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20051228: Suspect emerges in killing TX Serial Killer News

She had reddish brown hair and weighed about 100 pounds.

Her petite frame was dressed in a black T-shirt with "Here Comes Trouble" on the front and a nightshirt with "Have You Kissed Your Child Tonite?"

For 21 years, no one has known her name, why she was slain and who left her in the Ocala National Forest near Lake Dorr north of Umatilla.

Lake County investigators suspect an admitted serial killer serving life in an Arkansas prison may know something about the case.

But Michael Ronning, 48, isn't talking.

Investigators think he may fear being convicted of capital murder in Florida, where he could face the death penalty.

Today, Ronning is serving life in prison without parole for the 1986 murder of a 19-year-old woman in Jonesboro, Ark.

He has admitted to at least six other killings: three in Michigan, two in Texas and one in Florida. But authorities have never charged him in those homicides.

These victims and their deaths share similarities. They were all young women, and their bodies were found in woods close to where Ronning lived.

A few years ago, Michigan authorities questioned him about the killing of three women in the Battle Creek area in 1982 and 1983. Another man already was convicted in one of the slayings.

Officials there eventually accused Ronning of making false statements and sent him back to prison in Arkansas.

Texas detectives have said they would like to talk to him about the death of 20-year-old Annette Melia, whose body was found in 1985 near Bedford. She disappeared in 1982. The next year, Melissa Jackson, 16, went missing from Grand Prairie, Texas. Her body was found in 1986 in woods outside Bedford.

Like Florida and Arkansas, Texas has the death penalty.

Lake County detectives and prosecutors plan to meet within a few months to figure out their next move. Finding the killer would bring authorities closer to learning the victim's identity.

"We want to open doors to find out who she is," Lake County sheriff's Sgt. Ken Adams said. "Maybe we can make closure to her family possible once we find out her name."

State Attorney Brad King, whose office oversees prosecutions in Lake County, said he does not discuss any plea negotiations with open cases.

The case goes back to April 18, 1984, when a man found the woman's remains in the Lake Dorr recreation area in the national forest. She had been dead for two to four weeks, and animals had scattered her remains.

A break in the case came almost 18 years later when the news show Dateline NBC did a story about Ronning in February 2002.

In Dateline's research, the producers found a traffic ticket that was issued April 17, 1984, to Ronning by Umatilla police for not having a valid drivers license. The show alerted Lake detectives about its findings and asked if they had any unsolved homicides.

That's when Lake County investigators first heard about Ronning and began investigating.

Ronning and his wife, Victoria, lived in a mobile-home park off Golden Gem Drive in Umatilla for about a year. He worked in construction in Seminole County before they moved away, Adams said.

A few years ago, Lake investigators spoke with Ronning's wife, who told them she wasn't aware of any killing. She also told them it wasn't unusual for Ronning to announce one day that they had to move.

The investigator would not discuss any evidence, including any DNA found at the scene.

About two years ago, detectives wrote a letter to Ronning and tried to meet with him, but he refused, said Adams, who is handling the case.

A Dateline producer who worked on the 2002 story kept in touch with Ronning.

Shane Bishop, a producer for the show for 12 years, wrote to Gov. Jeb Bush on Nov. 29, saying that Ronning admitted to killings in Florida and Texas.

"He has made it clear to me that he will not consider such meetings [with detectives] without signed guarantees from the governors of Texas and Florida. These guarantees are solely to take the issue of the death penalty off the table," Bishop wrote.

A Dateline spokeswoman said Bishop, who is a full-time producer, was not representing the show when he penned the letter.

"Given that Mr. Bishop's actions are in violation of NBC News policy, appropriate action has been taken," spokeswoman Jenny Tartikoff said. She wouldn't say how he might have been disciplined.

Bishop could not be reached for comment.

Russell Schweiss, Bush's spokesman, said the governor is not going to get involved.

"Anything affecting sentencing would have to be negotiated with the prosecutor and whatever other state attorneys that would be involved. There's not anything that the governor could have a hand in," he said.

Meanwhile, Adams understands there's a family out there that doesn't know what happened to its loved one.

"It's just a sad case," he said. "Anything we can do to help bring closure to it [the case] would be well worth it."

 

20051226: Serial killer suspected in 1984 case FL Orlando Serial Killer News

Investigators say convicted serial killer Michael Ronning may know something about a body found 21-years-ago in the Ocala National Forest.

But Ronning won't talk to police, the Orlando Sentinel reported. He allegedly told a Dateline NBC producer he fears the death penalty.

Ronning is serving life in prison without parole for the 1986 murder of a 19-year-old woman in Arkansas. He has admitted to at least six other killings, the newspaper said.

Police are hoping Ronning can shed light on the identity of a woman whose body was found in 1984 in the national forest near Umatilla, Fla.

Producers working on a story about Ronning in 2002 for Dateline NBC found a traffic ticket that was issued to Ronning by Umatilla police the day before the body was found.

Ronning refused to meet with Florida detectives at the time, the newspaper said.

Dateline producer Shane Bishop kept in touch with Ronning and wrote to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush last month, saying that Ronning admitted to killings in Florida and Texas.

Bishop said Ronning won't meet with detectives unless the governors of Texas and Florida agree to take the issue of the death penalty off the table.

 

20051226: Serial killer suspected in 1984 case FL Orlando Serial Killer News

Investigators say convicted serial killer Michael Ronning may know something about a body found 21-years-ago in the Ocala National Forest.

But Ronning won't talk to police, the Orlando Sentinel reported. He allegedly told a Dateline NBC producer he fears the death penalty.

Ronning is serving life in prison without parole for the 1986 murder of a 19-year-old woman in Arkansas. He has admitted to at least six other killings, the newspaper said.

Police are hoping Ronning can shed light on the identity of a woman whose body was found in 1984 in the national forest near Umatilla, Fla.

Producers working on a story about Ronning in 2002 for Dateline NBC found a traffic ticket that was issued to Ronning by Umatilla police the day before the body was found.

Ronning refused to meet with Florida detectives at the time, the newspaper said.

Dateline producer Shane Bishop kept in touch with Ronning and wrote to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush last month, saying that Ronning admitted to killings in Florida and Texas.

Bishop said Ronning won't meet with detectives unless the governors of Texas and Florida agree to take the issue of the death penalty off the table.

 

20051213: Dateline Producer Begs For Death Penalty Waiver To Crack Three Murder Cases FL Orlando Serial Killer News

Dateline NBC producer Shane Bishop has offered the governors of Texas and Florida a deal: "Waive the death penalty for a murder suspect, and he'll help solve three murder cases in their states," the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Bishop sent the letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Nov. 29. It "offers to help solve the cold cases if the governors would 'guarantee not to pursue the death penalty' against an Arkansas convict serving life without parole for murder."

Apparently Ronning told Bishop that he committed seven murders, but a written no-death penalty guarantee is necessary to get Ronning to discuss the case.

"Why am I writing you to beg you take up this effort? Because it's the right thing to do," Bishop wrote. "But I am certain Dateline NBC would give substantial coverage to the solving of these three cold case murders tied to a serial killer, and the essential roles played by the Governors of Texas and Florida."

Bishop has been a Dateline producer for 12 years. An NBC spokesperson said Bishop wrote the letter on his own, not on behalf of Dateline...

"This is making the rounds at NBC," an insider says. "People are saying Corvo was on the line at Dateline. Does this push him over the edge?"

 


Copyright 1995-2006 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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