Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Milford Memories: A Haunted Park

by Donna Pendergast

Milford Michigan is a sleepy serene village located in a bucolic area of affluent Oakland County Michigan. Despite it's trendy shops and a recent burst of development on the village outskirts it retains a small town charm with Victorian style architecture downtown and several parks sprinkled throughout the small village. The largest of these parks is Central Park which sits on the banks of the Huron River just off the downtown business district. With it's tennis courts, play scape, picnic areas and wooded trails, Central Park appears to be the picture perfect small town park.

Appearances can be deceptive.

On January 4th 1992, Cynthia Jones a 15-year-old honor student was abducted from Central Park at knife point by a masked man who left her boyfriend tied to a tree. The boyfriend later became a target of the investigation. He was the subject of intense scrutiny right up until May 27th, 1992 when serial murderer Leslie Allen Williams was apprehended by authorities and and confessed to Cindy's abduction and subsequent murder. Williams also confessed to the murders of three other teenage girls, Kami Villenueva who was abducted from her home a few months before Cindy was kidnapped and sisters Melissa and Michelle Urbin who were abducted while walking near their rural home in Fenton Michigan.

Leslie Allen Williams, an almost forgotten serial murderer, is a miscreant who had multiple violent felony convictions at the time of his apprehension. Described by psychiatrists as a woman hater and a sociopath motivated by sadism he was a time bomb waiting to explode. After confessing to the four murders he led authorities to the makeshift graves of all four girls. He later pled guilty to all four murders which spared the families and myself the rigors of a trial. His parole on multiple violent felonies prior to the teens murder was the impetus for a complete reform of the Michigan parole system. The multiple pleas of guilty ended the court saga of Leslie Allen Williams but they would not be the final chapter in Central Park's dark history.

On August 9th, 1995, two twelve year old girls, Casey Fiolek and Jennifer Wicks went missing in Milford and were widely reported as possible runaways. I remember like it was yesterday hearing the news of their disappearance on the radio. Call it what you will, a premonition or prosecutor's instinct I knew instantly that this would end badly. I knew in my heart that Casey and Jennifer had not run away. In the days following the disappearance I was astonished at how little media attention was paid to the disappearance of two 12-year old girls.

Unfortunately the situation was about to change and not in a good way.

On August 12th, 1995 a teenage boy was present at Central Park for a festival called Milford Memories. He wandered into a wooded area of the park and observed what appeared to be part of a body sticking out of a culvert pipe. What appeared to be a body was, in fact, two bodies: Casey and Jennifer, one on top of the other, sexually assaulted, choked and stabbed and stuffed into the culvert like two discarded rag dolls. The discovery was beyond horrifying. The story of how they ended up there, more horrifying yet.

An intense police investigation led the police to two local but homeless drifters, Aaron Stinchcombe and Russell Oeschger, miscreants who had been living temporarily in a wooded area of the park. Stinchcombe knew Casey's older brother from having grown up around town. He along with Oeschger had befriended the two girls in a more populated area of the park earlier in the day on the date of their murder.

The two girls spent the afternoon hours preceding their murders hanging out with the two much older men. Aaron Stinchcombe was 20 years old and Russell Oeschger was 30 years old. During the course of that afternoon the girls persuaded the men to purchase alcohol for them to celebrate their upcoming 13th birthdays. A plan was put in place where the girls would meet back up with the men at the park late at night. Little did Casey and Jennifer know that a much more diabolical plan would be hatched after they left the park in the late afternoon hours.

Jennifer was spending the night at Casey's house and the two girls snuck out of a bedroom window shortly before midnight. They headed for Central Park not knowing that what really waited for them in the park was no party but rather two monsters of the night wearing human faces. The girls met up with the men and while sitting around a picnic table began drinking the alcohol that had been purchased. Having never consumed liquor before the girls became intoxicated very quickly. After the girls became intoxicated, Russell Oeschger led Jennifer away under the pretext of showing her the bathrooms. Aaron Stinchcombe led Casey deeper into the woods to an area under a tree. What started out as a lark in the park for two young girls was about to become a scene worse than any nightmare or horror movie.

Jennifer was raped, choked and stabbed to death by Oeschger up near a bathroom located within a park. At about the same time Casey had sobered up to the point where she realized that something had gone very wrong. She began screaming "Where is Jennifer, You killed her didn't you?" to Stinchcombe who than began to beat her. At some point, Oeschger having already killed Jennifer, came over to assist Stinchcombe with Casey. Casey was raped by Stinchcombe and beaten and stomped on by both men to the point where both men thought that she was dead.

As Stinchcombe and Oeschger debated what to do with the bodies, Casey surprised both of them by jumping back up and beginning to scream. The men began twisting her head around on her neck chanting "wind up toy, wind up toy." Casey was then choked and stabbed to death and both girls bodies were then transported to the culvert and stuffed inside.

