Johnny Zera, part 2

This is part 2 of Johnny Zera.  Be sure to read part 1 first!

Even before the news came out that the lead detective in Johnny’s case had claimed an innocent man as a suspect so that he could spend time with his mistress, other careless and negligent mistakes were made in the case.

In July 1977 a file containing information about Johnny’s case was found in the basement of a private residence by the new tenants.  The file was supposed to have been delivered to the district attorney’s office.  It had been in the possession of the head of the Glendale, Wisconsin crime lab.  He had given the file to a friend of an investigator for the district attorney’s office.  Then the investigator and his friend got into an argument and the friend decided to keep the file.  He left it in the basement of his home where it was found after he moved out.

The next suspect in the case was a substitute teacher at Franklin High School.

Michael Uporsky

Michael Uporsky was also a hall monitor and girls’ basketball coach.  He also taught swim lessons at the school.  When questioned the first time, Uporsky said that he was on his lunch break at the time that Johnny went missing.  No one at the school could remembered seeing Uporsky during lunch and students reported that he had been 10 minutes late to his class after lunch.

Uporsky said that he hadn’t seen Johnny on the day of his disappearance, but he remembered an interaction with Johnny the week before.  Johnny had attended a swim lesson at the school but didn’t want to get in the pool.  Johnny never told him why we was anxious about getting in the water.  Uporsky admitted to knowing Johnny’s brother, Mark, because he was more active in athletics at Franklin High School.

Franklin High School

In 1978 an anonymous tip came into the Franklin police department that Uporsky had made sexual advances on a young man in a hotel room.  The caller suggested that Uporsky be looked into for the murder of Johnny.

Uporsky had a checkered past and a foot fetish.  At 12 years old Uporsky was accused of removing the shoes of a 6 year old’s feet after luring him into his home with the promise of playing with a puppy.

At 14 years old, Uporsky assaulted a 12 year old boy and attacked his feet.  For this offence he was charged and sent to a mental health facility.  Despite this, he would be accused of forcing a 9 year old boy to the ground and removing his shoes less than a year later.

At 22 he would attack 3 more boys 12-18 years old.  These arrest would send him back to treatment.

People would note that Johnny was found with barefeet.

Evidence photo, Johnny’s clothes

Uporsky responded to the accusations of his involvement in Johnny’s death by admitting that he had been arrested in the past, but that his prior assaults had been non-violent and non-sexual.  He also told police that he was not a “rational heterosexual man.” [1]

By 1979 Uporsky had left Franklin High School and was now a scout for the NBA team, the Seattle SuperSonics.

Seattle SuperSonics, after winning the NBA championship. Uporsky is third from the right (in the green jumpsuit)

He was asked to come to Franklin.  While there, he took 2 lie detector tests.  During the first test, the administrator noted that Uporsky was gulping air.  He advised Uporsky to breathe slowly because his quick breaths could cause an incorrect reading.  He would later report that he believed that Uporsky was deliberately trying to alter his results.  This first test was deemed inconclusive.

The second test showed that he was being dishonest about being involved in Johnny’s murder.

That year several of the boys that Uporsky worked with at Franklin High School claimed that he roughhoused with them and often tickled their feet, but none of them had come forward at the time of any of the incidents.

All the evidence against him was substantial and the police could not hold him.

The SuperSonics won the 1979 NBA championship and, shortly after that, Uporsky was fired.

Investigators in the case kept track of Uporsky’s movements for years after this.  Whenever he would apply for a new job or begin dating a new woman, they would be contacted and informed of Uporsky’s sketchy past and involvement in a murder investigation.

One of Uporsky’s girlfriends was convinced by detectives that he was only dating her to get to her son.  She allowed police officers to eavesdrop from another room while she questioned Uporsky about Johnny’s murder.

Uporsky is now living a relatively quiet life.  Last making the news in 2013 when he lost his 1979 championship ring on the beach while walking his dog.

Uporsky’s Lost Championship Ring

Next week, we will discuss another suspect in this case.

A video summary of this story:

Sources/Photo Credits

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