About 40 years ago, between 1967 and 1969, the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor community at large were terrorized by a series of brutal murders.
Seven young women in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area, including three enrolled at the University of Michigan, were sexually assaulted and either strangled, shot, or beaten to death. Their bodies were found mutilated. Because many of the victims were students at the University or Eastern Michigan University, the case became known as the “Co-Ed Murders.”
Judith Avery, a librarian at the Hatcher Graduate Library and resident of Ann Arbor at the time of the murders, said the killings made everyone in the city anxious.
“College age women were disappearing and then showing up dead somewhere,” she said. “We didn’t know how or why they disappeared, and everyone was edgy.”
Police began a frantic search for the killer, which lasted two years and became more widely criticized as time passed with no arrests. The seventh and last murder, that of Karen Sue Beineman, a freshman at Eastern Michigan University, provided the police with enough evidence to lead to the arrest of John Norman Collins, a senior at Eastern Michigan University studying elementary education.
On July 31, 1969, police arrested Collins for the murder of Beineman.
Collins’ trial begun on June 2, 1970 in Washtenaw County Trial Court and stretched through that summer until the jury found him guilty on August 19, 1970.
He was sentenced to life in prison that year, a term he is still serving in Marquette Branch Prison.
Although Collins was suspected of having killed all seven women, he was only ever definitively linked him to Beineman.
An account of the deaths leading up to Collins’ arrest, “The Michigan Murders,” was written in 1976 by Edward Keyes. The book was later adapted into the 1977 film “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” which was partially filmed in Ann Arbor.
Collins, who still claims his innocence, tried to escape from prison in 1979 by digging a two-foot-wide tunnel more than 19 feet underneath the prison.