Did A Cover-up Let The 'Oakland County Child Killer' Walk Free?

The two-part documentary explores the unsolved murder of four Detroit-area kids in the 1970s — and the possible cover-up that has kept justice at bay.

February 15, 2019
By: Mike McPadden

OAKLAND COUNTY, MI — One of the most baffling and heartbreaking unsolved criminal cases of the 1970s gets an up-close and very personal exploration in the new special from Investigation Discovery, Children of the Snow.

For 13 months between 1976 and 1977, a still unknown culprit referred to as the Oakland County Child Killer murdered at least two boys and two girls in communities surrounding Detroit. Then, as abruptly as the deaths seem to start, they just stopped — and no one has ever been prosecuted for the crimes.

Children of the Snow revisits this tragedy through the eyes of J. Rueben Appleman, a writer who grew up in the area at the time and who has long wondered if he actually escaped the Oakland County Child Killer.

Appleman has long been haunted by a childhood memory of a man following him out of a store and ordering him into a car. Fortunately, the future journalist managed to run away, and, since 2005, he has been digging deeper into this horrific real-life mystery.

In exploring old files and documents, Appleman has come to believe that the police may have had the killer in the grip, but that a coalition of wealthy, powerful figures made sure he walked free. It’s a conspiracy that points to a child-sex network and severe mistakes — accidental, or perhaps not — on the part of the original investigators.

Through interviews with Detective Cory Williams and family members of the victims, Children of the Snow examines a potential connection between the Oakland County Child Killer murders and a sick pedophile ring that produced child pornography and operated out of Brother Paul’s Children’s Mission on North Fox Island at the same time.

After a boy escaped that circle of abusers, he pointed authorities in the direction of Francis Sheldon, the multimillionaire philanthropist who owned North Fox Island. Sheldon fled overseas and was never caught, but investigators uncovered the nightmarish underground connected to Brother Paul’s — a web of child rape and exploitation with outposts that reached across Michigan and the United States.

In the course of Children of the Snow, DNA discoveries, fresh leads, new looks at old evidence, and the relentless passion of surviving loved ones fuel a search that may, at long last, lead to justice for the victims of the Oakland County Child Killer.

Children of the Snow premieres Monday, February 18 at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery. Part two will air February 19.

Read more: Popucrime

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