Arthur Nelson Ream acknowledges that he raped a teenage hitchhiker in the 1970s, had sex with underage girls and buried 13-year-old Cindy Zarzycki in an unmarked grave.
But he denies killing Zarzycki or anyone else, and he says he deserves an apology from Warren police who have called him a suspected serial killer.
Police say Ream could be responsible for four to six murders and they spent several days earlier this month digging unsuccessfully for bones on property near the intersection of 23 Mile and North Avenue in Macomb Township. The missing girls range in age from 12 to 17 and disappeared between 1970 and 1982.
“I’ve never had anything to do with any of them,” Ream told the Free Press on Thursday in an hour-long telephone interview from prison. “There’s absolutely no connection between me and them at all.”
Ream said police should apologize to taxpayers for the money spent on the search and to the families of the missing girls.
“He owes them a big apology for getting their hopes up in this case,” he said. “He owes Cindy Zarzycki’s family a big apology for bringing up bad memories. And he owes me an apology for just getting me dragged into this..”
Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said “there is no apology forthcoming.”
“If anybody owes an apology, it’s him and that’s why he’s in prison for life for murder and rape,” Dwyer said. “Why would law enforcement — the Warren Police Department, the FBI, the Michigan State Police — apologize to him? This was a task force. We all believe we have the probable cause. I said our suspect. I always used the word suspect. I never used his name.”
Dwyer said investigators make every effort to keep down costs, which he described as “minimal” but he couldn’t say how much has been spent thus far.
“We don’t go by cost when you’re trying to bring closure to the family of victims,” Dwyer said. “How can you put a cost on bringing closure to families that have suffered for 35 years for an investigation that is really our responsibility and our obligation to do?”
Ream, 69, was transferred last week from a prison in Muskegon Heights to the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia.
“Due to the amount of media attention his case has received, we felt it was best for his safety and the safety of others, that he be moved,” said prison spokesman Chris Gautz.
Word of the dig in Macomb Township reached Ream in prison.
“To be honest with ya, on one hand I was laughing my ass off and on the other hand, I was pissed off,” Ream said. “So, you take it for what it is. There’s no bodies there that I know of.”
Police said they began the search in Macomb Township after talking to Ream’s fellow inmates, reviewing his FBI profile and watching him fail a polygraph test.
What’s more, Ream had a history with that property. It was there that he buried 13-year-old Cindy Zarzycki in 1986. Twenty-two years later, he was convicted of murdering her and he led investigators there to recover her remains.
But Ream also has a history of mind games, toying with investigators in a game of cat and mouse.
In the Zarzycki case, Ream offered to lead investigators to her grave if they reduced his first-degree murder charge to second-degree, which would allow him a shot at parole after 20 years.
Ream said he backed out of his offer, figuring he’d never qualify for parole because of two rape convictions.
Prosecutor Eric Smith said Ream’s offer was rejected. He said when Ream offered to show them where Zarzycki’s body was for a plea agreement “this man was the lowest form of human life that he would bargain with a dead 13-year-old’s body.” Smith said he wasn’t going to take it or “cut him any breaks at all.”
The jury convicted Ream of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence without parole.
Before sentencing, he finally led investigators to the Macomb property.
Asked last week about his reputation for mind games, Ream admitted it.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, why not? You know, I mean, I don’t hurt anybody with it. I don’t get carried away,” Ream said.
Ream said that when he learned police suspected him of killing multiple girls, he toyed with the idea of drawing phony maps to send them on a wild goose chase.
“With Cindy, I drew a map, telling them where she was,” Ream said. “I was so mad at this detective, I drew some maps up and I was going to give them to him. I was just going to have him go dig, willy-nilly, someplace that I knew.”
Ream said he decided against providing the bogus maps because he thought he’d get in deeper trouble for doing it. But he suspects the idea of the maps could be the reason that he failed the polygraph test.
Ream said that when the detective gave him the polygraph test, he asked whether Ream was going to be truthful about three other missing girls.
“I says, ‘yes,’ and, in reality, I wasn’t going to be because I was going to give the detective the maps,” Ream said. “So, that’s probably why I failed it. Now it might not be why, but that’s the only reason I can think.”
Dwyer said investigators are well-versed in Ream’s history.
“We know the history and how he’s played people,” Dwyer said, adding it was part of Ream’s profile. “We understood that. He has that reputation. We knew that going in.”
Dwyer said he remains confident in the investigation.
“Our position is that we still believe that we are on the right track as far as our investigation,” Dwyer said. “As far as him playin’ anybody, I’m not gonna comment on that.”
‘Rough time with women’
Ream grew up in Warren in the 1950s when much of it was still undeveloped. He said he quit school in seventh grade and left home at 13 because his father beat him. He denies being sexually abused.
He learned to install carpet and eventually opened his own flooring business. But his personal life featured constant chaos and an eye for underage girls.
“I’ve had a rough time with women,” Ream told the Free Press.
The first of his four marriages came in 1969 when he was 20. It ended in 1978 after he was convicted of raping a 15-year-old hitchhiker in Shelby Township.
Court records show Ream and his brother-in-law abducted the girl in July 1974. Ream was 26 at the time and his brother-in-law was 15.
The brother-in-law later testified that Ream pulled a switchblade on the girl and told the brother-in-law to use duct tape to blindfold the girl before raping her. Ream ignored the girl’s pleas to stop.
The next day, a detective called Ream about the attack.
