Marney Keenan Tells the True Story of the Oakland County Child Killer
by Erin Evans
“Money and power can make a whole lot of things disappear,” said Marney Keenan (66). This was unfortunately the truth of the Oakland County Child Killings case, a 44-year-old murder investigation that has yet to be solved.
Keenan’s book, The Snow Killings: Inside the Oakland County Child Killer Investigation (2020), tells of the kidnapping and murder of four Oakland County children in the 1970s. The book then follows the children’s families and the police—primarily detective Cory Williams—as they try to uncover the truth of what happened. The book takes readers down the trail of leads detectives followed, revealing not only the likely killer who escaped prosecution but the case’s connections to the underground child pornography industry and the twisted ways that money and power played a part in keeping the investigation from being solved.
“I knew about the case because I grew up near Oakland County,” Keenan said. She did not become involved herself until years later. After getting a degree in English literature, she was interested in poetry, and said, “I went to Brooklyn and wore a barrette and gave poetry readings…I was really something.”
After being advised against getting an MFA in poetry, Keenan turned to journalism, working for a small newspaper, the Yorktowner. She proceeded to “work [her] way up” to larger publications, like the North Carolina News and Observer and the Chicago Tribune. After moving to Detroit, she worked for Detroit Monthly Magazine as a senior editor before becoming a feature writing and later a columnist for the Detroit News, where she worked for 26 years, retiring in 2016.
While working for the Detroit News, Keenan received a call from Barry King, the father of Tim King, who was the fourth child to be abducted and killed. King talked to her and her editor that night for three hours, telling them a shocking story about the investigation. He had learned about a man—a convicted pedophile—who had escaped charges four times and was likely involved in the death of his and the three other children. When Keenan went home, she said she told her husband, “I know who the Oakland County Child Killer is.”
Keenan broke this lead to the Detroit News and “followed the case from there on in for the paper.” After learning the background of the case in the meeting with the prosecutor’s office, she realized how much information she had about it that no one else knew. It was this realization, combined with her desire to find any answers she could for the families that made her think, “this needs to be a book.”
After “a lot of prying and a lot of interviews and a lot of meetings” she convinced Cory Williams that the book was important and would not be published until they made sure it was ready. She started “writing in earnest” around 2012.
Keenan had “five file cabinets…filled with police documents” on the case, which she used as the basis for the story. Her brother also got her “the biggest whiteboard you’ve ever seen” which extends across her wall where she began outlining the story and finding a way to structure it.
One of the main purposes of the book, Keenan said, is “to encourage people to come forward.” If something new arises related to the case or new information is found, she will post it on her blog on her website, thesnowkillings.com.
Learning and writing about the case affected Keenan. “I’m a mom,” she said. “This is some really, really, dark stuff.” In writing this book, she said, “What mattered most is the truth about what happened here…and who turned a blind eye, because it can’t happen again.”
Keenan has kept long-standing relationships with the families of all four children who were killed. She lives with her husband and dog in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and has three adult daughters, “my pride and joy.” She and her husband hope to retire up north.
Keenan mentioned that as more advanced technology is developed, specifically methods of DNA testing, the truth of the Oakland County Child Killer case could still be uncovered and confirmed.
Said Keenan, “It’s going to be solved. It’s only a matter of time.”
The Snow Killings in available for purchase from Keenan’s website, thesnowkillings.com or from Amazon.
Erin Evans graduated from Bellaire High School and the Front Street Writers program. She plans to attend the University of Michigan in the fall, tentatively planning on a creative writing major. You can find her blog at www.frontstreetwriters.com.