Last Monday, residents in Macomb Township, Michigan, woke up to the sound of a helicopter and the sight of yellow police tape sectioning off a secluded wooded area near the Clinton River.
Authorities initially would not say why they were digging on the parcel of land, but it was clear nonetheless: Convicted killer Arthur Ream buried 13-year-old Cindy Zarzycki there, and investigators have said they believe Ream is responsible for more child abductions and killings.
By the end of last week, police were more forthcoming about their search. According to local media reports, a team led by the FBI unearthed several items that resembled clothing, though Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer told a radio station, “We haven't found any human remains yet.”
The activity in the woods has given new hope to the families of up to six girls who went missing from the area in the 1970s and 1980s and are desperate to find their bodies.
“It’s the most important thing in my life, to be able to lay her to rest next to our grandparents,” Konnie Beyma told The Daily Beast of her sister Kimberly King, who was 12 when she vanished in 1979.
The excavation also focused renewed attention on Ream, who is serving a life sentence for murder but vehemently denies he is a serial killer—and has demanded cops apologize for calling him one.
Ream’s sick history began in the mid-1970s when he and his teenage brother-in-law abducted and raped a 15-year-old hitchhiker. The brother-in-law testified that Ream, then 26, pulled a switchblade on the girl, blindfolded her, and then assaulted her while she pleaded for him to stop.
“If I ever do this again, I'll kill the next victim,” Ream said, according to his accomplice.
In 2008, Ream was serving a 15-year sentence for molesting another teen when police tied him to the disappearance of Cindy Zarzycki, who had gone missing in 1986. Ream allegedly lured her to a Dairy Queen by promising to take her to a surprise birthday party for his son, whom Cindy had dated.
Ream led police to Cindy’s unmarked grave in the Macomb Township woods. He admitted raping her but said her death was an accident, claiming she fell down an elevator shaft in a warehouse where he conducted business.
In a videotaped interrogation, he told police, “I’m into, was into, teenage girls. OK?”
A decade into a life sentence for Cindy’s murder, Ream was back on law-enforcement’s radar. Dwyer said in 2018 that he had bragged in prison about being a serial killer and murdering four to six more people—and then he flunked a polygraph.
Officials went back to the land where Cindy had been found. “We do have probable cause to believe (the area) is a gravesite,” Dwyer said then. And former Deputy Chief John Calabrese, who investigated the Zarzycki case, told a local news channel, “I've always thought that Mr. Ream was responsible for additional kidnappings and murders and felt that area could be a place where other bodies were buried.”
The girls authorities were searching for included Kimberly King; 15-year-old Kim Larrow, who was last seen in 1981; 17-year-old Kelly Brownlee, who went missing in 1982; 13-year-old Cynthia Coon, who disappeared in 1970; and 16-year-old Nadine O’Dell, vanished in 1974.
In an interview last week, Konnie Beyma remembered staying up late, having heart-to-heart talks with little sister Kimberly under the covers in their shared childhood bedroom, trying to make sense of the world.
September 1979 was a tense time in Warren County. A fiend dubbed the Oakland County Child Killer was at large and parents were keeping a close eye on their children and asking them to come home early. So when King, then just 12, called home around 11 p.m. on a Saturday night to say she had decided not to go to the movies, her sister told her to go right home.
Kimberly said she was having a sleepover at her best friend Annie Godbout’s house, and would go straight there. Konnie didn’t think anything of it; after all, Godbout lived right next door to their grandparents’ house. But it was the last time she would hear her sister’s voice.
The next day Kimberly’s grandmother called the Godbout house to tell them to come right over because she wanted to take them on a trip to Cider Mills that day, but Annie told her Kimberly had never come back that night.
Beyma suspects her sister went to Gratiot, an area where teenagers liked to hang out, race cars and drink booze. She was a little too young for that scene, but Beyma suspects she was trying to grow up quickly. Instead, the family believes, a killer made sure that would never happen.
Forty years later, Kimberly is never far from Konnie’s mind. And the activity in the woods last week has given her hope that maybe some of the questions she has will finally be answered.
“I don’t think there’s such a thing as closure but there’s a peace of mind with laying her to rest properly,” she said.
Larrow’s brother, Brandon Headly, told The Daily Beast that the disappearance of his sister has also haunted him his entire life.
“You never get over it—it’s brutal,” he said.
He remembers Kim as a bright but troubled girl growing up in a broken home. “I was a stupid 17-year-old, I didn’t know how to help or what to do,” he said.
He recalls going to the Party Store with his sister and buying too much candy and how much she loved roller-skating. He also remembers she had run away more than once, and so police initially thought she had done it again when she went missing. Now, Headly says, he’s certain there was foul play.
“I think we now have a good idea of who did it,” he said.
In 2018, the police commissioner said there was “no question” that other girls had been murdered and buried in the same expanse of land where Ream hid Connie Zarzycki. But no bodies were found. It’s not clear what sparked last week’s return to the site.
“Our primary goal is to determine what happened to these missing girls, and who is responsible. These investigations will remain open until we reach a conclusion,” Dwyer said in a press release.
Beyma is grateful police have not abandoned the probe.
“There’s so many things I wish I could have seen Kim do. I wish I could have seen her get married, finish college, travel, have children, life,” she said. “I won’t give up until we find her.”