|Jane Mixer always seemed like an orphan among the sad sisterhood of young women slain by a serial killer near Ann Arbor, Mich., in the late 1960s.
The Coed Killer was believed to have done his demented work seven times over two years.
The first murder, of college freshman Mary Fleszar, was on July 10, 1967. The last, of Karen Beineman, also a freshman, was on July 23, 1969.
The third victim was Mixer, 23, a free-spirited law school student at the University of Michigan.
But her slaying stood apart from the others, who were raped, beaten and stabbed in classic acts of sexual rage.
The murder of Mixer was different.
Her body was found March 21, 1969, in a cemetery west of Ann Arbor.
She had been garroted with a nylon stocking - not her own - and shot twice in the head with a .22.
The killer had pulled up Mixer's jumper to reveal her underwear, then carefully covered the body with her yellow raincoat and positioned it atop a grave. The persnickety murderer had neatly set Mixer's shoes and her copy of "Catch 22" near the body.
She had not been beaten or sexually molested.
But proximity prompted police to lump the Mixer murder with the other six.
DNA offers new theories
The case was unofficially regarded as solved when serial killer John Collins, a clean-cut frat boy at Eastern Michigan University, was arrested in 1970, convicted in the Beineman murder and sentenced to life without parole.
But in 2002, a new generation of Michigan state detectives had begun perusing old cases for possible DNA testing when Sgt. Eric Schroeder was struck by the obvious deviations from Collins' modus operandi in the Mixer murder.
Lab technicians tested the residue from three drops of sweat on the victim's pantyhose and a single drop of blood on her hand - evidence saved for more than three decades.
The techs found a revelation in the sweat: The genetic code it held matched not killer Collins but a grandfatherly former nurse from southwestern Michigan.
In the fall of 2004, Sgt. Schroeder paid a visit to the Gobles, Mich., home of the man, Gary Leiterman, 62.
"I did not do this," Leiterman firmly declared.
Leiterman grew up outside Detroit and lived near Ann Arbor as a young man. After a stint in the Navy, he had worked as a traveling pharmaceutical salesman in that region in the late 1960s.
As spring break approached in March '69, Jane Mixer posted a note on a college ride-share bulletin board, seeking a lift across the state to her hometown of Muskegon. She told her father she would be traveling with a student named David Johnson, who had replied to her posting.
She never made it home. Besides the evidence with the body, police found only one clue: a phone book in a Michigan dorm on which someone - the killer, presumably - had written the words "Mixer" and "Muskegon."
Based upon DNA evidence, Leiterman was charged with being that someone.
He seemed an unlikely murderer.
A bald, big-bellied Civil War buff and former school board member, he had had a 27-year marriage and had helped raise the two children of his Filipino wife.
Jane Mixer's niece, a poet, wrote that Leiterman seemed more cartoon character than killer when she saw him in court.
"Where I had imagined I might find the 'face of evil,' I am finding the face of Elmer Fudd," she wrote.
But this Fudd had a secret or two.
Leiterman was arrested in 2001 for passing a forged prescription. In his car, cops found a stack of prescription blanks stolen from the Kalamazoo hospital where he worked.
He was charged him with illegally obtaining painkillers, including Vicodin and Lorcet. Leiterman, who said he lapsed into addiction after a bout with kidney stones, was allowed to plead guilty when he agreed to enter drug rehab.
As a felon, he was required to give a DNA swab under a state law that took effect just three days before his conviction. The test led to his murder arrest.
Police made a creepy discovery while searching Leiterman's home. They found concealed in his study two Polaroid photos of a 16-year-old South Korean girl who had lived with the Leitermans as a foreign exchange student.
The images showed the girl - drugged unconscious - lying on Leiterman's bed with her clothing pulled back to expose her genitals. Authorities said the pose was an eerie echo of Jane Mixer's corpse.
Leiterman pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography before his murder trial in 2005.
Too much evidence
The 36-year-old homicide case was a difficult prosecution.
The scribble from the phone book was linked to Leiterman's handwriting, and his roommate from 1969 testified that the suspect owned a .22-caliber gun and kept a peculiar archive of stories about the Coed Killer serial murder case.
But DNA was the star evidence, and it turned out police had too much of the stuff.
Although the sweat stains were linked to Leiterman, a test of the blood found on Mixer's hand was linked through DNA to John Ruelas, a Detroit man serving life in prison for an unrelated murder.
The prosecutor was forced to admit that Ruelas was 4 years old in 1969.
Defense attorney Gary Gabry insisted the state police lab had somehow contaminated the samples. While the lab boss could not explain the Ruelas foulup, he swore to the validity of the Leiterman results on the sweat stains.
The jury believed him. After just minutes of deliberation, jurors took a vote and convicted Leiterman of first-degree murder.
Sobs resounded in the courtroom - from both Mixer's loved ones, including her 90-year-old father, and the wife and stepchildren of Leiterman.
On Aug. 30, 2005, Judge Donald Shelton handed down the mandatory sentence: Leiterman would spend the rest of his life in prison.
From behind bars, he continues to proclaim his innocence and is appealing based on the curious DNA results.