The Grindr Killing – The Murder of Kevin Bacon This Christmas Eve

This is a special posting for fans of Crime Café.  I usually don’t write about current crimes, my preference is writing about cold cases or older crimes.  This case is worthy of special attention on several levels.  I am also doing a contest for a copy of A Special Kind of Evil – our book on the Colonial Parkway Serial Murders.  Follow this blog on WordPress and send me an email at bpardoe870@aol.com to qualify.

Now, onto my special blog post for fans of Crime Café.

When you write true crime like me, certain crimes do grab you.  This one came to me as a result of my son who was visiting us for the holidays.  The victim had gone missing before Christmas and my son knew him because he wanted to shadow him at the hair salon my son owns in Ferndale, Michigan.  My son, Alex, really isn’t a true crime buff like his sister (and my co-author) but this one hit close to home with him…so Alex, this one’s for you.

We talked about the crime all through the holidays.  It was one of those that could and should have been averted.  There was almost a Jeffrey Dahmer vibe to it.

Here’s the scant facts that we know at this point:

  • The victim in this case is Kevin Bacon.  No, not the actor, but the name similarity even brought that actor to share his outrage at this crime.
  • Kevin Bacon was told his roommate, Michelle Myers, that he was leaving Christmas Eve to meet a man he found on the dating app Grindr.  He was last seen at 5:23 p.m.  He lived in Swartz Creek just outside of Flint, Michigan.  He was a big guy, six-two, 250 lbs, so whoever took control of him had to have used some sort of means (a gun, or knife) to do so.  He has the look of a kind, gentle young man, which makes this crime seem even more horrible.
  • At 6:12 p.m. he sent a text to his roommate saying he was out for a while, he was having a good time and did not know when he’d be back.
  • Bacon’s car was found abandoned with his clothing, wallet, and cell phone in it.
  • As of now, Mark Latunski, a 50 year old Shiawassee County resident has been arrested for the murder and mutilation of Mr. Bacon.  This was not his first clash with the law.  Two times in 2013 he was arrested for custodial kidnapping, namely the abduction of two of his four children that he had with his wife Emily.  He was found incompetent to stand trial and was ordered to undergo outpatient treatment.  Eventually the charges were dropped by the victim.
  • In the autumn of 2019, the State Police were called to Latunski’s house in Bennington Township with reports of a partially clothed man running outside of his home, allegedly with handcuffs on.  Latunski claimed that the man was there consensually and had become, “spooked.”  Latunski claimed he was chancing the man because he was wearing his clothing, namely a leather kilt.  Both men claimed the incident was consensual, so Latunski dodged the proverbial bullet of the law.  This is eerily similar to the Jeffrey Dahmer’s attack on Tracy Edwards.
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Mark Latunski
  • Latunski has a record of going off his medication for mental problems.  He has been diagnosed for major depression, paranoid schizophrenia and displaying traits of a personality disorder.
  • Latunski was charged in the past for failure to pay child support.
  • Latunski was married to Jamie Arnold for just over three years according to records I was able to track down.
  • Bacon’s father relayed some posts by his son on Facebook that led them to turn their attention to Latunski.
  • On December 28 the police searched the home of Latunski and found the mutilated remains of Bacon in his house at around 1am the day of the search.
  • When arraigned, Latunski claimed that he was Edger Thomas Hill and that Latunski was his “nephew.”
  • Initial reports by several agencies reported his name as Matt Latunski.  These have been corrected to his name, Mark.  A Mark Latunski is shown to work at Dow Chemical but there has been no confirmation that this is the same person.

I will tell you, as someone that privately investigates crimes as an author, there is a reason that the authorities are not releasing information on this case.  This is someone with a history of kidnapping, mental illness, and picking up strange men.  It is entirely possible that he has killed before.  There are a number of missing gay men in and around Flint. Trust me, this case is worth following.

Tantamount Podcast Episode Three Supplemental Material

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This material augments the information provided in the podcast Tantamount about Washington DC’s serial killer, The Freeway Phantom. Obviously we encourage you to listen to the episode. Here’s a link to this episode:  Tantamount Catch me if you can! 

