This article was last modified on June 16, 2018.


Edward Norman Cramer and Michael Carl Davis

The years of 1976-1977 were a dangerous time for those living in the Upper Peninsula between Marinette and Escanaba. At least two sadistic killers were on the loose… possibly three.

84-year old Lauretta (or Loretta) Sinnen of Menominee went missing in November 1976. Her disappearance was actually first noticed by the local priest, as she had been a daily attendant at church and stopped showing up. A search involving both local and state detectives ensued, with no trace of her for over a month. “Our department has used every means available to determine the nature of Miss Sinnen’s disappearance and at this time we find ourselves no closer to a solution than we were the first day of our investigation,” police chief Donald Campbell said in December.

Hugh school freshman Rachelle Boden, 14, disappeared from Gladstone on December 28, 1976 and was found dead and partially decomposed in Masonville on May 1, 1977. She had died by strangulation. Her father, Joseph W. Boden, was well-known in the town of Gladstone. He was a postal worker who has previously worked for the state Department of Corrections. In 1973 and 1974, he ran for city office. There was no indication that Rachelle was targeted because of her father.

Escanaba resident Judy Flath, 18, went missing on June 30, 1977. She was last seen in Gladstone and several weeks later her wallet, birth certificate and rings were found partially burned in a trash barrel at a private residence in the Days River area. For over six months, no one knew where she could be found.

On August 1, 1977, someone broke into the home of Harry W. Nelsen at 320 Huston Street in Marinette. His hands were tied behind his back, and he was hit in the head with a blunt object. The blow did not kill him immediately, but he suffocated from mucus in his lungs while he was lying on his kitchen floor unconscious. A few items from the home were stolen. There were no leads, and Marinette Police Chief James Krei was looking into the possibility that Nelsen’s death was connected to the murder of Lauretta Sinnen. He said there were “some similarities” but “it would be really stretching things” to try and make any positive connection.

On September 29, 1977, Laura Allinger Gardiner, 21, was supposed to be closing up the Side Track bar in Powers, but when her parents arrived at bar close she was nowhere to be found. When the manager arrive, he found that about $300 was missing from the bar, as well. She was the eldest of five children of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Allinger and had
recently separated from her husband, John Gardiner of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

A few hours earlier on the very same evening, Karen Erickson was assaulted in Harris, Menominee County.

Gardiner was found dead in a field in Gourley on October 2, 1977, approximately 12 miles southeast of the tavern. A helicopter overhead spotted her abandoned body. She was brought to Marquette General North Hospital for autopsy, with the procedure being performed by Dr. R. L. Carefoot. His results were turned over to prosecutor Craig Rolf in Menominee County. The results were not immediately made public, though the authorities did say the cause of death was strangulation. Detective Leon Wildey indicated that “a cloth material” had been used in the murder. Officials
refused to reveal whether or not she had been sexually molested.

On October 6, 1977, while the Gardiner corpse was in the possession of the funeral home, Ayers, the deputy medical examiner for Menominee County, without the consent of the family (but with the permission and consent of funeral director Kell), removed the hands and hair from the corpse.

Edward Cramer, 21, was arrested for the Gardiner murder on November 2. “Since Cramer was already behind bars on another charge, it gave us additional time to be extra cautious with our investigation and that proper legal procedure would be followed,” Wildey told the press on November 3. Police records show Cramer had served prison time in Marquette on a 1 to 1O years sentence for a burglary of an Escanaba store. He was paroled February 22. He had also served four months in jail in Charlevoix, Michigan, on three burglary charges.

Cramer was arraigned on November 7 in Menominee on the “open charge” of murdering Gardiner.

On November 22, 1977, the Allinger family attended the preliminary examination of Edward Cramer, charged with the murder of Allinger. During the examination, it was revealed in open court that Ayers severed the hands and hair from the body of the deceased. This was the first time that the Allinger family learned of these actions, and, as a result, allegedly suffered mental anguish and emotional distress, resulting in various physical illnesses. A pair of women’s underpants had been knotted around the victim’s neck like a rope, the pathologist said. Dr. Carefoot testified that the body bore a number of marks, bruises and lacerations. A large laceration on the forehead of the body exposed the brain and there was also severe crushing of the facial bones. Dr. Fred Ayers, deputy medical
examiner for Menominee County, testified that the body showed no evidence of sexual molestation.

