S5: E4 – Rod Sadler and The Cold Case Search for the Mackinac Island Killer

ROD SADLER worked as a police officer in Mid-Michigan for thirty years, retiring in 2012.  He began researching his first book after discovering the story of a brutal 1897 murder in Williamston, Michigan, a town where he had spent his childhood. His great-grandfather served as the sheriff at the time of the murder, and he was integral part of the investigation. After returning to college late in his law enforcement career, he discovered his love for writing, and he decided to write about what he knows best…true crime. In Rod’s books, you’ll find an enormous amount of research into the murders he writes about.  His attention to detail allows him to craft intriguing, detailed accounts of a series of Michigan murders.

“Sadler’s book investigates in detail many violent and psychotic offenders who were swept up, interviewed, and finally exonerated or left with no conclusive details. Of particular interest was an oddly similar case at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois where three young women had been tied up and brutally beaten to death in March 1960. Chester Weger, the perpetrator of that crime, was exonerated only because he had been released from an Illinois jail on July 24th and reported for work on time on July 25th. Still, Sadler cannot shake the idea that a serial killer may have been involved and a final chapter on serial killer Jerald Winegart raises disturbing questions about how the case might have been resolved with long-term evidence retention.

Throughout the book, the reader will learn how hard a real-life detective has to work and how many dozens of dead ends they will hit along the way. Having stayed on Mackinac Island several times, beginning with my honeymoon in 1990, I was fascinated by the level of detail and familiar hotels, bars, and other establishments that are still around. Whether you are a fan of Mackinac Island in particular or cold-case crimes, there is a treasure trove of historical detail to enjoy in Rod Sadler’s “Grim Paradise”.  Sadler sincerely hopes that this work may jog the memory of a reader and provide a missing puzzle piece for this nearly forgotten but heartless crime.” — Victor R. Volkman, Read the entire review on U.P. Book Review

More information about the U.P. Notable Book list, U.P. Book Review, and UPPAA can be found on www.UPNotable.com

About the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association (UPPAA)

Established in 1998 to support authors and publishers who live in or write about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, UPPAA is a Michigan nonprofit association with over 100 members, many of whose books are featured on the organization’s website at www.uppaa.org. UPPAA welcomes membership and participation from anyone with a UP connection who is interested in writing.

The metal gate just feet from where the body of Francis Lacey was found in 1960 still stands today!

VICTOR VOLKMAN: My name is Victor Volkman. I am the current president of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association. First of all, a couple of, UPPAA announcements.  We had an amazing, amazing spring conference.

Sue was nodding her head. She was there.  It was we rocked the house. We had more than 100, adults, and we had the young writers conference going out at the same time.  We had 20 young writers, and it’s something that’s never been seen before in the UP, and a major milestone for us. And, we’re also happy to announce that the UP reader, bar volume 8, is under, is up for sale.

That’s a picture of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the cover.  If you wanted to submit to UP Reader volume 8, well, it’s too late for that, but we have just opened submissions this week for UP Reader volume 9, which will be published next year. All you have to do is become a member at uppaa.org.  Join as a member for $40 a year, and you’ll be able to submit your story, poem, memoir items, humor, all kinds of material. We take any kind of material for the UP reader, and it will be processed by our judges and a lucky, 35 or so people will have their stories printed in volume 9. Also included with your membership is, attendance at next year’s spring conference already underway planned for May 17, 2025.

And we’ll have, Michael Carrier will be our keynote speaker. He’s an amazing author of 18, horror novels, all set in the Upper Peninsula and thereabouts. So we’re really looking forward to him. Alright.  So let’s get underway. Our special guest tonight is, mister Rod Sadler, who is a true crime writer.

He has written several true crime books, and we’ll talk about some of them later.  But mostly of interest is Grim Paradise, which came out, quite recently.  And, that covers the 1960 murder on Mackinac Island, which had become a cold case for many, many years. Rod spent a lot of time, chasing down leads, looking up what happened, what was followed, what wasn’t followed, what could have been followed. he’ll bring us through, one of the biggest manhunts in Michigan, involving multiple hosts of the state police and airplanes and all kinds of stuff.  So, Rod, take it away.

ROD SADLER: Well, first of all, I’d like to say thank you for, inviting me to, be a part of this. And, for the award for the book, that was totally out of the blue. And, I’m very honored to have received that. I guess I’ll start with just a little bit about myself.

I was in law enforcement for 30 years. I was a police officer here in mid-Michigan. And I retired from the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office.  And, I started writing, after I retired. And my first book, we’ll talk about, the specific details later.

But, my first book I published about 3 years after my retirement. It was just a short 180-page book, about a murder in the town where I grew up. A true story. And, and I was hooked after that. And, I’ve been writing ever since.

My latest book obviously details the unsolved murder of Francis Lacy on Mackinac Island in 1960. And I’ll give you a little, I don’t know, a little trivia here.  It was 4 months before I was born, so now you can figure out how old I am. But anyway, so the Burger of Frances Lace, do you want me to get right into it, Victor? o do you wanna give me a question or get right into it?


ROD SADLER: Okay. This happened, in July of 1960, on Mackinac Island. It was during the Chicago to Mackinac race, the yacht race. And there was a Detroit widow, a Dearborn widow by the name of Francis Lacey. Her husband had passed away about 3 years before 1957.

And, she had not really become a recluse, but she wasn’t a real social person. She kinda stayed to herself. And, her daughter and son who were adults, they had married and and lived on their own. They finally convinced her to go to Mackinac Island, for the weekend.

And so she agreed and they drove up on a Friday night, got there early Saturday morning and her daughter’s mother-in-law or her son was mother had rented a cabin at British landing for everyone. And they wanted Frances to stay in the cabin with them, and Frances refused. She said, no, I’ll just get a hotel room. I don’t wanna be a bother to anyone. And so that’s what she did.

When they got off the, off the ferry, they stopped at the Chippewa Hotel, there on the east end of the island, or east end of the downtown area. They’re above the pink pony.  And, she checked to see if they had a hotel room. And they said, well, we won’t know until 11 o’clock because it’s very busy weekend with the, with the Chicago Mackinac race.

And so she grabbed a brochure and she put it into her purse, and then she walked across the street to the Murray Hotel. At the Murray Hotel, they had a room available on the second floor, and so she rented the room for the night, $5 for the night. Well, I wish I could get those prices now. But so she rents a room, she freshens up and she goes down and she meets with her family and they do the things that you do on Mackinac Island.

You you see the sights, you ride horses, you you take a carriage ride, you shop for fudge, you buy postcards, you you do you see the fort, you do everything. And so they they crammed in a day’s worth of of touristy things. And that evening, they had dinner. And her daughter Kaye said, I’m going to go back to British Landing now.

Why don’t you come with us? And Frances said, no. She said, I told you I’ve got a hotel room. I don’t want to be a bother. I’m going to walk out to British landing in the morning, and then we’ll all take a carriage ride back and take the ferry over and go home. And so her daughter and husband went back to British landing and Francis went to her hotel at the Murray.

Three times that night, Francis went down to the, to the desk clerk and she left her key and she left the hotel on 3 separate occasions that night. And each time she came back, nobody knows where she was or what she was doing.  Now Frances wasn’t a drinker. She wasn’t a partier. She wasn’t a social person. So nobody really knows what she did that night. But after the 3rd time, she assured the desk clerk, hey. I’m not going to, bother you anymore. I’m going back up to my room.

So the next morning, Frances comes down to the lobby, and she leaves her luggage in the luggage area. And she leaves her key on the front desk because she’s checking out and it’s kinda busy. And she goes into the restaurant there at the Murray, and they said, we can’t serve you breakfast right now because we we don’t have gas for our stove, we’re waiting for the gas to get here.

And so she leaves and she comes back at about 8:30 and they were able to fix her breakfast. And she has pancakes, bacon, coffee and cantaloupe. She finishes her breakfast and at about 9:30, she leaves the hotel to begin to walk out to British Landing.

A couple from Detroit, who are having an affair, get out on a tandem bike at the same time that Francis Lacy leaves the Maranhao. They begin to to ride around the downtown area, seeing the sites, and then after about an hour or so, they decide they’re gonna ride around the west end of the island, and so that’s what they do. At around 11 o’clock, they arrive at a spot along the west side of the island, and they see a purse laying on the side of the road. They look inside the purse, and there’s some identification for a woman named Frances Lacey. Now Frances Lacey hasn’t been reported missing yet.

She’s just walking out to her her her daughter’s cabin there at British Landing. So they see that she’s from Dearborn. Well, they’re from Detroit. They said, let’s go they see the brochure for the Chippewa Hotel.  They said, let’s go back to the Chippewa Hotel, and we’ll give her her purse. They go back to the Chippewa Hotel, and the desk clerk says, we don’t have anybody here by that name.

So they figure, hey, she’s from Dearborn, we’re from Detroit, let’s just take the purse back to Detroit with us, and we’ll find her when we get back to Detroit, we’ll give her the purse. While they had been, looking through the purse there along the west side of the island, they heard something lumbering through the brush about 30 feet away, and they assumed that it was a large animal. The police later theorized it was probably the killer, But they decided to take the purse back, and so they left the island that afternoon with Francis Lacey’s purse.

And about one p.m. that afternoon, Kaye, her daughter realizes, hey, mom’s not here yet, and she gets quite worried. And so she calls the state police. Well, there’s a trooper assigned to the Island, and of course, there’s the local Mackinac Island police there in the downtown area. So the trooper goes out to British landing and he takes a missing person report and he’s absolutely convinced she’s lost on the island here.

She’s not from here. She’s probably just lost. Don’t worry, we’ll find her. At 11 o’clock that night, they still haven’t found her. And he decides, Hey, maybe I should call my boss over in St Ignace and tell him we’ve got a missing person here. Now I can tell you right now, based on my law enforcement experience, I would not have waited 12 hours to to call my boss, but he did. And with that being said, his boss said, well, it’s too late right now. I’ll bring a contingent of troopers out tomorrow, and we’ll search the island.

