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An Exclusive Interview: Collins Ends Seven Years of Silence

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An Exclusive Interview

Collins Ends 7 Years
Of Silence In Prison

Copyright 1977, The Ann Arbor News

Staff Reporter

JACKSON—John Norman Collins,
the principal in what has been called
the most spectacular murder trial in
the history of Washtenaw County,
broke a seven-year silence Thursday
in a three-hour prison interview with
The Ann Arbor News.

Collins, now 28, was convicted in
1970 of the strangulation slaying of
Karen Sue Beineman, an 18-year-old
freshman at Eastern Michigan

In the interview, Collins vehemently
' :ied he had killed Beinc; - 'or
>ne . . . why would 1 ny-
one? , . ."; charged key evidence
which would have cleared him was
withheld during the trial; said the
jury was bullied into a guilty verdict;

that false identification was made in
<•„« f.pii.itt^o.-p- thit he is being ex-
's for a new trial
damaged by, a book and a proposed
movie about the case.

' i'" s had requested the personal
mr i . 11 w after The News had sought
to speak with him by telephone for
(•oininpnts on a published book about

and on a proposed movie to
ue iimicd this spring in Ann Arbor
and Ypsilanti.

A reporter-photographer team from
The News sat in a vacant office in the
state ' h of Jackson Thurs-
day li- .Hid spoke freely with
')';!!-, lor the three hours. The wide-
ranging, free-wheeling, introspective
interview covered everything from

high school football to capital punish-
ment. Much of the discussion cen-
tered on the Circuit Court jury trial
held in Ann Arbor almost seven years
ago before the late Judge John W.
Conlin. Collins spoke frankly and
openly about that trial, commenting
on its key figures and citing what he
termed unjust and 111 , ':'! ible fac-
tors turned against hii.

It was the first time the former
Eastern Michigan University senior
had submitted to a personal interview
since he was arrested for the Beine-
man killing in 1969. Asked why he had
not granted earlier interviews he said
simply: "No one really asked." Later
he said he decided on giving The
News an interview because he wanted
to meet this reporter. ^

Dressed in institutional blue trous-
ers, heavy work shoes and a gray,
long-sleeved sweat shirt with the hood
thrown back. Collins sat quietly at an
office tii iut the long ques-
tioning. 1 n IJ ^nnJsi heavier, at '205,
than he was during his precedent-
setting trial in Ann Arbor in the sum-
mer of 1970, Collins <?ame across as
articulate, thoughtful, pondering.

The gamut of questioning about his
conviction brought out a number -of
salient Collins' positions including:

——— He is innocent of the nurder
of Karen Sue B'^n^-nn: "I never
knew her. I ne\ her. I never
gave her a ride on my bike,"

——— Mr. Delhey (Washtenaw
Prosecutor William F. Delhey) and
Williams (Assistant Prosecutor Book-
er T. Williams) withheld evidence

which would have proven me inno-

——— Jurors who clung to not
guilty findings through days of delib-
eration finally were hammered into a
guilty agreement by a determined
foreman. 'Better safe than sorry' was
the rationalization which finally caved
them in.

——— Police investigators threat-
ened defers sses with loss of
their busmen ,. -i-e if they failed to
change key testimony.

——— Joan Goshe (the prosecu-
tion's star witness who testified she'
saw Collins with Karen Beineman on
the day of the murder) made a false
courtroom identification because of
police pressure and greed for the re-
ward money.

——— The jury ignored lengthy tes-
timony by scientists who wen
in hair comparism technique liial Hie
process boosted by the prosecution as
key evidence was scientifically invalid
and technically unacceptable.

——— He had "no reason" to
kill...... "if I don't get along with

!ie or they don't get along with
i.-.;. .List don't see them......"

"The Michigan Murders", a
book* about the case by New York
. writer Edward Keyes, is a crass com-
mercial venture which exploits Collins

anri 'i'i':-. ;', ;.-:;:;•!••;" . :•

bil,,, ,„ ..., . ....

cently "analyzed" Collins in a totally

incorrect and highly fabricated theory

although he never has spoken to the

"There's always hope. You've got to
keep hoping."

