“For eight years I had to live my life every day not knowing who killed my baby or why. I had to prove my innocence as well as many of my family members’ over and over again for eight years.”
-Valerie Jo Gilson, Jodi Parrack's Mother
It was the 8th of November 2007. A Thursday. Eleven year old Jodi Parrack was on her way home for dinner from a friend's house on East Third Street in Constantine, Michigan, United States. She went to her friend's house that day to play. Jodi lived down the street and had her bicycle with her so it should have taken her only a few minutes but she never made it home that night.
Her mother reported her missing and a search began that same night. Just a few hours after Jodi was last seen, her mother found her body in the Constantine Township Cemetery. She had been strangled to death. The cause of death was asphyxiation and there was evidence she had been sexually assaulted.
Almost immediately, police had a suspect. Ray McCann. Ray was a reserve police officer and his colleagues were suspicious as they claimed he suggested that they should search the cemetery, the very same place where Jodi's body was found. He also helped search for her.
Despite their suspicions, police did not have enough to charge Ray with murder. Even though he wasn't charged at that time, people in the community and even people close to Ray believed that he was involved because the police told them he did it. They told them that they had evidence to prove it. Ray's sister-in-law, Julie McCann, said police told her that Ray's DNA was found on Jodi. They also told her that sand from Jodi’s sneakers came from Ray's yard.
In the years that followed, Ray's account of the events surrounding that night differed from the accounts other people gave. He said that he told a store clerk he was looking for a missing girl but the store clerk said that never happened. Furthermore, he said that he spoke with another officer at the park but the officer denied it. His exact movements that day and night were called into question as a result.
It was the police interrogations that revealed the most.In the five years after Jodi's body was discovered, Ray was interviewed 20 times. Every time, he agreed to the interview and did so without an Attorney present. He denied being involved in Jodi's death every time. At one interview, he told police:
“You want a confession I can’t give you. Didn’t find her. Didn’t put her there. Didn’t kill her.”
In 2012, police asked Ray why his DNA would be on Jodi. Ray said that he had no idea. When he was later asked again why his DNA was on Jodi, Ray said that it may have occurred when he pulled Jodi's mother away from Jodi's body but Jodi's mother Jo insisted that that never happened and Ray never touched her.
Police told him they had “scientific evidence” that showed he had touched Jodi’s body and placed her body in the cemetery. They told him they were aware that he had been within 23 feet of her body before it was found.
But there was one main problem with the police interrogations. Ray's DNA wasn’t on Jodi. That was a fact that the police were aware of but they used it as a tactic, a tactic they are allowed to use, to try to make him confess.
No matter how many times they questioned Ray though, he never confessed and they did not have enough evidence to charge him with murder. They believed they had enough to charge him and for him to be convicted of perjury. And that carried a maximum sentence of life in prison per count as it was connected to a murder case.
Police alleged that there were discrepancies between Ray’s account and other witnesses’ memories and they argued that Ray had lied to them. And on foot of that, they charged him with five counts of perjury.
A detective with the Michigan State Police said Ray lied about going to a path leading to a dam during his search for Jodi. The detective claimed that video from a surveillance camera at a nearby creamery showed Ray never appeared at the path.
Ray agreed to a plea deal that was offered to him. He would plead no contest to one count of perjury, the count that alleged he lied about a conversation he had the night the search took place for Jodi. He was convicted of perjury and sentenced to 20 months in prison.
Even though Ray wasn't charged with Jodi's murder, some people believed that the person responsible was in prison and as such the children in the community were safe. But they were wrong.
On the 28th of July, a ten year old girl, Mackenzie Stafford, in White Pigeon told her family and then the police about an incident that happened to her. The girl told police that a man asked her to help him move something in his garage at the Colonial Estates mobile home park in White Pigeon. She told police that when she was inside the garage, the man pulled out a knife and covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to run away and as she ran, the man grabbed an extension cord. She managed to get away.
