Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mr. Runkle deserves better

I was in Mr. Runkle's class.
It was during Parents' Night. I sat there as a student would and listened to the seventh-grade science teacher talk about his teaching and grading and disipline philosophies.
It was hard to concentrate -- and not because of the subject matter or the teacher's public speaking skills.
It was because the room was lined with cages. I mean lined. Cages on low tables; cages on higher tables; cages stacked on cages.
There were chinchillas and snakes and everything in between.
"What a cool class," I thought.
It was Mr. Runkle's classroom menagerie and he was there seven days a week taking care of it. He stayed long after school let out and was always there on weekends.
I know because we lived only a few blocks from the school and we could see his car parked there all the time.
My kids really liked his class and I was glad they had him for a teacher.
Maybe you've heard about Dean Runkle.
He's been accused of killing Amy Mihaljevic, the 10-year-old abducted from a Bay Village shopping center in 1989.
Not accused as in accused by police, accused as in accused by Scene magazine writer James Renner based on (in his words) "five or six pieces of circumstantial evidence."
Well, shoot, this "news" is creating shock waves from one side of this country to the other as former students and parents hear about it.
The reactions follow the same pattern -- disbelief followed by a "well, he was a weirdo" followed by a "yeah, a weirdo who was able to motivate middle-school kids" and back to disbelief.
So, who IS this Scene magazine writer who has put Mr. Runkle on a skewer and dangled him over the jaws of those vicious and often illiterate Internet posters who care little for fact and even less for proof?
I Googled Renner.
He's a 30-year-old Cleveland author and film critic who is obsessed with Amy Mihaljevic.
He's also somewhat of a publicity hound. Check out his Today Show man-to-man kiss at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYt6RklOFQk.
So, he's a (relative) kid throwing a 65-year-old strange but dedicated former teacher under the bus with "five or six pieces of circumstantial evidence," which were not enough for the FBI.
It just doesn't seem fair to me.

36 comments:

Stephanie Smith Pinskey said...

Thank you so much for this blog...I too am a former student and it's sickening to see all of the puppets reading his fiction and interpretting it as facts...I'm disgusted...since you are in Florida now, if you have any way of fnding and contacting Mr. Runkle, PLEASE let him know how much support he has from so many of us...The Journal is even perpetuating this story...how sick is that?

James Renner said...

People have been convicted on one shred of circumstantial evidence before. The case against Runkle is overwhelming. I've spent years researching this case and have interviewed, literally, hundreds of people--suspects, family, friends, law enforcement. Runkle deserves to be at the top of the list for various reasons, not the least of which is an eyewitness who says he looks familiar. At the end of the day, we know for a fact he was sending sexual messages to at least one former student in 1989, the year Amy was murdered. That doesn't prove he killed Amy but it does prove that he's not the saintly teacher you portray.

Anonymous said...

  I am also a former student of mr runkle who was mentioned in the scene article. I was misquoted and it failed to mention that i stated i had not witnessed nor heard of mr runkle acting innapropriatley towards his students, though i thought he was unusual.We cant take away all of the hard work james renner has done, for if 1 of our children were missing we would want him looking into it,which is why i spoke to him, but to mislead the public and use accounts of former students in a manner which labels mr runkle a murderer instead of unusual is unfair to the people quoted and most importantly to mr runkle

Anonymous said...

I too am a former student, and I think James Renner is on a Salem Witch Hunt to sell more papers. Yes, Mr. Runkle was eccentric, but he inspired me to be a better student, and eventually a teacher. He also opened my eyes to ragtime piano. I will never be as talented, but learned to play Scott Joplin after hearing him play. There are many former VJHS students that SUPPORT him! I hope he knows that!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Runkle is guilty or not. I hope they find whoever killed Amy Mihaljevic. But it is wrong (and probably illegal) for Renner to publish Runkle's name as if it is so certain he is guilty, especially in the absence of any sort of indictment (let alone convinction). Renner has run a fine blog for years keeping the public informed about updates in the Mihaljevic case (case I too am very interested in because I remember it so well---I was 6 at the time), but publishing Runkle's name does cross the line of decency.

Anonymous said...

James Renners proffesionalism and theory of Mr. Runkle were brought into question on the Morning Journal blog. It was also suggested he was writing under several names on the blog. Then, a mysterious blogger called lorain county residents "uneducated hillbillies" and said our attention should be on Mr. Runkle. I wonder who that mysterious blogger is, perhaps James Renner?

Anonymous said...

If you do the research, you will find that James Renners accusations of people seem to coincide with his book releases. Makes you wonder

Patti Ewald said...