"These people never talked to me.
How can they know me?"

"What do I need? How about a helicopter?"

Continued on Page 3

Collins Breaks Seven Years Of Silence

Continued from Page 1

imprisoned man.

—— The proposed movie about
the case "Now I Lay^ Me Down To
Sleep" is apparently even more fla-
grant than the Keyes book, aimed, as
its promoters claim, at "seeing the
crime through the eyes of the defend-
ant" although no one has spoken to
Collins about the case.

The 180. minute interview flowed at
an almost leisurely pace as Collins
moved logically from one question to
another, volunteering more than a
simple answer on many occasions.
Prison authorities had set aside an
empty office for the conference and
when the interview started they closed
the door and left the area.

Collins' repeated denials that he
had murdered Karen Sue Beineman
—— or that he had ever met her—-
were firm and unhesitating.

"No I didn't kill her. I didn't even
know her. I never gave her a ride on
the motorcycle. I rode the cycle that
day, I remember, because I took it to
the garage. I'm sure I rode around
Ypsilanti. And I stopped to talk with
friends. But I never met or talked
with Karen Sue Beineman, I didn't
kill her."

He remains convinced that Prosecu-
tor William Delhey and his assistant
for the trial, Booker Williams, with-
held key evidence which would have
cleared him.

"I don't know what it is. But they
do. It was a political game. They had
to get someone. Mr. Delhey did his
job. But he was overzealous. And look
at Booker Williams. That's the kind of
official that was trying me."

William Billmeier, the foreman of
the jury, had formed a "guilty" ver-
dict even before the trial started. And
he was strong enough to force those
who leaned toward a not guilty find-
ing to his side during the delibera-
tions, Collins feels.

"I told Neil (Fink, a defense attor-
ney) when we were drawing the jury
that Billmeier just didn't like me,
that he was out to find mr ""•"•• But
Neil said no, that he w;' ;led,
that he'd be a good juror. Then when
the deliberations began he was named
foreman and when we saw some of
the women jurors crying when they
went out on the deliberation days I
knew he was forcing them into a
guilty finding. This jury system is
bad. They'll get up there and swear
they have no prejudice, that they ha-
ven't formed an opinion. And all the
time they know what they're going to

Collins said key defense witnesses
who testified he was visiting at a
motorcycle garage in Ypsilanti at the
time Karen Beineman was being mvif"
dered were threatened with loss of
their business. Joe D. Patton, owner
of the J and J. Mot. s Shop at
1196 Ecorse Road an ployes appeared to testify for Collins.
While the times they gave varied, all
said he was with them during, hours
which were crucial to the'state's case.

"The police came to them and even
had affidavits for them to sign and
the papers had the wrong times on
them. The police said they'd change
the times later. Then the police
threatened that they'd see to it that the
shop never sold another -part, that
they'd close the shop, they'd ruin them,
run them out of business. They pres-
sured them to say I was there at a
time which would fit in with the
prosecution's case."

Bitterness surfaced in Collins dur-
ing the long interview briefly when he

i bout Joan Goshe, " lan-
„. ...r-. -shop ownerfwho idii.i...i.d him
in the courtroom as the man she saw

John Norman Collins Twists A Finger As He Ponders Reporter's Question

with Karen Beineman on the day of
the murder.

"She (Goshe) was supposed to be a
hair stylist, she knew hair. Yet she
told the police that the man she saw
outside her shop that day had curly
hair and short sideburns. I had
straight hair and long sideburns. Still
she pointed me out in the courtroom
as the man she saw. The police show-
ed her pictures and told her I was the
one they'd arrested for murder. Then
she identified me to them. Is that a
fair, legal identification? She was aft-
er the reward. She applied for it after
the trial."

Collins said the igr \v the jury
of scientific testimini^ ,1 mt human
hair comparism by Dr. Auseklis K.
Pekons and Dr. Robert Jervis materi-
' ally damaged his case. Both men arc
internationally-recognized experts in
neutron activation analysis, the proc-
ess used to or:; ir( human hairs.
The state cent- .hat hair seg-
ments found in Miss Beineman's
clothing matched hair left on the floor
of the basement of the house where it
is believed the murder was commited.
Pekons and Jervis testified the two
hair samples were not the same.