The man was identified as Daniel Dan Furlong. He was charged with knowingly restraining a child and assault with a deadly weapon.Dan had no criminal record until his arrest in August 2015 when he was arrested for the attempted assault of MacKenzie.
When police searched his house and garage, they found a list of names of young girls who lived in his neighborhood in the White Pigeon mobile home park.
Police discovered that he lived on Fifth Street in Constantine at the time of Jodi's murder and they took a sample of his DNA. His DNA matched two samples, blood and saliva, that was found on Jodi's clothing.
Dan had never been questioned in relation to Jodi's case at the time or the years that followed. He was only questioned when he was arrested in August 2015 in relation to MacKenzie's case. When asked if he killed Jodi, he denied being involved. Police told him:
"A drop of your blood, Dan, was on her collar. A question of whether or not you were involved is off the table."
Dan said that he was sticking to his story and he didn't think it was his blood.
Prosecutor John McDonough filed an open murder charge against Dan. Faced with a number of charges , Dan accepted the plea deal that was offered to him. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder and as such, all of the other charges, the charges of felony murder, kidnapping and second-degree criminal sexual conduct were dropped. Charges he faced in relation to the assault on MacKenzie were also dismissed.
As part of the plea deal, Dan confessed to killing Jodi. And he told police that he intended to do the same thing he did to Jodi to MacKenzie.
In Court, the Judge heard some of the details of what happened on the 8th of November 2007. According to Dan, he was cleaning his garage that day in his house on Fifth Street when he saw Jodi on her bicycle. He asked her to help him.
As soon as Jodi was inside the garage, Dan grabbed her and bound her hands behind her back with zips ties. She asked him to let her go. He put her inside his boat which was in the garage and he sexually assaulted her there. He claimed that he molested her but did not rape her.
Dan told the Judge that he then "put a bag over her head and killed her."
He had previously told police that the assault in the garage took place over a 30-45 minute period. When asked why he killed Jodi, he said that he panicked that she would go to police.
Dan put Jodi’s bicycle in the bed of his pickup and her body in the passenger seat. He drove to the cemetery and “put her in a spot that he thought was the darkest."
Jodi Parrack's Bicycle
Police asked him if Jodi was still alive when he took her to the cemetery. He told police:
"She was just scared as hell."
Police asked him how he knew that and he said:
"Because she was wiggling around and stuff. She said please let me go, please let me go. I said in a little while."
Dan told police that he removed the zip ties before he left the cemetery and he threw them away when he got home. He also threw the clothes he was wearing away.
When asked by police how he felt, he said:
"Sad, very sad. Now I'm ashamed of myself; ashamed that I did this to my family. But now that it's all coming out, it's taken a burden off me."
Part of Dan’s plea deal also required him to provide information on any other criminal activity in St. Joseph County in which he has been involved and in exchange for doing so, he would be granted immunity for any admissions he may make. Prosecutor John McDonough believes there is a chance he is involved in other crimes "You don't just start doing this at 57 (years old)."
Police questioned Dan in relation to the unsolved case of Brittney Beers. On the 16th of September 1997, six year old Brittney Beers went missing in Sturgis. Her mother claimed that she left the apartment to go outside on her bicycle. Her bicycle was later found outside her front door. Brittney is still missing.
Dan insisted that the only child he killed was Jodi. He was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison for Jodi's murder.
Ray McCann spent almost two years in prison on a perjury charge. He had to fight to be cleared of that charge even after Dan confessed. When asked why he agreed to take a plea deal in the first place for the perjury charge, Ray said:
“The system already failed me. I wasn’t going to take the chance of going to trial and being charged with life. I didn’t want to, but I had to. I knew I’d get home sooner. The system failed, and I saw it. I felt like I was set up from day one.”
Ray was cleared of any involvement in relation to Jodi's death and the perjury conviction was vacated and dismissed.
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