It was an interesting trip. I traveled to Mackinac Island in the spring of 2021 to investigate the Island’s only murder in modern times. It’s a murder that remains unsolved to this day. I planned to stay at the same hotel where the victim, Frances Lacey, had stayed. I planned to walk the same route she walked and visit the murder scene. It would be a short trip but worthwhile.
There was one thing I had to do first. I’d be passing Indian River, a small community thirty minutes south of the Mackinac Bridge. There was a man I wanted to have lunch with. Gene Miller and I had become acquainted through my previous book titled “Killing Women,” and his son was the serial killer.
After a brief tour of Indian River, Gene and I drove to Mackinaw City for lunch, and as I sat at the restaurant table, I watched him closely. There was something different than the last time we’d seen each other. He seemed thinner. His skin was pale. His speech was a little strained.
At eighty-nine years old, I couldn’t help but wonder about his health. He was always guarded when speaking about his son. It had been forty-three years since he was sent to prison for the rape of a fourteen-year-old girl and the attempted murder of her and her brother. He’d also killed four women and hid their bodies around the Lansing area.
As we spoke, I told him about my latest book and the unsolved murder on Mackinac Island. His son had worked at the same hotel in 1976 where Frances Lacey was staying when she was murdered in 1960. I sensed he became confused and might be thinking I was trying to prove his son had committed the Mackinac Island murder. I tried to explain it to him. There was a sixteen-year spread between the Island murder and his son working at the Murray Hotel. His son would have only been six in 1960 when Frances Lacey was killed. Still, I don’t think he fully understood.
We departed that afternoon, and I continued my journey to Mackinac Island and the Murray Hotel.
It was a year later when I received a letter from his son. Gene had passed away two months after our lunch in Mackinaw City. Gene had always hoped his son might one day be released before he died. I never agreed with him, but I also kept my opinions to myself when we spoke. Sadly, there will be a day his son will be released. He only remains in prison today for possessing a garrote in his prison dorm.
As I look back on the short time I knew Gene, I realized that even though he was guarded about the information he shared, that helped me understand to a greater degree what I believe happened to Frances Lacey on Mackinac Island in July of 1960.