“The comment he made was if ‘I ever do this again, I’ll kill the next victim,’ ” the brother-in-law testified in a later case.
Under 1970s laws, Ream was charged with statutory rape, a life offense. The charge was later reduced to indecent liberties with a minor female child, a 10-year felony.
“We picked up a hitchhiker and molested her. I don’t know how more to say about it,” Ream said. “He said, ‘let’s do it,’ I did it. Stupidity. That, in my life, was the worst screw-up so far in my lifetime.”
Ream was convicted and sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, which he began serving in August 1975. Two months later, he wrote to Judge George Deneweth asking for a reduced sentence.
“I have done a lot of thinking here in prison,” Ream wrote. “I want to tell the truth and have a second chance to prove that I will never be in trouble with the law again. I value my family too much to ever risk losing them again.”
While he was in prison, Ream’s wife filed for divorce. He tried to salvage the marriage, but she wanted out, claiming he’d beaten her repeatedly in front of their children and carried on affairs, including one with their 15-year-old babysitter.
“This apparently went on for two years while Mrs. Ream was at work,” his wife’s lawyer wrote in a letter to the judge.
“My first wife, I screwed that up pretty bad,” Ream said “It was my fault.”
In the early 1970s, Ream also abused a teenage niece, plying her with alcohol and taking advantage of her, according to Macomb County prosecutors who sought to admit evidence of those crimes in a later case.
Ream’s first divorce was final in February 1978. By then, he’d been granted early parole and the following month, he married again in what he termed “an arranged marriage.” It lasted eight months and they divorced in January 1979.
In December 1979, Ream married for a third time. That marriage lasted until 1986, when his wife divorced him, accusing him of physically abusing her.
“My third marriage, I don’t even know how to explain that. That was crazy,” Ream said. “I shouldn’t have stayed with her as long as I did.”
During that time, prosecutors said, Ream abused two other young girls with whom he was close. One was a 12-year-old niece, the other was a 13-year-old family friend. Both girls were given alcohol and assaulted.
Ream displayed a “common scheme and plan to sexually assault young females: He gains their trust, isolates them, and then rapes them,” Macomb County prosecutors wrote in their request to introduce his history as part of a later case.
Ream married for a final time in 1992, when he said he “found my true love.”
That marriage lasted until 1998, when his wife accused him of physical abuse.
By then, he’d also been accused of raping a 15-year-old girl, for whom he served as legal guardian. Investigators said the pattern was familiar: The girl was given alcohol and raped.
Ream acknowledged pleading guilty but said the sex was consensual, which wouldn’t matter because she was only 15. Ream said he had custody of the girl because her mom was having trouble with her. Ream lived in Roseville at the time, but owned property in Gladwin, where the rape occurred.
“We just went up there for the weekend,” Ream said. “She ended up getting into some liquor that my nephew left in one of the cabins and we ended up having sex. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Ream pleaded guilty in that case, spent 10 years in prison and was preparing to be released when he was charged with Cindy Zarzycki’s murder.
Ream has an explanation for that case as well.
He said Cindy was dating his son Scott and they often hung out at a warehouse for Ream’s business.
“They were on some carpet, she fell, went backward down the elevator chute and died,” Ream said.
Ream said he was responsible for her death because he’d wired the gate to the freight elevate shaft in an open position, to avoid lifting it up and down constantly.
“If the gate was down where it was supposed to be, she would have never fallen,” Ream said. He claims his son called him and he panicked, because he didn’t have insurance, so he removed Cindy’s body and buried it in Macomb Township.
The jury didn’t buy the story and convicted him of first-degree murder, guaranteeing a life term.
Ream now lives in a single cell and passes his days playing cards and watching television. He likes “Big Bang Theory” and watches the new “Roseanne,” but considers the original series better.
One of his brothers visited him about five years ago, but he hasn’t had any visitors since.
Dwyer stands by the investigation, saying investigators have “worked diligently for decades to get to this point.”
Dwyer said no more digging is scheduled, but said the effort was worth doing in a “very, very difficult investigation.”
“We have a responsibility and with the information developed, we had cause to reason the bodies of several young girls were buried at 23 (Mile) and North,” Dwyer said.
Konnie Beyma, the sister of Kimberly King, one of the missing girls police hoped to find in Macomb, said she plans to write to Ream.
“I want him to hear from me directly, word for word,” she said. “I feel an obligation to my sister, Kimberly, to communicate with this man. If he is responsible, I owe it to her to do everything in my power to see if I can get him to share where her remains are located.”
“That’s all I want from him,” Beyma said of Ream. “I simply want Kimberly’s remains. That’s all I want.”
Beyma said that she thinks it’s obvious that Ream killed Zarzycki becayse he knew where her body was buried. She said if he failed a lie detector test on King’s whereabouts, “then he certainly knows something.”
She said even if law enforcement isn’t on the right track immediately in a case, the crime still has to be investigated.
“I don’t see why they’d have to owe anyone an apology for doing their job,” Beyma said.
Ream said that given his history, he knows the public is unlikely to trust him.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t a rapist because I did hurt that girl in the ’70s, so that made me a rapist,” Ream said. He claims his other encounters with young girls were consensual, though he acknowledged the girls were too young to legally consent.
But he insists he’s not a killer, let alone a serial killer.
“For the rest of my life and beyond, I’m going to be known as a serial killer,” he said. “It’s out there. It can never be taken away.”
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