The chilling details are known only because both men made ghastly almost matching confessions that haunt me to this day nearly two decades later. I introduced those confessions in Stinchcombe and Oeschger's respective murder trials to two different but equally horrified juries. Both men were convicted of first degree murder and will spend the rest of their natural lives in prison.

Unlike the happy connotation attached to the name for the annual summer festival, my Milford memories cause me to shudder every time that I think of Cindy, Casey and Jennifer. In the case of Casey and Jennifer I always wonder how two ne'er-do-wells could escalate from petty crimes to such diabolical and monstrous acts of murder. As to all three cases, I wonder what the odds are that such a seemingly idyllic setting in such a serene and quiet community would be the scene of such horrific evil not once but on two different occasions only a few years apart. I'm sure that these questions will haunt me for the rest of my life.

As I told Casey and Jennifer's respective juries during opening statements at trial: "We tell our children there are no monsters. They don't come out at night, they don't hide in the dark, they don't torture and kill little girls. This case will prove beyond any doubt that we delude ourselves..."

But even those words did not do justice to explain the crimes and evil that befell Cindy, Casey and Jennifer in Milford's Central Park.

In the age old cycle that defines the evolution of any community people come and people go and memories fade with time. But in this case my memories of Cindy, Casey and Jennifer will remain with me for the rest of my days.

So Cindy, Jennifer and Casey, since I can't forget here is my prayer to you:

Rest assured you are still remembered
Keep those who remember in sight
Please watch over and protect our children
From the monsters who lurk in the night.

Rest in peace sweet angels, you are remembered today and always.

Statements made in this post are my own and are not intended to reflect the views, opinion or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.


Anonymous said...

Well written. Thank you for what you do, knowing the memories haunt.

Anonymous said...

This is the another story of why are these predators out of prison/ jail? I do not understand why the systems lets them out knowing that most will offend again. These guys has signs they were not all there.

Anonymous said...

I was 14 yrs old when that happened in Milford. I personally believe that killing or violating someone was always their plan. There used to be a Subway shop on Main Street and I would sit outside,closer to the tracks and wait for my friend when we would meet "uptown". A week before that happened I was sitting there when a crappy car pulled in with 2 guys in it. They asked me things like "what are you doing? Want to hang out with us? Where are you going?" etc. Obviously I never got in the car or engaged them in conversation, but that wasn't the creepy part. The thing that actually scared me at the time was how long they sat there, in the car, staring at me while talking to each other. It was an unusually, very uncomfortable,long time. It was a tiny parking lot and they had to pull into a spot to turn around and leave. They looked irritated at me when they left. A week later that whole thing happened and I always, instinctively knew, it was them and that's what they wanted to do to me.

Anonymous said...

This case hits do close to home quite literally. I was 14 in August of 1995 and lived across the street from the local Big Boy where Aaron Stinchcombe worked for a short time. My best friend also worked there and he seemed preoccupied with her, always asking to hang out which was bizarre because of the age difference. A few days before the murders, he tried to persuade my best friend and I to meet up in the park. So glad we thought better not too, this still haunts me to this day and while I no longer reside in Michigan, I can't help but think of those two innocent little girls when I go back home to Milford and pass by central park.

Taml Salazar said...

Where do I begin.. Casey was my best friend... Cynthia my baby sitter Michael Carter my best friend who got killed in flint for his shoes at 14. Arron and Russel loved to hang out at moors dahm. A place we all swam and hung out. My sisters man and his friend said they were plotting on us.. Walked us home safe. I never fealt comfortable talking to them they never were apart. Russel worked at Mikes summit café. Right behind my house. 1 day me cousin and my sister walk to the store to get some food and cigarettes. yes I'm not proud I was smoking for a very very long time. he bought are cigarettes and bought himself a 6 pack and then asked us if we wanted to go back to his house to hang out. we said where is that he said just passed the cemetery on Summit. right then and there my little cousin 2 years younger pretending that my mom was calling for us through the yard and we said we had to go. I'm crying. this hurts and still haunts me everyday it could have been me it coulda been my sister my cousin but it was my best friend it was 2 weeks after never will I forget the day that I saw the missing sign knowing Casey had It good at home knowing she would never run away. Milford never felt the same I became a hard cold stone person. rest in peace my fallen angels. I will never forget you.

Taml Salazar said...

Oh and now that her mother Dee Dee passed this new year may they hug for eternity... Love u fioleks...

Lindsey Mclaughlin said...

Reading this brings my heart back to the day that I found out that my little buddy was gone forever. It doesn't feel like it was that long ago that Jennifer was murdered, but still to this day I can not believe what these men did to them. So much taken, they had their whole lives to live and deserved so much more. I hurt for the hatred that runs through me reading this again, the thoughts of what Jennifer and Cassey went through, the fear they must have felt. These poor girls. I wish these jerks could feel the pain,the heartache and the hatred that they left the family and friends with.

Anonymous said...