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The Freeway Phantom finishes his murder spree with the deaths of Brenda Woodard, Diane Williams, and, we learn, Teara Ann Bryant.  The FBI and some officers who worked the case believe Teara was part of the Freeway Phantom’s list of victims, while the Washington MPD and Prince George’s County Police do not.  If not, the question remains, who killed Teara Ann Bryant?

Woodard Body Found
Where Brenda’s Body was found
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Brenda’s wig, tossed there by the killer

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the final killings was the note left on the body of Brenda Woodard.  Written in her own hand, at the order of his killer, the Freeway Phantom used the note to taunt authorities.

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The note left by the killer on Brenda’s body
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Diane Williams
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Brenda Woodard 
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Teara Ann Bryant – Our research shows that she too was a victim of the Freeway Phantom

The murders stop with the death of Ms. Bryant…leaving us all to wonder why?  Was the killer jailed, dead, or had he moved on?

If you want to know more, subscribe to our podcast or read our book:  Tantamount – The Pursuit of the Freeway Phantom Serial Killer.

Review of the Netflix Series – The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann

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A friend of mine recommended I watch this series about the disappearance of this young three-year-old in Portugal in 2007.  I have to admit, I went in with prejudice. Like most of us, I was fed a steady stream of news reports about Madeleine’s disappearance and it felt to me like the parents were somehow involved.

The series reduced that feeling, but there are some things that still don’t add up for me.  The fact that the series made me question my preconceived notion is a good sign.

The series is, well, slow. It is plodding along, without a sense of tempo or care for the audience.  Having said that, I think it does a very good job of layout out the events.  There are a lot of blind allies the producers take you down.  The whole human trafficking angle is intriguing, but at the same time, lacks any substance…at least from what I saw. Theories are thrown at the wall to see what will stick, which is not a good approach to such a series.

Adding to this were the cast of characters that latched onto the case.  Psychics, dog handlers, private investigators…some seeming to insert themselves into the case for the publicity.  It is a cautionary tale for anyone that loses a loved one in the same manner…be wary of the company you keep.

The authorities were in over their heads from the start of the case.  They fingered people, for legitimate reasons in their minds, but mismanaged every aspect of the investigation.  There is a bombshell (of sorts) about the lead investigator that pops in the middle of the series, something that I was surprised about.

Did I soften my feeling about the parents as suspects?  Yes.  But some of their actions still raise big eyebrows for me.  Their attempt to get their dinner guests to align on their stories, for example, made little sense.  As a parent, I wouldn’t have left my kids in that situation – but I am also not from their culture nor was I there.  Seeds of doubt remain with me.

I give this about a 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It could have been reduced to three or four episodes easily, and would have been more enjoyable.  The constant drone shots of the beach and the city made this far too many episodes long.

Review of the True Crime Podcast – Going West

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My wife and I went to Michigan this weekend to help my mother-in-law move.  She likes podcasts so we listened to several, one in particular, Going West.  This review is based on listening to nine episodes, binge-style, on the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes.  They did not ask for this review – it is unsolicited.  Nor do I have any relationship with the podcasters.

My daughter and I started our podcast, Tantamount, and agreed up-front on format, style, and tone.  I’m not a fan of those true crime podcasts where drinking or humor is a big component.  It seems disrespectful to the victims and as an author in the genre, I try and avoid those podcasts.  There are a ton of true crime podcasts out there, and Going West proved to be one of the more entertaining and produced.

The format simple – two narrators taking you on a journey through one crime.  Some are solved, some are not.  The narrators have very professional voices and the production quality is top-notch. What my wife and I liked was that there was not a lot of their theories or wild speculations in the episodes.  They present the facts.  When they do tell you what they are thinking, they call that out so you don’t confuse their comments with the facts in the case.  A lot of podcasters could learn from this technique…I know I did.

There is occasional (rare) swearing, but it is well-placed (and often exactly what I was thinking!)

The mix of cases is well-thought-out.  Their research seems fairly solid too, which is critical. Where there are conflicting accounts of events, they let you know.  That is important, trust me.

Going West has a pleasing conversational tone and is paced well.  Some podcasts are like drinking through a firehose, while others go off on so many tangents that you struggle with following the story.  Going West weaves a story without being formulaic.  Sometimes they start with the crime, sometimes they start with the victim…it makes binging their episodes easy to do.

My wife, who only marginally likes podcasts, said that this is now one of her favorites.  That alone is high praise.

