Johnny Zera, part 3

This is part 3 of Johnny Zera.  Be sure to read parts 1 and 2 first!

The next major suspect in the case wouldn’t come until 2009. 

Daniel Acker was a swim coach at the West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation Department.  An unhappy parent had reported him to his boss for showering with the male swimmers after practice. 

Johnny-Zera-Daniel-Acker-2009

Daniel Acker, 2009

Just two weeks later a man called Acker’s boss.  The man told him that he needed to know he had hired a pedophile.  The man told Acker’s boss that he had been molested by Acker when he was 12.  That was 30 years ago.

Acker’s boss reported him to the police.

Acker was brought in to the police station.  He was chatty with police offices and agreed to let them search his home. 

In the basement of Acker’s home the police found model cars and scale buildings.  When the police officers removed the roof of Acker’s miniature police station there were photos on the walls.  Each photo was of a missing or murdered child.

Johnny-Zera-Daniel-Acker-Model-Police-Station

Scale Police Station Model in Acker’s Basement

Acker had written numbers and names on the bottoms of the model cars.  One said “14 John C Zera”.  He told police that he did this to honor the victims.  He dedicated his hobby to boys that couldn’t have hobbies anymore.

Zera matchbox cars

Model car with Johnny’s name in Acker’s Basement

The police also found photos and a journal written about Johnny’s murder.  They found maps of the area that had been searched after Johnny’s disappearance.  The journal was 173 pages long and began immediately after Johnny’s disappearance and continued for the next 30 years.

 

In 1973 Acker was kicked out of his apartment because he was partying with underage boys.  Shortly after that, the mother of a teenage boy called the police saying that Acker had asked her son to pose naked for a photo.  Acker denied the allegation and the case was closed.

1n 1974 Acker was invited back to his old apartment if he promised that he would not bring teenage boys into his home.  When boys were seen at the apartment a short time later, his landlord called the police.  Again, the case was closed on Acker after the police monitored his home for several days and came up with nothing.

Acker had been questioned by police in 1976 and had been part of a search party in the park where Johnny was later found.  He was even seen by a police officer in the exact location where Johnny was found the day after his discovery.  He passed a polygraph test and was removed from the suspect list.

Johnny-Zera-Daniel-Acker-1970s

Acker in the 1970s

2 months after Johnny’s murder Acker accused a patient in the mental health facility where he worked of killing Johnny.  The police did not believe him.  This is what Acker said spurred his personal investigation into Johnny’s murder and led him to start keeping the journal.

Johnny-Zera-Daniel-Acker-Journal.jpg.png

Acker wrote Johnny’s mother and father and told them about the patient.  Johnny’s mother wrote to Acker several times and the two became friends.

The patient was shown a photo of Johnny.  He said that he had never seen him before.  His doctors at the mental health facility said that he had the brain function of an 8 year old.

 

Some investigation into the case uncovered 3 additional victims of Acker’s from the 1970s and the police suspected that he had committed over 100 assaults in the past 30 years.  One of Acker’s current victims came forward.  He was a 19 year old male who said that he had begun sleeping with Acker when he was 15 and that they were still together.

Acker had worked as a swim coach and lifeguard.  He had also worked for the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex and Child/Adolescent Treatment Center.

Acker confessed to having a relationship with the 19 year old when he was a minor and to more than 20 additional assaults on underage boys.  He pled no contest to 2 counts of second-degree sexual assault in 2009 and is serving a 20 year sentence in Osh Kosh State Prison.

Johnny-Zera-Osh-Kosh-State-Prison

Osh Kosh State Prison

He has never confessed to having anything to do with the death of Johnny Zera.

 A video summary of this story:

Sources:

http://archive.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/unsolved–a-chilling-discovery-b99541083z1-351038391.html/

http://www.dreamindemon.com/community/threads/daniel-acker-got-away-sexual-assaults-for-30-years.16330/

http://archive.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/unsolved–citizen-detective-b99541085z1-353173931.html

http://www.evansmedia.org/mysteriyes/2017/3/22/johnny-zera-mysteriyes

 

 Photo Credits:

Daniel Acker 2009-https://icantbelieveitsnonfiction.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/230e8-acker-current.jpg

Model Police Station-http://media.jrn.com/images/b99618355z.1_20151117195913_000_gcfdd2gp.1-0.jpg

