January Short Cases 2020
Updated: Jan 20
January’s Short Case Episode
Good afternoon ladies and gent, Shelby here and today i would like to talk to you about death. I mean you kind of knew what you were asking for when you hit that play button. We decided to try something new for our episode today. We come across a lot of cases we want to tell you about but there's just not enough information on it. So we've decided to dedicate one episode out the month where we bring you short cases that can't quite make a full episode. Honestly I'm really geeked to do this because when I would search for more cases, I would find some that I immediately had to just write on my list off the little description I'd read. Then when I go to do a little research into it I find like 3 articles and a bunch of irrelevant stuff that has nothing to do with the topic. But this episode were putting an end to that. Alia and I will go back and forth sharing short cases we’ve come across. And here’s Alia to start us off.
Kip’s Pizza Taco House
As a big fan of pizza and tacos, when I saw the name I jumped to it. I made sure I put it on my list of cases before Shelby found it and added it to hers. I honestly thought it was a movie when I saw an article that titled the case “Pizza Place Murder”. A man & his wife owned a pizza/taco restaurant in Jackson, MI. The couple lived in an apartment attached to the back of the restaurant, so they couple lived and worked together. They were a seemingly happy couple, who had been married for 12 years.
There are plenty of speculations, but it is unknown exactly he did what he did, but in July 1999, Artz beat his wife to death with a metal pipe while she was sitting on the couch in their home. He placed her inside of a sleeping bag and took her to the restaurant where he dismembered her body. He then baked, boiled and fried her corpse over two whole days. Patricai’s family called to check her since they hadn’t heard from her, Artz told them that they got into an argument and she left in their Lincoln. They knew that they had to sell the Lincoln so that wasn’t true, so they filed a missing person’s report.
When police arrived at the home to question Artz, he was carrying a box that he sat on the neighbor’s porch. After questioning Artz, police went over to the neighbors to check the box, inside, they found a human skull and flesh. They went into the kitchen of the restaurant and noticed burnt flesh on the counter. The crime lab sprayed luminol in the kitchen to check for blood and noticed that it lit the entire kitchen, blood was everywhere. Artz was then arrested on suspicion of murder. Durning his Artz's trial , witnesses came forward claiming that Artz was obsessed with murder and claimed that years ago, Artz had explained to them how he would go about disposing of a body. Artz allegedly said that he would cut up the body and boil the body parts to get rid of all of the evidence. Others claimed that mere months before murdering his wife, Artz questioned how he could kill his wife.
There were many speculations as to why Artz murdered his wife. One was the fact that he had surgery for a blood clot on the left side of his brain in June just a few weeks before, he killed Patricia. Some of Patricia's family members believe that Artz suffered from brain damage post-surgery, saying he was not able to read or write like he used to and he appeared disoriented. Friends of the family claimed that Artz didn't even recognize them after surgery. Another was that Artz was taking Prozac on a regular basis to help with his depression. After doctors discovered the blood clot on his brain, they took him off of the Prozac until he had the surgery. There can be harsh side effects after a person suddenly stops taking antidepressants. Side effects such as suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and mood swings. Artz was paranoid that his wife was trying to kill him with bug spray. According to Artz's attorney, the paranoia was due to the trauma to his brain, which made him suffer from delusions. Others mention that his wife had an issue with his marijuana usage which started an argument and eventually her death. It’s also thought that he killed Patricia because of his hallucinations and when he looked at her, he saw the devil.
Artz's lawyer said that Artz was guilty, but said that Artz should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. He said that Artz was mentally ill and that he suffered from bleeding in his brain. Jurors disagreed with the attorney, and in March of 2001, Kevin Artz was given a life without parole sentence. He is incarcerated at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian, Michigan.
In 2008 Artz requested a new trial under the premise that he was suffering from marijuana psychosis. The fact that his use of marijuana was mentioned during court testimony, it was never questioned whether it could have been the cause for the crime or not. Artz tried getting a new trial but was unsuccessful and his appeal was denied.
Juwan Knumar Deering
I first heard about Juwan Knumar Deering from an article that popped up in the suggestions when I was doing research on the missing Skelton Brothers case. Which if you haven't heard that episode you should check it out. What drew me to the Deering case was the fact he set a house on fire and murdered people all over a $200 drug deal. Then I began to really look into this case and I admit, I wasn't ready for what I found.