There are a ton of podcasts out there and Going West is one of the best I’ve stumbled across.  Easily a five out of five stars.

Podcast Tantamount Episode Two Supplemental Material – Body Count

 

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In our podcast on the Washington DC serial killer, the Freeway Phantom, we dive into the victims.  I wanted to provide listeners with some additional material to augment the podcast.

One of the more disturbing mishandlings of cases is that of Darlenia Johnson.  Her remains spotted by a motorist along I-295, just 15 feet from where Carol Spinks had been found, but the police didn’t recover her for over a week.  Officers were dispatched, but they drove by, not seeing her, rather than get out of their car.  She remained unattended in the hot July sun for days.

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Darlenia Johnson

Brenda Faye Crockett stands out because the Phantom allowed her to call home while she was his prisoner…twice.  Both times she claimed that a white man had driven her to Virginia and would send her home in a taxi.  On the second call, she asked if her mother saw her.  This is important.  Was the Phantom worried that he had been seen with her in his vehicle?  Did personally know Mrs. Crockett and was afraid that she was sending police after him?

Clearly the references to a “white man” and “Virginia” were deception.  No serial killer would allow his victim to give out actual useful clues to the family and authorities.  If anything, this should have helped investigators narrow their search to not include white suspects or residents in Virginia.  But at the time, the concept of a serial killer was unknown.  You had repeat offenders, but the phrase “serial killer” was years away from these crimes.

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Brenda Crockett.  Her two phone calls home were clearly out of fear on the part of the Phantom.

Nenomoshia Yates was only 12 years old when she was abducted, raped, and strangled by the killer.  She was found the day after her abduction on Route 50 in Prince George’s County Maryland.  She was just 3/10’s of a mile over the border from the District of Columbia.  So had the killer put here there to muddy the investigation by bringing in another agency?  Why not leave her along I-295 as he had his other victims?  What was so different with her or the road that night that compelled him to leave her elsewhere?

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Young Miss Yates.  
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The road where Nenomoshia Yates was found

For those of you that want to know more, you can buy our book Tantamount or you can follow our podcast on Podbean, Spotify, and iTunes.   Episode 2 – Body Count

Kicking off our True Crime Podcast – Tantamount: Season One, Episode One

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So this is the start of our first season of Tantamount – a true crime podcast about our most recent book on the Washington DC Freeway Phantom serial killer.

Here’s some of the links to get to it:

Podbean

Spotify

Coming soon to iTune Podcasts

Victoria, my daughter and co-author, and I have been wanting to get into podcasting for a while.  It seemed a perfect fit with the new book coming out.  I didn’t want to do a short one-shot podcast, but one that allowed us to go beyond the book and really dive into this serial killing spree.

When we write a book, we focus on the facts.  Our goal is to present information, not shove our opinions on the reader.  The podcast lets us talk about what we think and feel, things that wouldn’t play well in a book.

There were some parameters for this effort we felt were important:

  • The podcast had to stand on its own.  You didn’t have to buy or read the book to follow it.
  • We wanted it to be the first of a series.  So season one is on the Freeway Phantom.  We have plans for future seasons that will dive into other cases…some we’ve written about, some that we just are intrigued with.
  • It had to be as professional as we could produce on our own.
  • We wouldn’t launch it unless we had at least two episodes in the queue.  Episode #2 will pop sometime in the next few days.
  • We wanted some links to this blog where we could post some things we didn’t put in the book directly – some source material for those that wanted to explore more about the episode.
  • This first episode is about why we undertook this book, investing two years of our lives into the case. I would love to tell you there is some magical formula we use to determine if we are digging into a crime, but in reality, a lot of it is gut-check-level stuff.

We also start with the first victim – Carol Spinks.  I’ve included copies of her police report here.  It gives you an idea of what our starting point was for this – which wasn’t much.

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Carol Spinks – The First Victim

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I am not an audio editor or expert in podcasting. I spent more time editing than anything else. It is a great learning curve for both Victoria and me.  Please be gentle with your comments.

For my BattleTech fans, yes, I want to do something in that space and have started scripting out my first episode – on Snord’s Irregulars.  So far the working titles include:  Old Fart’s BattleTech, Ammo Dump, and All Systems Not Nominal.

So, please subscribe and share our podcast and if you want more information, get out book!