So on Monday morning,  the post commander arrives on the island by ferry along with 3 or 4 other troopers, and there’s about 65 local volunteers on the island that are gonna help search. They bring in, bloodhounds from the west end of the island, from Dickinson County. The bloodhounds are allowed to sniff Mrs. Lacey’s luggage and they pick up her trail and they begin to search along the west end of the island, along the boardwalk, but they lose her scent at the end of the boardwalk.

The 65 volunteers and the police searched the island and they could not find Francis Lacey. On Tuesday, she’s still missing. It’s pouring rain, pouring rain all day, so they can’t search. On Wednesday, the search continues, but to no avail. By now, the press has picked up on the story, and the story is making national headlines, there is a missing wealthy widow on Michigan’s Mackinac Island, their crown jewel vacation spot. And guess who sees that report? The couple in Detroit. They’re like, oh my gosh, we’ve got that woman’s purse. But they don’t wanna be caught because they’re having an affair.

So they call the Detroit police and the Detroit police calls the state police post and the state police post calls East Lansing headquarters and East Lansing headquarters calls Marquette, and Marquette, gets a hold of the detective, and the detective calls back down to Detroit and hooks up by phone with these people. Then he said, where did you find this purse? He said, what was along the west side of the island, Devil’s Kitchen. And it’s by some, 2 stone cobblestone pillars with the big steel gate between them that says there’s no trespassing on it.

Well, the detective had been searching for days for Mrs. Lacey, so he knew exactly where that was. So, they converged on Thursday evening at that location on the island. And in the roadway, they found Mrs. Lacey’s dental, her dentures and they had been crushed by being run over by carriages for 4 days. They were in several pieces.  There’s an odor in the air because it’s been really hot, and it’s the odor of death and decomposition. So they know that they’re close.

They go beyond the gate and there’s a small trail that goes up and then cuts to the right, up a hill, up toward Stone Cliff, the property that at that time was owned by the Moral Re-Armament Association. And so, here’s a picture of the gate and the cobblestone pillars and the cobblestone and cobblestone fence that comes out from it, and the path goes beyond that gate, and then cuts to the right. I have to tell you that if you’re on the island, other than some overgrown trees, that looks exactly like it did in 1960. It looks exactly like that. You cannot miss it. It’s amazing. It’s been perfectly preserved.

And so they converge on this area, they find her dentures in the roadway, and they go beyond that gate, and where the path turns to the right, just beyond that, if you were to go straight, there’s an old rotting overturned rowboat that someone has left in the brush. So, the trooper goes up and he looks under that, and what do you think that he finds? You would think maybe it’s a perfect place to hide a body, but he doesn’t find a body. He finds a pair of women’s shoes, They’re very unusual.

And so he then, they look a little bit further beyond that, another 50 feet or so, and they can see a cedar tree that has been blown over and during some storm in the past, but there’s branches that are leaned up against it as if to hide something. And as they get closer, they can see, some dark hair and it’s Mrs. Lacey’s body.  She is laying, on a slight incline, her head is toward the west toward, Lake Huron, her arm is up behind her back, her glasses are laying near her head, her skirt is pulled up to her waist, her top is pulled up to her collarbone, and she has been, strangled with her own panties.

So tight that whoever the killer was, first tried to strangle her with his bare hands, because there was finger bruising around the neck, and then, apparently that didn’t work or he wanted to be certain that she was dead. So he tied her panties around her neck, not at them, and then put a stick in, as a lever to tighten that knob, that ligature, the knot on that ligature around her neck.

So it’s the weekend of the Chicago to Mackinac race. Now, they have to call the crime lab, the Michigan state police crime lab people from Lansing, they come out of Lansing, so they travel all night to get there. The state police assigned 2 troopers to stay with the body all night, so that, so that nothing is disturbed until the crime lab people get there.

When the crime lab guys get there the next morning at about 4 or 5 am, just as the sun begins to rise, they begin to process the crime scene. And what they find on Mrs. Lacey’s body is 4 or 5 hairs that are blonde or light brown in color. They don’t belong in this as Lacey because she has black hair that’s starting to gray, so they know that they’re not hers. Those are collected as evidence, missus body Mrs. Lacey’s body is quietly removed from the island by the Coast Guard and taken to a hospital for an autopsy.

The police now have thousands of people on an 8 square-mile island to try to find a killer. Where would you even begin? So what they did was, they first put out a call to several other state police posts and in the next 2 or 3 days, the 1 or 2 troopers that were on the island or police officers that were on the island grew to a task force basically, like 25 or 30 from around the state. All there to, investigate Mrs. Lacy’s murder and follow up on leads.

So they started with going along Main Street and showing Mrs. Lacey’s picture to different storekeepers to see if anyone recognized her, if anyone might have seen her walking along Main Street after she left the Murray Hotel on Sunday morning, no one had, no one had.

And so they also focus, they begin to focus on employees on the island who suddenly left their jobs on Sunday morning when Mrs. Lacey was first reported missing. 0Now before they found her body, the day before they found her body, the Mackinac Island police chief poked his head into the detective’s office at the state police post there on the island.

And he said, we’ve got a guy here on the island that’s a little fishy. He’s he’s like a Visa card. He’s everywhere he shouldn’t be. And they said, really you really need to talk to him because he’s a weirdo. And so they pulled him in and they began to talk to this guy, his name was Paul Strantz, and Paul Strantz was a transient seasonal worker on the island. He would come up every summer from Indiana, and he’d just do odd jobs on the island. He might wash somebody’s windows, or he might wash dishes at a restaurant to make some money. He was just kind of a, I don’t know what I’d call him a bum, but, but he really was just a transient that came there every summer.

And so they began to talk to him, and, when they focused on missus Lacey, who was still missing at that time, he became indignant, he became, very defensive about answering questions, And so the detective said, “listen, if you’re not involved in her disappearance, why don’t you let us search your room?”

He said, “well, sure.”

So they go back over to Paul Strantz hotel room and they search it, and they find a shirt, which they thought had blood on the sleeve. Turns out that it was paint. They had it tested. But he had, a newspaper article that was crumpled up and thrown in the trash, and it was a story about how women could protect themselves if they were attacked. He also had some rope in his room, his suit coat was damp, he said it was out in the rain and it hadn’t dried yet, so there were just a bunch of little red flags, nothing major, but enough that he was on the radar, if you will. And so they released him.

The next day they find this Lacey’s body and the detective says, I want Paul Strantz arrested right now on suspicion of murder. So they find him downtown coming out of a restaurant, and they arrest him. If you look up the newspaper articles from the murder, you’ll see there was an arrest made immediately following, when her body was found, and it was Paul Strantz. And they also released him within a couple hours because they realized they didn’t have any evidence on it.

So Paul Strantz was released, and they got information on a, a bartender from the grand hotel by the name of Harold Asp. And Harold Asp was a cantankerous old drunk, but he was also a bartender at the Grand Hotel, and he argued with everybody, he lift off all the time and he quit his job on the morning that Mrs. Lacey disappeared. So he goes to he ends up in Detroit, and he finds some fleabag hotel along Woodward Avenue, and he rents a hotel room, and he’s drunk when he rents it, and he rents it for 7 days. After the 3rd or 4th day, the hotel staff hadn’t seen Harold Asp, and so they go to check-in his room and he’s gone.

He’s completely checked out, except he kept us he left a suit coat in the closet. So they check the pockets and lo and behold, there’s a baggage claim from Mackinac Island, and they know there’s been a murder up there because there’s it’s all over the news. So they get in touch with the investigators up there, and they said, yeah, we’ve got this, luggage tag from the dock, on Mackinac Island.

So the detectives go down to check the docks to see if anybody remembered, and lo and behold, there’s still a piece of luggage there with that same number on it that was never ferried off the island. And so they seize that, it’s Harold Asps, and they seize it, they don’t really find anything of significance in it, but it’s odd that it was left on the island and he fled to Detroit.

Well, someone leaked his information to the media, imagine that. And so the next thing you know, the media is publishing his name as a suspect in Mackinac Island’s murder. And so, he sees that He’s down in Indianapolis, Indiana now. He sees his name in the news. So he calls up the Indiana State Police, and he says, “Hey, I understand the Michigan state police wanna talk to me about a murder. I’m right here.   Tell them to come get me.”

So Indiana state police goes over, picks him up, takes him back, gets a hold of Michigan. Michigan investigators fly down from the UP and they interview Harold asked, and he’s really vague about what his routine was on that weekend, but he takes a polygraph test and he passes, and they’re absolutely convinced that he’s not involved. And he says, I’ll do you one better. He said, I’ll fly back to the island with you, and I’ll prove to you that that it wasn’t me, and I’ll clear my name.

And so they fly him back to Mackinac Island and he clears his name, and and they’re absolutely convinced he wasn’t involved, not in the least. So the the case drags on, there are no leads, they continue to follow-up on on various people around the island that, you know, somebody said, oh, I saw this or so and so is a little bit weird, and so they do all that follow-up, but they don’t have a suspect yet.

And on November 4th, and I’m gonna give you a little tidbit here, On the day that I was born, November 4, 1960, you all can send me a birthday card now. A guy is arrested in Ionia for breaking and entering, and he was a one-man crime spree between Michigan and Florida. He broke into several places, and they finally caught him in Ionia, and they interviewed him, and they said, what were you doing this summer?

He said, oh, he said, I had some work on Mackinac Island, and of course, a red flag goes up because they know there’s an unsolved murder up there.  So they get a hold of the detective up there, and he says, reinterview this guy and see if you can pin down a timeframe when he was on the island. So they reinterview him and they said, When were you on Mackinac Island?

And he said, oh, oh, I didn’t say Mackinac Island. No. No. No. No. I must have said, like, something like Fox Island, but I was not on Mackinac Island.

The police give him a polygraph exam, and he passes, but they also take hair samples from him, and they send those hair samples to the crime lab, and several months later, the report comes back from the crime lab that says that person cannot be excluded as a suspect because there are too many similarities between his hair and the hairs that were taken off Mrs. Lacey’s body.

Now, as a police officer, I don’t know what the, protocols for polygraph exams were in 1960. I’m certain that today, they’re a lot different than they were 64 years ago. And so how accurate that polygraph test was, I don’t know, I don’t have those results. But I can tell you they have a guy that said, I was on Mackinac Island, whose hair matches the hair that was taken off the victim, but then changed his story. So, he, to me is a number one suspect. Beyond that, they have no one else.

