Oakland County Child Killer suspect speaks face-to-face with victim's family

Key suspect says he knows nothing about killings

James Vincent Gunnels

DETROIT – For 30 years, Chris King has been trying to find out who killed his brother Timothy King.

He has been trying to find the true identity of the Oakland County Child Killer.

Recently, he received an unexpected request: One of the case's key suspects wants to meet with him, face-to-face.

That happened after the Local 4 Defenders captured an interview with suspect James Vincent Gunnels on hidden camera. Police investigators say Gunnels is the best lead in the 35-year-old serial killer mystery. His DNA is a mitochondrial DNA match to a hair found on the body of victim Kristin Mehalic -- one of four known victims of the Oakland County Child Killer.

A mitochondrial match means the hair belongs to Gunnels or a male relative on his mother's side. Gunnels told Local 4 that he had nothing to do with the murders.

"I'm not guilty. There it is there. But at the same time, I know how the state police twist words to their advantage," Gunnels said.

Gunnels was molested as a child by Christopher Bush. Several of the victims' families believe Bush is the Oakland County Child Killer and that he convinced Gunnels to lure kids.

Bush killed himself in 1978, shortly after Timothy King was killed. Timothy was the Oakland County Child Killer's final victim.

"My heart goes out to those families," Gunnels said. "It really really really does. I don't feel that they were served justice through any of this."

After the Local 4 Defenders spoke with Gunnels, he decided he wanted to speak to the victim's family face-to-face. He reached out to the King family.

"When the request first came in, I was hesitant to go," said Chris King. "I felt it would be too hard to be in the same room as a suspect in this case. It's clearly theoretically possible that he somehow aided in (Kristin Mehalic's) abduction, or killing."

The King family contacted police who have questioned Gunnels on several occasions. According to police records, Gunnels failed a lie detector test. They wondered what Gunnels might say to the family.

"We weren't sure what to expect," Chris King said. "But we had just been told to ask open-ended questions, see what he says, listen to his story. Um, who knows. He might be able to shed some light on, or tell us something he hadn't before."

It wouldn't be easy. Chris King took his father Barry King along with him to the meeting with Gunnels.

"It was grueling," Chris King said. "My dad is a lot tougher than I am. I found it exhausting, you know, mentally and physically."

Barry King said Gunnels' story wasn't off-the-wall, but not exactly promising.

"I believe that the story he told Chris and I was believable," Barry King said. "But it was contradicted by previous stories that he has told other people."

Gunnels told the Kings that Bush was a child predator who lived in Oakland County at the time.

"It seems clear that he must have had at least some knowledge of the crimes," Chris King said.

However, Gunnels denied knowing anything about the Oakland County Child Killings.

"I say right now I have no idea what that man did to anyone else," Gunnels said.

Chris King asked him about two polygraph tests.

"My questions for him were, you know it's hard to understand you tried to cheat on one polygraph exam and failed a second polygraph exam," Chris King said. "So, if you had absolutely no involvement or knowledge of these crimes, why would you feel that you had to cheat in the first place and then why would you fail the second one? It doesn't make sense."

Gunnels told the Kings that he felt terrible.

"I couldn't imagine having that happen and not knowing all those years," Gunnels said. "I really really couldn't."

Chris and Barry King have been going the extra mile to try and solve the case, not knowing if they have done any good.

"It was kind of a long shot that it would help," Chris King said. "But law enforcement said, 'Who knows. Sometimes these guys have remorse and they end up telling you things.' So, we went with that hope."

The conversation now is in the hands of police investigators who still hope to solve the case.

There is a grand jury investigation underway in Oakland County and a separate grand jury investigation underway in Wayne County. Several child sex offenders have been arrested and identified over the years as a result of the ongoing investigation. However, there has never been enough evidence to charge anyone in connection with the Oakland County Child Killer case.