It was the 2nd of November, 1998, in Muskegon, Michigan, when the mother and stepfather of 19-year-old April Boss became concerned when she didn’t return home from her boyfriend, Jedediah Privacky, home. Shortly before midnight, they travelled over to the Privacky home. As soon as they pulled up outside, they were confronted with the lifeless body of a man in the driveway.
The family immediately contacted police. “There’s a man I believe dead in the driveway,” said April’s mother, Julie, to the 911 operator. “All the people expected to be here are not here, but their cars are.” She said that the man on the driveway was covered in blood. He was cold and not moving or breathing.1
Police responded to the scene within minutes. The man on the driveway was checked for vital signs, but it was apparent that he was deceased. The investigators then proceeded to conduct a sweep of the home. In a back room off the garage, they found two more bodies. In a lower room off the basement, they found another body and then in an upstairs bedroom, they found a fifth body.2
The victims were identified as 50-year-old Stephen Privacky, his 49-year-old wife, Linda Privacky, his 78-year-old father, John Privacky, his 19-year-old son, Jedidiah Privacky, and Jedediah’s 19-year-old girlfriend, April Boss. All of the victims had been shot dead.
Not long after police arrived at the scene, a teenage male was spotted coming out of the woods within a few hundred feet of the home. He was identified as 18-year-old Steven Wallace, the best friend of Stephen and Linda’s 18-year-old son, Seth Privacky.
It quickly became apparent to investigators that Privacky had slaughtered all of the victims and then Wallace helped him clear up the crime scene.
Privacky was still nowhere to be found, and security at Reeths-Puffer High School was increased as the search continued as a precaution. Both Privacky and Wallace were seniors at the high school. Superintendent Gloria Lewis said: “Security is to comfort the families of students and the staff. We don’t know where Seth is at this point, whether he has harmed himself. If police thought we were in serious danger, we would take more serious measures.”3
Stephen was well known within the local school community. He had taught fifth-grade in the system for the past 25 years. By all accounts, he was a wonderful and dedicated teacher as well as a hard worker. He could always be counted on to work on the school improvement committee, and help any students who needed that extra bit of care.4
As for Linda, she was a receptionist at a medical officer. John was a widow and he lived near the family. Jedidiah and April were both studying at Muskegon Community College and they had ambitions to one day become teachers. They had been in a relationship for years.
Privacky eluded investigators for almost 24 hours, but was found the following afternoon, hiding out in a barn around a mile away from his home.
Prosecutor Tony Tague said: “The house was scattered with bodies. There was blood everywhere. It’s difficult to imagine what possesses 18-year-olds to do something like this.”5
Investigators were initially perplexed as to the motivation, but once Privacky was arrested, he would provide them with one. He readily confessed to murdering his family and his brother’s girlfriend, and said that he hadn’t been getting along with his father.
Privacky had a short criminal record, which included just two incidents. In 1996, he had stolen beer from a store where he worked. He was placed on probation and satisfied all terms of that probation. He was then arrested for shoplifting a compact disc.
His parents had expressed concern about his psychological well-being after the incident. He was prescribed the antidepressant, Wellbutrin, and was referred to a psychologist for therapy. He was also ordered to serve ten days in the county youth home.6 Both Stephen and Linda were extremely supportive of their son, trying their hardest to get him the help he needed.
By April 1997, Privacky’s grades had improved from average to 3.28 out of 4.0.
Privacky said that he and his father had “some real disagreements lately” and lamented the fact that his mother and brother always sided with his father. He said he felt as though the family “were ganging up against him.” Stephen and Linda had reached breaking point with their oldest son, and Stephen had threatened to kick Privacky out of the family home if he did not change his ways. On the Sunday they were killed, Stephen finally told his son it was time for him to move out.7
The family had gathered at the home for a delayed Thanksgiving celebration. Linda was taking a shower and Jedediah was watching television and waiting for his girlfriend, April to arrive. As for Stephen, he was over picking up his father, John, to bring him over for the family dinner. In his bedroom upstairs, Privacky was loading his father’s 22-caliber Ruger.
