimes, who had been unable for 25 years to get the police interested in the fact that he'd watched Watts kill someone outside his living-room window, called Cox's office and they finally had a case against the dude with no immunity deal attached to it.  He came back to Michigan to be convicted of killing his Ferndale victim -- Helen Dutcher.  Then they got him on the Kalamazoo murder of Gloria Steele.

And almost immediately afterwards, Watts died of cancer. I've heard in some quarters that it was just political showboating that made Michigan authorities bring Watt back to get him on some 30-year-old murders; it was costly (they even televised the Dutcher trial, with Nancy Grace doing the color commentary) and he barely lived past the second guilty verdict.  they should have known he was dying, right? 

But some people get over prostate cancer, you know? 

I know that cutting costs is one of the reasons they decided not to go ahead with prosecuting Murphy for killing Betty, Diane and Jeanette.  But it's funny how it gets too costly to proceed when the victim is an African-American prostitute like poor Betty.  It seems as if money is no object when the victim is a middle-class white gal like Helen Dutcher.

Just allow me to add to the confusion: it's not even October 8th yet.  But when it gets here in 4 days, it will be the anniversary of a murder that was confessed to, by two different guys, and they even figured out which one of them really did it -- but he never got charged with it.

I guess my point here is, if you ever want a glimpse into utter insanity and can't get one because the gang at the state hospital is too heavily medicated to make conversation, my suggestion is that you follow a few court cases.

I tried to find a photo of Betty online, with no luck. I can't even give her that much!


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