The Satanic Servants
By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Twelve young people were being questioned by police either as witnesses or for involvement in the torture-slaying of Cathleen Ann Gilbert 17, a resident of Flint Michigan. They ranged in age from 14 to 22 and were believed to be members of a group calling itself the "Satanic Servants".
November, 1971, Michigan
Initially the police dismissed reports they were a religious cult.
A cousin of one of the accused said the group was actually called the "Satanical Angels" but they were a motorcycle club.
Janet Lee Musser, 17, and Raymond Humbel, 22, an unemployed Vietnam veteran were arraigned in court on a charge of first-degree murder.
Humbel and another member William Bowen 17, were arraigned on separate charges of assault with intent to commit murder following a series of sniper attacks on 5 suburban Flint homes the Friday before. The authorities theorized the attacks were done to intimidate witnesses in the murder of Cathleen Gilbert.
Gilbert was a runaway from her home, and the Girls' Training School at Adrian. She was considered a "problem child" who ran away from her home in March, 1971. After this she was placed in the training school, from which she ran away in July.
After this event, Gilbert's father and stepmother had made a missing person's report for her.
Police determined Cathleen Gilbert was killed on October, 19, however her nude decomposed body was not discovered until several weeks later in a wooded marsh. The location was near a Flint gang's clubhouse, about 10 miles north of Howell. She'd been stabbed twice in the heart, slashed across the throat and shot with a shotgun. A person who had witnessed the crime led authorities to the site.
On November 8 she was buried. The autopsy disclosed the girl's exact cause of death was a stab wound in the chest.
Humbel and Musser were held without bond. The state police were holding a 16-year-old girl, and 3 juvenile boys in connection with the death.
Ralph Burley, 29, was a cousin of Musser and roomed with Humbel. He told police they were a motorcycle gang called the Satanical Angels.
In a taped statement Janet Musser alleged Humbel shot and then stabbed Cathleen Gilbert. Her statement lasted 40 minutes. She said that Humbel ordered gang members out of the cabin clubhouse. She said he sought revenge against Gilbert because she had given him a venereal disease.
During the same taped disclosure, Musser described how 25 guys forced her 16-year-old sister to submit to a gang rape the day before. Humbel threatened them both not to say anything to their mother about the rape.
By November 11, 1971, the prosecutor charged Floyd Richman, 17, with first-degree murder.
Thomas Hammond in a deal to receive immunity testified that Humbel and Musser stripped Gilbert in the cabin, and tied her up with fishing line. He said he went outside and then heard a shot fired from inside. He said he and others were ordered to carry the girl who was still alive from the cabin to a marshy area nearby. On the way Humbel stabbed her, and another youth, then unidentified slashed her throat. Later testimony described where before killing her they had beaten her savagely and urinated on her.
By December 1972, the venue for the trials had been changed. Three members of the Satanical Angels were the last to be sentenced. David L. Shaw, 19, and Donald J. Bentley, 18, were sentenced to 5 years probation in Livingston County. They had pled guilty to manslaughter. Floyd R. Rickman 18 was sentenced to 3 years probation with the first 6 months to be spent in jail, however his term was pending the outcome of an AWOL charge against by him by the U.S. Army.
According to Judge Papp the reason she ordered probation was because she was giving them the benefit of the doubt, because they had no previous arrest records. Part of their probation restricted them from mingling with other members of the Satanical Angels, and they had to live at home.
Rickman who had no immediate family was placed in a state educational facility.
John Reynolds and Vicki Stone both juveniles entered pleas of second degree murder and were placed in a juvenile detention facility.
One juvenile was still awaiting a hearing pending a state Supreme Court ruling on the procedure to try a youth as an adult.
Janet Lee Musser, who was 17 when she participated in the murder, was already married and had a 21-month old child. Despite a plea for insanity she was sentenced to a life term at Southern Michigan State Prison. Raymond Humbel also received the same sentence. They had been tried jointly.
Later Humbel argued that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing a photograph of the victim's body as it was found in the swamp to be admitted into evidence and taken to the jury-room by the jury during their deliberations.
The photograph in question showed the naked torso, arms, and legs of the victim as she lay face down in a swampy area. Nature had mercifully allowed weeds to grow up around the head thereby cloaking from view the work done by the shotgun blast. While anything but pleasant, the photograph could not really be called ghastly or gruesome.
The story changed as to the motive for the murder. Another reason given was that it was done in retribution since Gilbert had lured Janet Musser's sister to a location where she was gang raped by several members the day before she was killed.
Cathleen Ann Gilbert was born on July 20, 1954 to Gordon Winn Gilbert who died in 2006, and Emma Goodrich who died in 2003.
As of 2022 Raymond Leroy Humbel is still serving his life sentence.
The police tried to dismiss the reporting which attached occult motives for the murder, but at the same time, the true reason for the killing are murky. Was it in revenge for a venereal disease or for luring Musser’s sister to be gang raped? It appears the Gilbert was part of this gang or at the very least hung out with them. She’d been missing since July 1971. Was there significance tied to the timing of the murder which was less than 2 weeks before Halloween?
Sources - Morgantown Post, Roswell Daily Record, The Holland Evening Sentinel
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Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer