MI MI - Jane Snow, 31, Otsego County, 15 May 1979

Discussion in 'Cold Cases' started by graceless, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. graceless

    graceless New Member

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    Okay . . . this is my last post for tonight. :facepalm:

    Obviously, unsolved crimes have been taking up space in my memory for some time and this one happened when I was a teenager in northern lower Michigan--and, like many friends who remember this story, I NEVER stopped at a rest area again . . .

    The murder of Jane Snow at the Loon Lake Rest Area tapped in to many of the fears inherent in women traveling alone: as her two young children waited for her in the car, she was the victim of a brutal stabbing by an unknown assailant. Her children discovered her body. Sad. Sad. Sad.

    And it SEEMS like this crime should have been solved, but it remains a cold case.

    Here are some links:

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1988&dat=19890516&id=JT8iAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rawFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1147,1563799

    http://articles.petoskeynews.com/2009-05-12/unsolved-murder_24050109

    http://coldcaseshardcopy.blogspot.com/2012/07/jane-snows-grizzly-murder-at-gaylord.html

    I will add additionally links as I come across them.

    Blessed be--
    graceless

    The world breaks everyone ... those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

    ERNEST HEMINGWAY
    A Farewell to Arms
     
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  3. TroyinTX

    TroyinTX Member

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    This is a crime I definitely remember "hearing" about to warn of the dangers of rest stops; however, I never knew the full details.

    How horrific that her sons were with her and discovered the body.

    This murder just seems so random with no apparent motive and very little evidence. Though it is a shame, I can see why it has not been solved. Sad.
     
  4. musicaljoke

    musicaljoke Well-Known Member

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    Hmmmm...

    Just across the border, at Blind River, in Canada, "The town of Blind River made headlines in 1991 for a double murder which occurred at the local rest stop off the Trans-Canada Highway. On June 28, 1991, an unknown assailant shot an elderly couple from Lindsay, Ontario, Gord McAllister, 62, and his wife Jackie, 59, and 29-year-old Brian Major. The killer gained entry into the McAllisters' motor home by posing as a police officer. Jackie McAllister and Brian Major died of their wounds. The case was profiled in 1993 on NBC-TV's Unsolved Mysteries. No one has ever been charged in the murders, although a suspect, Ronald Glenn West (a former Toronto police officer convicted of two rape-murders in Toronto in 1970, for which he is currently serving two life sentences, and of a series of robbery-assaults in Sault Ste. Marie in 1995), remains under suspicion. Gord died on February 14, 2012."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_River,_Ontario
     
  5. STANDREID

    STANDREID A slacker when slacker wasn't cool

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    I remember Blind River from Unsolved Mysteries (if that's what it was on); I know it was on some crime TV show. Regarding them or Jane, I wonder if either might have been the inspiration for the film Rest Stop. It's actually a decent movie, at least until they introduce a supernatural element.

    Maybe Hanratty could be another inspiration.
     
  6. colette

    colette Well-Known Member

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  7. ekardh

    ekardh Active Member

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  8. JL Cauling

    JL Cauling New Member

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    yeah, that's him. He wasn't charged and I don't think he did it.
     
  9. ekardh

    ekardh Active Member

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    Thanks. Yes, the evidence against McGawley is circumstantial at best, but you never know. It was reported that he'd had a row with his wife that night. Perhaps he was harbouring some pent-up aggression and took it out on the unsuspecting Snow.
     
  10. JL Cauling

    JL Cauling New Member

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    If he'd killed her, wouldn't the state trooper who picked him up 10-30 minutes later have noticed that he was covered in blood from the 20+ stab wounds he'd just delivered? Wouldn't he be sweaty, agitated? McGawley has been in a lot of non violent trouble since 79.
     
