The week in Michigan on book tour for The Murder of Maggie Hume, was incredible. We met a lot of neat people and were welcomed with a tremendous amount of support in having this crime resolved once and for all. Like many books I’ve worked on, this one is never fully complete – not until the case is tried.
I know people think book tours are about selling books. Not true. Oh, I’m sure some authors subscribe to that – but not us. When you write about a cold case it is about getting the story out there.
We started out with an interview with WBCK radio in Battle Creek. For Victoria, this was her first radio interview and she did great. I’ve done all of this stuff before, so for me this is old hat. It was fantastic to watch my co-author daughter go through her first radio and TV interviews though. It brought back the memories of when this was all new to me.
WBCK – getting the word out.
Victoria and I paid our respects to the victim as well. This wasn’t a photo-op, this was us fulfilling a solemn duty, an obligation, to a young woman we never met.
Mandi Zimmerman, a Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department officer, has become our buddy over the last year and is one of those handful of people that worked behind the scenes to make this book come to fruition. Mandi was one of the first people to say, “look into this case,” and facilitated some of the meetings we had that started this entire project. Mandi invited us for a tour of the jail in Battle Creek. I will admit, touring a jail sounds a little off the beaten path – but this was four quarts of awesome sauce. The jail is highly innovative in their approach to incarceration. It really is a city within the city. We learned a lot – and even got a view of the cell that held Michael Ronning (as well as a chance to talk to folks that knew him then). I came away deeply impressed with the administration of the facility. The staff were top-notch officers who have difficult jobs to do but work with incredible focus.
Our October 9 Willard Library session at the Miller-Stone building was packed – quite literally standing room only with over 181 guests. For Victoria, this was the largest audience she had ever spoken too. She even got to put her nursing skills to a test when a guest fell. Victoria gets a lot of experience helping elderly people who fall in her day job. The audience was very supportive of our talk. We were surprised when we finally got to meet John Hume. We had been corresponding with him for some time but had never seen him live. The support of the family was important in our efforts and it was nice to associate a face with a name. The Hume’s have been through a lot and it had to be warming to see that the Battle Creek community was solidly behind them in hoping this case is resolved.
From the BC Shopper – a glimpse of the crowd
The family of Bart Thiessen were there as well. By the end of our trip we felt like unofficial members of their clan. Our book released details of the auto accident that took their son’s life and the possible ties to this murder. The book was a means of getting that story out in public for the first time.
Also at the meeting was the mayor of Battle Creek and his wife – both of which were former police officers. We really liked meeting Barbara Walters who had worked the case, she had such energy and memories of this investigation. Calhoun County Prosecutor Dave Gilbert was there as well as our friend Bill Howe who was wonderfully instrumental in our research efforts as a former investigator for the Prosecutor’s office. Mr. Gilbert was quoted the next day in the Enquirer saying that he hoped the book would lead to new tips in the case. I’m pleased to say that has started to happen.
We can’t thank Bill Howe enough for his guidance and support in the writing of the book. Former officer Elwood Priess was also there which was a real treat too, I even saw him signing some books. Judge Mike Jaconette, a former cold case investigator in the Hume murder was present as well. In total, there were almost a dozen former officers with some sort of connection to the case who were there with one objective in mind – getting final justice for Maggie Hume. Some of the retired officers even said they were willing to work the case in their spare time pro bono. The community is solidly behind resolving this case for Maggie and it was an honor to meet these people. I came away thinking, “this case is going to get closed.”
On Friday morning we went to Grand Rapids to be on Take 5 and Company to talk about the case. http://www.wzzm13.com/story/entertainment/events/2014/10/10/murder-maggie-hume-book-authors-battle-creek/16975391/ That afternoon we did a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Grand Rapids – and had dinner with cold case specialist and documentary creator – David Schock. Dave wrote the intro to my book, Murder in Battle Creek, on the murder of Daisy Zick. If you remember that Janet Chandler case a few years ago, it was Dave’s class (and his leadership) that did the documentary that drove that case to being reexamined and leading to multiple convictions. People that write about cold cases are a different breed of true crime authors. It’s a tight-knit community and David is one of the most dynamic and innovative men you will meet. We are on the same mission, using different media to achieve those goals. Check out his site (and the cases he documents) at www.delayedjustice.com.
Saturday was our book signing at Barnes and Noble in Battle Creek. We continually had 3-5 people gathered at the desk talking to us or getting autographs. Several tips were generated there, right at the table at Barnes and Noble. We also had people out in the store just in case the suspect we named in the book, Jay Carter, appeared. We had a potential sighting of him, hovering behind us, but this remains unconfirmed. We got photos as well from our friends in the store. The mystery man left the store after pacing behind us for a few minutes. If it was him, and the intent was to intimidate or somehow confront us, it failed. I tend to think it was just a mistaken sighting.
Sunday was a lecture session with the Battle Creek Historical Society. The turnout here was good as well. People in the community all seemed to share a common theme – they want this crime resolved. They want an arrest. They want the families involved to have closure.
We met up with family over at the Dark Horse in Marshall for dinner. It was actually nice enough to have a meal outside, probably the last for the year. It was great to see that the Horse hasn’t changed with all of the publicity their TV show had heaped upon them.
Monday we did an interview with Dave Eddy for his local cable TV show which will air in a few months. We are related to Dave by marriage and his interests in the case were keen. Sheri Sherban also had us on for a segment of her TV show Be Scene too. People liked to focus on the fact that we are the only father daughter team writing true crime books but the real story was the case itself.
That evening we had dinner with the Thiessen family. These fine folks attended a lot of our events and were far too complimentary of the work Victoria and I did. We now have a bond that is beyond words.
While in town my blog got hit by someone associated with the suspect of the crime, Jay Carter. It was pretty clear from the content. This person tried to spin a story around Mr. Carter’s innocence. My blog is not a forum for murder suspects to try and vindicate themselves. Mr. Carter refused to meet with the cold case team in 2005, hardly the act of someone who was interested in resolving this case or clearing up old questions/issues. One thing was clear – we are generating some tension out there. I am more than willing to be the lightning rod for that kind of anxiety if it brings about an arrest in his case – be that any of the suspects or someone else. Maggie and Bart deserve at least that. Victoria and I put ourselves out there in public because we know the value of generating media interest in a case.
Tuesday we went to Ann Arbor to speak at the Pittsfield Library about the book. We had a good size audience there, including people who knew the Hume family and/or lived in Battle Creek. We did events in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids because we wanted the story of this crime to go far and wide in hopes of generating tips. This is a crime that goes beyond Battle Creek. People everywhere are interested in cold cases.
The results…the tips are coming in!
So far Victoria and I have received four tips related to this crime and have turned them over to the BCPD. They have them and will be following up on them. As an author, I won’t solve this case, I am simply the teller of the facts and the crafting of the story in a readable format. The professionals will solve this – and they have more tools and techniques available to them than ever before.
I understand people want to know what tips we received. Sorry, that’s for the police. When this case goes to trial, which we hope it will, we’ll write about it then. This book isn’t done. It won’t be complete without the arrest and conviction chapters…chapters I’m looking forward to writing when the time comes.
We encourage people to share their copies of the book (sacrilege to most authors) with people that may have lived in the area at the time. I’m sure my publisher cringes at that thinking. Everyone that reads this book is a possible source for new information that can bring this case to an end. So spread the word, tell the story.
We aren’t going to solve this case. One of you, however, may. Don’t worry if the tip seems inconsequential. Contact the Battle Creek Police Department. The key to this case is someone out there that heard or saw something. Like the X-Files used to say, “The Truth is Out There.”