It's hard to tell how many aliases James Renner has. He is posing as Amy herself on MySpace.
I was creeped out when I had a message from "Amy Mihaljevic" in my inbox.
When I found her site (check it out, it lists her as 29 years old, 4-foot-10 and there for "networking"), I sent a note asking who is responsible for the site. Here's a copy of the exchange:
----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: patti
Date: Nov 15, 2008 5:44 AM

Who posts this site? Family members or James Renner?
thanks.


That would me, James Renner

Anonymous said...

have you seen some of his interviews on you tube? he actually said in one of them that he would look at the pic of amy and imagine she was his girlfriend.then look around westgate mall for her, he thought he would be her knight in shining armour i guess. i knew mr. runkle and in my opinion james renner seems stranger than mr runkle ever did

Anonymous said...

hey patti, as you have been in the media for some time and worked up the ranks, do you feel james renner has violated any rules of journalism in his article? if so, what? i just cannot believe that people are able to put accusations like that in a newpaper/magazine.i have also noticed not many other media outlets have even mentioned the story, i guess we know who has class and who doesn't.

Patti Ewald said...

A journalist has a lot a power -- including the power to ruin someone's life. An ethical journalist realizes that and does not write anything that is speculation or conjecture. What if he is wrong about Runkle? The tragedy of it is unimaginable.

James Renner said...

If you actually read the article, you'll see that nothing I wrote was conjecture. We presented the facts and let the readers draw what conclusions they may.

And if you watch the interview, you'll also see that I never said I imagined myself as Amy's boyfriend. That's just false.

I always post under my own name. I'm not afraid to say what's on my mind. I guess it's easier to assume that everyone who disagrees with you must be me, though.

And yes, I run Amy's MySpace. I never made a secret of that. The police also have the password to access the site. It's a great way to get new tips and to generate new interest in the case.

-James

Anonymous said...

you are lying again james renner, you have on your website "my mind is made up, indict this man please". that most definitely implies guilt. you have posted under the names of grammar police, L, and others. i have seen all your interviews and you always say, "i couldnt believe that an adult could do this to a kid".it is a pathetic attempt to come across sincere. you have accused several suspects of this crime and you HAVE said you would imagine her as your girlfriend.i am 100% sure if there were evidence Mr. Runkle had done this crime he would be in jail now.i am also curious as to why the police looked at him as a suspect years ago and you have just now found out,perhaps they don't have any respect for you. also here is what i heard from a credible source, your father was a suspect in this horrible crime and you are trying to divert attention from him.

Anonymous said...

Patti, I have a question for James Renner and since he has visited your site, I would like to ask him here. James  There are 2 questions that a law enforcement officer has to answer before assuming guilt and then proceeding to prove it. 1] where was the person of interest/suspect at during the crime and 2] did he/she have the means of committing this crime. we know the  jr and high schools ended around 2:40 in Amherst in 1989.we also know that Amherst did have school on October 27, 1989, therfore keeping their science teacher in Amherst until atleast 3:00. we have not even made it to question 2 because, despite some circumstantial evidence, like a gold car, similar description and the proximity of his home to where amy's body was found, there is no proof that Dean Runkle was not at Nord Jr High when the abduction accurred. how can you put pieces of this puzzle together with no starting point? thank you

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mr. Renner, I personally think it's a little creepy.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that Mr. Runkle is a suspect in the Amy Mihaljevic case. That is fact. It seems to me that Renner was writing a news article about that fact and providing information to the public. Readers can draw their own conclusions as many of you have already.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that Mr. Runkle is a suspect in the Amy Mihaljevic case. That is fact. It seems to me that Renner was writing a news article about that fact and providing information to the public. Readers can draw their own conclusions as many of you have already.

Loraine R said...

Hi Patti This was also picked up on another Lorain Blog I thought at the time this publicity was a "near the mark".... and had I still be writing for that blog would not have run this article even in its regugitive form but they did .. and a bit of a witch hunt.... I suppose the only positive thing I can say about all this is that at least it has brought to the fore Amy's unsolved murder BUT at whose expense ? I don't know Mr. Runkle, or his accuser but this is leaving a sour taste. Glad you are still blogging Loraine

Laura said...