  11. Omori

    Omori New Member

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    I remember this case back from 1979 and I always thought it was weird. I always think of Jane Snow whenever I pull over at a highway rest stop. I read that Snow's sister believes that John McGawley did it. He is, to this day, the only suspect they ever had. He wasn't a law-abiding person. He was already wanted for check fraud or something in Rhode Island or Delaware or someplace like that at the time of this incident. He had scratches on his hands that he said was the result of a bar fight and he was walking because he had a fight with his wife. But, otoh, he never got in any kind of big trouble.

    I think whoever did this knew the area pretty well. I don't know if McGawley did. When the cops arrested him, he was in Pontiac. Moreover, the cops found him pretty easily because he got a ride from a state trooper or at least a cop as he was walking down I-75 not far from the Loon Lake rest stop and the cop dropped him off at his stated destination. I presume Pontiac was his home. We would have to assume that McGawley was in the rest stop when Snow arrived, hid in the women's restroom and murdered her for reasons known only to himself. Then he left the rest stop without being seen by the two Snow boys, went across the highway and started walking until a cop picked him up. He must have still had the knife on him since the cops scoured the area and never found it.

    If McGawley was looking for someone to kill, the rest stop might have been a good spot but, since he was on foot, it was also a bad spot to get away from. Why go walking down I-75 in plain sight? The cop had not heard about the murder yet but he said there was nothing unusual about McGawley. After stabbing someone 22 times he was remarkably free of bloodstains. I think if McGawley did it, he would have been charged and convicted. The very fact that there was no evidence to tie him to the murder was because he had nothing to do with it. You don't kill someone on foot out in the middle of a wide open area where it's hard to hide.

    Whoever killed Jane Snow was familiar with the area, likely cased it out on numerous occasions and finally found a situation that he felt he could take advantage of. Although there were no cars at the rest stop when Snow arrived, he could have hidden a dirt bike somewhere close to the rest stop and then walked the rest of the way. He would have had this meticulously planned and likely ran "drills" a few times before the real thing to make sure he could get away without being seen or heard. Being without any kind of getaway vehicle would be too risky. If you murder someone, you have to be able to get out quick.

    Why did he do it? Like many psychopaths, he wanted to simply kill someone. He didn't have the time to rape Snow and she wasn't robbed. The boys saw nothing and heard nothing. How do you stab someone 22 times without them screaming? First, you surprise them from behind, grab the mouth and simultaneously begin stabbing repeatedly and viciously so that they are overcome before they can scream. Then he got out without being seen. He had to have practiced getting in and out. I keep saying "he" because the killer is almost certainly a male because he overpowered Snow very quickly and a woman would have had a more difficult time of it. I think he was young, maybe mid-teens because he seems sexually inexperienced.

    Running across I-75 seems completely unlikely to me. The boys, I think, would have seen that. There's woods behind the rest stop. I would wager he ran there to where his transportation was hidden.

    loon lake2.jpg
    This is Loon Lake and the rest stop is visible. At least I suppose that is the rest stop where the incident occurred. It's the only one in the area. Notice how wooded it is behind the rest stop going towards the lake. The killer would have likely gone there rather than across the highway.

    rest stop.jpg
    The rest stop itself. Looks like pretty much every highway rest stop in the state of Michigan. I don't know how much it might have changed since 1979 but isn't it far more likely that the killer ran into those woods in the background rather than across the highway and risk being seen? Who would walk along the highway and get into a police car after having butchered someone 20 minutes to a half-hour before and still carrying the weapon and not knowing if the cop who is stopping for him has gotten word of the murder yet? I don't think it could have been McGawley. But that leaves the question of who it was and has he killed since and where?

    I read on Reddit where someone compared the case to the Lil Miss murder although I see no resemblance at all. Besides, that person was caught--Dale Wayne Eaton--who, to my knowledge, was never in Michigan. People here mention the Blind River murders and there is more of a resemblance. It took place in a rest stop and in the general vicinity where Snow was murdered--Michigan and Ontario region. I do believe that Ronald Glenn West is the Blind River Killer. But the Snow murder is different. West seemed to enjoy killing with guns. His signature. Snow was, of course, stabbed to death. And this was 9 years after a double murder that West confessed to in which he repeatedly shot both victims so it seems unlikely that West changed MO just to murder Jane Snow.

