ID Show, Podcast Help Free Farmer Convicted Of Deer Hunters’ 1990 Double Murder

Jeff Titus was released from a Michigan prison after evidence showed a serial killer who preyed on outdoorsmen may be responsible for the fatal shootings.

March 02, 2023
This image provided by the Michigan Department of Corrections shows Jeff Titus, who has been released after serving nearly 21 years in prison for killing two hunters.

The state of Michigan asked a judge Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, to immediately release Jeff Titus, who has served nearly 21 years in prison for killing two hunters, saying evidence about an Ohio serial killer's possible role was never disclosed to the defense before trial.

Photo by: Michigan Department of Corrections via AP

Michigan Department of Corrections via AP

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A true crime series and associated podcast dug up evidence that helped free a man convicted of murdering two deer hunters in Michigan who are now suspected of being the victims of a serial killer.

On Nov. 17, 1990, Doug Estes and Jim Bennett were deer hunting separately in the Fulton State Game Area in Kalamazoo next to a farm belonging to Jeff Titus when each suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the back.

According to reports, the two victims didn’t know each other, and investigators cleared Titus in the case after determining he was nearly 30 miles away from home at the time of the slayings.

Police were unable to identify any suspects in Estes and Bennett’s murders and the case went cold. Around 10 years later, however, a new cold case unit reopened the investigation and arrested Titus for murder in 2001.

At trial, prosecutors claimed Titus’ alibi didn’t stand up to scrutiny and claimed he would have had enough time to drive from where he said he was at the time of the homicides to the crime scenes and back.

In the summer of 2002, Titus, then 50, was convicted of the two murders and a judge sentenced him to life behind bars without parole.

In 2012, the Michigan Innocence Clinic and 35 law students began looking into Titus’ case. “The system failed when you had a new [cold case] team 10 years later coming on board and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” David Moran, an attorney with the group, recently told WOOD-TV.

Seven years later, in 2019, two executive producers at Red Marble Media, Jacinda Davis and Kevin Fitzpatrick, became interested in Titus’ case, and their findings became the focus of two episodes of the Investigation Discovery program Killer In Question. The murders were also covered on Susan Simpson’s podcast "Undisclosed".

After taking up the case, Davis and Fitzpatrick learned a pair of witnesses heard tires screeching after two shots came from around the area where the victims were killed. The witnesses then encountered a man whose car had gone into a ditch, and he turned down their offer to call for help, Deadline reported.

Davis and Fitzpatrick also found out that around two years after the shooting incidents, the witnesses came forward and identified the man they saw in the ditch with the car as serial killer Thomas Dillon, who was convicted in 1993 of killing five people in Ohio. That critical information was never relayed to investigators in Kalamazoo.

Dillon, whose victims included hunters and fisherman, was serving a life sentence when he died at age 61 in October 2011.

Davis, Fitzpatrick, and Simpson reported on discovering a file on Dillon during their investigation on Titus that contained potentially exculpatory evidence and was never turned over to the correct authorities.

“It changed everything for my whole case,” Titus said of the Killer In Question and “Undisclosed” findings. “The police had that file and they didn’t do nothing with it!”

Podcaster Simpson, who trained as a lawyer, said it was obvious from the beginning that “something had gone wrong here.”

“But what we couldn’t have known when we began our investigation was that there was a serial killer who targeted hunters living just a few hours away — and who looked exactly like a man that was seen speeding away from the crime scene in a car that was exactly like the one the serial killer owned,” she noted, adding, “And who, our investigation learned, had confessed 25 years ago that he was the one who had killed the hunters in Michigan.”

On Feb. 24, 2023, Titus, 71, was released from the Lakeland Correctional Facility near Coldwater after a judge vacated his convictions and granted him a new trial.

“It’s been 22 years waiting for this day and it should never have happened in the first place,” Titus told WOOD-TV immediately after his release. “I’m just ecstatic and overjoyed to finally be out. … I want to see my grandkids. I haven’t seen them.”

For more on Titus’s case, stream Killer In Question: “The Hunted” on discovery+.

Next Up

A Minnesota Neighborhood Was Ripped Apart Over A Dispute Turned Deadly

In August of 2016, all hell broke loose when one neighbor accused another of breaking his lawn mower.

John Walsh’s '15 Seconds of Shame' Murder Suspect Coreyon Brown Captured

Coreyon Brown was on the run after an alleged murder in Detroit, Michigan in June 2022.

How One ‘Boyz N The Hood’ Actor Went From Portraying A Killer To Being One In Real Life

Family of Lloyd Avery II said he was trying to prove something he didn’t have to.

Police Crack Case Of Ohio Mother Fatally Shot While Leaving Home For Her FedEx Job

“I thought monsters weren’t real, but you proved me wrong,” the victim’s young daughter told the killer in court.

A Series Of Lucky Tips Helped Authorities Find A Murderer

Police rushed to find the killer after they found a man shot to death on a Milwaukee, Wisconsin street in May 2019.

Authorities Raced To Identify A Mystery Woman Caught On Video Near A Strange Murder Scene

When 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson was found murdered in a Florida condo, investigators zeroed in on a suspicious woman seen lurking around the neighborhood.

Fugitive Goes On The Run After New Year's Eve Murder In 2011

Louis Rojas stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. According to the U.S. Marshals, Rojas has a strong interest and connection to boxing and could be working out in gyms that offer boxing. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please submit your tips to or text 1-833-378-7783 (3-PURSUE).

A Pennsylvania Mom Says Her Son Was Defending Himself In 2009 Shooting Incident

Joel Atkin was convicted of third-degree murder for the shooting death of Jayson Sack in 2009.

A Florida Football Star Was Murdered After A Big Homecoming Game

Norman “Pooh” Griffith had his eyes set on the NFL when he was killed in 2008.

A Quick-Thinking Family Helped Texas Officers Solve A Murder In Two Days

It took just over 48 hours for officers to arrest a man who would later be convicted of a cold-blooded shooting at point-blank range.