Model Car-http://media.jrn.com/images/b99618355z.1_20151117195913_000_gcfdd2gn.1-0.jpg

Daniel Acker 1970s-https://icantbelieveitsnonfiction.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/f37fc-acker-7027s.jpg

Journal and Photos-http://graphics.jsonline.com/jsi_news/projects/unsolved/acker-journal-img.jpg

Osh Kosh State Prison-http://static-23.sinclairstoryline.com/resources/media/b594dc16-4217-47d1-a4d6-de8e8f121e09-large16x9_OSHKOSHPRISONVIDEO_frame_1000.jpg

 

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.

Johnny-Zera-Michael-Uporsky-Substitute-Teacher - Copy

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.

Johnny-Zera-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.

Johnny-Zera-Clothes-Crime-Scene

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.

Johnny-Zera-Seattle-SuperSonics-Michael-Uporsky

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.

Johnny-Zera-Michael-Uporsky-NBA-Championship-Ring

Uporsky’s Lost Championship Ring

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

A video summary of this story:

Sources:

http://archive.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/unsolved–a-chilling-discovery-b99541083z1-351038391.html/

http://media.jrn.com/documents/lost+file.pdf

http://www.evansmedia.org/mysteriyes/2017/3/22/johnny-zera-mysteriyes

https://patch.com/california/redondobeach/nba-championship-ring-lost-in-redondo

http://archive.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/unsolved–what-did-we-miss-b99541087z1-359572041.html

 

 

 

 

Johnny Zera (part 1)

February 20, 1976 in Franklin, Wisconsin…

Johnny-Zera-Franklin-Wisconsin

Franklin, Wisconsin

John and Janice Zera and their sons had been living in the small town of Franklin for less than a year.  They had moved from Milwaukee.  Phil, Johnny and Mark were 13, 14 and 15 years old.

Johnny-Zera

Johnny Zera

The two older boys went to Franklin High School.

Johnny-Zera-Franklin-High-School

Franklin High School

Most of the students there had gone to school together all their lives.  Johnny and Mark hadn’t really found their crowd yet, but the boys hung out with one another, and their little brother, often playing in the woods by their house.

On February 20, 1976 Johnny ate lunch and then went to study hall.  What happened next depends on who you ask.

Everyone agreed that Johnny asked the teacher for a hall pass.  After he left the classroom, some students said that they saw him walk out the front door of the school and get into a Ford Torino.

Johnny-Zera-1970-Ford-Torino

1970 Ford Torino

Other students say that he was skipping class in the school lobby.  His next class was Drafting and some students said that they saw him outside of the Drafting Room, but he did not attend the class that day.

After school Mark walked home alone.  It was unusual for Johnny not to come home right after school, and even more unusual for him to not tell anyone where he had gone.  His parents were worried and called the police.  They told John and Janice that Johnny was probably fine and to wait.  He would be home soon.

When Johnny had not returned that evening, John took Mark and went looking for Johnny.  Janice spent her evening on the phone with everyone she knew in the small town asking if they had seen Johnny.

Around dark it started to snow so John and Mark returned home.

The next day was Saturday, but the principal agreed to meet John and Mark at the school.  They asked to look in Johnny’s locker.  In it they found his school books and his green winter coat.  The three men became even more concerned after finding Johnny’s coat and called the police again.

A search for Johnny commenced and the police began interviewing anyone that may have seen Johnny that day.  For a little while the police focused on Mark, but soon realized that he really didn’t know where Johnny was.

The Zera home was base for the searchers who included cops, a snowmobile club, friends and relatives.  Even a psychic showed up to offer services.

 

February 28, 1976 in Whitnall Park…

Whitnall Park is a park located across the border of Franklin and Hales Corners, Wisconsin.  There is an entrance to the park 5 miles from Franklin High School and 8 miles away from the Zera home.  A group of teenagers were exploring the woods when they discovered Johnny’s body.  He was naked and laying facedown with his head resting on a log.  It appeared to police officers that Johnny had not put up a struggle and that his body had not been dragged to that location.  They found Johnny’s clothes 20 feet away.  They found a white tshirt, jeans, boxers and his shoes with his socks inside.  They also found his hall pass and a pen and pencil.

