LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — When people think of their hometown and its surrounding community, they rarely think it could be home to a serial killer or the site of a murder.
While Midwestern states like Michigan are often left out in the national true crime discussion, there are several grisly cases that gripped the mitten state in fear.
The 2007 Lansing murder spree
Matthew Macon grew up in Lansing and had an extensive violent criminal record leading up his 2007 murder spree, per the Associated Press.
Macon, in and out of prison for years, was released on parole when he began a reign of terror that would leave six women dead by the end of summer in 2007.
On July 26, 2007, Macon attacked Ruth Hallman, 76, in her home. She died two days later as a result from her injuries.
One month later, Macon murdered 36-year-old Deborah Cooke. Her body was discovered on Aug. 7, 2007, in Hunter Park. Just two days later, 46-year-old Debra Renfors was found dead in her apartment.
Weeks later, Sandra Eichorn, 64, was also discovered murdered in her home on Aug. 27. Macon also killed 41-year-old Karen Delgado-Yates.
Macon’s spree finally came to an end with the attempted murder of 56-year-old Linda Jackson. Jackson’s dog defended her bravely, attacking Macon and chasing him out of the home, as reported by the Associated Press.
Jackson would survive from her injuries, and the incident led to the identification and arrest of Macon.
After his arrest, Macon confessed to the 2005 murder of 60-year-old Lansing Community College professor Carolyn Kronenberg.
Claude McCollum, an LCC student at the time, had already been convicted of the murder and was later exonerated and released from prison.
Police also suspected Macon in the 2004 murder of Barbara Tuttle, who was discovered dead in the same home as Renfors.
Macon was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on June 18, 2008.
The murderous Kalamazoo brothers
Larry and Danny Ranes are a rare case of sibling criminals that acted independently of each other.
Raised in an abusive household, the Ranes brothers got into crime at a young age. Both had long arrest records before committing their first murder, Larry Ranes said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
On May 30, 1964, Larry Ranes posed as a hitchhiker and killed 30-year-old Plymouth schoolteacher Gary Smock. Larry Ranes was arrested in June 1964 and confessed to four other murders that took place during gas station robberies.
He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Oct. 23, 1964, as reported by the Anderson Daily Bulletin. Larry Ranes later changed his name to Monk Steppenwolf.
Not long after his brother’s conviction, Danny Ranes attacked 18-year-old Dorothy King in Battle Creek. King escaped the assault and was able to identify him to police.
He was sentenced to four years in prison for the assault on King.
Paroled in February 1972, Danny Ranes returned to Kalamazoo and met 15-year-old Brent Koster. The pair would commit several murders of young women over the next few months.
On July 5, 1972, Danny Ranes and Brent Koster raped and killed 19-year-old Chicagoans Linda Clark and Claudia Bidstrup. Clark and Bidstrup’s remains were located 14 days later by a motorcyclist.
Ranes and Koster then murdered 18-year-old Pamela Fearnow on Aug. 5, 1972.
Koster, feeling guilty for his participation in the murders, confided in several people. One person he spoke with was a police informant and Koster and Danny Ranes were apprehended.
The interrogation revealed that Danny Ranes also murdered 28-year-old Patricia Howk in March 1972 before he met Koster, as reported by the Holland Sentinel.
Danny Ranes was sentenced to life without possibility of parole on Aug. 9, 1973. Koster was sentenced to life with possibility of parole on July 21, 1975. Koster was eventually paroled in 2020.
The East Lansing Serial Killer
Donald Miller, born in 1954 in Lansing, grew up as an only child. He lived a middle-class life in East Lansing, attended East Lansing High School and eventually graduated from MSU in 1973 with a degree in criminal justice.
His eventual crimes would throw his hometown into a panic.
Millers’ life took a disturbing turn on New Year’s Eve of 1976. He invited ex-girlfriend Martha Young out to celebrate and strangled her to death in a parking lot near Spartan Stadium later that night, as detailed in “Killing Women,” a recollection of the case written by former Eaton County Sheriff Ron Sadler.
He was questioned by police, but without any evidence to implicate him, Miller wasn’t charged with a crime. Young’s clothes were recovered near a lake in Bath in October 1977, as reported by The Herald Palladium back in 1978.
Miller then murdered 27-year-old Marita Choquette, who worked at WKAR-TV on MSU’s campus, on June 15, 1978. Twelve days later, Miller took his third victim, 21-year-old Wendy Bush.
Miller would claim a fourth life, 30-year-old schoolteacher Kristine Stuart on Aug. 14.
Just two days after Stuart’s murder, Miller broke into a Lansing home after discovering that 14-year-old Lisa Gilbert was alone. During his assault on Lisa Gilbert, her 13-year-old brother, Randy Gilbert arrived home.
Randy Gilbert leaped at Miller, giving Lisa Gilbert an opportunity to run outside, immediately attracting the attention of passers-by. Both Gilberts survived injuries sustained from Miller.
Miller’s license plate was reported to police, and he was arrested at his apartment just a few hours after the attempted murder of the Gilbert siblings.
The conditions of Miller’s sentencing drew controversy.
Miller was offered a plea bargain after identifying the location of his victims’ bodies, as reported by the State News in 1979. He was then convicted of involuntary manslaughter, receiving 30 to 50 years imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
Miller received an additional 20-to-40-year sentence in 1994 after prison officials discovered a garrote in Miller’s cell at Kinross Correctional Facility.
Should he serve his sentence in full, without making parole, Miller’s projected release date is 2031.
Cold case murder of Dawn Magyar
The body of Dawn Magyar was found on March 4, 1973, in a wooded area near Chapin. She had been missing from her home in Chesaning since January.
Police believe Magyar was abducted from a shopping center in Owosso. Forensic evidence revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and shot three times.
The initial investigation yearned few results. The murder weapon, a .22 caliber revolver, was retrieved from the Shiawassee River in Owosso, as reported by Owosso newspaper The Argus-Press.
Investigators managed to trace the gun’s origin to a pawn shop in Yuma, Arizona, where it was purchased by Robert Shaw in 1965.
Unfortunately, not much else was turned up and the case went cold for decades.
It was eventually reopened by state police in 1995, with hopes that advancements in DNA analysis technology could provide a match to sperm specimens collected from Magyar’s body in 1973.
Shaw was tracked down in 1998 and was cleared through DNA testing. Shaw told police that his ex-wife dated a man named Jerald Wingeart, and that it was possible that he had taken the gun at the time.
In 2001, police moved in on Wingeart, then aged 60 and living a quiet life with his family in Center Line. Using a DNA sample collected from a cigarette butt, Wingeart was linked to the murder of Magyar.
He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 2002.
Nearly 30 years later, the murder of Magyar was finally solved.