Aaron stayed at my house for 2 months he knew my dad and my dad gave him a place to stay him and my brothers and i got drunk one night mom told him to leave as i was only 16 years old. I knew aaron for 3 years and saw him almost everyday before he went to jail for stealing a purse. He was a troubled guy i never saw this comming at all im 35 now.and it still boggles my mind and in disbeliefe still.. its sad my heart goes.out to the familys

Anonymous said...

Today I was scrolling my Facebook feed and a friend posted a remembrance for her friend Jennifer Wicks. I haven't heard that name in a long time, but I remembered. I google searched for the girls because I wanted to remember their faces and came across this article. I was 11 when this tragedy hit my home town. I clearly remember the news reports that the girls were missing, and how my family was so concerned about it, discussing it amongst the adults. I also recall hearing conversations about Leslie Allen Williams, but I was too young to fully comprehend that their were real monsters in this world. I lived with my grandparents on 5 acres in a country setting, down a dirt road full of potholes by the Oak Grove Cemetery. I remember my family watched me like hawks, never letting me out of their sight, even when I was in the backyard. Then a few days later the girls were discovered in the park. Such a dark day for the entire community. My grandpa was so upset he cursed then rushed out of the house slamming the door and went for a drive. At the time my young self didn't understand the anguish of the town, or of my grandfather. He didn't know these girls and I was shocked to see him tear up. That wasn't really his nature and it was scary to see that reaction. The chilling part is once the media announced the murderers, my family flipped out. The man Aaron came over to our home and worked on cars with one of my unclearly. Now that I'm an adult with a daughter of ny own, I know how precious our children are, regardless if they are ours or someone else's. There's a fear inside me that will never go away, always suspect of others, in a small town or a large city the fear will always stay.

Anonymous said...

This entry seems to have been copied and plagiarized by a spam blog (along with many others):

Note that the spam blog even spoofs the real WomenInCrime's name, adding an "s" to the URL.

mark williams said...

Well I can tell you why Russ may have turned bad see I lived 5 houses down from Russ and his family on Franklin street in Milford mi
And I remember walking home one day and I seen Russ arguing with his dad again and I remember his did kicking Russ out. Russ looked a lot like his dad short 5,3 5,4 never got a chance to talk to Russ but my dad and I talked to the dad just because my dad new everyone lol so that's probably what started it for Russ was things at home were never good.

Anonymous said...

I am only 14 years old. I have lived in Milford Michigan for most of my life. A month or two ago me and some friends were walking around downtown Milford. It was dark and we were walking back to my friends house after getting a few snacks from the nearby gas station. I love trucks and I would look at everyone that drove by us. I notices a truck that had passed us at leased 6 times already. I thought I was just being paranoid so I just didn't say anything. The whole time I was thinking about those girls. I kept seeing the truck pass by and I decided better safe then sorry and I told my friends. I described the truck to them and about two min after we saw it slowly driving down the street towards us. We started running and the truck started going faster and he was following us. I thought I had to make sure this guy was actually following us so we decided to go through some back roads and just roads that people usually don't just drive down. Sure enough he followed us everywhere we went. We started walking through some neighborhoods and he showed up at the end of every street we ran down. He was trapping us and we started hiding in peoples yards and just anywhere we could. I saw into his car and he was wearing sunglasses and a hat. I Couldn't clearly see his face. We were able to make it back to my friends house and we fell asleep. I will never forget what happened. I thought no one would believe a teenager so I didn't tell. Nothing has happened since

Anonymous said...

Mike Carter was not killed for his shoes... He was brutally murdered by a group of men that said they would help Mikey find a phone.... It was more or less a gang initiation

Mary Jones said...

I am the sister of Cindy, I have read this and it saddened me, the reports of what happened are true but what wasn't mentioned is that Aaron was part of a boot camp program during the time of the discovery of my sister, he was one of the several that discovered my sister's body in her shallow grave, personally, I can see where that could make a person snap and do harm upon others, I am not making excuses nor am I saying his actions were right in anyway but I don't think anyone should ever have to experience that, especially not trained to deal with something so horrific, I never understood why they had boot camp inmates looking and digging in search of bodies.... All in all its something that can affect a person's psyche, we helped create a monster

Elizabeth Siwanowicz said...

My older sister is Cindy. I will never forget the tragedy we faced and still feel pain today. She was so bright and happy. She loved being a big sister to so many siblings. I won't forget the reporters at our house I was very young but I still today have a clear memory of it. Not all of it but some of it. The pain I felt during the end of her funeral. Leaving the church asking my Ma where's Cindy? We can't leave without her Ma. My Ma tells me she's with Jesus. I didn't understand. Why is she with him when she should be coming home with us her family. The pain in my mas eyes was horrible to explain Cindy gained her wings and is watching over us. Everyday I drive pass the park I whisper to Cindy that I love and miss her. My kids ask me once in a while whose that mama in the picture. That's Aunt Cindy. She's an angel. On her birthday I place a rose on the stone in the beginning of the park for her with white flowers for the other victims who lost their lives from the monsters. I tell my kids stranger danger thanks to my older sister Mary. You never know what people are capable of so you must keep your eyes open and always follow your instincts.