Child Killer, Chapter 6 - The Magicians' Confession
Before we start today. I wanna tell you about another podcast. It's called into thin air. Hilly Cummings was just five years old when she vanished from her home, her abrupt disappearance jolted her northeast, Florida community, despite investigators painstaking efforts the case ran cold and remains unsolved. Now ten years later. Investigators who worked the case are sharing closely held details and opening up about what they think happened to Hailey find into thin air wherever you listen to shattered. Shattered contains graphic language and adult themes. On July fifteenth nineteen seventy six a complaint report was filed with the Michigan department of state police the nature of the complaint criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. Frank Sheldon and jailed Richards had just returned to the mainland after taking four boys from Saint Joe's Catholic school to north lock silent for three day trip. Michael Dunsmore, Bill Johnson into other boys were put through horrible unforgettable life altering experiences. One of the two unnamed boys would tell his mother the harrowing story what she heard was enough for her to call thirties. According to the police report, her son told her that he slept in the same bed as Frank Sheldon. This was unorthodox island that he the boy wasn't allowed to sleep in any of the empty beds. Boy said during both nights on the island. Frank, Sheldon rubbed his back and played with his penis while they were in bed. The boy also said Frank Sheldon place the boy's hand on shell. Rens penis and also tried to have anal intercourse with the child, but the boy refused to cooperate. This particular boy, go onto tell police about the cabins on the island Franks, cheap airstrip in how Sheldon like to take the boys hiking. You would also talk about Gerald Richards has gym teacher. He told them Richard's like to be in the room when the young men showered at school. You can tell police do they're onto something because they started to find other children that would talk about Gerald Richards. One told the story of how Richards told a couple of kids at Saint Jo's Catholic school that you needed to fit them for ethnic supporters. So he got a ruler out to measure the boy's genitals. The same kid talked about being lured to Richard's house getting talked into a massage in Richards basement in which the windows were painted. So nobody could see in he said Richards molested him. Then the boy says he swung Richards, Richard stopped. The boy said he was tune bears at the time to tell anyone afterwards. It's almost like they had a little secret society. Former Saint Joe student Michael Dunsmore able to see how Frank Sheldon, Gerald Richards behavior. Maybe resembled that of the Oakland County child killer little little inner circle, and they try to keep everything within that. And when when I had heard that these kids were were killed. My first impression as an adult was. Okay. These kids were going squeal. So we need to shot him up because we don't want anything happening. And then it was then I got thinking that could've been us so easily. I mean, the older boy, the younger boy that we talked about earlier if something had happened, and now we're in panic mode, and what are they going to just shut us all up and say, well, they actually they they drowned or what you know. I don't know. So it's. For them to be able to operate the way they did probably for as long as they did. That's it's very creepy. police kept digging. They kept talking to kids here on another boy told police that Gerald Richards had forced him to perform oral sex on Richard's. Another talked about being Richards assistant during magic shows and said Richards had many photos depicting child pornography. The magician's assistant was around for about three years with Richards and was subjected to countless rapes this point till police allot when and where things were happening said acts occurred import here on and Ben north lochs island. On july. Twenty third nineteen seventy six the police would arrest Gerald Richards import here on based on all the information. The children gave them Richards allowed officers to search his car. They found an envelope filled with photos of naked boys, Elsa fund, another envelope as a name on it. The name was Frank Sheldon at first Richards wouldn't allow the officers to open the Sheldon envelope. But reconsidered after being told a search warrant would be served inside the envelope. Police found a handwritten letter was ridden that day it was from Richards to Sheldon and the letter was a warning Sheldon to watch his phone and his mail saying to check his files and get all his stuff to north FOX island. Will be questioned further once back at the police station, and when asked if Sheldon himself had any photos or movies of young boys, Richards responded this way, quote thought he had how ever had never seen them personally. And quote Richards will go on to talk about Sheldon's philanthropic projects charitable work with young people. The police report actually says quote Richards, obviously, idolizes him and quote him. Of course, being Frank Sheldon Richards, kept going he told thirties about many other occasions in which Sheldon himself and others engaged in sexual acts with young boys. He told police have Sheldon finance