This October, we’re talking about some of America’s little-known cold cases. Read on to learn about the murder of Maggie Hume, a nearly 40 year old cold case still awaiting justice!
At first glance, Maggie Hume was a relatively normal 20 year old girl. Born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, Maggie was a student at Kellogg Community College (KCC), where she had just finished a course to become a medical receptionist. She lived in an apartment in Battle Creek with a roommate, having just recently moved from her parents’ home.
The daughter of a conservative Catholic family, Hume was described as a happy-go-lucky and funny girl, who had many friends. Her family was also well-known in the community – her father, Mike Hume, was the football coach for St. Phillip’s Catholic School, and the family was active in the Catholic community. For all intents and purposes, Maggie and her family were an all-American religious family.
And then, on the morning of August 18, 1982, Maggie went missing.
Maggie wasn’t the type to miss work unless she was sick – when she didn’t show up to her new job as the office manager for Dr. John Chadwick that morning, people were immediately alarmed. Her boyfriend, Virgil Jay Carter, was called by Maggie’s coworker, and he set out to find her family. After finding her younger brother John Hume at the family home, they went to Maggie’s apartment with a pair of spare keys – but Maggie was nowhere to be found.
Her room, however, looked suspicious: With her phone receiver off the hook, the alarm clock going off, and a bed with no fitted sheet attached, her brother and boyfriend looked even more worriedly for Maggie. Her car keys and glasses (which were necessary for Maggie to even reach the bathroom) were still present in the apartment, and yet it seemed that Maggie had vanished without a trace.
After failing to find Maggie, her roommate Margaret, who had not been home the night prior and had seen no sign of Maggie since returning home, alerted the police. And when the authorities finally reached the girls’ apartment, they also found no sign of the missing girl… Until checking her closet.
There, in a Snuggle Sack sleeping bag, and underneath a pink and white checked blanket, laid Maggie Hume. It was quickly determined that Maggie had been murdered, with dark red marks indicating possible strangulation around her neck. And just like that, a missing person’s case had become a murder investigation.
The Boyfriend and the Serial Killer
Very soon into the police department’s investigation, it became apparent that Maggie’s boyfriend, Jay Carter, was a potential suspect. Carter’s actions preceding and after the murder were suspicious at best, and damning at worst – he lacked a solid alibi for the time of Maggie’s murder, and his timeline of his last night with Maggie left several holes in his story. In addition, Jay was the only one who knew that Maggie would be home alone on the night of her murder.
Jay’s behavior only worsened after Maggie had been found. He began to comment on her murder to friends and even Maggie’s family, offering several details that were not given to him by police, including that she had been sexually assaulted, and strangled with a ligature. Carter should have had no way to know Maggie was sexually assaulted or strangled at the time of his statements – especially given that police themselves did not yet have a confirmation of such from an autopsy. Worse still was Maggie’s family and friends reports of Jay: possessive, cold, and sometimes violent, Maggie had been dating Jay out of fear for what he might do if they broke up.
However, building a solid forensic case against Carter proved difficult – he refused to provide DNA to be tested, and admitted to having had sex with Maggie the night of her murder. As a result, his DNA would not prove anything beyond that he had told the truth about sleeping with her. Soon, a year had passed since Maggie’s murder, and the case was beginning to turn cold.
It wasn’t until 1986 that some new life was brought to Maggie’s file: A convicted murderer had admitted responsibility for her death. Michael Ronning was doing time in an Arkansas prison for a previous murder when he confessed to Maggie’s death, along with two other murders in Michigan.
At first, Ronning looked like a viable suspect: He had been living in the apartment directly below Maggie’s at the time of her murder, had no alibi at the time of her death, and was noted for his wild and dangerous behavior. However, Ronning’s confession, like Jay Virgil’s timeline, didn’t add up: He claimed to have first seen Maggie in her window while fishing at a nearby pond, even though it would have been physically impossible to see in Maggie’s window from that locatin. He also claimed to have come in through her window, even though police knew the killer had entered through Maggie’s patio door. Lastly, he claimed to have covered Maggie’s body in clothing from her closet – she was in fact covered with a blanket and sleeping bag.
In total, Ronning made 43 different claims that did not match the physical evidence of Maggie’s case. As a result, he was never prosecuted for Maggie’s crime. However, officials within the Battle Creek Police Department continued to insist on Ronning’s guilt, and the case reached a final standstill.
There have been attempts as recently as the early 2000s to prosecute Jay Carter for Maggie’s murder. But due to Ronning’s previous false confession and extensive news coverage of the case, Carter has never been brought to case for fear of a possible acquittal.
Today, Maggie’s story has been heard far and wide. Featured on shows such as Dateline, in newspapers nationwide, and in cold-case books, Maggie’s memory has lived well beyond her tragically short life. With time, the attention to her case may finally bring Maggie the justice she deserves.