They looked at, some serial killers, one that was, a guy by the name of Hugh Bion Morris, who, murdered several people across the US back in the late fifties and early sixties. And when they interviewed him, because he had said that he had passed through Michigan, and so, when they interviewed him, they said, you know, were you in Michigan? And he said it during the time of the Mackinac island where he said, oh, no.

I must have been out west at that time, and they just left it at that, they didn’t pursue that any further, which seems odd to me. And they looked at, another murder out in, Minnesota where it was a hit job, a very well-known attorney hired some hitmen to kill his wife, and they did, they killed her dead. But the middle man in that particular murder, was a guy by the name of Sheldon, and he went by the name of Shelley. And right now, I can’t remember the last name of him.

But somebody on the island, I think it was a pharmacist, was reading the news about that murder in Minnesota, and he recognized the name of Shelley as the same name that someone used that was passing a bad check on the island in July of 1960. And so they looked at that guy very briefly, but there was really never a firm answer as to what their determination was. The odd part about that whole case was that the guy that actually did the murder in Minnesota lived up in I think it’s I think it’s Alton. It’s it’s right on Torch Lake, like 90 miles from the bridge, all at the same time of the murder. But they never looked at that guy that I know of. And so he might in fact have been a suspect.

They looked at, maybe a connection between a triple murder at a state park in Illinois, the Star Rock State Park Murders, that occurred a few months before Mrs. Lacey’s murder, and what they determined was that the guy that did those murders, that was eventually arrested, he had actually been arrested before that, I’m sorry, on the night of, the day before missus Lacey’s murder, he was arrested for disorderly conduct and got out of jail on Saturday night, and then showed up for work on Monday morning.

So they figured that there’s no way that he got out of work, or got out of jail late Saturday night, drove to Mackinac Island, committed a murder, and made it back to Illinois to report to work on Monday morning. They just didn’t think that was possible. And so he was written off as a suspect. Incidentally, he was just released from prison, 2 years ago. He was the longest-serving prisoner in Illinois history, He served like 60 years.

So he was written off as a suspect, and they basically, the more and more time went on, the colder the case got, the less and less tips they got, and it sits in a box at a state police post in their cold case file. So at the end of the book, I identified other than the guy whose hair matched in the middle of the book that I mentioned. There’s one other guy that I that I, came up with as a suspect in this case, and I have to tell you how I came up with them.

And so I’m gonna jump back to the year 2007. I was in Canada filming a couple of TV shows for, it was a TV show called Accident Investigator, and I was a guest on there and, and I’m not a party animal. And every night I would go back to my hotel room and I’d sit and watch TV, waiting for the next day shoot. And as I’m watching TV in 2007, I see a friend of mine on there. He’s a defense attorney here in Michigan, and and he’s on a true crime show, like a whodunit, but I can’t understand the word he’s seeing because everything’s in French in Montreal, Canada. And so I got back I got back to Michigan, after a week there, and and I called him up and I said, hey, Vince. I said, I saw you on TV. Yeah. I didn’t know you could speak French. And we laughed, and and he said, well, the case the case, that we filmed was a a serial killer, and his name was Gerald Wingard.

He’s in prison. That case was in 2001, and I never thought another thing about it. Jump ahead a couple years, I have a, had a consulting business, and I work pretty close with a private investigator, and we would talk to each other. There’s an odd noise right now in my room. Oh, it quit. But we would exchange information on cases that we got, and so I said to him, I said, “hey, Ken. You got any new cases?” And he said, “yeah.”

This woman called me up, and she wanted to know, if I could look at her brother’s file, he’s in prison and see if the police did anything wrong so he could get out. And I said, well, what’s his name? He said, Gerald Weingart. And I said, oh, yeah. I’ve heard of him. I said, “you don’t wanna take that case. That guy’s a serial killer.” So my friend didn’t jump ahead another couple of years.

I’m trying to decide what my next book will be, and I’m toying around with the idea of the Mackinac Island murder, and my buddy Vince calls me up and he says, Hey, you should do a book about Gerald Weingart. And after the 3rd time of hearing that name, I said to myself, why does this guy’s name keep showing up in my life? He’s just some killer, you know, who’s in prison.

And so I thought, well, maybe maybe I’ll write a book about that cold case because I still hadn’t decided on the Mackinac Island book. And so I got checking into general Weingart, and I saw that the murder that he was convicted of in 2,001 occurred in 1973, and I thought, okay. Well, his probably his first arrest was in 2,001, So I got to check-in, and it turns out that Gerald Weingart’s first arrest was in 1961, exactly a year after the Lacey homicide.

It occurred in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he raped a blind woman and left her for dead. And he was caught and he went to prison in 1962 and his wife divorced him. So I thought that was a little odd that he was active a year before or just a year after the Lacey homicide. And so I got to check-in a little bit deeper, and I found the newspaper marriage announcement from 1959, where he married his high school sweetheart.

