By Skye Conner
The New Citizens Press
LANSING, MI — The anniversary of one of Lansing’s most mysterious murder passed on June 23.
Bernita White, a mother and wife, was shot and killed with a high powered rifle while taking her youngest daughter to Potter Park Zoo on June 23. 2001. When Bernita’s mother heard the news she died of a heart attack on the same day.
Bernita’s husband, Artis White, said that every year someone puts a memorial message in the newspaper but it’s not him. His youngest daughter, was traumatized when a church member asked about the recent memorial message.
In 2001, Artis White who is a Michigan State Trooper and still is, was questioned about the murder of his wife. He was and still is considered a person of interest in the case but Artis says that they have the wrong person.
Although Artis has insisted on his innocence and that the police need to look for a sniper, some have concluded that White was indeed the murderer and has gotten away with it.
According to Artis there is no evidence that is clear and definitive against him. He indicated that being the husband left the police the easy option of trying to find him guilty of murder. He points out that law enforcement made many errors which hampered the progress of capturing the killer. He highlights the issues in his book, which is entitled, “Who Killed My Wife?”
It is significant to understand the Whites had been going through some domestic problems. However, Artis has a firm alibi. He was at a birthday party with his oldest daughter.
With all of the scorn and fury that most would have would are accused of any crime big or small, Artis diverted his attention to what he calls “a bigger cause”. He is filming a documentary on others who have been falsely accused of crimes.
He is currently working on “Living Accused” which is produced by Artistic Expressions. It was created by Artis a year after Bernita’s death. One of its main goals is to the education of finding errors in the investigations of the wrongfully accused.
We are brought up to believe in the system but sometimes that system may be flawed by tampering as with the case of Sandra Anderson who is currently serving time for planting evidence at crime scenes. She was the director of the Great Lakes Search and Rescue of Michigan K-9 Unit and planted a bullet at Potter Park Zoo.
Not surprisingly, White still vehemently maintains his innocence. He has since remarried and still lives in the same neighborhood that he lived in with his wife Bernita. When talking about his daughters, he has a special brilliance throughout his face. He said that they are still very affected by their mother’s death. Despite their missing their mother, he states that they are flourishing young ladies.
In closing, he hopes to being a searingly personal view of what it is like for people to go through the crisis that he has had to confront.
With this we must all wait until someone opens up and admits to the murder of Bernita White.
For more information about the documentary, log on to www.artisticexpressions.org. To see a 6 minute trailer of the video log on to www.blip.tv/file/190916/.
Artis White said he wrote “Who Killed My Wife?” because he wanted to detail what happened. It is a true story based on personal interviews, surveys, police documents and his own experience.
Below is an excerpt from the book:
June 23, 2001, at Potter Park marked one of the most unusual, bizarre homicides that the state of Michigan has ever witnessed.
Immediately following the shooting, people were running every where. Elena Paizana was walking in Potter Park when she heard the shot. Shortly after the shooting, fifteen Lansing police cars whizzed past her and told every one to get out. Adam Gurski was there and heard a park official over the intercom order everyone to leave.
Potter Park’s contractual security patrol locked up the gates before anyone could leave. When LPD arrived their officers opened the gates and waved everyone through. They forfeited a chance to interview hundreds of patrons as they treated the incident as a barricaded sniper.
On June 28, 2001, investigators searched for the missing bullet in a river that flowed nearby. LPD joined forces with MSP detectives to form an eleven-man task force. The task force searched the area and found a tree with a small hole consistent with a possible bullet hole. After cutting the tree down and X-raying a section of the tree, investigators concluded that the hole was a result of a drill bit, possibly from the Forestry Department. Attendance at Potter Park dropped between twenty and thirty percent even though LPD increased the bike and motorcycle patrols in the park.
On July 6, 2001, a search warrant was served on me allowing officers to search my residence. It was quite a spectacular show conducted right in front of my children. Mia " The Glue" happened to be downstairs when it happened.
"Artie, the police are here."
I yelled down stairs, "How many?"
"All of them," she said calmly.
"Its probably just the search warrant. Ask them if they want something to eat."
Detectives didn’t remove much of anything during the search. I was a little more disturbed that LPD took my digital camcorder and every videotape I owned. Every birthday party and Christmas was kept in those memories. It wasn’t much but it was every thing I had. A few other odds and ends were also removed. The items were never returned.
On July 11, 2001 Raymond Townshend, a MSP retired crime scene investigator and forensic expert examined the scene. Townshend concluded that the shooter was a gun expert who knew what he was doing. Neither LPD nor MSP would comment on Townshend’s announcement. Nobody knew what prompted his arrival. Nobody knows if he was paid to offer his opinion or what his rational was.
On July 12,2001, Carol Webster, executive director of the Potter Park Zoological Society, admits that smaller crowds are attending the zoo this year. However Mudock Jemerson, Director of Lansing Parks and Recreation, declares that the parks are as safe as ever.
On July 19, 2001, a special dog was brought in by Sandy Anderson of the Great Lakes Canine Services. The K-9 was trained to sniff out human tissue. If a bullet were left at the scene of the crime, the dog would be able to locate it. the dog found a piece of metal that investigators claim may have been used in the shooting. The K-9 found it within 15 minutes of the search but located the metal further north than anticipated.
On August 2, 2001, Investigators announce I had a motive and say I had enough time to fire the shot, even though witnesses place me at Delta Mills Park miles away, shortly after the shooting.
On August 6, 2001, LPD had a search warrant to search the van I drove to the park on June 23, 2001. On June 23,2001, I gave consent to search the vehicle. They kept the van for a month. Investigators say it is important to receive information from the vehicle’s Alpine Navigational System to disprove where I said I drove the van after I left Potter Park.
On August 8, 2001, Detective Priest announced that I might have contracted someone to kill Bernita. He further stated I am not suspected of pulling the trigger, but I may know who shot Bernita.
On August 22, 2001, Lt. Hall commented about the metal fragment found at the zoo. "It’s a bullet, but we were unable to conclude if it’s a bullet used in the homicide. We’re simply not sure why the dog hit on the fragment, it could be the residue from another source like an animal."
On October 9, 2001, I returned to work. LPD announces I remain on a "short list of suspects."
On October 17, 2001, I turned over my department issued handguns to D/Sgt. Sam Hornberg who test fired the guns, four months after the shooting.
On October 18, 2001, I offered a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator in this case. No calls were made to the Lansing police number given for the award. In February of 2002, Detective Sergeant David Larnz, case officer in charge, called me and asked if I received any calls concerning the reward. According to Larnz, no one had called.
On October 31, 2001, an investigative subpoena is issued which ordered my two children to answer questions about the day of the murder.
On August 28, 2002, 15 detectives for 13 months have spent 9000 hours investigating, interviewed 500 people, obtained and served 20 search warrents and 12 investigative subpoenas, and the zoo shooting remained unsolved. Chief Matt Alloy said, " Authorities invested more time and resources into White’s death than any city homicide in memory." Jay Seigal, Michigan State University professor of criminal justice and expert on physical evidence said, "This is a very frustrating kind of crime, and it may never get solved. That’s the most likely scenario."
What went wrong?
To read more than page 83-87, the book is available on www.amazon.com and locally at Everybody Reads.
Note from the Publisher: It’s an interesting read; however, at times it doesn’t flow smoothly but the author is an average citizen and doesn’t profess to be a writer. We will be providing more information that is not in the book in our next edition. It was riveted by all of the information. I completed the book in one day. Some of the names of the individuals have also been changed.