trips for Richard's like one to magicians convention Richards, was cooperating with police giving them more information than they could ever possibly hope for why. Well prosecutor Peter Degan from port Huron was offering Richards immunity from further prosecution of any non violent crimes. In exchange for his guilty. Plea of first degree sexual conduct with minors and very importantly, his help in further investigation into others who committed crimes of indecency with minors Richards took the deal. Had its life after the -tective made the original rest of the schoolteacher. And we've found pictures that lettuce to mount eagle Tennessee, which then just expanded after they found the boys farm down there. That was retired. Michigan state police officer former head of the juvenile unit. Michael mois after Richards and the prosecutor cut the deal Richards, talked freely about Frank Sheldon the publications he read and other organizations that existed it was in the area of pedophilia. There were all kinds of different things that were going out. There was a a church that. Professed today. Man, boy love that was good for the child the man and devoid, but primarily the boy the church Michael Moines's, referring to is one call the poise farm in Tennessee a place that allegedly took in wayward children to help protect them. But what was really happening with similar to brother Paul's nature camp, north FOX island children were being sexually violated in films for distribution, Richard still police that the boys farm was where a lot of pictures. We're taking for the pedophile magazine better life monthly there were many. Several. I I don't know exactly. How many publications for various organizations that week? We got promoting man boy. Association's man, boy, love these magazines helped pedophile and pornographers. Learn how to recruit kids. There was publications from various organizations that were in that arena that went out today. Dente fide ways that you could infiltrate boys clubs or boy scouts or little league or big brothers. How you could get access to young men, and again, they would have their inner circle of contacts. And just like if you know somebody would know someone else who number somebody else, you're expand of of ability is in this case worldwide. Police rate of the voice farm in Tennessee. They shut it down in November of nineteen seventy six based on the information. They gathered at the boys farm they were able to link boy scout group in New Orleans to the ring as well. And it was a trail of falling. Dominoes Richards became the alternate informant for police files and pornographers wealthy enough to do so scattered. We heard that he went to my orca, which apparently is an island off the coast of Africa place. I've to have never been to retired. Michigan state police officer Michael Moi's says Frank Sheldon ran to my orca Spain authorities tracked him there, but you continue to move. He went to the Netherlands where he couldn't be extradited boxing historian, Kathy Firestone, figured out. Sheldon was in the Netherlands and wrote to him there. I wrote to 'em and ask him some of his. Interests some his knowledge about whether any shipwrecks that remains he saw there and ask him things about the deer population and other interesting nature things he might know about that would add to my book. I didn't ask him any questions about charges against him. That was being covered very well other reporters, and he did agree to talk to me. He was already in. Another one's at the time that we communicated. At the time you knew what was going on. And you just open the communication to ask about just other things. He was open to that. Right. I was I was working on finishing my book. And this the whole child pornography thing was just breaking news that time, and he had disappeared, and at least out of sight, I had a lot of dismay photos that I had taken over there. And I sent him a box of photos sent him to his attorney downstate. And with my note that I'd like to ask him some things about the archaeology shipwrecks sort of thing that might contribute to my book. Helpful. He did answer. He said he was really not happy about any newspaper people. He didn't have any good words for any of them. But he said he would talk to me about the other subjects if I wished and that's all really I wanted from him. So when you got something back within your jaw hit the floor. I was kind of surprised, but I got a call from the FBI soon after and I just copied my letter to him and France Sheldon's letter to me and sent them on. I really wasn't worried. I knew I didn't do anything wrong. So. I would imagine like anybody if the FBI called me, and it's still startling you kind of taken aback. Well, I guess I was I was a little surprised. It wasn't something. I thought would happen. So I was surprised when it did. But I, but I wasn't worried about it. Was not only comfortable enough to read Kathy Firestone back allegedly. He was still writing for pedophile magazines when he was on the Lam. May twenty seventh nineteen seventy seven at a hearing to investigate juvenile delinquency. Gerald, Richard spoke to the ninety fifth congress, and Chicago I was able to get the transcript from that hearing Senator John Culver of Iowa asks Richards year, did you actually begin to produce child pornography? Richard responds. I