More than 40 years ago, nine metro Detroit children were murdered over the course of about 17 months.
Those murders have for years haunted southeast Oakland County resident Nina Innsted, who recently launched “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” a true crime podcast series that documents each of the cases. Three of the murders have been solved. Authorities believe at least four are the work of a single, unidentified person, dubbed the “Oakland County Child Killer”.
Innsted grew up in the shadow of the murders. One of the children taken went to the Berkley elementary school she would have attended, had she not been moved to Waterford over concerns for her safety.
“The killer struck in winter,” Innsted said. “My parents moved me in the fall of 1977, because this killer murdered kids and left them in the snow.”
“Don’t Talk to Strangers” is an off-shoot of Innsted’s popular “Already Gone” podcast, launched in April 2016. Also focused on true crime, it focuses on “stories of the missing, the murdered, the mysterious and the lost.”
In 2017, Innsted covered the case of Timmy King, whose body was found in Livonia at Gill and Eight Mile Roads, near the Farmington Hills border. The idea for an entire series on the “biggest unresolved case next to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa” seemed like a natural fit, she said.
The new podcast’s first episodes, covering the three “babysitter murders” and the murders of Mark Stebbins and Jane Allen, dropped over the last two months and have already gained a large following. On Monday, Buzzfeed listed “Don’t Talk to Strangers” among the 25 best true crime podcasts launched this year.
Innsted is the producer, researcher, writer, and voice for each episode. “Don’t Talk to Strangers” will include interviews with people who grew up in Oakland County during the mid-1970s, including Farmington-area residents, and reporters who covered the Oakland County Child Killer case.
The stories highlight not only the murders, but the fear they inspired. Innsted was very young at the time, but still remembers hearing adults whispering about the case. She believes that fear has carried forward, even today.
“Kids don’t walk to school like they used to,” she said. “It changed things.”
While “Don’t Talk to Strangers” profiles suspects and outlines evidence for each case, Innsted says she’s not trying to connect any dots.
“I’m not looking to solve it, that’s not the goal,” she said. “I’d like people to remember this is not solved. There’s six dead kids and no answers.”
“Don’t Talk to Strangers” is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and your favorite podcatcher. Learn more at dttspodcast.com.
Disclosure: Farmington Voice publisher Joni Hubred contracted as content editor for “Don’t Talk to Strangers”.