John R. McRae, not to be confused with the Canadian poet John McRae, might not have the same ring to it as the BTK Killer or the Co-Ed Killer, but make no mistake, he’s as sinister as serial killers come.
Who is John R. McRae?
Born in 1935, McRae’s descent into murder and mayhem happened at a relatively young age. In September 1950, eight-year-old Joey Housey was enjoying a day out in the open in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan, when he went missing. It still remains unclear whether a 15-year-old McRae lured Joey to his demise or abducted him, but what we do know is that McRae lost his humanity that day. After Joey went missing and the neighborhood put together a search party, McRae volunteered his name to search for the eight-year-old, and unsurprisingly Joey was not found.
Two weeks later, however, another search was mounted, this time without McRae and sure as rain Joey’s body turned up, that too almost beside the McRae home. An investigation into the murder revealed that eight-year-old Joey’s throat and genitals had been mutilated with a straight razor, but before the cops could close in on McRae, he tried fleeing to Canada. However, McRae was caught and confessed soon after, and in 1951, he was sentenced to life in prison for Joey’s murder.
Unfortunately, McRae’s incarceration did not end up stopping his murderous spree, although he would spend the next 20 years behind bars. Over the course of these two decades, McRae managed to make quite an impression on the prison staff, and consequently, was released on probation in 1972. Once McRae’s probation ended in 1976, he left Michigan for Florida searching for his next murderous streak.
Working as a correctional officer in Florida didn’t stop McRae from killing again. In 1977, 14-year-old Keith Fleming went missing in Cocoa Beach, Florida, never to be found again. Fleming’s body would never be found, and even though enough evidence was not recovered to link McRae to his disappearance, he remained the prime suspect because he frequented a beach Fleming frequented.
Two years later, in March 1979, 12-year-old Kip Hess went missing in Merritt Island, Florida, after he made an acquaintance with McRae, who was working there as a security guard at a church fair. After Kip went missing, McRae, like during his first murder, volunteered to be part of the search party, but Kip’s body was never found. Later, a flyer about Kip going missing would be found in McRae’s locker. Months after Kip’s disappearance, in December 1979, 19-year-old inmate Charles Collingwood went missing from the Brevard Correctional Institution in Sharpes, Florida, where McRae worked as a security guard. Although it was initially suspected that McRae had a sexual relationship with Collingwood and had helped the inmate escape, Collingwood was never found again, and it’s suspected that McRae had a hand in his disappearance.
Unsurprisingly, McRae’s proximity to the victims in Florida landed him on the police scanner, but before any investigation could make headway, McRae packed his bags and shifted to Michigan. It is in Michigan where McRae’s murderous streak would come to an end. McRae did lie low and led a quiet life for seven years on his return to Michigan. However, in 1987, 15-year-old Randy Laufer went missing in Clare County, Michigan, and soon afterward, McRae left, or rather fled, to Arizona. For the next decade, McRae remained a major suspect in the disappearances of Laufer and Collingwood, but it wouldn’t be until 1997 that investigators would find a break in the case.
In 1997 McRae’s trailer in Clare County was removed to allow for construction, but the removal facilitated the discovery of Laufer’s skeleton underneath a block of concrete. Unsurprisingly, both McRae and his son Martin were arrested in 1998 and charged with Laufer’s murder. After a lengthy trial and a subsequent retrial in 2004, McRae was found guilty of Laufer’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison in 2005. Although McRae was offered full immunity in exchange for giving up the locations of the corpses of his suspected victims, he maintained his innocence throughout.
Where is John McRae Today?
Shortly after John McRae was convicted for Laufer’s murder in 2005, he died at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, at 70. Intestinal ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding precipitated McRae’s death, and it would perhaps be appropriate to say that nature dealt its hand where the system failed.
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