The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer


Idaho Author Highlight

By Lynn Schmidt

The Kill Jar, by J. Reuben Appelman, is a gripping true-crime memoir. It explores Appelman’s ten-year investigation into the unsolved Oakland County Child Killings (OCCK) while interweaving his personal history with violence. The author was a six-year-old living in Detroit when the murders began. Four children were abducted and killed outside of Detroit during 1976 and 1977, and those responsible were never arrested. Appelman’s investigation found police cover-ups, child pornography rings, and corruption.

Details about the OCCK case, which includes a millionaire living on a private island in Lake Michigan, has been compared to the allegations made against Jeffrey Epstein. Both instances involve secretive millionaires, secluded islands with airstrips, powerful insider groups, and young victims. And in neither case were the accused brought to trial. Appelman’s in-depth research about the murders, integrated with his experiences with abuse, creates a unique story that brings to light the awful reality of children abused for profit. Denial of this reality is no longer possible after reading The Kill Jar.

The Kill Jar was the inspiration for the Investigation Discovery television series, Children of the Snow, available now on Hulu. Appelman served as the on-camera investigator and Executive Producer of the program. He has also launched a true-crime podcast series, “You Know They Know: The Oakland County Child Killer.” The podcast can be found at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker, Castbox, and Podcast Addict.

While J. Reuben Appelman grew up in Detroit, he now resides in Boise and works as a private investigator. He is a two-time State of Idaho Literature Fellow and graduated from Boise State University with an MFA in Poetry. Idaho, Detroit, and Mexico are featured in the crime novel he is currently writing. You can learn more about J. Reuben Appelman and his work at