STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. – Jim Sanderson retired as a criminal investigator, but that hasn't stopped him from investigating the death of his brother. Sanderson has conducted his own investigation and is releasing his findings in a new book.
Sterling Heights has never been the kind of place where someone would expect a triple homicide, but it happened in April 1985 off 14 Mile Road. Sanderson worked as an investigator for the IRS at the time.
"When this happened, I was a federal agent," Sanderson said. "I got a call and I went out to the the crime scene. I had to go over and notify my mother."
Local newspapers ran stories about the investigation. Some suggested it was drug-related, others theorize about a gambling ring and some speculated it was a mob hit, but none of this sounded right to Sanderson. He thought it was a robbery because his brother and brother-in-law were trying to start a business and had a lot of money saved up.
"That money was with my brother at that time," Sanderson said. "Allegedly, it was between $100,000 and $200,000."
Police never solved the case, and Sanderson went on with his life until Jan. 17, 2018, when he had a vivid dream about his brother.
"I was just kind of a in a semi-conscious state coming out of a dream that I remember I had about my brother," Sanderson said. "I have got to go and do something."
Now retired from law enforcement but inspired by his dream, Sanderson set out to solve his brother's murder. He obtained police files and photos and found some interesting discoveries.
"They left the refrigerator and the freezer door open," Sanderson said. "They turned the thermostat down in the room to fool the police and the coroner as to the time of death. They put cocaine in the desk to make it look like it was a drug deal."
He said his work ruled out a mob hit and drug deal as potential reasons for the triple murder.
"The evidence shows it had nothing to do with drugs," Sanderson said. "The autopsy report show no drugs in the victims system."
Sanderson concluded one of the three victims borrowed money and the person who loaned it sent someone over to collect. That's when things went south.
"The evidence pointed to one individual that ordered a hit," Sanderson said. "Two individuals conducted the killings on three individuals."
Sanderson laid out his entire investigation in a book called "Down the Rat Hole," and he calls it a solid circumstantial case and Sterling Heights' biggest unsolved murder mystery. It's nothing police will use to move forward on a prosecution, but, something he said brings his family closure.
The book goes into great detail looking at multiple potential suspects and includes original police reports and photographs. You can buy a copy here.