Caution Movie Directors: Do Not Hire This Actor - He is a Suspected Serial Killer!

If you are in the movie or live theater business, beware of a man wearing a rumpled and frayed gray raincoat, with eyes like dirty ashtrays. He claims to be a professional actor... but he is not.
DETROIT, Mi July 13 - The murder of actress Susan Gilmore, 56, is being traced to a suspected killer posing as an actor, according to Detroit Police. The male actor gave the name Hammond Strayer. Police have yet to uncover the suspect's true identity.

Following our original story Tuesday, an investigation by the Detroit Herald Press encompassed interviews with witnesses, movie actors, the director of the film "At The Feet of Death", the two Farmington Hills brothers who own the film production company, Detroit police, and the family of the slain woman.

Detroit Police have placed an announcement in the trade journal Variety to warn those in the Hollywood movie industry of this possible serial killer.


The first interview is with the brothers:

Two brothers, Ralph and Jason Stephenson, of Farmington Hills, own a film production company called Gratiot Avenue Filmworx. This was the first film for the production company, and it was just beginning its scheduled shoot on Highland Avenue of Six Mile Road in central Detroit.

Detroit Herald Press: When did you realize there had been a murder on the set of your movie?

Jason Stephenson: The director, Scott, ran toward us - we were in the van discussing the next scene - waving his arms frantically. 'She's dead! She's dead!' We didn't understand at first...

Ralph Stephenson: I thought, and it seems callous now, right, of course she's dead... that was part of the script.

Jason: We could not calm Scott down. He was frantic, and his alarm was getting worse. Then we heard the sirens.

Ralph: Someone called the police. Then the ambulance.

Jason: Scott led us to the scene.

DHP: Was that the building you were using, the warehouse. The walls had crumbled.

Ralph: That was the building. The actress, her feet were sticking out of the shadow of the only standing wall.

Jason: I kept repeating to myself - move your feet, move your feet - you are alive!

Ralph: It was wishful thinking.

DHP: How did you know she was dead?

Jason: There was no movement. I tugged on her arm, pulled one leg a bit... they were limp.

Ralph: Then the police and the ambulance arrived.


The next interview was with the movie's director, Scott Secure:

DHP: When did you realize your actress had really been killed, murdered?

Scott: The script called for the actor to strangle her, gruesomely, while she gasped and struggled. And that is exactly what happened. We filmed it. It looked real.

DHP: It turns out it was real.

Scott: The actor, this guy who called himself Hammond Strayer, was supposed to strangle the woman, then run north to Six Mile Road as his escape. And he did. That is exactly what he did. I yelled 'cut!' But he kept running. I yelled at him, called his name, but he didn't turn around.

DHP: At that point did you know he had actually committed a murder?

Scott: No, not at all. I was just puzzled; it seemed odd, but unexplainable. One of the other actors called me over and said she couldn't get Susan up. He was lifting her by her shoulders but the way her head was hanging, sort of flopping down, it looked like she was unconscious. Here, I just thought she had fainted. The other actor said, 'She's limp. I don't think she is breathing.' He put her down and started CPR. We all stood around her, waiting for her to come to. She didn't. My heart was beating, like a kettle drum in a closed room, pounding louder and louder. I think I had started to realize there had been a death. The other actor looked up at me and said, 'She's dead. She really was strangled.' That is when I ran to get the owners.

DHP: How did this actor, or presumed actor, get hired by your production company?

Scott: We placed ads for this role, in the newspapers, like yours, on the State of Michigan website, and with a few recruiters. This guy, this man who called himself Hammond Strayer, came to our audition. We were almost immediately taken by his appearance - it seemed perfect for the role. His eyes, they were set back in his skull like a couple of dirty ashtrays; a shadow seemed to conceal them. The hair, tied back in a ponytail, but balding in front - pretty creepy. Then there was the raincoat. On this day it was probably 85 degrees and sunny. Yet he wore this creepy raincoat, dark gray, wrinkled, frayed with threads hanging off the bottom seam. One of the owners nudged me - he is the one. He is perfect.

DHP: Did you know he was homeless? That his appearance was not an act?

Scott: No. No, we did not realize his origins. We thought he had dressed for the part.

DHP: What about his hiring paperwork? The W-2, the I-9; do you require an employment application?

Scott: Look, this is a low-budget movie to be marketed to the video on demand business. You'd be able to watch it on your cable TV. We took his name and phone number on a scrap of paper. Before his first paycheck we would have filled out all the paperwork. It just never got that far.


