The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit's Most Notorious Serial Killer



In this cold case murder investigation from "a powerful, confident voice in the new true crime memoir genre" (James Renner, author of True Crime Addict), one of America's most notorious sprees is cracked open. With a foreword by Catherine Broad, sister of victim Timothy King, this is a deftly crafted true story set amid the decaying sprawl of Detroit.

Four children were abducted and murdered outside of Detroit during the winters of 1976 and 1977, their bodies eventually dumped in snow banks around the city. J. Reuben Appelman was only six years old when the murders began and even evaded an abduction attempt during that same period, fueling a lifelong obsession with what became known as the Oakland County Child Killings.

Autopsies showed that the victims had been fed while in captivity, reportedly held with care. And yet, with equal care, their bodies had allegedly been groomed post-mortem, scrubbed-free of evidence that might link to a killer. There were few credible leads, and equally few credible suspects. That's what the cops had passed down to the press, and that's what the city of Detroit, and Appelman, had come to believe. When the abductions mysteriously stopped, a task force operating on one of the largest manhunt budgets in history shut down without an arrest. Although no more murders occurred, Detroit remained haunted.

Eerily overlaid upon the author's own decades-old history with violence, The Kill Jar tells the gripping story of Appelman's ten-year investigation into buried leads, apparent police cover-ups, con men, child pornography rings, and high-level corruption saturating Detroit's most notorious serial killer case. "Always deft, often sublime, Appelman uses his investigation to draw us into his personal journey through darkness, to light and life" (Chip Johannessen, producer of Dexter).

Product Details

$16.00  $14.72
Gallery Books
Publish Date
February 26, 2019
5.5 X 0.7 X 8.3 inches | 0.5 pounds

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About the Author

J. Reuben Appelman is a screenwriter, author in multiple genres, and two-time State of Idaho Literature Fellow, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. His investigative writing and research have earned him an ongoing spot as special lecturer on the issue of Human Trafficking for the Honor's College at Boise State University.


"A powerful, confident voice in the new true-crime memoir genre. There comes a moment when the reader realizes this is a not a search for a killer of children but a search for a cult of dangerous and powerful men and it shakes you to the core."--James Renner, author of True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura
"A true crime story in the best possible sense, where chapter by chapter we converge on a surprising and unimaginable truth... Always deft, often sublime, Appelman uses his investigation to draw us into his personal journey through darkness, to light and life."--Chip Johannessen, Executive Producer of Dexter and Homeland
"J. Reuben Appelman becomes both Virgil and Dante, leading us through his own dark history and the history of his city while making the almost unbearably honest, compulsive demands of a roadside accident. Although 37 Winters can be painful to gaze at, it is far more dangerous to look away."--Michael Hoffman, Director of The Best of Me, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Last Station