Anniversary of a Crime – The Murder of Maggie Hume

Late last week we received our author’s copies of our book:  The Murder of Maggie Hume – Cold Case in Battle Creek.  The timing of the release of the book, which came out last week, was something my co-author and I noted – it was related to the anniversary of her murder.

Maggie Book Cover

When you are a true crime author, the anniversary of a murder you have written about has special meaning to you.  It is a date that sticks in your head – it nags at you like an ache in your joints.  You can’t let it pass without recognition of some sort.

As a writer, you like to delude yourself that you “know” the victim after writing about them, but in reality you only scratch the surface about the person and their personality.  The victim’s family and friends knew them and the best you can get is stories and fading memories of events from survivors.  As an author, you find yourself just chronicling facts with that desire to tell more about the person.  You want to give the victim a voice in your work, and you try to do that, but it is often just your perception of that person.  Time and a violent act separate us permanently from those we write about.  Authors are left to document a crime and the reaction to it, and try as we might, we never get to fully know the victim on the level we desire.  With this case that was even more important.  Lost in decades of political turmoil and positioning is the victim herself.

As to the anniversary, it was on this date, in 1982, that Margaret “Maggie” Hume’s body was discovered in the closet of her apartment in Battle Creek MI.  The discovery of her body was the start of an investigation that continues to this day.

We know a few things about her last few hours on August 17, 1982.  Along with a friend, she consoled a co-worker who had been terminated that day.  She met up with her boyfriend Virgil “Jay” Carter at the Ritzee in Urbandale.  The two of them went back to her apartment..  Her roommate called her and told Maggie that she would not be back until late morning from picking up her sister at the airport.  Maggie received a call from a friend (a former boyfriend) about a beer delivery for an upcoming birthday party.  Maggie pretended to not know who was calling, apparently to avoid her boyfriend from having a jealous reaction.  We know her phone was off the hook sometime after 11:00pm.  At some point we know Maggie went to bed for the night.  We have her boyfriend’s account of the evening in detail, but much of that has to be called into question.

The evidence tells us fragments of what happened after that.  We also know that someone climbed up onto her balcony that night and entered through the door into the apartment.  They went down the hall directly to her room and attacked her.  There was a scream heard by the neighbors at 2:00am (August 18), which was assumed to be the time she confronted her killer.  She was sexually assaulted and strangled with a ligature.  Her murderer picked up her body and placed it in the closet, then covered it up with a “Snuggie” sack and blanket in an attempt to conceal the body. The murderer went out the way he came in, via the door on the balcony.

Those are the things we know for sure.  Everything else, and there’s a great deal more, is open to debate.

After that horrific crime her body would not be discovered until the afternoon, and then only after her roommate, Margaret Van Winkle, insisted a more thorough search of the apartment. “I don’t want to open a closet door or find a body under a bed or behind a couch.”  The Battle Creek Police Department took this crime seriously – Maggie’s father was a prominent local football coach and revered in the community, but their initial walk-thru of the apartment was cursory at best. In fairness, Jay Carter and Maggie’s brother John had searched the apartment and had not discovered her too.  Mistakes were made in the investigation, almost from the beginning.  Crime scene investigation has come a long way since 1982.  When they did a more detailed search they discovered the victim’s body they had overlooked before.

What followed was three decades of determined but sometimes misdirected investigation.  This was a case that would pit the Calhoun County Prosecutor’s Office against the Battle Creek Police Department in a bitter contest of wills, egos, and the law.  Even today, the case stirs passion in the former investigators.  The legal wrangling intertwined with a confession by a convicted murderer wrecked havoc on all parties involved.  One thing I can say with some assurance, we didn’t talk to a single officer today that doesn’t want justice served.  Investigators are like that.  What varies between them is their thoughts as to who actually killed Maggie.

But tonight isn’t about our book.  It’s not about small-town politics and infighting.  It isn’t about theories.  It IS about not forgetting the victim – Maggie Hume.  For one night, we have to remember what happened in 1982.  Letting this crime slip from our collective memories would be an injustice – an injustice in a case that has already suffered enough with that stigma.  In a newspaper interview before his death, Maggie’s father said, “I just don’t want people to forget.” Tonight we honor her by not forgetting what happened in that waning summer of 1982.

