the murder of jane mixer in ypsilanti

On the advice of a friend, Linette just started reading a book by Maggie Nelson called “Jane: A Murder.” It’s a book about the murder of Nelson’s aunt, a University of Michigan student by the name of Jane Mixer, in 1969. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve been stepping over it on our staircase for the past few days now, each time looking down into the haunting, dark eyes of this young woman who was killed almost 40 years ago, here in Ypsilanti. I’d thought about picking the book up a few times, as it sounds interesting (it’s composed partly of the young woman’s journal entries), but, for whatever reason, I kept going by it without opening it.

Tonight it’s storming outside, and I’m here in the house alone. I started skimming the local news, and it just so happens, I saw Jane’s name in the Associated Press. It seems that the person convicted two years ago of her killing (thanks to 35 year old DNA evidence), a man by the name of Gary Leiterman, was just denied a new trial. The last sentence of the story mentions rain… “The body of 23-year-old Jane Mixer was found covered with her raincoat and a grave blanket in a cemetery near Ypsilanti”… I don’t know that I’d make the connection normally, but as this is the first rain we’ve had in well over a month, it seemed worth noting.

When I go up to bed, I’ll probably take the book with me. Usually, when there are ‘coincidences’ like this, I like to follow them and see where they lead… The last few minutes, I’ve been searching the net for information on Mixer and the man who almost got away with her murder. (Before the DNA evidence was discovered, the murder had been attributed to Ypsilanti serial killer John Norman Collins.) Before I start reading the book, I wanted to share two odd things I discovered about the case. The first is that, for some inexplicable reason, the DNA test which implicated Leiterman also indicated the presence of another person. Here’s a clip from Court TV:

…Leiterman, who was a 25-year-old drug salesman at the time of the crime and has no known connection to the victim, was arrested last year after a reinvestigation of the long-unsolved murder turned up stains on Mixer’s pantyhose that matched his DNA.

The same lab, however, also found the DNA of another man, a convicted killer who was only 4 years old when the murder occurred…

The second, from today’s “Detroit Free Press,” involves the book Jane was reading at the time of her death:

…The killer had pulled up Mixer’s jumper to reveal her underwear, then carefully covered the body with her yellow raincoat and positioned it atop a grave. The persnickety murderer had neatly set Mixer’s shoes and her copy of “Catch 22” near the body…

The book, as you may know, revolves around the rape and murder of an innocent young woman.

I don’t know what any of it means, but, on this dark and rainy night, it makes me think that I need to know more about this woman.

[An interview with Mixer’s niece, the author of “Jane: A Murder,” can be found at the Soft Skull Press website.]

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27 Comments

  1. Jill
    Posted July 27, 2007 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Ms. Nelson has another more recent book out that covers the trial of Mr. Leiterman. It’s also good reading. Also, you’ve certainly read “Michigan Murders”, yes?

  2. Ted
    Posted July 27, 2007 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    From the Wikipedia entry for Catch-22’s Captain “Aarfy” Aardvaark

    Aarfy is the navigator in Yossarian’s B-25, noted for being oblivious to incoming flak, for getting lost on missions, and his omnipresent pipe. His nickname “Aarfy” is an abbreviation of his surname, Aardvaark.

    Toward the end of the novel, he rapes and murders a maid, Michaela, while on leave in Rome. This inadvertently forms the emotional centre of the novel. When an aghast Yossarian tells him that he will be arrested and possibly executed, Aarfy laughs dismissively, though with decreasing conviction, that no one would do that to “good old Aarfy”:

    “I only raped her once” he explained.

    Yossarian was aghast. “But you killed her, Aarfy! You killed her!”

    “Oh, I had to do that after I had raped her,” Aarfy replied in his most condescending manner. “I couldn’t very well let her go around saying bad things about us, could I?”

    “But why did you have to touch her at all, you dumb bastard?” Yossarian shouted.

    “Why couldn’t you get yourself a girl off the street if you wanted one? The city is full of prostitutes.”

    “Oh, no, not me,” Aarfy bragged. “I never paid for it in my life.”

    His insouciant view is vindicated when the police arriving on the scene show no interest in Aarfy and instead arrest Yossarian for going AWOL.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aarfy

  3. ypsidweller
    Posted July 27, 2007 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    http://www.state.mi.us/mdoc/asp/otis2profile.asp?mdocNumber=126833

  4. ypsidweller
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    http://www.state.mi.us/mdoc/asp/otis2profile.asp?mdocNumber=527052

  5. beth karhan
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I saw a TV program about this case last night. I find it very strange and sad that things like this go unpunished, but I in no way think Gary Leiterman(sp?) is responsible. It is scape-goating and the family knows it. The DNA contamination is proof that these tests are not reliable, especially with the clothing in storage for 36 years. I hope showing this on cable TV wells support for his plight. He deserved another trial.

