The Oakland County Child Killer case is one of the most notorious unsolved murder cases in the country.
Next Monday marks 40 years to the day that the first victim of the Oakland County Child Killer was abducted.
This case became synonymous with a particular car: a blue AMC Gremlin. But as we approach this sad anniversary, the victims’ families tell the 7 Investigators that car was never a good lead, and they have a different vehicle they want you to know about.
“It was terrible. The things those poor kids went through,” said Mike Stebbins. When his little brother, Mark, vanished on February 15, 1976, Mike’s life violently changed course.
“Tragic loss. Now I’m all alone,” Stebbins told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.
Mark Stebbins was just 12-years-old when – after a game of pool with his brother at the American Legion Hall in Ferndale -- he headed home to watch a movie. But Mark never made it to their house.
“I just wondered what would have happened if I would have walked home with him. Would things have been different,” asked Stebbins.
Four days later, Mark’s body was found in Southfield. He had been sexually assaulted and smothered. His brother and mother didn’t know it at the time, but Mark was the first victim of a serial killer (or killers) now known as the Oakland County Child Killer.
Even after 40 years, police still don’t know who murdered those four children.
“If somebody knows something, after 40 years – you can’t speak up? What’s the problem,” asked Stebbins.
“Somebody held Tim in his hand and covered his mouth and nose. I can’t think of anything more hideous,” said Barry King.
King’s son Tim was the killer’s final known victim. It was after Tim’s abduction from a Birmingham drug store in 1977 that a suspect picture emerged of a man supposedly seen talking to Tim, standing near a blue AMC Gremlin.
“All people seem to remember about this case is the blue Gremlin. It got so much attention. But that was always a very weak lead,” said Chris King, Tim’s older brother.
That’s because Chris King saw that Gremlin-- still in the drug store parking lot – hours after his little brother had vanished.
“There are other cars that more credible witnesses talked about that I think should get more attention than the Gremlin,” said Chris King.
The Gremlin has taken on Jimmy Hoffa-like notoriety, police even launching a dig when parts of a blue Gremlin were found buried in Grand Blanc Township back in 2013.
But the King family believes the police and the public should focus on a dark or blue colored Pontiac LeMans from the early 70’s. They say police reports make reference to a LeMans for 3 of the 4 victims.
The Kings also believe more than one person was involved in these murders.
“I believe there were major pedophile rings operating in this area at that time. And it’s a strong possibility that several people were involved,” said Barry King.
“It’s going to be an open case until it’s solved,” said Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw.
Lt. Shaw says the Oakland County Child Killer Task Force still meets regularly and detectives chase down every lead.
“Is that good enough for the family? No. it’s not. I mean, I can sit here and talk about it all day, about all the hard work we’re doing, but till I can actually bring a name to somebody and say this is the person that took your loved one, I don’t think I can do enough,” said Lt. Shaw.
It isn’t enough for Barry King, who’s been fighting to have the case records made public.
“I just made a private decision that if the court system wasn’t going to help me, I’d use you people,” Barry King told Catallo.
That’s why the 84-year-old is now launching a social media campaign and his own website titled: “A Father’s Story.” He plans to blog about key facts in the case that the King’s feel deserve more attention. He will also be tweeting.
“Dad just feels if we can get the word out about some of these key facts, someone might come forward and help solve the case. And to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Chris King.
The Task Force is going back over many of the original tips that came in during the early days of this investigation. Many people were cleared quickly if they had an alibi for one of the abductions, but if you look at this case -- not as if one suspect was behind this – but many people were involved – that throws those alibis out the window.
If you have any information about this case, please call the Task Force at 1-855-MICH-TIP.
If you would like to reach Heather Catallo, please email her: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248-827-4473.