The true crime book that I’ve been working on for years is about the 2002 murder of jeweler Marco Pesce, his mother and three children in Livonia. John Wolfenbarger was the trigger man and his partner in the crime was Dennis Lincoln. The duo became friends while locked up in prison for their former crimes and hatched the plan to rob a jeweler. Throughout our conversations Lincoln has never tried to absolve himself of the crime, as he says, “he get’s the rub.”
I honestly believe him however when he says he never knew Wolfenbarger’s intention to murder the family. The following is a recording of our conversations over the last few years and a portion of a chapter from my upcoming book.
I started work on this book late in 2013 and after doing some research, decided to send a letter to each of the men found guilty for the murders that had taken place eleven years earlier. In the letter I informed them of my intentions and told them what I was looking for from them. As a precautionary measure I apologized in advance for upsetting them. In the case of Mr. Lincoln’s letter I informed him that we could speak via letter or by telephone but I would not at the time, be able to drive the eight hours it would take to reach his facility in the Upper Peninsula.
The letters were signed and dated, February, 26th, 2014 and sent off. It would be three weeks of checking my P.O. Box before I finally received something. On March 14th I received a letter from the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe. The envelope was addressed from an inmate I had never heard of, named D. Vann #612559. I only found out recently that Mr. Vann is locked up for Armed Robbery and Car Jacking in Oakland County and is facing 60 years. He had befriended Dennis Lincoln and would help him write any letters he needed to write, as was the case with the letter to me.
“Dear Mr. Richards,
I thank you for your letter and very much respect your inquisitive mind. Although this is a wound that I rarely sprinkle salt into, I have definitely given your letter some thought.
First, my thoughts were to toss the letter and continue with my present cycle of life. I didn’t do that. So my second thought was to buy an envelope from someone and attempt to probe exactly what it is you might desire from me.
You make a good point, and you come to a correct conclusion concerning your feelings about a robbery and not a murder. About that… well…
Listen, the problems this book will cause me are not so apparent as to have me shut down on you. Your motive for writing this particular type of non-fiction work – as I see it, are as such:
1) You truly wish to spotlight and understand the origin of the circumstances that bring homicide to suburban communities and the aftermath following such; 2) Or you want to spotlight myself; 3) You want to spotlight the Lincoln/Wolfenbarger dynamic; 4) You want to make it big in True Crime???
Maybe it’s all four. Nonetheless, I would ask mister Richards, not to focus on me. This case, myself, very big news – fascinating to many inmates. The whispers, the smiles, the “hey, you’re famous” declarations. But on the flipside of this sir, there is a vein of stark contention. But since I do have a million life sentences, I rarely get a face to face “you killed kids!” With time, those particular, “oh now I have to fight or stab someone” days have all but died. So this book – again – comes with great peril for me. Please understand my apprehension.
You’ve noticed I’m sure that my name is not on this envelope. It’s because I don’t write. The prison allows us to send and receive e-mail. I won’t write again on paper, but your avenue to me is now JPAY.com. Dennis Lincoln #237169”
Nine days later I wrote Lincoln after figuring out the process for JPAY and ensuring my information would be kept private. I answered his questions and further informed him of my intentions. A few days later, he replied. At any point during these interviews, if my questions are not made obvious by his replies I will point out what I asked him.
I have my answers, and see that you are seriously engaged in the process of getting to the real story. I will do what I can to provide you with what you need to complete your Livonia portion.
Note: At the time, before uncovering what a big story this was in and of itself, I intended on writing about numerous local stories.
I must tell you that there will be times when I would prefer to keep certain things to myself. Not to say that I’m lying to you or anything, but some things I would like to keep to myself.
As far as what I knew and when I knew it, it’s a hell of a thing. Simply because…(I must use this computer kiosk in intervals of 15 minutes, and more, I can only use it twice daily–so sometimes, my thoughts will be cut in half, and you will receive the second half of them in the subsequent e-mail).
Tomorrow morning I will attempt to give you some of the back story you need…It’s just much too crowded in the dayroom here to write to you.
I will get back to you shortly.
A week passed, I was worried I had lost him as a contact, when I finally heard back from him. Although it was short, I was happy he was still on board.
“You know, this would work better if you asked me specific questions that cater to the direction of the material you intend to pen. So, if you would please start a dialogue of sectioned inquires, that would be best for me… thanks man.”
I respected his request and immediately fired off a list of questions.
4/11/2014 – 4/13/2014
1. I met the dude (Wolfenbarger) at the Boyer Road Facility, yes. We were locked in what they call a cube setting. It was 6 beds in a cubical shaped room, with three walls, and a half wall along the hallway. I was already there, and he moved in. We played board games and watched TV shows together.
Note: I next brought up their release in 2002. Dennis was released in the spring while Wolfenbarger was released in August. His dates are confused.
2. He (Wolfenbarger) got out first, and we had exchanged numbers prior to him leaving. The dude was cool, I liked him.
3. He (Marco Pesce) was not a target that we focused on or anything. We simply had a desire to rob someone… anyone. He just happened to be a flashy target. That was it. I know, sounds cold, but he had an expensive car, in front of a jewelry store. He seemed to be the best target we were going to find.
4. Murder was never part of the plan. We went to Meijer, on Gratiot or Seven Mile, something like that. We bought ski masks. We made a plan to ROB. Somewhere along the way, he (Wolfenbarger) decided that witnesses were going to be part of the plan. I was not privy to this decision making process… This was not my decision at all.
I have 40 seconds left….”
Note: Continued two days later.
5. I definitely regret what happened to the Pesce family. I wish I had been there to stop it, but I was not. It was unnecessary, and stupid. Had I not met this guy I would not have been in such a predicament.
