This show, “Michigan and other Mayhem”, is a sort of factual, slightly comical, always earnest podcast about interesting stuff in Michigan and around the world. It is done by two sisters-in-law (Ali and Jenn) that like to talk about random interesting stories. Expect cults, mysteries, murder, fast-talking, and a couple of mental palate cleansers… and cuss words. Those happen on this show, a lot.
Episode 27: Cocoa Beach Live Burials and Robert Miles KKK
- Pretend podcast music because Jenn likes it.
- Ali has a weird laugh. It is often loud.
Cocoa Beach, FL Live Burials
Jenn stumbled upon these two unassociated murders when she found out that her parents were traveling to Cocoa Beach. She searched murder at hotels in Cocoa Beach, Florida while they traveled and told them tales of dead people.
In 1993, Branden Barnett, seven years old was found to have been buried alive (dead) in Cocoa Beach, FL. He was found with sand and leaves in his lungs, leading the conclusion that he had been alive when buried. He was found days after her mother’s body had washed up on the shore.
Lewanna Barnett, his mother, had suffered the loss of her 14-year-old son to a car accident. She also suffered from mental illness. It was believed that the death of her older son pushed her over the edge mentally. The police ideas are that she killed Brayden and then herself.
In 2006, Darice Knowles was found dead after being buried alive.
Christopher Pratt, Darice’s ex-boyfriend, admitted to killing her. He had told Darice, previously, that he and a friend, Vahtiece Kirkman, had killed a man. Willie Parker was killed by the two while they were robbing him.
Christopher had seen Darice talking to a police officer. He assumed she was telling the authorities about the murder the two had committed. Christopher then told Vahtiece that he had seen Darice speaking to the police. Christopher then claims that Vahtiece forced him to tie Darice up and bury her alive. Christopher also poured concrete on top of her.
To secure a plea deal, to get only 20 years in jail, Chris Pratt testified against Vahtiece Kirkman. He also showed police where Darice’s body was buried. The police were able to confirm that Darice had not told police about the murder. Darice had been seen with an officer because they were dating each other.
Vahtiece was sentenced to death for the murder of William Parker and Darice Knowles.
Robert “Bob” Miles KKK
We had a follower named Veronica respond on our website to our show notes on Leslie Allen Williams and she reminded me of Bob Miles. (Thank you, Veronica!)
Robert ‘Bob’ Miles was born on January 28, 1925, in New York and grew to be a grand dragon of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan. The FBI described him as a white supremacist with ties to Nazism. He also later became a religious leader.
Bob Miles joined the Free French forces in 1940 after lying about his age. When the US joined World War II in 1941, Bob joined the navy. After the war he continued to fight in the Philippines against communist guerillas. Bob was captured and held prisoner until being repatriated by US officials.
Bob was then an insurance executive, working between New York and Michigan from 1947 to 1969. During that time, he was working with East European guerillas. That work is connected to the explosion of his New York home in 1953. The explosion was Bob’s trigger to move his primary residence to Dearborn, Michigan first, before moving to Howell/Cohoctach Township, MI.
On April 3, 1971, a white Willow Run High School Principal named R. Wiley Brownlee, was targeted by Bob Miles and four of his fellow Ku Klux Klan members. Brownlee was lobbying to formally recognize the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. at a school board meeting in Ypsilanti. Bob Miles and four fellow KKK members disagreed with Principal Brownlee’s work. On the night of the third, as Brownlee drove home to Plymouth, a car blocked a bridge ahead of him forcing him to stop. A second car blocked the road behind him, keeping him from backing up. Five men in white supremist robes, one of them being Bob, then put a gun to Brownlee’s head and forced him out of the car. The men forced him to the ground and then covered Principal Brownlee with five gallons of hot tar, from his shoulders to his feet. They then covered him in chicken feathers, holding him captive for two hours.
Afterward, Principal Brownlee drove back to the high school for help and a student was able to take a picture of him.
Brownlee returned to work at the school the next day, to show that he had not been scared off.
Before we get to the legal ramifications of tarring and feathering another human being, let me tell you what else Bob did.
On the night of August 30, 1971 ten buses in the Pontiac school system were blown up with dynamite. There was property damage, but no person was killed or injured. It was considered to be in protest of racial integration busing. Six klansmen were arrested in connection to the bombing, including Robert Miles. Found guilty of conspiring to interfere with force, after waiving a jury trial, five of the six men were freed on a $10,000 bond before sentencing.
Most of the information regarding the bombing came from an informant who had been paid to infiltrate the white supremist movement in Michigan. The mole was named Jerome Lauinger, and he testified that the convicted men were part of a militant wing of the klan called The Rangers. According to Jerome, the bombing was deliberated for a few weeks before they took action, and that he was in on the plan.
Robert Miles was indicted on conspiracy charges in the federal court system in June of 1972 for his role in the tarring and feathering of Principal Robert W. Brownlee. In October of 1973, Bob Miles was sentenced to nine years in federal prison. He received a sentence of four years for Brownlee’s tarring case and five years for the bombing. He served six years of his sentence before being released in 1979.
Bob Miles then became a religious figure for a religion that believed Jewish people were agents for a false god, which does battle with the one true God that Bob worshipped. Robert Miles than began to be known by the title Pastor Bob. Bob Miles church, named Mountain Church, was founded on his property in Howell/Cohoctach Township, MI, which was a 37-acre farm. Bob held many religious and racial meetings on his large property.
This caused Howell/Livingston County earned the unfortunate nickname of “The KKK Capital of Michigan”.
On the Miles property, FBI charged that Bob and his followers would discuss overthrowing the government. Mr. Miles was a productive writer for 20 years of a newsletter called ‘From the Mountain’. It was his prolific writing that lead to more legal trouble for Bob. Bob and 13 other white supremacists were indicted for seditious conspiracy in a plot to overthrow the government in 1987. All were acquitted of charges in 1988 after Bob claimed his writings were an exaggeration, and his intentions were to amuse and educate. ‘From the Mountain’ was published it until 1989. His high-volume writings caused Bob to be considered a spokesman for his white supremist movement.
Robert E. Miles died August 16, 1992 of probably complications from a stroke or heart complications.
I (Ali) went to a party in the Howell/Pickney area around 1994. It was a Halloween costume party, and my friends and I went in support of our friends who played in a garage band. The garage was on the edge of the party with a large bonfire farther in the property, by the house. We parked by a barn and we weren’t even up to the garage when my roommate and I started to shock whisper to each other. There were a lot of people that we could see in the distance, around the bonfire, dressed in KKK robes. Every now and then you would see someone in a Nazi uniform, and one of the guys was in black face.
My sisters, roommate, and I just stayed huddled together. Our band friends were complaining to us that the other partygoers were upset that we weren’t mingling or talking outside our immediate group. My roommate and I pointed out their attire as why that might be true. We left the sanctity of the garage once after being told we were upsetting them by not roaming. I didn’t want to anger the natives. I wasn’t gone long before returning to the garage.
I read an article that was written in the “Livingston Post” talking about how Robert Miles’ name ruined the legacy of Livingston County. That he was dead for 25 years (it was written August 2017) but people still associated the culture with the area. The article concluded that the Southern Poverty Law center, which does track white supremist movements, confirmed that there isn’t an active KKK faction in Michigan.
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