Show Notes: Bodies Historic Hotel Fires, Decapitation Murders of Charles Oppenneer and Brooke Slocum

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 59: Bodies Historic Hotel Fires, Decapitation/Murder of Brooke Slocum and Charles Oppenneer

Review of Econo Lodge, Battle Creek, MI

Alerts:

  • Pretend podcast music because Jenn likes it.
  • Ali has a weird laugh. It is often loud.

We discuss the dark bean ambrosia, coffee for a minute.

Decapitation/Murder of Brooke Slocum and Charles Oppenneer

 The deaths of Brooke and Charles have been referred to as the Craigslist murders.

Brooke was 18 years old and about eights months pregnant. Her boyfriend Charles was 25 years old. They were from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Being in need for money, they posted an ad on Craigslist requesting to borrow 50 dollars in gas. About a week after they posted the ad, Brady Oestrike replied, taking the conversation from one about gas money to an exchange for sex. Brady offered Brooke $125 for sex.

July 12, 2014, the couple met with Brady, who was 31, at a Wyoming, Michigan park around 11:30 p.m. Three days after they met at the park, Charles’ car was found abandoned. His body was found, headless, in the car. Brooke was missing. Their home was searched, and the police investigated their internet history, finding the conversation with Brady.

The police were then able to execute a search warrant for Brady’s home in Wyoming, MI. Brady fled in his car and eventually crashed. He then killed himself with a gunshot. There is video of the incident, showing the crash and Brady’s subsequent death. When police searched the car, they found Brooke strangled to death in the trunk.

It was believed that Brady held Brooke in his home. There is disturbing video of Brady preparing his home to hold his victim. (Jenn watched it on YouTube along with the car crash video.) Police believe her body was in the trunk because he was trying to hide evidence when the police searched his house.

Charles’ skull was found on March 26, 2019, in a wooded area in Alpine Township in Gazeon Park. It is believed that Charles died of a gunshot.

Other notes about Brady Oestrike: In May of 2014 he met a woman on Craigslist. She willingly moved in with him but then he chained her up in his basement. He physically and sexually abused her. The woman escaped and told police what happened, but no charges were pressed against him.

On the day he was to meet with Charles and Brooke, Brady was supposed to fly to Las Vegas to meet a woman he had hooked up with on a sexual fantasy website.

Historic Hotel Fires in Michigan, Kerns and Wenonah Hotels

Kerns Hotel

The Kerns Hotel was built in 1909 along the Grand River in Lansing, Michigan. It was built with a brick exterior and a wooden interior, originally containing 162 rooms.  (Michigan was a lumber state, so the wooden interior was standard for the time.) It contained four stories and was upgraded to a 211-room hotel in 1934.

The hotel was very popular for state legislators, due to its location in the state’s capitol, Lansing. It was beautifully located at the edge of the river and in the heart of town. The Kerns Hotel was also known for their restaurant and bar. On top of that, it was the first hotel in Michigan that piped ice water to each of the rooms.

On December 11, 1934, the same year the hotel added the new rooms, it caught fire. It was believed that the hotel manager, David Monroe, had discarded a lit cigarette in his room. He was one of the people who died in the resulting blaze. About 30 minutes after the fire started, it was noticed by a night watchman, around 5:30 in the morning. He immediately sounded the bell to alert the fire department of his discovery.

There were 215 guests in their rooms that night. The fire department was able to arrive quickly, evacuating many of the people on the first two floors.  However, the wooden interior had helped the fire spread quickly throughout the structure. Fire ladders and nets were brought to the exterior of the structure, trying to assist the people trapped on the upper third and fourth floors.

Others, desperate to escape the heat flares and flames began to jump from their windows down to the kitchen roof below. Eventually, the roof of the kitchen collapsed, cutting off even that dangerous avenue of escape. Some victims of the fire, tried to jump into the nets below, but missed and died after falling to the ground. People also attempted to leap from their windows into the Grand River. Unfortunately, due to it being winter, the river was freezing and filled with ice, possibly frozen solid. To make matters worse, as the fire continued, the exterior brick walls began collapsing onto rescuers.

The Kerns Hotel fire is thought to be the worst in Lansing’s history.

It was determined that 32 people died at the scene, with two others later succumbing to their injuries and perishing at the hospital.  There were 44 injured. Of those who died, there were 14 firemen who died and seven state legislators. An announcement made at the scene recalled the first body being pulled from the site came from the river and was thought to be Senator John Leidlein. Senator Leidlein did die due to the fire at the Kerns Hotel, but that was a misidentified body. Senator William Hanna died after missing the safety net.

The Detroit fire department sent a crew to Lansing to assist them in dealing with this tragedy. It arrived in Lansing by 9:30 a.m. and immediately began to work securing the scene and searching for survivors. They were there to give the Lansing firefighters reprieve so they could take a moment to rest and mourn the loss of their coworkers. The Detroit fire crew also brought extra equipment to aid in clean up.