In researching our book on this case, we spoke to a lot of people tied to the victim and many were supportive of our digging, our probing at what went wrong in the investigation.  The anniversary of this crime should strengthen our collective resolve to bring her justice.  A good friend of mine, David Schock – an expert on Michigan cold cases, told me, “Somebody always knows something,” a quote he borrowed from retired detective Jim Fairbanks.   It’s just a matter of the right people coming forward.  As an author, I believe this mantra.  Someone does know what happened to Maggie that night, or saw something and never pieced it all together as part of the crime.  The killer talked – they often do, confiding in a friend or lover what they did.  Karma is a patient stalking beast…and the killer should fear the retribution that karma and time can bring.

Maggie Hume should not be remembered for her death, but for the lives she touched when she was still alive.  We should not be caught in our personal opinions or egos, but strive to resolve this case.  We must respect the family who lost a loved one – and her dear friends who lost a beloved companion.  For them this anniversary is a painful injury that recurs every year, a nagging reminder of what was lost.

Most importantly…we should not rest until justice can be delivered.

33 thoughts on “Anniversary of a Crime – The Murder of Maggie Hume

  1. Alan Tolf

    Great job on this book of the Hume homicide. I think you covered all the bases. Let justice now come forward with new information from those who are holding it. Al Tolf-Detective- retired

  2. Robert Jones

    Wow… sounds like a book that needs to be read. I hope justice can be found. True crime books are fascinating to me. I won’t say enjoyable, but just fascinating. Ann Rule books are my favorite. I am enjoying many of them now that they have been updated into ebook format. “The Stranger Beside Me” is a series of twists and turns that will leave the reader spellbound. Thankfully Ted Bundy was caught and justice served. Many of his murders took place near my home in Utah. My hats go off to law enforcement officers who work so hard to bring justice to victims and their families.

  3. This book will show that there was not only one victim in this case…the entire City of Battle Creek suffered a loss. This is why everyone needs to read this book. It will be the subject of watercooler discussions and over the fence dialogue for some time to come. Lets hope and pray those discussions will prompt people who know more, who knew Maggie to come forward. I worked the investigation and still could not put the book down.

  4. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

    Bill I really appreciate your comments. Your work on this case was incredible – a testimony to the other men and women that worked on this over the years. I hope it is the topic of conversation – and I hope people come forward.

  5. Melissa Frantz-Sayers

    Where was I on August 17th, 1982, at approximately 5:30-6:00 pm…a beautiful, sunny, mild summer evening?
    I was meandering up to the tree-lined block of my childhood home…Central Street. I was accompanied by one of my four besties, Terri. We’d just come from our cheerleading practice, worn out and sweat-soaked, eyeing the unwelcome hill at the bottom of my neighborhood. Trudging along we were caught off-guard when Terri’s little brother, Matt, came towards us on his bike…peddling ferociously, then skidding to a halt almost knocking us over. I remember thinking/wondering why on earth was Matt riding on our street, by himself, since they lived one block over and he was too young (not allowed!) to go gallivanting. Before either Terri or I could question the lil’ gunther he blurts out…well, suffice to say, he blurted out the ‘news’. We didn’t believe him! Again…we literally did not believe him!! We immediately tripped over our own words, attempting to chastise him & make him aware of the seriously inappropriate nature of his ‘joke’! Terri admonished him a bit more & sent him home. With mouths agape & heads still shaking in bewildered astonishment, we continued up the street. The next scene will be embedded in my mind forever…no words were spoken…none were needed. Matts declaration was not a sick joke. It was an unimaginable nightmare. As we crested that hill, we saw Maggie’s very best friend, Leigh, crouched on the curb, in front of the Hume’s house, head buried in her hands, sobbing uncontrollably. We saw several people crowded on the interior porch…we saw a police officer but no squad car…we saw a myriad of neighbors clutching one another, some crying silently others standing in muted disbelief. I will never not remember this moment.
    Maggies death shocked & shook & changed our neighborhood…our community…our WORLD…forever. For us, the ‘children’ on the block…it truly was a beginning to the end of our innocence.
    Maggie has NEVER been forgotten! I’m merely one memory, one voice, out of thousands that can attest to this fact. My thoughts & prayers are with the Hume family at this time. I cannot imagine the heartache they continue to endure…the agony I hope to never know.
    I will reply again once I’ve read the book. Thank you for opening this forum & allowing others to comment.