On April 6th back in 2000, in Royal Oak Township, a young boy by the name of Eugene Dean was celebrating his 6th birthday. Celebrating his birthday with him were his siblings Taleigha, Craig, Aaron, 4 more siblings who names I couldn't find, and their cousin Michele Frame. I remember having birthday parties like this growing up and they were lit. Especially because I have a big family already and when my cousin came over we knew for sure it was going to be a good time. So I can imagine how much fun these kids were having. Around 11 pm that night, the family porch was doused in charcoal and lighter fluid and ignited, causing the Dean's home to catch fire. Marie Dean was able to escape the house with four of her children. Rescuers were able to pull Eugene, Craig, and Aaron from the fire but they later died. Taleigha and Michele were upstairs in the bedroom and died from smoke ventilation. As if this wasn't heart breaking enough for not only Marie Dean and Michele's dad, they had to wait 6 years for justice to be served for the murder of their children.Investigators had someone in mind, but they didn't act on it quickly. Several months later Deering was jailed for resisting arrest during a traffic stop. An informant was put in the same cell as Deering in hopes he could get something out of him about the Dean's home Murder. Deering actually told the informant that he was working on an alibi and that he wanted to take antidepressants to throw off a polygraph. But this wasn't enough for investigators to act on I guess. In 2003, Deering was jailed again but this time for probation violation. Another informant was sent in to try to get information out of him about the Dean's home fire. This time the informant was able to get a lot more out of him. Deering told him that he only wanted to send a message to Big Mike and that he never meant to harm any kids. Now Big Mike was the kids father and apparently he owed Deering $200 over some drugs. Something that made my stomach drop when reading this was that Big Mike wasn't even at the home at the time of the fire. He was in rehab being treated for his drug addiction and a month after the fire that killed 4 out of 8 of his kids, he died due to heart related problems.
In 2006, Deering was finally taken into custody for murder and Arson. The bailiff told authorities that he overheard Deering say that the jailhouse snitches wouldn't leave jail alive. Three informants testified against Deering, one stating he said, " I didn't mean for them damn kids to die." Twenty one people who were family, friends, and people who were around Deering on a daily testified as well. They stated that Deering had admitted that he was tired of Big Mike bull shitting him. During the trial Deering seemed overwhelmed by the seriousness of the charges he was facing. When he was picked up the last time, he thought it was for another parole violation. Although he had a rap sheet with crimes such as possession of narcotics, and feeling authorities, murder was now being added to it and that's a serious crime now.The verdict was delayed 2 hours so that Marie Dean and Michele's father could hear. The judges heart broke when he realized that it was Eugene's 6th birthday and that he didn't even get 24 hours to be 6. Deering was charged with 5 counts of murder and 1 count of Arson. First degree murder is the most serious criminal charge in Michigan Law and is punishable by mandatory life in prison without possibility for parole. So Deering of course was sentenced to life in prison. The case gained a little notoriety from what people said were the county's failure to pursue Deering. It was said that charges were only brought up after a certain prosecuting attorney resigned after allegations of professional misconduct. Investigators believed that he might have buried Deering's case but couldn't come up with a reason why. Whatever the reason is, I'm just glad justice was finally served for Taleigha, Craig, Aaron, Eugene, and Michele.
Erik Cross was 16 years old and he and his family were new to the small town of Vicksburg,
Michigan. On the night of June 26, 1983, Erik got ready to go to a graduation house party. It was $2 to get in, then all you can drink once you’re inside. He was really close to his younger sister Jackie, she knew he was going to the party, but their parents did not. The party was at a lake house about a mile away from his home. It was a big party, people from all over were there.
Erik had a good time at the party with his friends. He walked home from the party that night, but never actually made it into the house. He was drunk during that dark walk home at 1:00am maybe drunk enough for him not to realize someone was following him. His father heard Erik at the door that morning and rolled back over to go back to sleep, not realizing Erik didn't make it inside. The door was locked, so Erik was locked out. No one knows what happened next, other than Erik and the people who did it.
Ted Cross, Erik's father, was woken up around 5 am by a car turning around in his driveway. It was a loud car, like the muffler needed to be repaired. He got up and went outside to get the newspaper. As he went down the walkway, he noticed Erik's shoe in the street. As he got closer, he noticed his son's body in a ditch in front of their home. All of his belongings were scattered along the road. Ted ran back into the house for his wife, she went out with a blanket to wrap Erik up in. They went to a neighbor who worked in the medical field in Hope's that they could help her son, but he couldn't be helped, Erik Cross was dead. The ambulance came and they also tried to save him. Ted and Mary Lou Cross had to break the news to their young daughter about her big brother she was so close to. She knew without them even having to say anything to her.
When sheriffs arrived, they knew it was more than just a hit and run. There was so much evidence stretched across the road. Neighbors saw a dark colored car with a noisy muffler. There were three people in the car, two men and a woman, all three were white. When the neighbor saw the car, on of the three in the car was heard yelling, "they saw us!" No one at the party the night before was really willing to go to the police with information. They were all underage at a drinking party. Even if they didn't get in trouble with the police, they still had their parents who wouldn't be happy with it. Erik wasn't just run over, he was beaten, he was tied up around the neck, he had a cut on his back, and his legs were broken. He was dragged by a car.