As a former Bay Village resident and a friend of Amy I feel obligated to leave a comment for you. I am so grateful to James Renner for keeping Amy's case in papers and making sure that people don't forget what happened to her. Do you know how many people run MySpace pages for dead people? Lots. There were 2 other girls kidnapped and killed in Cleveland and they both have MySpace pages run by friends and family. It's not uncommon or disturbing.
James Renner is not the bad guy here.His heart is in the right place. But there is a bad guy out there who got away with kidnapping and murdering a beautiful 10 year old girl and leaving her by the side of a road!
It is a fact that Dean Runkle is a suspect by the FBI, not just by James Renner.
Until anything is proven in the case (whether by DNA or circumstantial evidence) no one should be ruled out.
Mr. Runkle may have been a wonderful teacher but that does not mean it is impossible for him to have committed this crime.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Glen Miller said...

Mr. Renner needs to take a look inside himself. My information from Kent State University – which he attended – is that he never was a serious journalist. While at KSU, he was the co-host of “Last Call,” a campus TV program formatted more like “Late Night With David Letterman.” It was pure entertainment, according to my sources.
I question how a former campus entertainer, who I’m told had scrapes with the law, can become a serious journalist in a matter of a few years. See www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-39630297.html
And, consider this: Authors do not necessarily make good journalists and visa versa.
Law enforcement did exhaustive investigative work into the murder of Amy Mihaljevic. They left no stone unturned. If Mr. Renner’s accusations are correct, it seems strange that FBI and other law enforcement officers do not consider them legitimate.
Another point: Scene Magazine has never been considered a “true” journalistic publication. To quote well-known but not necessarily respected radio talk show host, it is at best “drive by journalism.”
People read it for its tabloid entertainment value. Murder mysteries sell. How many books did James Renner sell through his accusations?
Patti Ewald is a true journalist. She came from a newsroom where fairness and accuracy were hammered into the staff by a damned-good manager editor named Arnold Miller. People like the above mentioned author only give journalism a black eye.

Glen Miller

Anonymous said...

To Laura: What do you mean no one should be ruled out? In USA (the country where this case took place) the maxim is innocent until proven guilty.

Laura said...

Yes, I agree. Runkle is innocent until proven guilty.
What I meant was that he should not be ruled out as a suspect simply because he was a wonderful teacher.

Anonymous said...

I went to school with Amy and I went to college with James. I'm more than appreciative that James has done everything in his power to help solve this horrendous crime. It has haunted me for the past 20 years knowing that Amy's murderer hasn't been confirmed. So what if James had fun with journalism in college? I enjoyed the comedy through the stress of college life. It taught him the skills that he is using productively now. Why did he spend more time researching this case than the BVPD? How can you possibly defend the fact that the BVPD couldn't walk across the street to Burns Auto to speak with the EYEWITNESS!!!! In 20 years!!!! This was the 1st the man was EVER asked to identify a suspect?!!!! Hmmm, he just so happens to ID RUNKLE?! Oh, so did the young EYEWITNESS from 20 years ago. Get your butts in gear BVPD and close this case! You have the evidence, put it all together!

Anonymous said...

My daughter received one of the stranger's phone calls.. but unlike the other girls, we had lived in Vermilion and Amherst. My daughter had also gone to the science center where Runkle had worked, and my daughter had signed her name, address, and phone number there on the log. I wonder how you would feel, if your little girl had been called, or worse.

Patti Ewald said...

What stranger? I hope you are not saying that your daughter got a phone call from an unknown person and because she had signed her name on a log where Mr. Runkle worked, you think it had to be him.
If that is what you are saying, you are reinforcing my point.

Anonymous said...

James says 'Runkle deserves to be at the top of the list for various reasons, not the least of which is an eyewitness who says he looks familiar', yet in his book he describes the 'plumber' near the scene where the body was discovered as being uncannily like the suspects sketch as well as others like Brad Harvey looking like the sketch. Billy Strunak even looked like the sketch. I don't want to jump on either side here, but presuming things based on general appearance is a no-no in my opinion. Circumstantial evidence I believe to be dodgy, it can be manipulated so easily.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the Internet world is full of egotistical hack journalists such as James Renner. Plain old vigilantism is what his writings represent.. There is a reason why only qualified law enforcement professionals should be allowed to investigate crimes and James Renner is the prime example of why that is so important. To date, Renner has named multiple men as suspects in the murder of Amy Mihaljevic, often based on eyewitness reports over twenty years old, one of the most unreliable methods known in police work. My fondest wish is that someday Renner will be sued and held accountable for making such accusations in the public forum.

Patti Ewald said...

Do you know where I might find Mr. Runkle? I'm still a journalist -- now working in Florida -- which is the last place he was rumored to be. I would love to find and interview him.

"Dumb Cluck" said...