    1. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

      Melissa – your post was quite moving. I hope you find that I handled this tragedy fairly and openly. I look forward to your thoughts once you read the book as well.

      1. Melissa Frantz-Sayers

        Thank you Blaine…I’m anxiously awaiting my delivery from Amazon! There is a 4+ week waiting list at our local library so I went ahead and ordered my own copy.
        Here is a tidbit you may find interesting…I was a witness for the prosecution during the Patty Rozanski trial. I was one of the last persons/people to have seen her before she disappeared. During a pre-trial interview with Conrad Sindt (the Prosecuting Atty) I remember him telling me they were certain who Maggie’s killer was, that he’d been under surveillance 24/7 for the past 2 years, yet not enough evidence was had for a conviction. Crazy, crazy, crazy now that I look back on how close, yet diverse, my connection was to both Maggie and Patti. I walked to school alone, in the pre-dawn hours, the morning Patti went missing. I had to decorate a locker before classes began as part of a cheerleading duty. Patti entered thru the front lobby a few feet from where I was sitting…she passed by me, we said hello, & she continued on down the hallway. A few minutes later she exited the way she came in. That was it. When the announcement came over our P.A. system by one of our grade principals immediately went to the office and the detective was summoned in. I gave them what info I had and two years later (I believe that was the time frame?!) I testified at her trial. I was always second-guessing myself…always thinking “am I CERTAIN it was Patti that I saw that morning?!?”
        Once on the witness stand it became clear that yes, indeed, it had been Patti! With every article of clothing that I’d been asked to describe (re: what she’d been wearing when I saw her that morning) the exact garment was placed in front of me…albeit muddied & crumpled & so forth…
        I made one mistake, or my memory served me wrong…I described a pair of navy blue corduroys and they had actually been a forest green color (or vice versa! It’s been 30+ yrs!).
        Wow! Interesting to be revisiting all of this now!!

      2. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

        Incredible story Melissa. I like to think that books on cold cases help people process what has happened.

  6. Susan

    Blaine, I read your book tonight and hope it helps to jog minds and bring people forward so Maggie and her family have true closure.

    While I didn’t live in Battle Creek till 1999+ I do vividly remember Mr Ronnings on the nightly news report.

    On a side note, do you know if any headway has been made on the Mary Lands case of Marshall?

    1. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

      I agree with your thoughts. I know the prime suspect in the Lands case has recently left prison and is once more on the streets. Other than that – I don’t know anything else.

      That disappearance/murder really is disturbing and is another one I hope gets brought to trial soon.

  7. Maggie's cousin

    Thank you for publishing this book and keeping the memory of Maggie alive. I was a little girl when this happened and I remember vividly the heartache that ran through my family when we found out the news and ever since. I have purchased the book and plan to read it in the near future. I am one of Maggie’s cousins and always remember one particular visit to my Grandma’s condo where I sat on her lap as she read books to me.

    1. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

      I think I speak for Victoria and myself when I say we cannot ever fully comprehend the pain your family has endured. We hope, in some small way, that this book helps bring about justice for this horrific crime.

  8. Lyzzette

    This blog states that the murder was not caught. I hope that your book
    Actually states that the murder was caught. Down in florida confessing to this murder and numerous others to have a reduced sentence. If not this is a very innaccurate book. Justice for this has been served and all
    Suspects were cleared almost 20yrs ago.

    1. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

      Actually, Michael Ronning was in Arkansas when he confessed and that confession, as we discuss in the book, was highly questionable. This crime has not been resolved – as evidenced by the 2005 cold case team investigation.

      1. Lyzzette

        Your right it was Arkansas, very right, however there was three different police departments that cleared Virgil Carter. Once the investigation was reopened he was never called back into questioning. However with this I have a hard time with you writing things or doing poor investigating or not contacting suspects that you are blantinly going in a round about way of trying to convict with a personal vendetta. I know as an author you have a right to public knowledge. Here is the thing as an author you do not have a right to legally put in slanderous hearsay from people. I don’t doubt your writing ability in the way of being able to make a good story for money purposes. I have a problem that in the midst of you trying to make money with a story you did not do proper investigating just for your more suspenseful ending. It sickens me to think that you are taken this victim and trying to cause more victims in the process. I hope that your pockets are lined deep from the sales of this book, because you will find that your book and the potrayal of these events are not very accurate.