And he told the reporter, I’m gonna continue my college education at the Michigan Institute of Mining and Technology in Houghton, Michigan, which is now Michigan Tech. And clearly he had some awareness, some familiarity with Michigan’s upper peninsula and Northern Michigan. And so I got to check-in further, and guess what color of hair he had. Yeah.  Long.

He would have been 18 to 19 years old at the time of the Lacey homicide. And there were just too many things about Gerald Weingart that I couldn’t ignore. And when he got out of prison in 1969 for raping that blind woman in 1961. He kidnapped a woman in Owasso, raped her and shot her. And that case went cold until 2,001 when he went on trial for it, so 28 years later.

In that 28 years, there was a young woman, a 16-year-old, who came up missing in Carson City, Michigan. And some friends of hers saw her talking to a man in a brown van, and they wrote down a license number because they thought it was a little weird, and then she came up missing. So they gave the license plate number to the police. Her body was found 2 weeks later near a Cadillac,  and, she had been strangled so severely that the ligature cut through the skin on her neck and rested against her spine. Sound familiar?  It’s a similar MO to the Lacey homicide.

Now, I haven’t seen the autopsy report, so I don’t know if there was, some sort of a stick that was in there, that was used to tighten that, but if it’s that tight, I have to believe there probably was. And so they executed a search warrant on this guy’s van, who was living literally about 10 miles from where I’m sitting right now.

As a matter of fact, some of my friends were involved in the search of his van, and they got a bunch of trace evidence, human hair, dog hair, carpet fibers, things like that from inside the van, and they built their case against him in the murder of this 16 year old, and Wexford County eventually charged him with her murder, And, at the preliminary examination, a couple of witnesses testified, and their testimony didn’t match what was put in the search warrant.

And so the judge basically said, it’s clear that the officer has been untruthful in the search warrant, therefore the search warrant is being thrown out, when the search warrants thrown out. So is all the evidence that was taken and that case was, unsolved to this day, But we know that Gerald Weingart did it. So the point of Gerald Weingart is, in I’ll throw in one more thing, there was one witness on Mackinac Island on the morning that Mrs.

Lacey came up missing that said they saw along the West Lake Shore Road, a white male walking along 18 to 19 years old, walking along with his shirt unbuttoned. Gerald Weingart had the same color hair, Gerald Weingart had familiarity with Northern Michigan, Gerald Weingart was the same age as the guy the witness saw. There’s just too many things to say Darrell Weingart isn’t a suspect.

When you’re working on a cold case, it’s that it literally is that one small tiny piece of information that can break the case wide open. And so the question begs now, why hasn’t the case been solved? They took that trace evidence off missus Lacey’s body. They should be able to compare that with Gerald Weingart’s hair. Right?

Well, when I, sent a foyer request to the Michigan State Police for this, police report, it cost me $2700. Yeah. And in the middle of that 2,000 page police report, is the is the, an email that was sent in 2011 from a detective in Saint Ignace to the crime lab asking about the evidence, and the response that he got was the evidence in the Lacey homicide has either been misplaced, lost, or destroyed. So nobody knows where it’s at or if it even exists anymore. So that’s why the case hasn’t been solved.

All of the information that I came up with, I turned over to to the Michigan state police, to the detective in Saint Ignace. As a matter of fact, I met with him, a couple of weeks ago when I was doing my UP tour, and, I spoke at at the White Library there in Marquette. But all that evidence has been turned over. The interesting thing about this whole situation is that I was pretty, bummed out that that the evidence probably doesn’t exist or it’s lost.

But a couple old people that worked at the crime lab in the seventies got in touch with me after the book came out and said, Hey, we read your book and let us tell you how things worked in the crime lab in 1960 and into the seventies before it was part of the state police. It was actually part of the Michigan department of public health, believe it or not. It was called the criminal detection laboratory.

And what they did was the trace of it, the things like missus Lacey’s purse and the ligature around her neck and all the bigger items went to a long term storage in Lansing in 1976.

The trace evidence was at the criminal detection laboratory in 1960.

And what they would do is they’d have just a series of, Manila envelopes, if you will, sitting next to them in case files with the case number on them, and the trace evidence would be on microscopic slides in those, And they if they got a a hair sample, they would just take that slide and they’d pull this the trace evidence slide out of the case file, and they would compare them, and then they would put it back.

And when in the mid seventies, when the criminal detection laboratory became part of the Michigan State Police 15 years after the Lacey homicide, My theory is that what happened was when they did the move to East Lansing headquarters, all the old case file stuff got put in a box and maybe in fact, still archived somewhere in a storage facility here in Lansing.

And so, I have not given up trying to find the evidence in the Lacey homicide, although it’s a very, very daunting task to do it as a civilian.

Even though I used to be in law enforcement for 30 years, I’m now a civilian and they don’t just open their doors to anybody that wants to look through old stuff.

And so I have to find an end around that, around that to, to see if they still exist, those trace evidence slides.

So that is the story of grim of paradise, the cold case search for the Mackinac Island killer.

AN: Alright.

AN: Thank you, Rob.

AN: Let’s let’s do some questions here.

AN: I’m sure people have been waiting a bit of breath to


This is my favorite part.

AN: Go ahead, Sue.

