Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I see dead people

I have written about several people who have affected how I approach certain issues.
Some employment related, others just everyday occurrences. Various life experiences and some of the reasons I ended up in the circles where I worked and played for the first 50 years of my life. Some of the stuff in this book is written for my own index so I will not forget certain things that I want to remember. As I get older I'm finding more and more things that were once vivid memories that seemed to dance around in my head all of the time but now might require someone saying something that triggers it.
Like when someone mentions a particular killing spree that occurred in late 1977 and into 1978 here in Columbus. The murders became known as "The .22 Caliber Killings."
Central Ohio was gripped with fear as a couple of serial shooters continued killing people seemingly at random for months. During all of this I was the overnight DJ at WMNI and it was not uncommon for an occasional weirdo to call into the station late at night and confess to the crimes.
There was even one who did this repeatedly, enough times that his voice became eerily familiar to me, enough that I would soon write him off as just another wacko.
But on the chance that it was more than that I made it known to our program director Steve Cantrell who advised me to run a tape recorder and to log each call and leave the information for our news director Martin Petree who was in constant contact with the many law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation. Martin would call them seeking news about the case and in turn would forward to them what we were getting.
Some mornings he would come in and ask rather excitedly…“Did our killer call in last night?” On one particular night I was able to keep the caller on the line for several minutes. He sounded intoxicated and more than a little pissed off and I had a feeling that he might actually be the killer. I had visions of being one of the guy’s who would finally help crack the case.
Our technology then was not even close to what it is today but I did what I could to get him on tape and hopefully turn it over to the police. I even called them on another line hoping to let them hear the conversation live but by the time I got someone who actually took it seriously the caller had hung up.
Petree was salivating the following morning as he listened to the recording and kept saying…“We might have something here.” On the tape the guy was asking for the station owner, Bill Mnich, by name. He said he wanted to turn himself in to him.
Because of that I wondered if it was someone I knew, perhaps a prankster yanking my chain. He always addressed me by my last name. In addition he said something about me being “just a south end punk” so he did know something about me. That is, I did live in the south end but that whole “punk’ thing may have been a bit exaggerated.
Martin wanted to believe something else, he wanted it to be the killer as much as I did, but if the guy really was involved in it he was only one of the killers, as it turned out there were two.When the case was finally solved and the shooters were caught they turned out to be two brothers, Gary and Thaddeus Lewingdon.
The break in the case came when one of them tried to use a credit card belonging to one of the murder victims at the old Woolco store in the Great Southern Shopping Center.
Okay there is a south end connection but I had never known nor had I ever heard of these guys. And at this time I had no interest in law enforcement and no way of knowing that I would someday not only work in that field but share office space with many of the investigators on that case.
Several years later I was hosting a talk show on WCOL and we had booked an author to be a guest on my program. His name was Daniel Keyes and he was promoting his new book "Unveiling Claudia."
It was a non-fictional account of Claudia Yasko who had several years earlier discussed in great detail certain facts about some of the .22 caliber killings. She had been diagnosed as being a person with multiple personalities. And she was able to articulate circumstances that only the killer or someone close to the killer in some of the murders would know.
As the interview with Keyes progressed he mentioned a couple of names of people that I did know. One in particular was Yasco's boyfriend, a guy I knew back in junior and senior high school, a punk who had a pretty tough reputation. Also a guy who we would later learn knew the Lewingdons quite well. Was he my nightly confessor?
Not long after this program I left WCOL for a job with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. My office was across the hall from the detective bureau and as I befriended many of them I got the opportunity to discuss the .22 caliber investigation and I learned a few more names that I was familiar with. A few of them were friends of Yasco’s boyfriend and guys I also knew in high school.
Maybe when the caller to my all night show at WMNI years earlier called me a south end punk he did know me and the killer too, or maybe his name was Lewingdon. It is strange how we walk around sometimes not knowing how close we can come to dangerous people or how something or someone we know turns out to be a character or a chapter in someone's novel. Especially when it is a non-fictional murder mystery. www.rickminerd.snappages.com

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