      2. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

        First off – three police departments NEVER cleared Jay Carter. Three departments were never in his jurisdiction. You should do some investigating yourself. Secondly, what our research was based on was not heresay, but testimony provided officers in the actual investigation and transcripts and tapes of interviews with the suspects. Your allegation that we did shoddy examinations is pure speculation on your part. We immersed ourselves in the actual case files for this crime and interviewed many people. Mr. Carter was sent a letter to his address in Oxford NC and he was provided an opportunity to contribute to the book – he never replied. He was not the only person. Third, if you believe this is about making money you know nothing about how authors are paid. For the time and effort we have put in – we make less than someone working at McDonalds working hourly. You questioning our motivations for this shows just how little you actually know about myself and my co-author. Since you have never met us, talked with us, or had any other contact other than your highly inaccurate previous posting – I would venture that it is YOU that knows little about the case.

        In terms of us having some sort of personal vendetta – I did not know any of the parties involved with this crime prior to this case.

        My co-author and I presented the FACTS of the case based on Mr. Carter’s and Mr. Ronning’s own recorded testimony.

        It is clear you have an opinion as to who is responsible for this crime. No doubt you are a family member or friend of someone involved.

        While you desire to paint me personally as a greedy profiteer – I will only tell you my desire is the truth and justice for the family. I don’t care if that is Michael Ronning or Jay Carter (or someone else) being tried and convicted of this crime. All we have done is present the facts – while what you have done is vent with a clear agenda.

        In order to save you time in this pointless debate, I assure you I will not post further comments from you on this blog. Being my personal blog, I determine what goes up and what doesn’t. I allowed this because it was so childish and misinformed. I wish you the best in your future ventures and invite you to not purchase books I write in the future.

  9. I wasn’t aware it was possible to have a personal vendetta on a person you’ve never met.

    The correct definition of slander is when “someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defame”. Last time I checked, direct quotes and facts from police files are not “untruths”. If the way you read the book or information about the crime seemed to be the untruth, perhaps you should take that up with the BCPD that actually interviewed Carter and dealt with the crime 30+ years ago.

    This crime has never had a trial, but it has potential. Although I find your comments entertaining, I do realize how little you actually know of the crime.

  10. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

    I recently removed a post by “Lyzzette” regarding this case. First and foremost – this person clearly has a link to the police-named suspect – Jay Carter. Second, this person implied that our investigation and interviewing techniques were flawed. Further, this biased individual indicated that we were doing something illegal by publishing our book on this subject.

    My blog is my blog, and it is my right to determine what content gets posted here. If “Lyzzette” wants to start his/her own blog about me – I say go for it. (I believe has been taken though.) Any day I have a suspect in a murder, or a relative of their’s ranting against me (no matter how baseless), I generally accept it. If, however, it crosses into libel, there will be repercussions. My blog, is not going to be a forum for relatives/friends of possible suspects to attempt to sway public opinion.

    About our technique of investigating – we wrote Mr. Carter on 2/27 at his known address at the time in Oxford NC. I paid an investigative service to obtain this. His phone number was unlisted at the time which is irrelevant…I don’t call people to engage them because I’ve found most people just hang up on me, especially potential murder suspects. His/Her contention that I should have “done more” to contact Mr. Carter is opinion. I suggest that Mr. Carter check his mail, respond, or (if he denies the letter was received) he should arrange to have his mail forwarded. There were a lot of folks we wrote that opted to not respond to our inquiries…his was one of many.

    In terms of the legality – all we have done is relay information gleaned from police reports and our interviews with those individuals associated with the case. True, these have not faced the light of cross examination in court…but hopefully that time will come, and soon. There is little or no difference between what we wrote and what a newspaper columnist could with the same degree of access to the files. We did not give Mr. Carter the tag of suspect – that was done by the authorities who worked the case as late as 2005. We simply made it public for the first time.

    I have no proverbial ax to grind with anyone in the case – be it Mr. Ronning (who also declined to respond to our query) or Mr. Carter. Any implication of anything different is pure conjecture. I’ve never met either of these individuals face-to-face.