The first to die was Jedidiah. He was shot in the back of the head while he watched television. When his father and grandfather returned shortly thereafter, they were ambushed by Privacky. He shot his grandfather twice just to make sure that he was dead. Linda, who was in the shower, was completely oblivious to the horrors that were unfolding. As soon as she got out of the shower, Privacky shot her. April showed up not too long afterwards. She saw the lifeless bodies of Stephen and John, so Privacky shot her dead as well.8
Privacky admitted to shooting all five victims and then calling his friend, Wallace, to help him move the bodies around the home and out onto the driveway. Wallace had known about the murder plot. Privacky had made a vow to slaughter his entire family just the day beforehand. When Privacky called him up, he simply stated: “It’s done.” Privacky had anticipated that by moving the bodies, investigators would theorise that the murders were the result of a robbery gone wrong. After the bodies were strategically placed, Privacky got rid of the shells while Wallace tossed the gun into a pond.
Privacky then spent hours mopping up the blood before driving to a grocery store where he purchased duct tape. Investigators believed that the purchase was made to set up the phony robbery scene. Meanwhile, Wallace went to a video store and then went to a church meeting. He returned to the home later to help Privacky clean up more of the scene. While setting the scene, April’s parents showed up, and Wallace fled into the woods.
During his confession, Privacky said: “I never thought about killing my parents until that morning. I feel awful. I wish I’d never done it. It was all a mistake. I’d take it back a thousand times.” He said that when he fled from police, he intended on taking his own life, but he had given away the murder weapon to Wallace for him to dispose of.9
Both Privacky and Wallace were arraigned on five counts of open murder and were ordered to be held on $5 million bail. During their arraignment, Privacky asked if he could go on a “break” on his bond so that he could travel before going to prison for life. He stated: “I would just like a chance to get out and see the world before I go away for a very long time.” His request was immediately denied.10
The murder charges against Wallace would be dropped, and he would instead be charged with being an accessory after the fact and using a firearm during a felony. His bond was reduced from $5 million to $500,000 and he was released from jail.11
In May of 1999, Privacky appeared in court where he pleaded no contest to the murders. The plea came with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. In handing down the sentence, Judge James Graves Jr. said: “The entire community stands shocked at your actions. You turned what should have been a pleasant Thanksgiving weekend into your own killing field.”
Privacky apologised for his actions, stating: “I’m sorry for what I did, but that is not enough. I know nothing I could ever do will change the facts.” He then sent a letter to The Chronicle in which he said he should not be compared to the Columbine shooters, writing: “I was not an outcast in my school. Although I was not the most popular student at school, I had no lack of friends. I got along with pretty much everybody.”
He continued: “Although it is very regrettable that this happened to my family (April Boss included) … I am not this (monster) people make me out to be. I do have feelings and for whatever it’s worth, I am not totally responsible for what happened because I’m convinced ‘Mr. Cain’ played a role in this event.”
He did not reveal what he meant by “Mr. Cain” but investigators on the case theorised that he was using cocaine at the time of the murders. They also established he was a regular drug user, experimenting with LSD and marijuana as well as alcohol. He could have also been referring to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel.12
In November, Wallace was found not guilty of all charges against him.
In July of 2010, Seth Privacky was shot dead while attempting to escape the Kinross Correctional Facility. He and two other inmates overpowered a man driving a tractor-trailer at the prison just after 9AM. They crashed the truck through a double chain-link fence topped with razor wire. They travelled around 100 yards before jumping out and beginning to run. Prison guards ordered the men to stop. The two other men did, but Pirvacky continued to run, so the prison guards opened fire, killing him.13
- The Muskegon Chronicle, 4 December, 1998 – “Where Are The Rest of Them?”
- Associated Press, 30 November, 1998 – “Five Dead at Michigan Home”
- The Muskegon Chronicle, 30 November, 1998 – “Schools Mourn, Tighten Security”
- The Muskegon Chronicle, 1 December, 1998 – “School District Struggles with Horror, Grief”
- Associated Press, 30 November, 1998 – “Teenage Son, Friend Arrested in Slaying of Michigan Family”
- Associated Press, 1 December, 1998 – “Son Said to Confess to Killing Five”
- The Muskegon Chronicle, 2 December, 1998 – “I Killed My Family”
- Associated Press, 2 December, 1998 – “Late Thanksgiving Turns to Multiple Murder”
- The Muskegon Chronicle, 30 December, 1998 – “It Was All a Mistake”
- The Muskegon Chronicle, 2 December, 1998 – “Defendant Asks for a Break”
- Associated Press, 29 December, 1998 – “Murder Charges Dropped Against Suspect in Family Slaying”
- The Muskegon Chronicle, 27 May, 1999 – “Teen Mass Murderer Gets Life”
- Associated Press, 16 July, 2010 – “Man Serving Life in 5 Slayings Dies”