column: Part one: 'Bad to the bone' ex leaves cops, coed guessing next move
Editor's note: This column has been updated to correct a factual error.
Crystal was bad to the bone. She was perhaps the most fiendish woman any of us had ever arrested. Her story is probably more book length, but I will try to explain just how nasty Crystal was and how strange her story was in two columns — part one this week, part two next.
The Ann Arbor Police Department Special Investigations Unit, or SIU, was working a target on Ridge Road on the east side of the county. I have no recollection who the target was or what we were watching for, because the events that started to unfold eclipsed whatever investigation that had been.
I was meeting with a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Investigator—now a Commander—and one of my dearest friends in law enforcement whose nickname was “Cannon.” Cannon was the Sheriff’s afternoon detective working that evening and we met to talk about SIU’s current target and to share a couple of laughs.
Cannon and I parked next to each other and were joking around when he was called by dispatch. The Washtenaw County dispatcher said the fire department fighting a house fire was requesting a detective because they had found a dead body inside their scene.
Fatal house fires require a detective assigned with fire investigators. We did not know it then, but a pair of seemingly unrelated major investigations, undertaken by several Washtenaw County police departments, were spinning together.
The jokes stopped, the game faces came on and I told Cannon to call if he needed any assistance. With that, Cannon headed off toward the fatal fire.
The fatal fire turned out to be a middle-aged, mild mannered, law abiding, computer analyst or programmer who lived alone. He had been found by the fire department in his home. The victim had been bound with duct tape and the house fire appeared to have been set to cover up the murder.
The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s office would later find that the victim had been bound and then beaten to death with a blunt object. He died several days prior to the fire. It was later learned by investigators, that several individuals, one of which had been Crystal, had beaten the poor guy with a flashlight.
Crystal was convinced the computer guy had a large stash of cash in his home—although she had never been able to find it when she stayed with the guy about a year earlier. The victim had been in love with Crystal until she looted every dime she could from him, ran up all his credit cards, bought a car on the victim’s money and split for parts unknown with a new lover.
The homicide victim just happened to be something of a computer genius. When Crystal broke his heart, took him for lots of money and left the state—the victim started communicating using his computer on a then brand new communications tool called the Internet. At the time most cops had not heard of the Internet. More importantly only the largest, most technologically advance police departments had an Internet connection. Those agencies were receiving the victim’s information about Crystal and sending it out to other agencies around their perspective states.
Meanwhile the University of Michigan had a rather bizarre incident that happened at about the same time as Cannon’s fatal fire.
Two teenage girls had gone to Baits Hall looking for a student who was a vocal music major. This particular music major was a beautiful young woman with incredibly long, thick hair. The coed recently had returned to U-M after being publicly humiliated on national television by a former lover she previously had run off with to Arizona.
The two teenagers asked the music major if she was the woman with the great voice they had heard about. The coed smiled and said she was. The teenagers asked if they could come into her dorm room and hear her sing. The music major was happy to invite the young girls in.
The teenagers locked the door behind them and became menacing. They had been sent by the music major’s ex-lover with a mission. The younger girls had been sent to smash the coed’s computer—an expensive item back then—and cut off all the coed’s long hair.
The first part of the mission was completed and the coed with the beautiful long tresses begged the teenagers not to cut her hair. She was able to convince her youthful assailants to merely cut a long braid and take it back to the ex-lover. The singer reasoned with the scissor toting teens they could not carry all her hair anyway, so why not just cut a long braid and take that back to the one who sent them. That is exactly what the teens did.
The singer immediately reported the incident to the University of Michigan Police Department (UMPD). She told the police just how fiendish and sociopathic her ex-lover was. The coed was terrified of her ex and needed help because “Crystal” was crazy and mean.
The UMPD, working with the coed and her parents, immediately moved her out of her ground floor dormitory room in Bursley Hall, to another dorm room on North Campus. The police then set about finding Crystal and identifying her minions.
It turned out that moving the music major out of her ground floor dorm room saved her life. Crystal was incensed about the failure of the girls to shave the music major bald. Crystal decided to kill the music major while she slept.
A night or two after the music major had moved out of the dorm room she had been attacked in, someone threw a firebomb into the now vacant room. The resulting fire was extinguished but caused a temporary evacuation and $30,000 of damage.
About 1 p.m. the day after the dorm fire, I got a call from my bosses at the Ann Arbor Police Department to immediately report to UMPD for a meeting. I was surprised to find Cannon and several Sheriff’s investigators at UMPD when I arrived. They filled in the blanks and had a job for the SIU surveillance unit.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.
Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.