Due to the death of the legislators, special elections needed to be held in four different districts. This caused the pollical power to shift from republican to democrat with a seat win. At least one senator’s wife was compensated financially for her husband’s death.

https://cardboardamerica.org/2016/12/12/kerns-hotel-fire-december-11-1934/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerns_Hotel_fire

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/1837770/1934_kerns_hotel_fire_in_lansing/

Wenonah Hotel Fire

The Wenonah was a hotel that was built in Bay City, Michigan, opening November 9, 1908. It was a four-story upscale hotel and was received with a lot of fanfare. The night it opened, about 1,000 people had purchased tickets to enter the hotel’s restaurant to eat for the night. Eleven stores were built into the first floor and the main floor lobby was near to 5,000 square feet. The hotel was constructed with mostly concrete and steel, with wood only being used for interior finishes like door jambs and windowsills.

On December 10, 1977, the Wenonah Hotel caught on fire around 7:00 a.m. It had since been turned into a block of apartments with about 140 residents. Dave Shore, who operated a radio station from the hotel’s lobby, stayed on the air, reporting the fire until he had to be evacuated at 7:30 a.m. It was reported that people on the top two floors were still jumping from the building until 8:15 a.m. Machines with cherry-pickers were brought to the scene from Michigan Bell and Consumers energy, trying to reach the people at the top. Civilians brought ladders to the scene, working to assist people out of the building.

Every article that I read had a different speculation on how the fire started. I read everything from a mentally imbalanced man in the hotel possibly being an arsonist, along with speculation on a grease fire or faulty wiring. The cause of the fire is still unknown. There was additional speculation that the fire had grown so quickly because of a highly flammable paneling that had been later added to the structure.

A man named Randy Badgerow, who was an ambulance driver at the time, drove to the hotel after seeing smoke. Randy and his partner were the first ambulance on the scene and the first person they treated was a man who had jumped from his window, landing on the sidewalk in front of them. Randy said he still has moments of PTSD from being part of the tragedy.

The city was in the middle of a cold snap and one of the fire hydrants that firemen had tried to use was frozen. When the water did start to pump out, it froze on the sidewalks, streets, and truck ladders causing difficulty in the rescue. Freezing temperatures in the single digits mixed with 30 mph winds caused icicles to form on the firemen as they tried to hose down the structure.

Forty-three people were treated and released, with another 23 people admitted into the hospital with more serious injuries. There were 10 fatalities. At 10 a.m. fire fighters were able to pull back on their main assault on the fire. The roof had collapsed, and a majority of the fire was out.

The Bay County Historical Museum has an exhibit on the Wenonah Hotel fire.

https://www.mlive.com/news/bay-city/2017/12/the_wenonah_hotel_fire_40_year.html

http://www.bay-journal.com/bay/1he/writings/wenonah-hotel-opens.html

http://www.bay-journal.com/bay/1he/writings/wenonah-hotel-1908nov9.html

Trip Advisor Review of Econo Lodge

Battle Creek, MI

Mike M.

Brutal !

We arrived at 3:00 in the afternoon to Police cars in the parking lot. I ask at the desk what was going on, the clerk had very little english skills other then $44.00 for the room, not sure what it was all about. I also asked the clerk where the Arena was, he did not know of any Arena. As we entered the facility the hallway and room were dark, musty and cold. Took a while to figure out how to get heat on in the room. I was going to call the desk and ask, but did not want to pay $44.00 again. The drain plug in the shower was not operational and stuck in the down position. Not sure how they got the water out of the tub ? Place served its purpose though, very convenient location to Kellogg Arena, about a 1/2 block away, you can see it from the front desk. The Battle Creek Policeman was very helpful pointing it out to us.

Date of stay: February 2013Trip type: Traveled as a couple

Room Tip: Bring a weapon !

Debbie

Bug infested

I would not recomment this place, unless you know for 100% sure that the roaches are gone. They need to infested the BattleCreek, MI hotel. Husband stayed there 3 nights because they said they would take care of it, and every night when he got back he found 2 or 3 bugs running around in his room. They did nothing to make it better. I truly believe that they should spray after the first day instead they told him they would take care of it and did NOTHING.

 Date of stay: July 2019

Grace M.

Reviewed January 6, 2014

Positive Experience

I am a professional who stayed at Econo Lodge for 4 nights and truly enjoyed myself. The room I had was clean and had nice décor. There was a fridge and microwave. For the price of $42 a night I was not expecting this. The front desk staff was honest. Bob returned my $50 bill when I accidently gave him an extra one. The staff was willing to get me breakfast even when I got up late and everything was already put away. I felt they were like family while I was away from home. True, the place is not in an upscale neighbourhood but I am quite familiar with the homeless population. I did not see any hookers, addicts, or smell drugs inside this motel as others talk about. I had a positive experience here.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g41969-d142306-Reviews-Econo_Lodge_Battle_Creek-Battle_Creek_Calhoun_County_Michigan.html

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