I met a young boy in January of nineteen Seventy-three who became our babysitter. And a model he was thirteen or fourteen years old and a neighbor I filmed him for two years, but the material was not sold later Richards was asked how many models he worked with at the high point. I would say that I would have access of thirty models. I could work with Senator Culver asks would those mostly be obtained in the port Huron community Richards, answered only about ten I would think there were only about two or three directly in port here on the others. I got from Pontiac and Detroit area by making arrangements to swap models. Senator Culver would ask Richards. If the kids came from familiar backgrounds in Richards told him yes very much. So you would add what I and anyone else that you've seen getting models would look for would be someone that had a poor family background as far as father image in the home. He went on to say, I decided in the fall of nineteen seventy five that I had to stop this type of activity because I felt I had broken a promise that I had made to get out of the bookstore. Business before my little boy was born. He was two and a half. And I was still working there. Richards would say his promise was made to God. than so much research on this part of the story. The people involved in the island at self had to go see it for myself, and what traces of Frank Sheldon remained. That's a little concerning. And we do have a massive rain. That's coming. In October of twenty eighteen I met Kathy Firestone at fresh air aviation in Charlevoix, Michigan. All the toys R other than that. It's only eleven minutes to get out there the island what we found surprising. Somebody in there. We'll be right back. I should be up and see what's in here. When new delivery comes from hellofresh. My whole family gets excited. Hellofresh is a meal kit delivery service that shops plans and deliver step-by-step recipes and premeasured ingredients. So you can just cook. And enjoy our delivery came with three unbelievably good meals, but our favorite was definitely the southwest beef tacos. Our family is a typical family everyone has their own tastes. So classic veggie regular family options. We can find something that everyone will eat with. Hellofresh. We spent so much time getting our kids food our food and with hellofresh we spend a lot less time meal planning in grocery shopping. So we can get back to the stuff that we love to do as a family with hellofresh. We got out of our recipe rut started cooking outside of our conference on. And when we did that we discovered new delicious recipes, so it's really great about. Hellofresh. Is it does all the meal planning shopping in prepping? So you can focus on a healthier you in a happier. Family for eighty dollars off your first month of hellofresh. But a hellofresh dot com slash shattered eighty. That's hellofresh dot com slash S. H A T T E R E D Pete zero. Papa store Kathy Firestone. I had just touched down north FOX island. This fall of twenty eighteen when we made the trip fall colors were on full display at a small window of time to be there. Because rain was headed our way and rain and grass runway don't mix. Well. It was. For walkabout. I imagine. Yes, sir. Our pilot checks with us just before we make our way out where we're going. I know the cabin was found that way. And I don't know if that's the path to it before. I think I walked. I don't know. It's a brisk day wind whipping around it's hard to hear each other. As we head down this path even just a couple of feet away from each other. We're headed towards the southern end of the island where the main cabin was. There really is no escape. Right. You're here. And you're. It's hard to make out what she says. But she's talking about the boys who are brought to the island saying, no escape. Nobody could hear if you were screaming. She's right isolated and on this particular day. Very windy. Our walk goes on for maybe four or five minutes, and then Kathy looks off to a right down to the south west. She was last here in the mid nineties, and she knows the islands layout. She's taking me to the main cabin where Frank Sheldon set up shop unspeakable acts place with young boys along the way, we already come across a shed that was left behind by shell them. But it seemed that Kathy was starting to doubt her memory until. It's got to be a roof roof. How the heck do we get over? There is a question. Back to the structure, but it was just the bones of what used to be the main cabin the mainframe the metal beams look twisted and warped this place. Definitely burned down at some point. A concrete slab in a fireplace. Where all that remained, but we notice a fully intact cabin off to our right as we walk over. We notice a modern bag and some lighter fluid. Somebody in there. Inside the cabin greeted by smiling woman. She's reading by the front window book. Looks like it might be an abridged version of the holy bible. She begins telling us about her love for the island. From from rapid river. Michigan. You know? Her name is fame arenas her in her husband frequent the island from spring to summer. Come here. All of yours face kids. Spent a lot of time growing up here. They actually used Frank Sheldon's Jeep which was left behind on the island here by the first owner. Yeah. We would arch kids. Learn how to drive