Secrets and Lies, Part 2

Date Published 06.20.11
In the previous post, I wrote about the long-unsolved Oakland County Child Killing case, and how a chance meeting thirty years after the murders brought a previously unknown suspect's name to the forefront.

Most of what is now known about that suspect, Christopher Busch, is due to the tenacity of one man:  Barry King, whose 11-year-old son, Tim, was the killer's last known victim.

King filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Michigan State Police, and subsequently received 3,400 pages of records pertaining to the OCCK case.

He learned that Christopher Busch was the youngest of four sons born to Harold Lee Busch and his wife, Elsie.  The elder Busch was a prominent and successful General Motors executive who, with his wife, traveled frequently between the United States and Europe.

There are few hard facts on Busch's early life, but a general impression can be formed.  His parents had him late in life, when they were in their early 40s, and presumably by then his father was better established, and busier, in his role as corporate executive.  The family lived well, in a big house on a leafy street in Bloomfield Township.

Neighbors reported later that indeed the parents were frequently out of town.  It's not clear when Christopher Busch's legal troubles began, and if he was sent to boarding school because of them, or they began afterward, but by 1976, 1977, a troubling pattern had been established --- Busch would be arrested for criminal sexual conduct with minor boys, and his parents would bail him out or, it's alleged, offer victims cash to go away.

Busch's parents apparently put considerable financial resources into turning their son's life around.  They bought him houses.  They bought him businesses to run.  But the criminal charges kept piling up, and so it was that while alone in the big house in Nov. 1978 Busch put a rifle between his eyes and committed suicide.

It wasn't a member of his family but the housekeeper who called police to say that she couldn't get inside the house and was worried something might be wrong with Christoper.

Harold Busch died in 2002, at the age of 90; interestingly, his son Christopher is not mentioned in his obituary at all.  One report says that Busch's brother told officials that late in life his father shredded all family documents, including birth certificates.

Insights into Busch's family life are important when one considers a profiler's take on the Oakland County Child Killer.  Dr. Bruce Danto, who worked with the task force, felt the killer was "evening the score" for his own childhood abandonment; the killer felt deprived of parental love, and was wreaking deprivation on others in return.

Fuzzy conjecture, to be sure, but the fact remains that there's compelling evidence Christopher Busch was, at the very least, involved if not the sole perpetrator of the OCCK case.


On Jan. 25, 1977 Flint police arrested Busch and two other men on criminal sexual conduct with a minor charges.  The trio was accused of forcing dozens of boys into sex acts, and engaging in lewd photography.

One of the men was Gregory Greene, 26, who like his cohort Busch had a past riddled with child molestation charges.  Of particular interest is the testimony of one of Greene's previous victims --- Greene had struck him in the throat, the victim said, and rendered him unconscious. 

The victims in the Flint case reported being used as lures to pull in unsuspecting boys.  This ruse makes sense in the OCCK case, as by all accounts Busch wasn't a harmless-looking child magnet.

Christopher Busch

Greene was eventually convicted and given a life sentence.  Busch, on the other hand, had his bond mysteriously dropped from 75K to 1K.  Despite multiple convictions on similar charges, he never spent a day in jail.  He always got probation.

Busch was out of jail and free then on March 16, when Tim King was last seen talking with a husky, dark-haired man in his 20s driving a blue AMC Gremlin with a white stripe on the side.

Busch drove a blue Vega with a white stripe on the side.

Blue AMC gremlin, on the left, and blue Vega, right

On March 19, a woman who knew that Busch was a sex offender called police to say that she'd seen him with minor boys near his family's cottage on Ess Lake, in northern Michigan.  Nothing appears to have been done about the alert.  Tim's body was found on March 22.

White animal hairs were found on all the OCCK victims' bodies.  The Busch family owned a white welsh terrier.

Gold fibers were also found.  Busch had gold carpet in his bedroom.

Perhaps the most damning evidence is what was discovered in Busch's room after his suicide:  ligatures, and a drawing on the wall of a young boy screaming, a boy who looked just like the first victim, Mark Stebbins.

Recently the case has taken another twist when it was announced that a hair found on Kristine Mihelich was a mitochondrial DNA match to a 50-year-old parolee named James Vincent Gunnels.

The break would seem to exonerate Busch, except for this revelation:  Gunnels was childhood friends with Busch's nephew, and was molested by Busch in May 1976.

Gunnels has apparently told investigators that he doesn't know how his hair got on Kristine, but that he traveled frequently with Busch.  Investigators theorize Gunnels may have acted as a lure for other victims.

Christopher Busch, possibly in collaboration with others, certainly seems like the strongest suspect right now.  The North Fox Island child pornography ring showed that pedophiles of means had no problems organizing and targeting victims.

The group effort would explain one of the most puzzling aspects of the case.  Why were girls and boys abducted?  The boy victims showed evidence of sexual assault; the girls did not.  Most sex offenders, particularly of children, prefer one gender to the other.

We know Busch and his associates forced male teen victims to act as lures.  What if the two female victims were abducted for the teen boys working for them?  That's why Gunnels' hair was found on Kristine.  That would also explain the lack of sexual assault evidence.  Unlike the ringleaders they feared, these teenage boys were troubled but probably not hardcore offenders.

No one theory fits this puzzling case.  Busch got caught a lot; the Oakland County Child Killer was methodical and meticulous.  He was careful about how he chose his victims (they were always alone), and, aside from the possible sighting in the parking lot, no one ever saw him.

On the other hand, Busch got caught a lot in the past because his victims lived. 

No one likes getting caught, particularly not a young man whose family's wealth and prominence helped shield him from consequence.

The progression from assault to murder could have been Christoper Busch making sure he never got caught again.

WXYZ story
Oakland Press
People '77
Downtown Publications

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RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary:
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.