To investigators, Arthur Ream was always tight-lipped about any connection he had to the disappearance of a half-dozen girls who went missing outside Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s.
But to other inmates, authorities say, Ream was a prison cell braggart who spoke frequently about the girls he killed and the shallow graves he buried them in — mysteries that have flummoxed investigators for nearly four decades.
Investigators who’ve pieced together strings from some of those other inmates have reopened the cold cases of six young girls. This week, they’ve been using earth-moving equipment to find the remains of the girls in Macomb Township, roughly 20 miles northeast of Detroit.
“Everything that happened with these victims fits the profile of our suspect,” Warren Police Commissioner William J. Dwyer said at a news conference Wednesday. “We are cautiously optimistic that we unfortunately will find remains.”
Officially, the police are searching the woods for the body of 12-year-old Kimberly King, who was reported missing in September 1979 while staying at her grandparents’ home.
The cold case was reopened in October, and this week, aerial images and photographs showed a crew digging at the edge of a rural wooded field on the property of a vacant farm in Macomb Township.
Ream is familiar with the area.
That is where Ream buried the body of Cindy Zarzycki, a 13-year-old girl he killed in 1986.
Zarzycki was dating Ream’s son at the time. The older man abducted her from a Dairy Queen in Eastpointe after gaining her trust by saying he was planning a surprise party for her boyfriend, according to the Macomb Daily.
Two decades later, he led authorities to her remains in a wooded area southwest of 23 Mile Road.
He is serving life in prison for her murder.
In addition to King, authorities have identified four other potential victims, according to Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV:
- Kellie Brownlee, who disappeared from Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi in 1982, when she was 17.
- Kim Larrow, who disappeared from Canton Township in 1981, when she was 15
- Nadine O’Dell, who disappeared from Inkster in 1974, when she was 16.
- Cynthia Coon, who went missing from Washtenaw County in 1970, when she was 13.
Dwyer said Wednesday that the victims had no connections to one another. Any foul play appears to be a crime of opportunity.
Ream’s attorney in the Zarzycki murder case, Tim Kohler, told the Detroit Free Press that he saw no hint that the man he was defending has killed other victims.
Before the murder trial, according to the newspaper, Kohler told Ream he might be able to strike a deal with prosecutors: a plea agreement for second-degree murder if Ream told him where Cindy’s body was.
But Ream, whom Kohler described as “not a likable guy,” told his attorney, “I can’t do that.”
At some point, he changed his mind.
He ultimately led authorities to Zarzycki’s body and drew a map of the scene.
A decade later, at the same place, Dwyer said investigators “are cautiously optimistic that we unfortunately will find remains.”
Dwyer’s department and an FBI search team — more than 25 people in total — spent most of this week using earth-moving equipment to dig for bodies. By Wednesday afternoon, their grid search hadn’t turned up anything.
“They have some reasonable confidence that young ladies may be buried here,” Warren Mayor James R. Fouts said at the news conference. “But it’s 24 acres. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”
But Dwyer said they wanted to make sure they did a thorough search and were willing to work 24 hours a day if necessary.
“We’re trying to bring closure to the families of the victims,” he said. “This person of interest, our suspect, is not going anywhere.”