here on the island. And imagine that learning how to drive and Frank Sheldon's cheap. Strange this cabin core. Standing in. It has two bedrooms. Bisected by a bathroom. The other bedroom are bunk beds and another twin bed. They look old. I can't help. But wonder if they've been around since the nineteen seventies. I'd never got an answer to that. Doing very bad things to children police documents, which outlined the trip, Gerald Richards, and Frank Sheldon took the island with four young boys shows, a diagram of the buildings that are on the island, and where everyone slept this cabin is where Michael Dunsmore and Bill Johnson shared a room actually stayed in this room that we're talking to Fay in. Through the bathroom on the other side of this bunk house, that's where Gerald Richard shared a room and a bed with a thirteen year old boy, it's crazy and awful to think about as I'm standing inside this room. Really? It's so sad. It's not just that. It's. For the kids that were taking advantage of Nessun her husband's, but a lot of time here. I mean, it almost looks like they've moved stuff in. I can't imagine spending the night at a place like this knowing what happened personally didn't like this place. Oh, my the bad vikes what for a long time Christian. But I think. Personally, I'm over that. Because my husband says her and her husband like the island so much. They are willing to overlook the past. For people like Kathy Firestone area. We're talking about these islands like home to them. I love I love all the islands leelanau county has five islands each one of these islands has its character and its beauty. And it just you know, I've researched them I've written about him. And it's just hard to think that sets horrible things could have happened in such a beautiful place. Firestone's spent time growing on islands like south FOX island part of her life story. Does the whole perimeter of north FOX island and south FOX island and a lot of the Manitou not as much much bigger. But I've been. Covered quite a bit of ground on all the islands. I just like to think of him as happy places and places to relax and enjoy nature not place where torture happened. It's you know, you try and find a tie between the pornography operations operating at the time in our kids and. I think it explains a lot it explains if they were. You know, caught up news pawns, author, Marnie Kunin. It would explain. Why it was so well hidden because power and money can make a lot of things. Go. That's sad. I don't know that there's a real strong connection between what was going on on FOX Highland in our kids. Keenan says our kids because that's how close she is TIMMY kings, dad berry in his family. How close she is to this entire case. She's looked at this thing from words and backwards. Birmingham in nineteen seventy seven was the epicenter of open county child killer investigation task force was getting more new information than ever before. For instance, if we get a very hot dip, it will be immediately given a tip number theories and strategies were becoming unorthodox. This is Oakland County executive Brooks Patterson is Wednesday. Coach said refined these kids along the edge of the road. Like, a squirrel drop nuts. So the next take place swirl road place late staked out squirrel road for twenty four thirty days twenty hours a day. AMC gremlins took center stage. Brook's actually suspended the fourth amendment in Oakland County while this investigation was going on. If you drove a gremlin Oakland County, you're getting pulled over in the car is getting search. On the next shattered. But it seems like every time I get one piece of information raises two more questions. The recent. It's it's a problem is because they have they don't have the the. The era motion involved. Okay. They they want that answer. We would love to give them that answer. It's not something. I'm capable of doing. If you had a blue gremlin in this area during this time. Your name was mud because people thought you were the killer. So never forget. If your eyes and ears open it could save a child's life. Maybe yours may be mine. For the atom school Birmingham. If you have information about the case, please tell investigators it can be reached at eight three three seven eight four nine four to five. That's the tip line. And we want to hear your personal stories about the Oakland County child killer if you have them call us and share at three one three two two three two two three seven. I wanna think Michael Moi's, Kathy Firestone. Michael Dunsmore, famously Ness Joan Celtic ten rock Arnie, Keenan rooks. Patterson berry king. Jessica Cooper and a big thanks to fresh air aviation who flew us to the island. I also recognize the outstanding help from anesthesia Clem, that's Joe prints and tad Davis for their help. During all the interviews. Sack. Rosen who helps produce the show Kenny else off for his help with a website, which looks great Mary Wallis and the crew with the Walter p Reuther library at Wayne State. They've Burch who made it possible to record all the film and the audio Kevin Dietz for his help along the way and Rocca the executive producer of special projects. Our team also produced a five docu series on the story. If you want to see the faces of the kids, Christine, Jill Mark, TIMMY can see them at shattered podcast dot com. Until next time.