Interview with the Wayne County Prosecutor, Sharon Glivens:

Prosecutor Glivens: Obviously, he will be charged with first degree murder when apprehended. And we expect that.

DHP: When do you expect it?

Prosecutor Glivens: Any day, would be the optimistic answer. Soon would be a little more pessimistic answer.

DHP: Do you have a lead?

Prosecutor Glivens: We know he boarded the City of Detroit bus number 53 at 2:35 pm. He took it to the Ren Cen [Renaissance Center]. Then he walked to the median of Jefferson Avenue and went down into the underground parking garage. From there we have no lead. Detectives - and you need to ask them about this - are looking at the parking garage tenants, the ones who pay monthly fees, and weekly fees, to see if they were approached by this man.

DHP: Did he leave the parking garage in a vehicle?

Prosecutor Glivens: We believe he did. Now we have to locate that driver.

DHP: Will other charges be filed?

Prosecutor Glivens: We may file negligent homicide charges against the owners of the film production company and the director. We are still investigating that.


Interview with Jesse Newsome:

DHP: You were a passenger on bus number 53 that picked up passengers at Six Mile and Woodward and took them downtown?

Jesse Newsome: Yea, man.

DHP: What can you tell us about the man who boarded the bus at Six Mile, the one wearing the dirty raincoat?

Jesse Newsome: Cat was out of breath, man. Hey! Guy was strange. Had a look in his eyes, like he was talking to the Pharaohs or something.

DHP: Did he say anything to you?

Jesse Newsome: No, nuthin'.

DHP: Did you say anything to him?

Jesse Newsome: We were down Woodward a ways, I mean it had been ten minutes, man. The guy kept smiling, like he strangled a cat or something. I said, 'You havin' a good day?' He just nodded... and kept that dumb ass grin on his face.


Interview with Sharon Ofonsie, Susan Gilmore's married daughter:

DHP: When did you hear your mother had died?

Sharon Ofonsie: The police called. The Detroit Police. They said there had been a death - do you know a Susan Gilmore? That is my mother, I told them. She has died on a movie set. I was called to the city morgue to identify her. They showed me a photo; they didn't take me in to see her. That is her, I said. That is my mother! What happened? I was told to come in at one o'clock in the afternoon the next day and talk to the detectives.

DHP: What did they tell you?

Sharon Ofonsie: That my mother was murdered, right there on the movie set, in full view of a dozen people. They were filming it, they were filming her death! The actor, he was a serial killer. Why? How did this happen to my mother?


Interview with Detroit Police Detective Sgt. James Oliver:

DHP: How did you determine it was a murder, not an accidental death?

Sgt. Oliver: Interviews with the cast members, the director, tipped us that too much time was spent on this scene. The actor ran over the time limit by four minutes and some odd seconds. The director was impressed by the actor's thoroughness and let the scene continue. Then, the actor ran away and did not return. We had an autopsy done - she died of strangulation.

DHP: Do you have a lead on the suspect?

Sgt. Oliver: I can't go into all the details for the media. But I can say we believe he has left the city of Detroit.

DHP: The prosecutor mentioned you were canvassing weekly and monthly parking space owners in the underground garage?

Sgt. Oliver: We are in the process. I don't have anything to report.

DHP: Was there any other evidence taken from the crime scene?

Sgt. Oliver: There was, but I cannot discuss it publicly yet.

DHP: There is some mention that he may be a serial killer, that he may have killed in a similar situation before.

Sgt. Oliver: I have a detective doing nothing but searching the crime databases to answer that. If we thought this was a local issue only we would not have contacted Variety.


Interview with Kent Smith, Actor:

DHP: What was your role in the script, the film script?

Kent Smith: I was a neighbor. I was supposed to hear screams and come to investigate them. I was supposed to find the actress, quote, dead.

DHP: How did you find her?

Kent Smith: She was dead. Really dead. I was in the military. I know dead when I see it.

DHP: What did you do?

Kent Smith: I tried CPR after I called the director. Her lips were already cool. There was no movement in her chest cavity. No breathing. Just... nothing. Nothing at all.

WATERLOO, Iowa July 26 - An actress in an amateur playhouse was reported murdered last night during the play in front of an audience estimated at 250 patrons, according to Waterloo police.

An actor, who gave his name as Calendar Muller, is being sought by police as the suspect.

Police said a strangulation sequence was part of the play's script. After the scene, the actor rushed off stage and out a side door.

The actress, Mindy Turner, 53, was found unconscious after the curtain fell to close that scene, it was reported.

An autopsy is scheduled.
Published: 12/4/2012
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