There was a span of time where the library had some really great speaking events. Authors would come and talk about their book and whatnot, but the really juicy events, the ones that I was interested in, were when experts on a niche subject came to do presentations about subjects like aliens being spotted over Lake Michigan, weird history, or how to listen to music properly.
The best presentation, by far, was this ex-cop who spoke about an unsolved murder that occurred in 1970 in Grand Rapids, Michigan (where I was living at the time).
The story goes that a couple was living in a house on College Avenue. They had gotten married seventeen days prior. The young wife was home alone when (police suspect) a person knocked on the door and, after she let them in, stabbed her thirty-two times. Once in the chest, once in the back, and THIRTY TIMES IN THE NECK. She was almost beheaded from all the stab wounds. The guy had photos and a blueprint of the house to go along with his presentation. He showed us gruesome photos of the crime scene, the woman’s dead body covered in red, doubled over. People in the audience gasped at the photo. Her face was hidden by her hair, saturated with blood. She was found on the floor in the kitchen, right outside the door that went to the bedroom. He displayed an outline of where the body had been found in the house.
There is no suspects in her death, and many believe it was a random person who killed her and ran off.
During the presentation I realized the house in which the murder took place was down the road from where I lived. After the presentation my friend and I walked a little further down the road to check out the house where the this atrocity happened.
We stood in front of the house, having walked past it a million times before, but now looking at it differently. In the front yard was a FOR RENT sign, and I wondered which apartment (there were two–the one where the murder took place was on the first floor) was available.
When I got home, I called the number. A man answered, and I told him I was interested in renting the apartment. He seemed cheery, and told me that it was indeed the first floor apartment and that he’d be happy to show me the apartment in the next couple of days. I told him i’d look at my schedule, not actually thinking about intentionally renting or going inside a creepy murder house. The thrill of talking to the landlord and finding out which apartment it happened in was exciting enough for me.
The next day I had to run an errand that took me past the murder house again. Knowing the first floor was empty, I walked up to the windows and tried to peek inside. I couldn’t see much and after a minute or two I heard a young girl speak, startling me, asking if I was interested in the apartment. She lived on the second floor and was returning home from somewhere.
“The apartment is open–I can let you though the front door and you can go right inside,” she said. “My landlord doesn’t mind.”
I thanked her and followed her into the house, not sure if I should be scared or excited to have such an opportunity. Through the front door was a small area with a staircase that went upstairs, and a door in front of me that went to the apartment in question. I thanked her as she went upstairs, and I wondered how I went from listening to a guy talk about the murder in a library auditorium to standing in the very doorway this woman’s murderer past through to kill her.
Now alone, I turned the knob and opened the door.
I thought for sure the apartment would look somewhat modern, stripped completely of its past. You’d expect an old-ish house to have a complete overhaul, giving it a more sanitary look. What I found was a time warp to a completely different era. Absolutely nothing had changed. I might as well have been there the day after she was murdered.
I stepped into the kitchen, hesitantly. The walls were a dingy, dark yellow. Looking to my left was the living room, its dark brown carpet with outdated sheer window blinds. There wasn’t a piece of furniture anywhere, which made sense, but also meant no one’s lived here for a bit. Immediately my eyes were drawn to the spot in the kitchen where the door to the bedroom was. I looked down. The kitchen floor was covered in vinyl flooring, in typical 1970’s decor. I walked over to the spot Shelly Speet Mills’s body was found. There was no evidence of blood anywhere, but it was hard to decipher between what stains had come from her murder and what had come from forty years of use.
I felt sick knowing all that I knew about this spot. The history of sadness in this place after the horrific act occurred. Her mother finding her. The moments alone with her before anyone showed up to help. Her husband coming home to find countless police officers milling about the apartment looking for clues while the woman he married two weeks prior lay dead on the floor.
I hopped over the spot I knew she’d died and walked into the bedroom. The floor was sticky, and there were rat traps along the wall. Crumbs of dirt littered the floor. One sad window filtered sun through a dirty sheet. It was as if my imagination of the murder had replicated itself in reality, and I was forever going to be trapped there. At any moment I was going to turn around and she would be standing there, bloody, her arms reaching out to me, as if pleading to bring justice to her murderer. I felt aware of myself there, then. It was quiet, I couldn’t hear the roar of cars driving past the house despite it residing on a busy street. I exited the bedroom, hopping once again over the spot, and half-skipped/half ran to the door. I whisped myself out the exit, to get outside before I was trapped forever in that house.