Epicenter of Evil – St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington DC – The Freeway Phantom

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My co-author and daughter, Victoria Hester, looking at St. Elizabeths through the fence

Between 1971 and 1972 a serial killer stalked Washington DC.  Dubbed “The Freeway Phantom” he killed up to seven victims, perhaps more.  All were young girls between the ages of 10 and 18; strangled and in one case stabbed, all sexually assaulted.  The murders most likely stopped in 1972, but the quest to bring this killer to justice did not stop.

What I like about writing true crime is that I have to learn things.  When we dove into the Freeway Phantom case for our book, Tantamount, there were two hurdles I had to jump.  One was forensic linguistics – which we were helped by none other hand Jim Fitzgerald, the guy that was behind the apprehension of the Unabomber.  The other was geographic profiling.

Geographic profiling can be complicated…mostly because of the math involved.  I actually purchased the textbook written by the person that did the profiling for the Freeway Phantom case so that I could become at least fluent when I wrote about it.

It is a fascinating field of study but it is math-based, so I had to reacquaint myself with algebra.  See kids, it DOES get used when you are an adult…in my case it simply took five decades.

I prefer to keep things simple.  So think of it this way.  Most serial killers have anchor points in their lives.  These are places where they lure in their victims, where they live, where they work, or where they have a strong and meaningful attachment. Anchor points are important geographic places for a killer.

A “typical” serial killer will not operate (intercept his victims, dump their bodies, etc.) where he is known.  That neighborhood is familiar to him, but there’s too high of a risk of him being seen and identified. This creates a zone or bubble where the killer will not conduct his nefarious affairs.

Outside of that is the typical hunting zone.  Here the killer has a strong familiarity with the area, but is less likely to be identified.  He knows the neighborhood, but is not well-known there.  He knows the streets, the escape routes, etc., but doesn’t live there.

Outside of that sphere is where the killer is not familiar with the geography nor is he known there.  Chances are he will not operate there.  There is too much risk involved for him there.

Geographic profiling crunches in all of the data about a serial killer.  In the case of the Freeway Phantom, it looks at where the victims lived, where they were last seen (their abduction areas) and where their bodies are dumped.  Then the algebra happens.  Traffic patterns, maps, key terrain features, population density are all crunched.

What emerges is the anchor point for the killer – that one special place for them, a place of significance.  Often times it is their home, or where they do their heinous acts.

When the geographic profile was prepared for the Freeway Phantom the model came up with the killer’s anchor point – St. Elizabeths Hospital, a psychiatric facility, in Washington DC.

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The results of the geographic profile, from a 2006 confidental police report

This was where the killer had a strong connection.  He may have been a doctor there, or, more likely, a patient.  For him, St. E’s (as it is known locally) was a place he knew well.  It was an important part of his life.  The Freeway Phantom may have beaten the investigators, but you can’t beat the math.  For the killer, St. Elizabeths was a vital part of his life, either before or during the murder spree.

It makes perfect sense when you look at the murders in retrospect.  Two of the victims were left along I-295, right at the edge of St. Elizabeths grounds.  Another was less than a half mile away from the mental hospital.

Like any profile, you can’t exclude suspects because they don’t fit it, but it does give you a very strong indication of where investigators can focus their efforts.  Unfortunately, the profile didn’t exist during the initial investigations, but decades later.

Several suspects had ties to St. E’s, the strongest being Robert Ellwood Askins, who lived there for decades – committed to the hospital for committing murder. Considered one of the prime suspects for these murders, Askins died in prison a few years back.  Of all of the key suspects, Askins was the only one that spent years at St. Elizabeths, sent there for murder of young women.  More on him in another post.

Today, St. E’s is crumbling one building at a time. Even now, it is eerie, the iron bars on the windows no longer hold occupants.  The crises that must have echoed the hallways are now filled with the flutter of pigeons or the scurry of rats.  The Department of Homeland Security expressed interest in the land and the rumble of demolition equipment during the daytime hours echoes between the tile-roofed buildings.  Chain-link fence surrounds the complex, no longer aimed at keeping patients in, now it is in place to keep homeless people out.

St. E’s as it looks today…still creepy 

Want to dive deeper into this serial killing spree?  Check out our book, Tantamount – The Pursuit of the Freeway Phantom Serial Killer.