Johnny-Zera-Clothes-Crime-Scene

Evidence photo, Johnny’s clothes

Oddly, they found that someone had written “hell” on Johnny’s wrist.

Police officers also found a rock with blood and hair on it.  They believed that this is what the killer had used to murder Johnny.

Because the park is located in 2 different cities, there was a debate over which police department would handle the case.  Johnny’s body was found in Hales Corners, but his missing person’s report had been filed in Franklin.  In the end, Hales Corners would take the case.

Johnny-Zera-Hales-Corners

Hales Corners, Wisconsin

Hales Corners Police Department was the smallest police department in the state and there had only been one murder in Hales Corners since the 1950s.  A man killed his wife and was found waiting outside the police station for officers to arrive the next morning so that he could turn himself in.

When this case turned out to be more than they could handle, they asked for help from the Milwaukee FBI and the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Over 1000 people were interviewed in Johnny’s case, but the killer was never found.

 

Johnny’s autopsy reported that  semen was found on the body and there was indication that he had been sodomized multiple times before his death.  (Possibly for weeks or months prior.)  His time of death was reported as 1 or 2pm.

An FBI profiler gave a description of the possible suspect.  His profile included “sadistic male homosexual,” “Bi-sexual,” “Psychopathic behavior when it comes to sex,” “Peculiar sexual demands of females,” “Wife or girlfriend has left him,” “Strong religious background,” “Average intelligence or below average,” “has had relations with boy before,” “18-50 years old,” “60-70% of buggery committed by family members,” “Outgoing, makes a lot of noise” and “Heavy drinker” [1]

Despite the biased and opinionated nature of the profile, police began to question suspects that they believed fit.  They even went so far as to go around town asking if people knew anyone that might be gay.

 

The first suspect that police officers focused on was a construction worker who was doing some work at the high school at the time of Johnny’s murder.  When questioned, he originally told police that he had worked on a roof in a different location that day.  Upon investigation, police discovered that he had worked on the roof the day before Johnny went missing and he had been off on February 20, 1976.

Later the construction worker, whose name has never been released because he was never charged with any crime, was able to provide proof that he had been at the doctor the afternoon of Johnny’s disappearance, but could not account for his whereabouts that morning.

The construction worker showed signs of mental instability in his interviews with police.  He claimed that his girlfriend was psychic and could read his mind.  He claimed that he could control the actions of animals.  At one point he choked on his cigarette.  He said that someone was using the cigarette as mind control.

The construction worker denied killing Johnny and a polygraph showed that he was telling the truth.  Despite this, he remained a suspect in the murder for two years.

 

It was later determined that a detective on the case was having an affair with a friend of the construction worker.  He had used the investigation as an excuse to spend time with this woman.  The detective was suspended for two months without pay.

 

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

A video summary of this story:

 

Sources:

http://www.evansmedia.org/mysteriyes/2017/3/22/johnny-zera-mysteriyes [1]

http://archive.jsonline.com/watchdog/unsolved-the-search-for-john-zeras-killer-b99541076z1-339934181.html

http://archive.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/unsolved–where-do-we-start-b99541079z1-344852602.html

http://archive.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/unsolved–where-do-we-start-b99541079z1-344852602.html/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6IWgIJNWXM

 

Photo Credits:

Franklin, Wisconsin-https://www.andersonpestsolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/4536534975_7bfa5f891b.jpg

Johnny Zera-https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/ddc386f1ebf7380c53c042fbdb4e98129deb46da/c=135-0-1106-1295&r=537&c=0-0-534-712/local/-/media/2016/11/10/WIGroup/Milwaukee/636143813087691229-John-Zera.png

Franklin High School-https://easymethod-wisconsin.com/images/easy-method-franklin-high-school.jpg

Ford Torino-https://assets.hemmings.com/story_image/607097-1000-0@2x.jpg?rev=2

Evidence Picture-https://cdn2-img.pressreader.com/pressdisplay/docserver/getimage.aspx?regionKey=Z3wupePr87DNf9XmSHLoVg%3D%3D&scale=100

Hales Corners-http://www.halescorners.org/vertical/Sites/%7B13E374A3-DCA7-4815-B7CA-3C313FFDC47C%7D/uploads/%7B6173E510-5EAC-47A1-857B-FF6DCFD3AE7C%7D.jpg