  6. mark
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    It’s a small world. I just got an email from a high school friend who reads this site. Jane Mixer’s father married into his family several years ago. He thinks I may have met him once. (He’s since passed away.)

  7. Justin
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s very sad Gary Leiterman was convicted. He may be guilty, but beyond a reasonable doubt? Please. I wonder if his defense team did a very good job or not, because the contaminated blood of another person whose DNA was clearly a case of a lab screw-up should be enough to toss the case out. The defense should have torn this pathetic case apart, what were they doing?

  8. Vielka
    Posted September 1, 2008 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    I believe Mr. Lieterman kill her for sure. I bilieve he did it becuase may be he was a sexual offender (it make sence why the other DNA found it in a scene).

  9. Posted December 30, 2008 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    literman didnt do it , because there was another un solved drop of blood of a 4 and a half year old at that time … he should be innocent..
    this is not fair to him ,his family, and the jane mixer family ..
    the killer is probly still out there give literman a chance people. if you put a guilty man in bars you will all be the guilty ones .. i rest my case..

  10. Posted December 30, 2008 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    i mean inoccent man in bars you all will be the guilty ones,

  11. rbslprs
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    I think you had it right the first time when you said guilty. They found 2 photos of a child exchange student partially nude who appeared to be in a drugged state (as he was a drug salesman and was addicted to painkillers himself) his DNA was found in 12 spots not just 1. If this was more recent and it happenend to lets say your sister would you want the guilty person to go free because one blood spot was contaminated. the dna did not EXCLUDE him, but added the second mans dna. Shame on the lab for that but again it did not exclude him. As far as women borrowing other womens pantyhose, i’m not buying that. i have never barrowed or LOANED out my pantyhose or panties, most women, ESPECIALLY NURSING STUDENTS would not. I just hope she was the only victim of his. Keep in mind not all victims are murdered.

  12. Rosemary
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    It is obvious that an innocent man is in prison, in fact, the first gentleman that was sentenced to prison for I think 35 years was a smack in the the face of lady justice. The very idea two different dna material was found at the crime scene, one sample convicted a man and the other sample was of a 4 year old boy and considered not revelant to the case is a prime example of shame and dismissive to the principles of justice. The victim and the victim’s family will never receive justice in this case until the guilty party is brought to justice and also important, it is obvious that the blood sample found at the crime scene was contaminated with two different blood types. The contamination could have only transpired at the lab and human error can only explain there being two different blood types. This case is still a mystery and two people were wrongly convicted of this crime and the real killer has been allowed to continue to live their life clear and free.

  13. Posted January 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    The death of a young person is always sad. It’s unfortunate that we will never know for certain what really happened that tragic night. I believe that Leiterman did kill her. There’s too much dna evidence pointing to him. As for the boy’s dna, Jane was a nursing student. She very well could have come into contanct with him or his dna in a public place. No one will ever know for certain. I feel sad.

  14. Sue
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Laura – I don’t know where you got your info… Jane was NOT a nursing student! She was one of a very few women LAW STUDENTS back in the late 60’s. Leiterman was an RN. He alone was the nurse in this story. Whether he killed Ms. Mixer or not is a matter to be debated. But on the strength of the evidence (or lack thereof) he should not have been found guilty. The family of any victim wants so much to have answers. People do not realize how powerful it is when an individual is accused and arrested. In some cases (such as with child abuse) the allegation may as well be a conviction. In this country we too easily forget that a defendant truly is innocent UNLESS and UNTIL the state overcomes that presumption. As a people we have swung so far to the right that we forget that protecting the rights of the accused means protecting ourselves. Anyone can be in the wrong place at the wrong time ending up arrested. (As a former defense attorney I can assure you of that!) Stay tuned while you see more and more people released from death row who were wrongfully convicted. But, if the lab is sloppy, that shield called DNA becomes a weapon. It is shocking that a jury would send anyone to prison for life based on DNA evidence when there is no explanation as to why the the DNA of the 4 year old was also reported to be present at the crime scene. If the DNA was contaminated, it was contaminated. Leiterman deserves a new trial. No doubt about it.

  15. Sherry
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    If you look on OTIS the offender tracking system in Michigan. It looks like he had a prior for sexual crimes against children. He had the same type of gun, He had saved articles on the serial killer in the area at the time and his handwriting matched an entry in the phone book with Jane Mixers name on it. It looks like he probably is guilty. At least a jury of 12 of his peers believes so

  16. red_kay
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    I am doing an esaay about this whole murder mystery and i honestly, after looking further into Leitermans past, i believe more and more that he could have done this. I also think that the boys DNA on her was something that went wrong in the lab. I mean how can you be 4 and murder a full grown woman? I dont get that. The thing is that he did things to little girls so why wouldn’t he do something to an older woman? He very well could have done it. There are so many things pointing to him but there are still questions i believe he should get another trial but dont use the same lab, upgraded machines, and none of the same people that did it the last time. I think everyone deserves a fair trial but the eveidence needs to be looked at again. He was a creep when he was younger, so he maybe a great con artist in making so many of you believe he’s innocent. I don’t know but something is really hinky about this whole thing. I’m really trying to figure it out. I would really like some feed back. I’m not accusing him nor am I dismissing him. I’m on the fence about it.

  17. Mr. X
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Someone just told me last night that John Norman Collins worked at Motor Wheel, right across the street from the Corner Brewery.

  18. Posted January 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    As you armchair sleuths go about your research, consider that John Norman Collins victims were sexually molested with tree branches and the like– none of them were fucked.

  19. Posted January 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    If I’m not mistaken, the Michigan Murders book was just rereleased. I confess to having a morbid curiosity about it, due to the fact that it happened here in Ypsi, but I don’t think it would be good for my mental health. Current events are bad enough without adding additional horror.

  20. Ems
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    As far as I’m concerned, Gary Leiterman deserved another trial. If the case has been more than a decades, and all the DNA test were contaminated, the jury should not send him to prison. I believe Mr. Leiterman, he is a innocent man. He used to be my foster parents when I used to play softball world series in MI Kalamazoo, and Gary leiterman was very loving and caring person, I don’t think he could do such thing like this. It was sad and shocking that the court didn’t even give him a chance to find out the thruth. Because this case has been going on for many years, they should not just convict the innocent without any strong evidence.. Those evidence were contaminated and they should reopened the trials and give him another chance.

  21. Posted June 15, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know if Leiterman has an appeal on file? Given the contamination of the evidence, I suspect that he’s actively fighting the conviction.

  22. Dilbert Farb
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    What a bunch of obvious rank amateurs you all are here and Leiterman has sucked you in. Baseless as your opinions are you have a right to your 15 minutes of fame on the soap box but regardless of a possible mix-up concerning the blood spot Leiterman’s DNA positively was on Mixer’s pantyhose and the Jury believed the state’s case against Leiterman. Leiterman refusing to take the stand is also very telling. He decided to not give the prosecutor a chance to ask him questions about his past. If he was innocent you wouldn’t have been able to keep him off the stand. An innocent man has nothing to hide.

  23. WTF?
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Dilbert Farb,
    Please explain how commenting on a blog article makes anyone famous? And you failed to notice that you are doing the exact same thing. Armchair sleuths? This case brings a lot to question and the glory of the internet is getting together and being allow to discuss it. You sound like a sour jerk who needs to stop point fingers and accusing while you are standing on the same sand hill blabbing on about the exact same things.

    P.S. his attorney told him not to take the stand. Hardly anyone takes the stand in their own defense for a murder trial. When they do it hardly ever helps them. Although Gary did speak. I have no idea if he truly is the murderer but I do believe in the value of discussion.

    See I had to respond to your “armchair sleuthing.” I must be famous.

  24. maryp
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Oh poor “DBF”…
    You are so typical of those who get lost in their own web of ignorance, and love the sound of their own voices..Bright and intelligent “WTF”, has your number and is spot on in his evaluation of you! So, please open your mind and allow the flow of ideas and informed opinions to be expressed in a fair and intelligent atmosphere. Try to think it through before you go off “half-cocked”… Thanks.

  25. Posted May 10, 2012 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    Did any by go and see who his father and mother was and why did a 4 year old grow up to be a killer I say take a look at his life whin he was a 4 year old and see what you come up with his DNA come from some were

  26. sandy hunt
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I graduated with Gary Leiterman in 1960 from Wayne Memorial high school his picture
    was in my yearbook, wonder did he really do it?

  27. csigrandma
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Leiterman is guilty. The panty hose were obviously can in contact with the ones that she was wearing. According to the transcript she had a pair wrapped around her neck.. but still have her panty hose on. Back in the 1960’s evidence was not as carefully taken care of as today. Another thing.. in the transcript there is a mention of a 1968 Lime green station wagon with the Chevy flags on the fender. This was never mentioned in any of the stories I have read. You should read this transcripts, its an eye opener. http://www.garyisinnocent.org/web/CaseHistory/TrialInformation/tabid/60/Default.aspx

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