Police followed every lead, had many tips called in, and interviewed many people. The one name that was mentioned plenty of times was, Bret Spaulding. Bret went to school with Erik. He attended the party with his girlfriend, Amber Thomas, many witnesses say that Erik and Amber were flirting that night and Bret was not happy about it. It was said that Bret pushed Erik because if it. Bret Spaulding was said to be a bully and kind of out of control. The dark colored mid sized car, that the Cross's neighbor described was the same kind of car that Bret had. That car suddenly disappeared after the party, possibly given to family out of state. Police searched all over for his car.
Bret was at the party with both his girlfriend and Bill Cook. Bill Cook was also friends with Erik, he said that he and Erik got separated at the party that night. Bill left with his girlfriend, then spent the night at the Spaulding home. Erik's family waited for years for something from the police, but they got nothing. Years passed, still, nothing.
In 2001, close to two decades later, the Kalamazoo County Police took a look into the cold case. The now adults, who were teens when it happened, still weren't talking. They worked for a year on the case and let it go. They still did not have the murder weapon. In 2010, Erik's sister started a Facebook page for Erik, the pages gained over 600 friends. It was so many years later, everyone thought the case was closed. Everyone knew who was in the dark colored car that night, everyone knew what had happened, but none of that could be proven in court.
The main suspects in Erik's case were Bret Spaulding, Brian Spaulding (Bret's dad), Amber
Thomas, Tim Martin, and Tim Cook. Bret's father was a suspect because if the car was given to family out of state, or whatever happened to it, he would have had something to do with it. Bret was arrested in 2016, but not for anything surrounding Erik's case. This wasn't Bret's first arrest, he was constantly in and out of prison. During his time in prison, police could find no proof to keep him longer for Erik's murder. Anytime Bret has to go to court for anything, a group of people wearing a shirt saying "Justice for Erik Cross". It's just a reminder to Bret that they know it was him and one day justice for Erik will come.
Christopher James Dankovich
16 year old Christopher James DanKovich to many was far from violent, or so they thought. Until one day, April 24th, 2005 to be exact, Christopher stabbed his mother 111 times in the head, eyes, neck, and back in their home in Rochester. But why? That's always the golden question in true crime... well life in general. See at the time, Christopher's mother Diane Michele caught him watching porn and also caught wind that he was browsing websites focused on making weapons. I even read that he either made or attempted to make a weapon that projected items like a pole at gun power speed. It was claimed that the reason for these searches were not for what you would think a 16 year old boy would want to do. He wanted to save the babies and that means getting rid of abortion, or at least people who support it. When Christopher's mother confronted him about these findings, he lashed out, stabbed her 111 times, and fled the home in his mom's white Astrovan...with no license. Christopher ran off to a family cabin in Roscommon County. Around 8 am, Diane's mother finds the body of her daughter after Christopher's father asks her to stop by and check on Diane after not being able to get in contact with her. Her body was laying in the family's foyer with a tarp partially covering her body. Police were able to collect a blue handle knife with blood and hair on it, bloody clothes in the laundry room, and blood droplets and blood in the sink as well. Police immediately start the hunt for Christopher. Police feared that not only was he a threat to others, but a threat to himself as well. The next day the van was spotted at the cabin and authorities were informed. Before going into the cabin, police actually called Christopher's phone but there was no answer. They then approached the cabin calling out on a bullhorn to Christopher. He surrendered without giving the police any problem. Christopher said that he had planned on going South into hiding which was pretty evident because his freshly dyed blue hair was shaved off. Christopher was brought to Oakland County jail via helicopter. Despite what had happened, Christopher's family supported him 100% through things. And although many described him as someone they least expected to be violent, he was held with no bond. Christopher's lawyer believed that this was a mental health issue and constantly mentioned an insanity defense. A plea deal for 22 1/2 - 34 years was rejected by the judge because he stated that it was too light for the crime he committed. In the end though, Christopher was charged with 2nd degree murder - not premeditated. Instead of going to trial, Christopher really just wanted to own up to what he did and face his punishment. A psychologist stated that he was going to be a threat once out due to the fact he strongly believes in what he stands for and will lash out on anyone who stands in his way... like he did with his mother. Christopher was charged as an adult and is currently serving a sentence of 25-37 years and will be eligible for parole 2030. And although there weren't many articles on Christopher, I did stumble over this site called prison writers were Christopher published short stories about his experience being in prison at a young age. I read through most of the stories already and they're really worth taking a look into. We'll leave the link on our website to this as well.