Fatal prediction: Solving the mystery of the missing waitress
The elderly woman told us later that while thumbing through the phone book, she saw many numbers for the Ann Arbor Police Department and she thought the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) sounded the most "interesting." So she called.
The woman, who apparently dined regularly at a local restaurant, said that a young waitress she had befriended told her that if the waitress ever missed work to check on her because her boyfriend had killed her. The caller reported the waitress told her co-workers the same thing.
The diner then explained that she and several of the waitress' co-workers had gone out to the missing waitress' apartment and knocked on the door and got no answer, although they thought they heard someone inside. The diner asked if SIU would "check on the well being" of the young waitress.
If I had taken the call, I would have transferred it to the patrol division who rightfully performed "check on the well being" calls like this.
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Normally the police department won’t send undercover/surveillance officers knocking on doors because they are necessarily a scruffy looking bunch. The detective taking the call was bored, with the paperwork we were catching up on, and wanted to get out of the office. He convinced me that we should go check on this woman on our way to lunch.
We went to the waitress' apartment and knocked on the door without success. I sent an officer to figure out who managed the apartment and see if we could obtain a key if necessary. The other officers spread out to knock on neighbors' doors to see what could be learned. We found no one had seen the waitress in several days.
One of the detectives took a look around outside the waitress' ground floor apartment. He found a window without any window covering and could see into the living area of the one bedroom apartment. He called me over to the window and asked me what I thought.
Inside I saw a quilt draped over a sofa. Did it cover the waitress' body, or was it just a quilt thrown on a sofa? There was certainly no movement under the quilt.
Every officer on the unit took a peek and tried to look at every conceivable angle, but we were still vexed. The apartment manager was out to dinner with his family, and the quilt was not enough to justify kicking the door.
The crew looked at me for a decision.
"Let’s eat," I told them.
I reasoned we could interview all the workers at the restaurant while we got a bite to eat for what would be a very long night if the waitress was correct about her own demise. Contrary to television or movies, cops have to eat, rest and refresh to function properly.
Everything worked perfectly. We got the co-workers statements. We were fed and ready for a long night if necessary. While paying the check, the apartment manager called us. We met the manager with the key and knocked one last time with no answer.
We unlocked the door, and I rushed to my right to clear the bedroom. I came out and told the detective who followed me, "I cleared my room. How about you?"
The detective, I’ll call "Disco," just pointed. Once inside the apartment, at the new angle it appeared that there was a foot on a coffee table next to the sofa.
I went over to check under the quilt, lifting it as little as possible to avoid destroying evidence. It was the waitress. She appeared to have been dead several days. We retraced our footsteps out of the apartment and called for the Major Crimes detectives to process the scene.
What was unique here was that, because the original caller had called SIU instead of patrol, we had a crime scene that was pristine, and there were no marked patrol cars outside.
I felt that the killer-boyfriend had already returned to the scene. It could have been him inside when the waitress' co-workers checked earlier and heard noises. So we used all plain cars with as little disruption to the apartment complex as possible, in case the crackhead boyfriend decided to visit.
While the Major Crimes investigators processed the scene, SIU hit the street hunting for the killer. We knocked on doors of the killer's family and friends. We turned up the heat with his family, and soon we got a call from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office. The killer's family pressured the killer, and he gave himself up at the jail.
The killer confessed to the Major Crimes detective sergeant (whose job I inherited a few years later) and me. Sure enough, the murderer said he had been back several times to check on his girlfriend.
Investigators call this act "undoing." The killer hoped he had dreamed his deed, but it was not to be. He had murdered the waitress in a crack-driven rage.
In 14 hours the case was solved and killer incarcerated for a term of 35-60 years. Tragically, the waitress who predicted her own murder was dead.
If you know anyone who has made similar predictions, urge her or him to contact Safe House Center at 734-995-5444.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.
Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com. He also serves as the Crime Stoppers coordinator for Washtenaw County.