Thank-you Patti! As one of those "uneducated hillbillies" (not), residing in Lorain County, I'd like to say that Mr. Runkle is a fine teacher. One who not only inspired my eldest daughter to learn science, but one who inspired me, as a teacher, as well.
James Renner is wrong. Mr. Runkle is innocent. The person who abducted and murdered little Amy is a "wolf in sheep's clothing," one who has everyone, including a young writer fooled, not a "teacher from the country," as I've heard Dean Runkle described.
Mr. Runkle, I believe wholeheartedly in your innocense simply because I'm educated enough to know better. :)

"Just the facts Watson" said...

There were two girls from the Cleveland area who disappeared around the same time (within a month of each other-I think), and within the same proximity (a block from one another-I think) as they were walking home from school (I think) who are "persumed" kidnapped and murdered. No bodies have been found to prove otherwise. These cases may be related, then again, they may not be. Most likely they are. However, they may have nothing to do with Amy's case, but then again,they might. With all this uncertainty and lack of factual evidence/ information, shouldn't we be leaving the solving of these cases up to the police departments in their perspective jurisdictions as well as the FBI? And shouldn't we leave James Renner to write books (whether they be fiction or fact-given that he is truly stating fact)? Without all the "hoopla," it's as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Patti- I find it interesting that you support Dean Runkle despite overwhelming signs that he was the perpetrator. This is the same teacher who told your son (Mike) he needed a sex change. I was there.

Patti Ewald said...

OK, anonymous, I posted that comment not because it (makes any sense) has any merit but so that I can try to explain something to you.

Here's the deal with our right to free speech: with it comes much responsibility.

You see, irrational comments such as yours are propaganda that leads people -- who unable or unwilling to separate truth from conjecture -- to jump to conclusions.

I assume you were a classmate of Mike's; if so, please think before you speak. You may not care if you hurt Mr. Runkle (or me or Mike) but sometime in the future, you are going to hurt someone you do care about.

And, if you are a teacher posting such things, I hope my boys didn't have you.

Anonymous said...

I read everything Renner put out there, and as soon as I saw how Runkle looks identical to the composite (after looking at photos for years that didn't), then having kids say he talked about volunteering at the Bay Village Nature Center where all the girls called had gone and listed their names and phone numbers, then her body was found near where he lived and grew up, a car matching his was seen in the area according to a reputable witness, a gas station attendant Burns claimed he is sure he talked to him there and saw a girl in the back seat who looked like Amy, then Runkle's odd behavior at school and some kids claims of inappropriate behavior, and good teacher or not, its not normal to spend 16 hours a day there, keep a cot there, invite kids to your apartment and have them sit in your car with special "assistants" he liked being able to stay after school with him and on the weekends. Its just not normal, its perverted and shows he had no wife/family or other life at that age, and then he fled when the heat was on, stopped teaching, also Amy disappeared right after that student Dan who had been coming to his apartment stopped seeing him in the Fall of 1989 according to his mother. Runkle was very emotional at that time, Dan's mother said Runkle took back thousands of dollars he had given to Dan (why? what was Dan to him?). Again, not normal. Ted Bundy seemed normal and great too. Look at all the obvious evidence, although circumstantial. It fits like a glove. Now the FBI and police need to do their job because there is evidence somewhere - maybe in his house he was living in back then or somewhere else (although he scrapped and destroyed his car). Also, 2 other girls a couple months later were involved in an attempted abduction and they picked this guy's picture also out of a lineup. My guess is Amy wasn't the only one.

Anonymous said...

It is unbelievsble the stupidity people post online. And I agree, Mr Runkle is innocent until proven guilty. I am a former vermilion school district student of his. I had him for 7th and 8th grade homeroom and 7th grade science. He was best teacher by far I ever had. He was a strict teacher, you had to know your stuff. But he inspired you as a student to learn science. He was clearly a science lover. He was a typical science nerd, but he pushed you to learn. you couldn't pass his class without truly putting in effort. I had him around 1985, not long before amy disappeared. ANd I have many friends and relatives who also had him and never heard of any issues with him and girls. He was always appropriate and such a stickler on your work. I believe in you Mr Runkle. You inspired me to learn to love science. and enjoy science, although I was not fond of dissecting things, yuck! I went after school top pursue a degree in nursing, and im not sure if that would of happened if you hadn't inspired me to like science. Thank you! I also wanna say that I pray for Amy's family and that finally the truth is revealed, even if its not something I may agree with. May she rest in peace !!!

Contagiously Complicated said...

The word used was "stranger." Did you miss that? Not Mr. Runkle. Stranger. You jumping to conclusions does not serve your complaint about James well.