    I’m a big boy here and I have no problem taking a few ill-worded shots at my integrity by someone tied to an open cold case. I am more than willing to take some minor internet abuse for Maggie, Bart, and anyone else impacted by this case. My research techniques are solid. I make mistakes – because sometimes my sources are in error. I’m not perfect.

    This isn’t my first rodeo. I refuse to be intimidated or cajoled with implied threats.

  11. Marcene Telfer

    Great job of responding to Lyzzette, Blaine. It is obvious they are not an impartial observer in this case. I have tremendous respect for Dennis Mullins, and believe me, I really wanted to believe that Michael Ronning was the killer–but the evidence just does not point to him. The other suspect has gotten away with murder (if he did indeed to it) for over 30 years. I would say if he wants to clear his name, instead of having people attack you, he should contact the Battle Creek Police and come in for further questioning and take a new lie-detector test.
    I also wonder about the woman who sat on the table at the presentation at the Miller-Stone building last week. When she was asking you why you had not “looked more into the negro who had called Maggie” I wondered if she might be a friend or relative of the suspect. Her comments seemed very bizarre.

  12. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

    Marcene – I believe she was referring to the call that Jim Downey had made to Maggie. In one discussion, Jay Carter had indicated that it was a negro who had made the “prank” call – when in reality it was just Downey reaching out to Maggie regarding a beer order.

    I think her comments were slightly out of context.

  13. Battle Creek Resident

    I just finished your book. I couldn’t put it down! I am a lifelong Battle Creek resident. I was only in elementary school when Maggie was murdered so I didn’t really remember this happening. I do know that Jay Carter currently resides in Battle Creek. I wouldn’t say that he is a friend but I have known him for many years. He was the one who told me about him being a person of interest in the murder of his girlfriend years ago. He told me this not long after we met. He never went into detail. He just said that the information could be brought to me so he wanted to tell me first. He seems like a very calm and honest man. I chose to believe him. I’ve since read the book. I don’t know what to believe now. One thing I do know is that I want justice for Maggie.

    I have a question. Could she be exhumed to check for skin under her fingernails? I don’t remember reading that they took any samples from her.

    1. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

      Good books always give you reasons to reflect. All we have done is transcribe and document the significant portions of the police investigation and, in the case of Michael Ronning, conveyed the material from court transcripts.

      I seem to remember that no scrapings were found under her fingernails. We can only surmise that whoever entered the room that night did so quickly (otherwise her glasses would have been put on) and from the blow to her head, disabled her before killing her.

  14. tvsellen

    Hi, Just heard about the case on a podcast and it intrigued me. You said you obtained case files from the Freedom of Information Act. I too am trying to get case files and have been met with nothing but roadblocks since the investigation is still considered “open.” Do you have any suggestions with how I should proceed. The case I am writing about occurred in Iowa about 40 years ago.

    Can’t wait to read your book.

  15. Kelly

    I read the book and thought it was great. My conclusion, and it seemed like the obvious one to draw from the book, was that Cutler did it. It really seemed so clear. I’m shocked based on the info provided that he was never prosecuted. Is there something that I am missing as to why no prosecution?

  16. Battle Creek Resident #2

    Those of us who knew Maggie well, and who knew her and Jay as a couple have NEVER had any doubt about who the guilty party is! Trust me!

  17. Stephen B.

    I moved to Battle Creek, from Connecticut in 1986. I attended ST Philip HS where I played football for Coach Hume. He was well respected and beloved by all. I just ordered your book as I cannot believe/understand how such a senseless crime in such a small, tight knit community can continue to be unsolved. I didn’t know Coach Hume’s daughter personally, but I knew many people that did and loved her. There is no doubt that someone(s) knows exactly what happened the night she was killed. The love I have for her father compels me to read about his daughters murder, and implore those who know what happened to do what’s right by Maggie and her family.

  18. Janet Wahrenberger

    I just finished your book and the more I read the more frustrated I became. My first question is how is it that the police just let Carter go after the comments he made about the crime that weren’t known to anyone but the police? Based on what I read, I can’t imagine a grand jury not wanting to go forward with this.

    1. Janet – a lot of the reason is they wanted a 100% solid case. Combine this with the thought that Michael Ronning might be a serial killer, (and his confession) and matters became even more muddied. I still believe that this case can and will one day be resolved…be it Carter or Ronning (or someone else). I trust that the BCPD will not let this case go frigid-cold.

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