The Disturbing Story Of The Oakland County Child Killer

Between February 1976 and March 1977, four children between the ages of 10 and 12 were abducted and ultimately killed in Oakland County, Michigan. ClickOnDetroit reports that the bodies of all four children were left in separate locations in and around Oakland County. Although authorities suspect the so-called "Oakland County Child Killer" had more than four victims, the known victims include 12-year-old Mark Stebbins, 12-year-old Jill Robinson, 11-year-old Timothy King, and 10-year-old Kristine Mihelich.

As reported by the United States Department of Justice, law enforcement officials determined Stebbins, Robinson, King, and Mihelich were all abducted and killed by the same person or persons, as there were notable similarities in the crimes. All four children were alone when they were abducted, and they were all last seen in or near parking lots in business districts. The U.S. Department of Justice reports the victims were all kept alive for a period of time before they were killed. Authorities said all four were bathed, fed, and otherwise cared for while being held captive. Although the bodies of Robinson and Mihelich did not show any signs of abuse, authorities said those of Stebbins and King had injuries suggesting they were sexually abused by their abductor.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The US Department of Justice appointed a task force to investigate the murders

Authorities noted the bodies of all four children were left along well-traveled roadways — where they could easily be seen. However, the U.S. Department of Justice acknowledged there were also differences in the crimes, which has raised questions as to whether the children were all abducted and killed by the same person or persons. For example, the children were held for different periods of time, ranging from three to 19 days. Authorities also noted Robinson was shot to death where his body was found while the three others were smothered to death. It has also been noted that the abductor or abductors sexually abused both boys, but not the girls.

Nevertheless, there was enough evidence for the U.S. Department of Justice to appoint a specific task force to investigate the abduction and deaths of Mark Stebbins, Jill Robinson, Timothy King, and Kristine Mihelich — as well as 16-year-old Cynthia Cadieux, 14-year-old Sheila Srock, and 13-year-old Jane Allan as possibly related crimes committed by the same person or persons.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Authorities questioned several known criminals in the region

Several suspects were identified amid the investigation into the Oakland County Child Killer. Prior to the death of Timothy King, who was the killer or killers' last known victim, 27-year-old Gregory Greene was arrested and charged with the sexual assault of underage boys (via ClickOnDetroit). Although the charges were unrelated to the Oakland County murders, authorities questioned his possible involvement. During questioning, Greene denied any involvement in the Oakland County murders. However, he said 26-year-old Christopher Busch had bragged to him about killing Mark Stebbins. Busch was called in for questioning but denied having anything to do with Stebbins' abduction or death.

Both Busch and Greene ultimately consented to polygraph examinations, which determined neither of them was involved in the children's deaths. However, they were both convicted on unrelated charges of child molestation. Greene was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, while Busch was also found guilty and sentenced to probation. In November 1978, ClickOnDetroit reports Busch died by suicide. After searching his home, authorities discovered a sketch of a young boy, which was later determined to closely resemble Mark Stebbins.

James Vincent Gunnels' DNA was found on one of the victims

Although Christopher Busch was dead, authorities still suspected he was the Oakland County Child Killer. However, with no evidence conclusively proving anyone's guilt, the task force was disbanded in December 1978, and the case essentially went cold (per ClickOnDetroit). Years later, with advances in DNA technology, authorities identified a man named James Vincent Gunnels as having been at the scene of the crime. As reported by ClickOnDetroit, DNA from a hair found on the body of 10-year-old Kristine Mihelich was a mitochondrial match to Gunnels' DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA is not as specific as other types of DNA. However, the DNA was determined to belong to Gunnels or a male relative on his mother's side of the family. The results of the testing turned the attention away from Busch and intensified authorities' attention on Gunnels. Gunnels vehemently denied any knowledge of or involvement in the Oakland County child murders. However, ClickOnDetroit reports he admitted having a connection to fellow suspect Christopher Busch.

James Vincent Gunnels failed a polygraph exam but was never arrested

When James Vincent Gunnels was a child, ClickOnDetroit reports he was sexually assaulted by Christopher Busch. The connection between the two men prompted theories that Busch exerted control over Gunnels and may have convinced him to lure children so he could kill them. Gunnels, however, denied any involvement whatsoever. In a 2012 interview, he said (per ClickOnDetroit), "I'm not guilty." He also said, "My heart goes out to those families. It really, really, really does. I don't feel that they were served justice through any of this."

Gunnels eventually consented to two polygraph examinations. During the first test, it was determined that he attempted to cheat the test in some manner. Authorities said he failed the second test. Although Gunnels remains a primary suspect in the Oakland County child killings, he has not been arrested or charged with the crimes.

John Wayne Gacy was rumored to be a person of interest

There were at least two other people who were rumored to have been involved in the Oakland Child killings, including infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy (via ClickOnDetroit). At the time the murders occurred, Gacy was reportedly in Michigan. A witness to one of the abductions also described a man who was similar in appearance to Gacy (via WYXZ). However, DNA testing, which was conducted in 2013, ruled Gacy out as a suspect (via WXYZ-TV).

Another man who was rumored to have been involved in the Oakland County child killings was Theodore Lamborgine (per ClickOnDetroit). Lamborgine was allegedly a suspected member of a child pornography ring. In 2007, Lamborgine was facing 15 criminal counts of sexual offenses involving young boys (per As part of a plea deal, he was asked to submit to a polygraph examination concerning the kidnappings and murders in Oakland County. However, he ultimately turned down the plea deal, as he refused to take the polygraph test. Instead, he pled guilty to all 15 criminal counts.