AN: I have


o you believe, Rod, that with the evidence that went through the hands of law enforcement in those days, If that had come to current officers and law enforcement people and various researchers, that that crime would have perhaps been solved?

I do.

I do.

I would say I’m not a 100% sure.


And and I I’ll preface that by saying that, my specialty in law enforcement for 30 years was traffic crash reconstruction, and I was also a police artist.

So my knowledge of DNA is limited to what I pick off pick up off of watching CSI on TV, But I do know that, there have been great advances in DNA technology, and if that evidence could be found well, I’ll give you a quick example, of how interested the state police got after I wrote this book.

I turned my information over to him, and I had become friends with the detective here in Lansing, a cold case detective, and he told me confidentially, that after I turned that information over to Saint Ignace, someone showed up at the prison with a search warrant to take Gerald Weingart’s blood, So that they would have it on file, a DNA profile, in their in their records, And Joe Weingard ended up dying, 2 years ago.


So that’s So he’s gone now.

And I do know for a fact also that they did try to interview him, about other cold cases around the state that he might have been involved in, and he was very talkative to the female detective when when they sat down, but as soon as she said, are there any other cases, he clamped right up, and he wouldn’t talk.

And so, so that’s kind of a long way to answer your question, but

hank you.

Truly, I do believe if they could find that trace evidence, they could compare that not only with, with your Weingart, but they could run it through, what’s a system that they have that has thousands of DNA profiles in it from various people, in the criminal community, if you will.

So Yeah.

I do I do believe it could be solved.

MICHELLE: I don’t have a question. maybe more comment than anything. thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it reminded me a little of the sweater letter where, you know, the detail from a police standpoint. I thought the title fit that really excellently. And the other thing that I I was struck by by the time I was done with the book is I’ve been on Mackinac Island many times. I’ve stayed in many different hotels there. I’ve been at the Grand Hotel. I’ve walked that island. I’ve biked that island. I never realized how many creepy people there were on the island.

Oh, yeah.

So Yeah.

Just reading some of the of these characters that were there, and I thought, oh my gosh. There these creepy people are there, and I always think of these really nice people going there.

I know.

really I I and the the DNA thing, I just kept thinking, gosh.

hat doctor who did the examination of the hair, isn’t there some way he has a sample of that somewhere?

ecause knowing how DNA is, you know, they found the woman who abandoned the baby that was found over in the eastern UP, just recently.

nd that was another cold case that was, I forget, like, 40 years or maybe more than that.

nd that was through DNA.

nd and so to just have that, you know, to never throw that stuff out, just amazing.

mean, I would feel for her family that somehow there would be some resolution to know who did it.

Well, I have to tell you, I did track down her daughter.

Her daughter was, 21 at the time.

She’s now 80 probably 85 or 86 now.

I talked to her 2 or 3 years ago by email, and, she was very cooperative when I when I first approached her.

And so I sent her the, by email the first set of questions that I had for, and she I’m certain that she probably talked to some family members between the time of the first email and when I sent her some questions.

And she had done a 180 degree turn.

She said, I don’t wanna be a part of this.

My mother would be appalled that you’re writing a book about her murder.

That’s not how she should be remembered.

And then she ended the email, and she said, but I wanna tell you something that I’ve never told anybody in the entire world.

My mother did not have the ability to scream.

Now I thought that was very weird that she would say, I don’t want any part of this, but I’m gonna tell you this secret that I have never told anybody else in my entire life.

And so she she shared that with me, and then she ended with, please don’t write the book.

Well, I wrote it anyway because missus Lacey deserves a voice, and and I consider myself that voice right now.

I really do.

The the DNA thing, you know, I don’t know.

Maybe there’s a possibility.

I’ll tell you a quick story.

When I wrote my first book, and it’s called To Hell I Must Go.

And I’m not trying to plug it.

I’m just trying to tell you what happened.

It was a murder in 18/97 that was investigated by my great great grandfather, who was the sheriff here in Ingham County in 18/97, and he investigated the murder.

And a guy came home, discovered that his wife had beheaded his mother, and put her head on a plate for her husband for dinner.

It’s a true story.

And I often wondered as I was writing that if the media, because there there there was no police report, there’s there’s no pictures, you know, it’s all it’s all old newspapers that I worked from.

And I often wondered, did the media just take some artistic license?

I mean, did she really like the whole head?

And so there was always that doubt.

And then I found out that the Michigan archives had the old police file or the court file for that case.

And so I went up there.

It’s like a half hour away from me.

And I went to the archives, and I told them what I what I needed.

If you’ve never been there, you need to go.

It’s fascinating place.

It’s just a treasure trove of information.

So they bring up this one folder, and they lay it down in front of me, And I open it up, and the first thing that I see it’s a 14 pages of of stuff.

And the first thing I see is a handwritten letter or statement from my great great grandfather describing exactly what he’d seen when he went into the house and saw that woman’s head on a plate.

And believe me, the media did not need to take any artistic license.

They wrote it just like it was.

And so and the reason that I tell that story is because the Michigan archive and by the way, I felt like Indiana Jones.

I felt like I had discovered a long lost treasure and I really had, because it was the original statement that my great great grandfather had written.

But, they have, a treasure trove of old documents that people have donated or that the state has donated to the archives that are available to the public.