Cramer, meanwhile, was bound over for trial by Judge Russell Bradley. Among witnesses was Todd Grondine of Hermansville who told the court he last saw Mrs. Gardiner eating a sandwich and sitting next to Cramer at the Side Track Bar in Powers, where she was employed. Grondine was a patron at the bar that night and left about 1:10; Gardiner was missing (and likely dead) less than an hour later. Trooper Roger Botbyl of the State Police Post at Stephenson testified that he questioned Cramer at the Robinson Furniture Co. on the morning of September 29. Trooper Botbyl said he located the vehicle Cramer was driving and impounded the car at Stephenson at that time.
Botbyl said that Cramer indicated to him that he had been at the Side Track Bar and in Bark River on September 28 but denied that Gardiner had been in his car. Blood and hair samples proved otherwise.

On December 28, the Escanaba Press reported, “Persistent rumors continue that other bodies have been discovered in the area. (State Police detective) Wildey stressed there is no truth to those rumors. ‘There are no other bodies,’ he said.”

During his opening statement in the Cramer trial, the prosecutor stated that he would present evidence to show that Cramer had committed an assault on another woman, Karen Erickson, earlier the same evening that Cramer killed Laura Allinger. Defense counsel did not object to this remark but, after reserving his opening statement, objected outside the presence of the jury to the introduction of any testimony concerning the alleged assault on Karen Erickson:

“This incident, in the opinion of the defense, has absolutely nothing to do with the current charge involving the charge of murder. It is clearly a separate incident and there is no tie-in that can be seen by the defense with the present situation. We would object to the incidents involving Karen Erickson being utilized as evidentiary matters in the trial of this case because of the fact that they are not relevant or material, and even, if so, are too highly prejudicial to be utilized as evidence.”

The prosecutor responded that evidence of the prior assault would show a “plan, scheme, motive, purpose, for the offense charged”. The trial court overruled the defense objection and found the evidence of the assault admissible. In so ruling, the lower court judge acknowledged the possible prejudice to Cramer but felt that the applicable statute and court rule had been satisfied. In addition, the trial judge noted that he would give a limiting instruction at the time the evidence was admitted and would also consider reversing his ruling, “because of other intervening things that may come to my attention, but as of this time, I am satisfied that the prosecution may use such evidence as to what happened earlier that evening”.

The following day, defense counsel renewed his motion to exclude evidence of defendant’s prior assault on Karen Erickson. The trial judge again rejected the motion. “I find that the evidence is clearly probative. It clearly is relevant — it occurred within a relatively short period of time. It would go, certainly, to the element of the state of mind of the Defendant, and I understand that the state of mind of the Defendant is indeed going to be a significant issue in this case… It was certainly close in time to the offense charged in the information. The whereabouts of the Defendant during the evening in question, the other contacts that he had made during the evening in question, all seem to have a probative value which should be able to be considered by the jury.”

Subsequently, Karen Erickson testified that while living with her cousin, Rebecca Badge, she went to sleep on the evening of September 28, 1977, to be awakened one hour later by someone with the smell of alcohol on his breath lying in bed next to her. Upon realizing that the person in bed with her was not her cousin, she became startled and jumped out of bed. The other person also jumped out of bed, grabbed Miss Erickson by the shoulders and warned her to “cool it, Becky”.

Erickson testified that she told the intruder that she was Becky’s cousin, that the intruder threatened her with a knife and that he told her to stay in the bedroom and not to turn on any lights. Eventually, after taking a small amount of money from Erickson’s purse and a bread knife from the kitchen, the intruder fled the premises in a “green or brown” Chrysler automobile. Erickson was able to identify the license plate number of the vehicle and subsequently identified Cramer’s voice as that of the intruder. The car was later determined to be that of Cramer’s fiancee. It was undisputed that defendant drove the car on the night in question.

On July 13, 1978, Cramer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Judge V. Robert Payant. (Interestingly, Dickinson County did not have its own court until 1969, and Payant was the original judge.) Cramer appealed the decision, but the appellate court upheld his conviction in April 1980. As of 2018, he is confined at Lakeland Correctional Facility.

On July 2, 1978, while Cramer was on trial, Michael Carl Davis was charged with first degree attempted murder, first degree criminal sexual assault and kidnapping in Duluth. Not long after, warrants for his arrest were issued, charging him with the murders of Rachelle Boden and Judy Flath.

Also try another article under Historical / Biographical
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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