Note: I next asked if they would have been caught if it weren’t for Billy Smith.
6. According to what I know now, the forensic evidence was not there. They were chasing a million other leads. I just don’t think they would have gotten to us by way of investigative prowess.
I hope I have answered your questions to your satisfaction thus far, and welcome any other questions you may have. Gotta go Nathan.”
Over the next couple of weeks we discussed my helping out a fellow inmate of his. Lincoln regularly received packages from his family, but he had a friend who had never received any packages and he asked me to help. I cautiously obliged and awaited the inmate’s information. It never came. On April 27th I sent Dennis some more questions regarding his parole in 2002 and what he thought of John Wolfenbarger still blaming his uncle for the murders, he responded the next day.
1. According to the parole paperwork I received from the board, I was average probability for parole. Maybe they confused that with my high assault risk, for having an armed robbery and getting into a few fights while in prison.
2. Don’t really want to comment on the kid directly. Maybe you might rephrase it.
Well, there we are. Sorry it’s a tad late; everyone caught a mild case of the flu. Been laid up. Feeling better though and looking forward to more questions.
Between May of 2014 and February of 2015 I focused my efforts on other research while still receiving and sending sporadic emails back and forth. During that time I learned of his love for writing screenplays. At one point he sent me a few to look over, they were good; however, being an inmate he had no real way to do anything with them. We exchanged messages around the holidays and it wasn’t until March of 2015 that we got back to discussing the case. In those nearly ten months I had learned much more and was eager to speak with him again.
Thus far I had asked relatively obvious questions. I was careful not to step over any boundaries. As the research heated up and the book took shape, I decided to ramp up the level of questioning and try to get into his past a little. Out of respect, I asked for permission to contact his mother. I also wanted to know his feelings regarding those people out there, and there is more than a handful, who believes that Diane Pesce in some roundabout way had something to do with the murders. While talking with police after his arrest, it is reported that Lincoln was very upset and was quoted as saying ‘I didn’t want to hurt Diane’s babies’. This struck investigators as odd, because the statement implied that he had known Diane previous to the murders.
Towards the end of March, I got a reply.
If you have other questions, I am happy to answer them for the most part. However, the family portion of this thing is a no go. They definitely don’t want to hear about this ever again, if they can help it.
So, it’s just me bud. I’ll get into my thoughts about what you have asked in your last email in my next correspondence with you.
I was thinking about what you asked last, and I will say this…
As far as the Diane thing goes, I definitely did not know her. Either I heard her name on CNN the night before I was arrested, or the Detectives mentioned during the course of the interrogation.
Further, my background is something you’ll have to glean on your own. I simply have to hold on to something…Anything that is my own. I hope you can understand that. But I can expand on what you already have to a certain extent.”
In the beginning of April I secured the nearly 3000 page trial transcript from the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit. After reading the transcript I wrote Lincoln again. This time asking him his thoughts on his attorney, Cornelius Pitts as well as if there was any truth to the letters Wolfenbarger wrote his mother shortly after his arrest. One of those letters pinned Lincoln and Billy Smith with the crime and stated that Smith threatened to kill Lincoln’s mother.
As to Mr. Pitts, he was the funniest man I’ve ever heard of in a court room setting. The guy was hilarious. He would fall asleep [so I thought] and then as soon as the Prosecutor would ask something like “and what did she say about…” He’d jump up and say “objection, hearsay!” I would be amazed.
Then his other eccentricities, he was a hoot. In his smooth talking of the ladies in the courtroom, I was dying laughing. So, yes, it was funny…serious, but funny.
As to John’s letters read by the Prosecutor, I don’t remember those, but I never heard any threats towards my mother. I wouldn’t have stood for that. He was welcome to threaten me, and I would have made a decision on that basis, but my mom…Hell no. But no threats like that were presented to me. Anything else…let me know man.”
After receiving Lincoln and Wolfenbarger’s prison records from the Michigan Department of Corrections I became curious to know what a common day for Lincoln was like. In the early days, both inmates went through their fair share of problems and punishments for various things while incarcerated. In the last five years or so however, they’ve both seemed to settle down a bit.
“They count the prisoners at 4:00am, and usually resume normal operations at 4:30. At this point you are allowed to go down to the three toilet/ four sink bathroom, and brush your teeth and wash your face. After that, you can go in and watch the news on the flat screen in the TV room. At about 7:00 am they call breakfast. Breakfast is usually oatmeal and a breakfast cake. Every two weeks (which is the only time I go); they have waffles, sausage and oatmeal.
After that, they open the yard, and you can go out and work out. There are pull-up bars, dip bars, the track, a baseball diamond, a soccer field, basketball courts, and a handball court. Then there’s the weigh pit or pavilion. I try to make it out there in the mornings when it’s not so crowded.
After that, I shower, and lay down to watch the news or a movie or something on my television (a 13 inch color TV that they sell for $150). After watching TV, I’ll do my job, which is to push a guy in a wheelchair over to the chow hall for lunch. After that, my roommate is usually gone to work in the kitchen, and I have 8 hours by myself to write or maybe take a look at some legal papers or new laws or procedures.
After that, it’s pretty much whatever the day brings. There may be a deal to be made. Maybe some trading of items…who knows. Then there’s the playing of cards, chess, etc.
Other than that, you can get on the phone and call someone, or you can get lost in a few TV programs. If I need to read something for research, I’ll do that. Or if I have a new book, I’ll read that. I try to keep at least $10 worth of items (toothpaste, chips, etc.) just in case someone is selling a book or other interesting item.”
My last contact with Lincoln was strange and he doesn’t seem to have as much access to a computer as he used to. It’s possible he has moved prisons again or maybe got into trouble that resulted in a ‘time out’ from using them. As I get back to working on the book I will keep you posted.