And so my hope is if I can’t get into the Michigan Department of Public Health and say, hey, can I search for some old slides?

Maybe there’s something at the Michigan archives.

It it’s a long shot, but it’s all I have right now, And and I’m not gonna give up.

I’m not gonna give up.

AN: Cool.

AN: Other questions?

AN: All right.

AN: While we’re waiting, you know, there was that whole idea of all these transient boats, and there’s some shady characters at the marina.

AN: Right?

AN: And they were all gone, you know, within 12 hours and the race ended.

AN: Do you wanna elaborate on any of that stuff?

They they were gone.

I mean, think about it.

The and I think I put in the book that, one one particular ferry line had taken 12,000 people over in one day.

Can you can you imagine the daunting task of of trying to figure out where to begin?

But but as information came in years down years later, tips that came in, they were able to track those people down, you know, through through good old fashioned police work.

Hey, go down to go down to Detroit and or contact the post in Detroit and have them check the records with the with the doc master who was on duty at that, you know, they kept really good records of that.

And so, that’s how they were able to track down the people that were in the meridian and such.

Other people, you know, it was a stroke of luck that, old Harold Vass, turned himself in, you know, and said, hey.

Come get me.

It wasn’t me.

I’ll talk to you.

The the the guy in the middle of the book that I told you about whose hair matches the the suspect hair, his son was a police officer here in mid Michigan, up until recently.

And so if they were able to find the slides, my suggestion would be to find his son and get a blood sample from him, a DNA sample from him and do it that way.

I mean, there’s ways around it, and and I think it could still be done.

I really do.

AN: Yeah.

AN: They’ve solved stuff with Ancestry or 23andme.

AN: People that were 3 and 4 levels away from the main suspect to find the right branch of the family and narrow it down, and then they camp out and get a used coffee cup.

AN: I mean, there’s Yeah.

AN: So it can be done.

AN: Absolutely.

AN: Alright.

AN: Any more questions from our folks here?

AN: Okay.

AN: Rod, do you wanna tell us what you’re up to next?


Well, I’ll I’ll tell you that, my the book that that I wrote before Grim Paradise called Killing Women, It’s about East Lansing serial killer Don Miller.

He murdered 4 women in East Lansing in 19 76 and 77, and then he attacked, 2 teenagers and tried to kill them, but they survived.

And I’ll tell you the I write these books for a reason, in Griffin Paradise, I wrote, specifically because it’s a cold case, and I think it should it could be solved.

Killing Women, I wrote, and I’m not gonna get into all of the details about it.

But the reason that I wrote that is, one of his victim sisters asked me why I was writing the book.

And I said, people have forgotten who Don Miller was.

People have forgotten what Don Miller did, and people need to know, and this is the important part, that Don Miller is getting out of prison in 2031.



And, I will also tell you that Don Miller has written me a 4 or 5 letters, and my wife is less than enthused about that.

And this is where I always throw into the to the audience when I’m talking.

If I ask if anybody knows how to, start a letter to a serial killer.

And, of course, everybody always says no, and I will tell you how to do that with someone else’s return address.

Make a note of that.

But that’s the reason that I wrote that book.

The book that I’m working on right now, is another book about a serial killer, and you know, I’ll just tell you a little tidbit about it.

He murdered 2 children, 2 teen boys, back in the mid eighties.

And he fled to Florida, and he lived in Florida prior to that.

And the reason that I wrote that is because I believe there may be more victims out there, either in Florida or up here in Michigan.

And I was doing an interview with, Wayne County’s, he’s he’s retired now, but he was Wayne County’s chief circuit court judge.

Tim Kenny was his name.

And I was interviewing him a couple weeks ago in Livonia about this case because at the time that they prosecuted this guy, mister mister Kenny was the prosecutor that that prosecuted him.

And so he was telling me about it, and he said, he said, you know, I I heard rumors that there were several cases along I 75 between Michigan and Florida that they were looking at him as a suspect in.

And so that’s the reason that I’m writing, my next book.

I don’t have a title yet, and I’ll tell you another little secret.

Is, I’m not paying $27100 for a police report again.

And in this particular, case that I’m writing about now, I know several of the investigators and they saved their police reports, so I got some for free.

So yeah.

But anyway, that’s what I’m working on now.

And, I was very thrilled to have Victor invite me to be a guest speaker at the UPPAA conference 2025 in Marques.

AN: Yeah.

AN: That’s right.

AN: You’ll be talking about writing true crime.

AN: I’m really stoked.


I I’m excited, and I can’t wait, actually.

AN: Alright.

AN: Thanks, Rod.

AN: You’ve been real generous with your time.

AN: I just wanna remind people we’ll be back on July 11th with the great scene fire, a history of the Walsh Ditch Fire of 1976 by a guy who was down there in the trenches with the firefighters, an amazing guy, Greg Lusk.

AN: So thank you everyone, and, have a great evening.

Thank you everyone.


AN: Bye bye.

ou’ve been watching the UP Notable Books Club brought to you by the Upper Peninsula Publisher and Authors Association.

o join or for more information, please visit us at www.yupa.orgorwww.upnotable.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.