    What I wonder about is whether the killer cut himself while stabbing Snow. Often when a knife-killer is stabbing away in a frenzy, they often hit a bone and their hand slides up the handle and over the blade causing a distinctive slash--often severe. McGawley had small cuts on his hands but that's not really consistent with the type of wound caused by stabbing someone which would be a deep slice across the insides of the fingers when the hand slid over the blade after it hits a bone. It's probably too late to check for the presence of the killer's blood but did anyone notice someone after the murder with a sliced up hand?

    Where did the killer live? In all likelihood Gaylord. I doubt he still lives there now. Well, it's been 39 years now. I'd really like to see it get solved but the likelihood diminishes with each passing year.
     
  12. Omori

    Omori New Member

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    I've thought about this since posting and if I had to put my money on a suspect it would be Ronald Glenn West. Even though stabbing was not West's signature, it is possible he changed MOs to throw off the cops or maybe he toyed with the idea of stabbing until he finally decided to try it. He took a big chance by attacking Snow this way. If West was living in the general area--within a couple of hundred miles--at the time this murder went down then I would say we probably have the killer. Other details are similar to West's MO. He killed a woman with children and could have killed the children but did not. He did the same in the 1970 double murder. If West was living in the Michigan-Canada area in '79 then I would say it's him.
     
  13. Midge Montana

    Midge Montana Well-Known Member

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    I live about an hour from Gaylord, and we go there several times a year to shop. I've never heard of this case until now, not surprisingly.
    I have been down that road many times, but can't place the rest stop. Hmm. Next time I go there I will snap some pics, though it is assuredly very different today than it was then.

    Some thoughts:
    1. At first I thought he must have been there on foot, because I assumed the kids were sitting in the car, waiting for mom. However, news reports indicate the boys went into the bathroom same time as mom, then began fooling around by the water nearby, throwing rocks at frogs, etc. So, someone could have very easily left in a car from the front of the rest stop without the kids noticing.

    2. From what I could find online, the sun set at about 9:00 pm that night. News reports have her pulling into the rest stop about 7:30 pm. I have my alarm set to make note of how light or dark it is at 7:20 tonight. May 15 will be lighter than tonight but I'm not sure by how much. I guess I am just wondering if this person killed her in daylight, dusk, etc.

    3. I have to keep reminding myself that this was in 1979. I was only 12 at the time, but I remember that people walked a LOT more back then. So, I don't think that seeing a guy (assumedly) walking down the road would be something people would even take note of as much as today. I just wonder if there were witnesses who didn't even realize it...

    4. In my mind there is now way she was specifically targeted. She was on a road-trip, from Grand Rapids to Escanaba. I've read both that she was moving there for a new nursing job and also that she was going there to visit. Unless someone was following her, which is possible, they likely would have had no idea that she'd pull off into that rest stop. MOO. She was 'newly divorced'. Surely her ex-husband checked out fine, since the boys went to live with him.

    5. McGawley was a bad dude. But I don't think it was him. A cop gave him a ride. After such a brutal killing, he'd have been covered in blood of which some would've gotten on the car seat, IMO.

    6. I need to read up more on this case around the Web, to see what evidence was preserved if any, have they tested it using all the advancements in DNA analysis, etc? I agree with the above poster that said he very well could have cut himself while stabbing her. His bold is very possibly mixed in with hers. Be interesting to find out what's been going on with this case in recent years.

    Off to read. Somehow I'm even more sad than I usually am at cases like this. I love Gaylord, it's a beautiful place and it has always felt completely safe to me.
     
    Blondie in Spokane likes this.
  14. Midge Montana

    Midge Montana Well-Known Member

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  15. Nina Michigan

    Nina Michigan Member

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    There is nothing "just across the border" about this. It's 331km away, and a 3.5 hour drive.
     
    musicaljoke likes this.

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