Killer in Question on ID is investigating the 1990 murders of Doug Estes and Jim Bennett in Kalamazoo County, Michigan.
The case had remained unsolved for many years until, in 2002, a cold case unit managed to build a charge against Jeff Titus and found him guilty of murder.
Titus had property that was adjacent to the crime scene, and the cold case officers determined he had become angered when the two hunters encroached on his land. However, recently there has been doubt cast on the validity of his conviction.
On November 17, Doug Estes and Jim Bennett were hunting in the Fulton State Game Area near Battle Creek when they were both shot dead. Both men were shot in the back, a short distance apart, with two different types of shotgun ammunition.
Jeff Titus returned to his home on the day of the murders and found the area swamped with detectives. He was cooperative with the police and allowed them to access his land.
Titus seemed to have a rock-solid alibi for himself; he had spent the day 27 miles away, hunting with a friend on an elderly couple’s property. At the time, detectives dismissed him as a suspect.
The serial killer Thomas Dillion became connected with the case. In 1993, he confessed to five murders in Michigan between April 1989 to April 1992.
Eyewitnesses had reported that a vehicle came off the road near the crime scene not long after gunshots had been heard. A composite sketch of the driver was thought to resemble Dillion.
However, he was eventually dismissed as the killer because he was thought to be in Ohio at the time.
Cold case charged Jeff Titus with the murders
The case remained unsolved until a cold case unit reopened it in 2000. The new officers took a fresh look at Titus and decided he was the killer after all. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The prosecution agreed that Titus had been hunting with his friend 27 miles away, but on learning that two men were near his property, he returned home to confront them. Titus then shot Estes and Bennett and stole their deer before returning to his friend 27 miles away.
At the trial, Titus’s attorney failed to call his alibis to testify, they were considered too elderly by then, and they failed to call the detectives who had originally worked the case.
It was two of these detectives that recently contacted Attorney David Moran and the Innocence Clinic in Ann Arbor, MI, to claim that an innocent man had been convicted. This group is currently working on achieving a retrial for Jeff Titus.
The detectives who worked the cold case have reiterated their belief that Titus is the real killer.
More from Investigation Discovery
Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on ID this week.
Lisa Underwood was seven months pregnant when she began arguing with her boyfriend, Stephen Barbee, at her home in Forth Worth, Texas. Barbee responded by killing her and her 7-year-old son Jayden and buried them in a shallow grave.
David Eatherly kidnapped Tammy Crowe and took her to a remote area in Georgia, where he raped, beat, stabbed, and choked her. Tammy managed to survive the attack, and despite horrific injuries, she showed superhuman resilience when she crawled out of the woods to safety.
Killer in Question airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.
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