J. Reuben Appelman, a 2005 graduate of Boise State’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, grew up in Southfield, Michigan, a blue collar town near Detroit. This was the 1970s, an era during which a series of unsolved child murders loomed large and ominous over local neighborhoods.
The crimes came to be known as the Oakland County Child Killings. When Appelman was 7 years old, he narrowly escaped being kidnapped. While he ultimately came to believe that the man who tried to grab him on a city street was not the killer, the encounter inspired a long obsession with the murders.
Appelman spent a decade researching the crimes. He requested thousands of pages of documents through the Freedom of Information Act. After investigating buried leads and cover-ups, he reached the conclusion that the murders were not random acts of violence committed by a lone serial killer, but were more likely related to child pornography rings. Appelman’s research grew into his new memoir, “The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer.”
Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, will release the book on Aug. 14. You’ll be able to meet the author. Rediscovered Books, 180 N. 8th St. in Boise, will host a public book release party and reading with Appelman at 7 p.m. that evening.
Appelman told us more about his new book:
What’s the meaning of the book’s title?
It’s a metaphor. A kill jar is what an entomologist uses to collect bugs by sweeping them off leaves and into the jar where they die. All four of the children who were murdered were asphyxiated. The killer was roaming the streets, sweeping kids off their footing, the way someone would do to a bug in a garden.
How did these unsolved murders affect the community at the time?