It was mid-May in Northern Michigan. It had been a long, cold winter. The spring thaw was well under way. I do not remember any snow on the ground. The ground was soaked, cold, and very, very damp. Earlier in the week we had 1 or 2 days of sunny warmer weather, maybe reaching the mid-60’s. It gave us Morel Mushrooms hunters hope that some had sprung up from the ground.
It was a cold, gray, dreary Sunday afternoon. I was 10 yo and in the 4th grade at St. Mary’s Elementary School. My mother’s brother, my Uncle frank came over for Sunday dinner with my cousin Stevie. I have nothing but great memories of Uncle Frank. He is a fun guy, a great Uncle, a decent man. When I was younger, he always came by and picked me up taking a bunch of us kids to the lakes or rivers for swimming or fishing or camping or hunting or any kind of outdoor adventure. He always had patience for us kids and was good about teaching us things like fishing, hunting, stuff like that. He had the BEST rabbit dog named Charlie….okay getting sidetracked here, back to the story.
My mom had cooked a roast with all the trimmings for dinner. Thinking back, I can smell the roast cooking and see my parents house back in those days, the late 70’s. My sister K., her husband G. and their baby daughter Kel were over for dinner too. My Grandmother made some of her famous homemade cinnamon rolls for desert. After dinner, Uncle Frank suggested we all go mushroom hunting to a place he deer hunted last fall on State Land. Of course we were all game…except my mother who was never the outdoorsy type, nor my sister who is like our mother-scared of the ‘woods’, nor was Grandma, she was too frail.
We loaded up in Uncle Frank’s car and headed out(Uncle Frank,me, Stevie, my Father, and bro-in-law G.). We went to his suggested spot on State Land, in an area that I was not familiar with as a child. We were a very long ways from town or home. Stevie and I took off on our own, I have always been comfortable in the woods, so was Stevie(he is 1 year older than I). At our tender ages we had hunted lots and were very capable of being alone in the swamps or woods.
It didnt take long for Stevie and I to give up the shroom hunt. It was too early in the season for any to be out. We started hunting for some salamandars but didnt find any, we didnt find anything. We didnt even see any birds, we even talked about how weird that was. We finally caught up with the adults, they were ready to go home. On our way walking out of the woods, we came across a deer carcass. It had obviously been there for the entire winter, it was well scavenged but still had a bit of a stink to it. We tried to stay clear of it and got into our car that was parked on a 2-track road.
We had driven in about 2 miles off the highway on this 2-track road.We turned around and headed out to the highway. We were about a mile from the road when we smelled a horrible, awful dead smell. It came across us so sudden, we stopped the car and all of us got out gagging at the smell. We all checked our boots thinking we had some of the dead deer stuck to us when..this is what is weird… it seemed like all of us looked in the same direction at the very same time. We looked towards a clearing in the pines, and there she was. She was about 25-30 feet away, laying on her side facing us. We had no idea if it were a he or a she because her face had been blugeoned to a bloody mess. Her skin was an icky greenish/brown color and she didnt have on any shoes. She was clothed in jeans, and a red/black hunting vest. The smell, it was unlike any other awful smell I can describe. Ive encountered lots of dead things in my life, but nothing has ever smelled as horribly as the dead girl.
My Father and Uncle Frank immediately recognized what we were gazing at and ushered us into the car and out onto the highway. We were in search of a phone to call the Michigan State Police. Let me give you a little background of where I come from. It is a huge tourist place. But, in the winter months, it is like a ghost town, nothing. Nowadays, the ski resorts have built fancy accomodations and the snow-mobilers have the city and county plowed trails, but back then…..there was nothing or no one around that time of year.
We drove for about 45 minutes trying to find someone home to use their phone, we couldnt get too far away from the area, but we still needed a phone. It seemed all the homes in the area were summer cottages. Uncle Frank and my Father finally found someone home, they made the call and to our suprise, the Michigan State Police were already on their way to the area because the 17 yo dead girl had been reported missing days prior to us finding her body. Her purse was found the exact same time we found her body. The purse was found by a gentleman about 3 miles from where her body was. This guy got out of his car to take a leak and found her purse and took it into the police station. Funny how things like that play out.
So, it was nearing dark, we met the State Police and led them to her body. My parent’s best friends, the kind that you spend Holidays with, baptisms and such, Ken was a State Trooper and he was the first officer to meet us. I remember he set Stevie and I inside his patrol car, then got out his camera equipment from his trunk. The only thing he said to us was “stay put.” Ken went quickly to work taking pictures of the dead girl. Then more officers arrived, Stevie and I were seperated. I was taken to another patrol car, set in the front seat and asked my statement. The older, grandfatherly officer didnt quiz me too hard, he called me ‘Madame X’ (my 10 yo mind had no friggin idea what that meant) and was nice enough to explain to me what the officers were doing and what all the gadgets inside his cop car were for. I remember he asked me if I had seen anything, anything at all when Stevie and I were trampling thru the woods on our own. I guess we had came the closet in proximity to the dead girl, we just didnt know it because of the way the wind was blowing. I told him “nope, not even a bird, no living things we saw.” when the officers compared Stevies statement to mine, Stevie also had commented on not seeing even 1 bird or anything. Odd how young minds work.
That night I vaguely remember dreaming of the dead girl, not horrible nightmarish dreams, but just unsettling, restless dreams. I think I may have ended up in my parents bed sometime that night. I was allowed to stay home from school the next day, which I was happy about. Of course, the police had kept me way out past my bedtime.
There is a lot more to this story…..so stay tuned for Part 2 of ‘The Dead Girl’. She has a name and a family who loved her.
And a killer…………