"The jury ignored this. They
wouldn't take the word of experts;

They just threw it out."

Collins insisted he had "no reason"
to kill Karen Beineman ". . . or an-
yone else ..."

, "To kill someone ... for what rea-
son? The prosecution said in effect I
woke up one Wednesday morning, de-
cided I didn't have anything to do so I"
went out and killed someone. I never
killed anyone. I had no reason to. I
was a senior in college, I was going to
get my degree in June, I was engaged
to be married- I never even slapped a

^To kill someone » . .for what rea'
son? The prosecution said in effect I
woke up one Wednesday mornin^^
decided I didn^t have anything to do
so I went out and killed someone. I
never trilled anyone" —Collins

woman in my life. I look down on
anyone who does.

"I like girls. I dated often in school.
Of course I've got a temper. But it's
nothing I couldn't handle. I don't hold
a grudge. If there's someone I don't
get along with I just don't see them. I
don't want to be near someone 1 can't
get along with. I'm competitive in
sport?. I play football and basketball
here (in prison). I play hard. But
when it's over I don't carry it with

Collins said he feels Edward Keyes'
book "The Michigan Murders" and
the proposed movie "Now I Lay Me
Down To Sleep'f are both efforts to ex-
ploit his situation for individual prof-
it. He says both will probably endan-
ger his pending appeals for a new tri-
al. •

"These people never talked to me.
How do they know how I feel, what is
in my mind? How can they "analyze"
me — tell millions of readers, as
Keyes has done that I hate my mother
and that's why I killed. I didn't kill.
And I love my mother. She's been
strong, she's with me. How can this
movie bunch say they're going to film
something through my eyes? They
don't know what I see, how I see

things. It all comes down to money.
To make money off people like myself
who are helpless, who have no legal
remedy, no way to protect them-
selves. It's not right. But they're do-
ing it. And they're getting away with

Collins says it is particularly irking
to him that in virtually every media
mention of his case he is linked with
the remaining six unsolved murders
of young women which occurred prior
to the Beineman case.

"I was tried and convicted of the
Beineman murder. I'm appealing
that. But why does the media insist on
naming me with the other murders? I
don't know who did any of them. They
say the murders stopped after I was
arrested so that must prove some-
thing. I don't think it proves anything,
Maybe the person who did the mur-
ders died. Maybe he moved away.
Maybe he got right. Whoever did
something like this has to be sick.
There has to be something wrong with'

The blue eyes softened when he
spoke of Father Patrick Jackson, now
pastor of St. Patrick's Catholic
Church in Northfield Township. The
priest was an assistant at St. Thomas

News photo by Jock Stubbs

Church in Ann Arbor at the time of
the Circuit Court trial and became a
family counselor for the Collins fami-

"Father Pat," Collins mused.
"Really a nice guy. He's been very

Although raised in the Catholic
faith, Collins says he does not attend
church in prison.

"I believe there's a God, there's
some Being who got the whole ball
rolling. But I don't think you have to
go through a priest or minister to
have Him hear you. I think you can go
directly to Him."

Assigned to the gymnasium in
Southern Michigan Prison, Collins is
active in the institution's athletic pro-
gram. He plays n.' ' ne'teams, of-
ficiates at gaim' . sponsible for
sports equipment.

For the past two years, Collins has
been in an "honor block", one of two
400-inmate sections of the sprawling
prison complex reserved for prisoners
who have good behavior records.
Inmates who avoid receiving "tick-
ets", citations from guards for viola-
tions of institution rules are assigned
to i ; "honor" blocks. The
popin; ; i iiit,' blocks is constantly
changing as some inmates are cited
for violations or discharged from the

With a current inmate population of
over 5,000 men Southern Michigan
Prison is a city in itself, a massive
bar and steel and brick complex of
tight regimentation, strict security
and detailed rules.

The names have been replaced by
numbers years ago.

On Thursday, Number 126833 slid
aside for three hours.

And revealed a human being.