The following case is an example of what--for blogging purposes--I call “mini-mysteries”: crimes that are particularly unusual or baffling, but where there simply isn’t enough information for a regular blog post. I remember reading about this chilling murder when it happened, and it put me off rest stops for life. The “Herald-Palladium,” May 16, 1989:
ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) - Jane Snow's sons found her body 10 years ago this week in a restroom along a northern Lower Peninsula freeway. Since then, rest stop security has been beefed up and the killing remains unsolved.Jane Snow’s murder remains unsolved.
"We've never been able to determine a motive. There was no robbery, there was no sexual assault," said Trooper Ken Burr of the Michigan State Police post at Gaylord, who was on duty when Snow’s body was discovered was found May 15, 1979.
"The biggest problem with this case is that there was very little hard evidence,'' Burr said. "There were no vehicle tracks, no fingerprints."
Snow was 31, recently divorced and headed from Grand Rapids, where she had worked as a nurse, to a new life in Escanaba with her sons Eric, then 9, and Mark, then 7.
That life, however, ended 200 miles short of Snow's hometown inside the women's restroom at the Loon Lake Rest Stop along northbound Interstate 75.
Her sons had waited for her before going inside and finding her body, stabbed more than 20 times, in front of a row of sinks.
"The kids saw no one," Burr said. "There's a little lake connected with that rest stop. After they went to the (men's) bathroom they went to the lake and were throwing rocks at frogs, just monkeying around. They got tired or whatever and decided, 'Where's Mama?’” the trooper said. "When they found her they had enough presence to go through her purse to get money for the pay phone, but the phone didn't work. Very shortly after, another car came into the rest area and took the kids to the post."
Police picked up a hitchhiker less than half a mile from the rest area about the time Snow's body was found. They also questioned a Gaylord resident, but both were released after laboratory tests proved inconclusive, Burr said.
While police struggled to solve Snow's slaying, state Transportation Department officials responded by forming a special committee to study rest area security.
Coincidentally, Jay Bastian, then and still head of design and planning for rest areas stopped at the Loon Lake facility the day after the slaying while traveling north on department business.
“I noticed it was closed, and we drove in and identified ourselves. It was a terrible thing," he said. "We've had some bad incidents at our rest areas, but nothing like that."
The department since then has improved lighting at some rest stops and has asked police agencies to patrol more often at Michigan's 83 highway rest areas, 90 parks and 40 scenic turnouts, Bastian said.
In 1982, the department installed emergency alarms meant to instantly connect two Lower Peninsula rest areas with nearby state police posts. The experiment was abandoned amid vandalism and improper use, he said.
All rest areas now have telephones at which callers can dial a toll-free number 24 hours a day.
Snow's survivors, meanwhile, still are trying to cope with her death.
Eric Snow is working to save money to return to college and Mark Snow is completing his first year at Lansing Community College, said the victim's mother, Miriam Baribeau of Escanaba.
"They are very nice boys, especially considering all they've been through," Baribeau said of her grandsons, who lived with their father after Snow's slaying.