True Crime Thursday – Man Walks into FBI Office and Confesses to 44-Year-Old Murder

By Debbie Burke


Susan Marcia Rose 1972 high school yearbook


On October 30, 1979, a red-haired 24-year-old woman named Susan Marcia Rose was murdered in a building under renovation on Beacon Street in Boston. Earlier that night, she had been at a nearby skating rink. Cause of death: multiple blunt injuries to the head, skull fractures, and brain lacerations from a hammer. She had also been raped. Semen was collected at the crime scene and preserved.

In 1981, a man was tried for her murder and found not guilty.

Rose’s case remained cold for 44 years.

In August 2023, John Michael Irmer, 68, walked into an FBI office in Portland, Oregon, and reportedly confessed to killing several people, including a red-haired woman he’d met at a skating rink sometime around Halloween, 1979.

He further stated he had earlier been in prison for killing a drug dealer in San Francisco. At that time, his DNA was entered in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) that is accessible to all law enforcement agencies. When Irmer was released in 2012, he expressed surprise that the Boston police weren’t waiting to pick him up.

After his confession to the Portland FBI, Irmer was transported to Boston. On September 11, 2023 he was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court for murder and aggravated rape. He’s being held without bond.

Susan Marcia Rose’s murder may never be explained but at least the killer now faces justice.

This entry was posted in #truecrimethursday, cold case, Writing by Debbie Burke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes the Tawny Lindholm series, Montana thrillers infused with psychological suspense. Her books have won the Kindle Scout contest, the Zebulon Award, and were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and Her articles received journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers.

21 thoughts on “True Crime Thursday – Man Walks into FBI Office and Confesses to 44-Year-Old Murder

  1. Good morning, Debbie. You bring us such cheerful things to think about.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist that tongue-in-cheek comment. Thanks for your faithful hard work in digging up these stories for us to consider.

    As I made coffee and asked myself, “What on earth did I have to say,” I was reminded that some people are so destitute that they may prefer life in prison to the current economic situation. I quickly looked up Massachusetts, and I see that capital punishment was abolished there in 1984.

    A guard from the Women’s Reformatory in Ohio once told me that a high percentage of the women there are older, have served their terms, but have no where to go. So they stay, on the tax payers’ dime. Sad.

    Thanks for the story and the discussion. Have a great day!

    • Steve, just call me Merry Sunshine 😉

      Your theory for why he turned himself in was the same reason I thought of. Three hots and a cot plus medical care can sound tempting at age 68.

      Catherine Ryan Howard’s thriller The Nothing Man is about a killer who’s aged out. Riveting book.

      • Hi, Merry

        In this era of financial disaster for the lower strata of the socio-economic spectrum, we may begin seeing a change in genre, from the “mean streets” to the “homeless detention center.” With a hot and a cot, we can start focusing on tunneling to that Federal Reserve Regional bank next door.

    • I am involved in women’s prison ministry and I will never forget a young lady at one of our events. She told how she’d served time in juvie andethought it was enough for her to learn her lesson. Now she was coming up for a parole hearing. She started crying because she said she didn’t;t want to leave again until she was sure she’d never be back. She had come to the Lord while in prison and there she was surrounded by a community of believers. Once back out, she’d be right back in the same world where she’d gotten in trouble before. Not implying this was the fellow above’s motive, but it just hit me in a profound that day that someone might want to stay in for spiritual reasons. Although, I shouldn’t have been surprised knowing that Paul preached being a prisoner for the gospel.

    • Philip, that’s the question of the day. He already served long prison terms for other crimes so he’s familiar with that life. For some people, a lousy situation that’s familiar is better than the unknown and uncertain.

  2. Debbie, I had the same thought you and Steve had. Some people can’t adapt to the outside world. And the meals and a place to sleep…free medical care…might be a no-brainer…

    • Patricia, our former county sheriff said a huge part of the jail budget went to medical care for detainees, including those on dialysis and those taking frequent chemo.

  3. One day, one of my high school teachers and the wrestling coach called the St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney’s office. He had something he wanted to get off of his chest. They listened to him and asked him to come to St. Louis County to talk some more.

    Coach Ingerson thought the statute of limitations had run out. He was only partially right.

    A lot of things make sense now. Why Mrs. Coach was so much younger than Coach. Why the wrestling manager was a middle schooler and not a high schooler. Why Coach worked in so many schools. The smart money is that there are a lot more victims than three.

    • Alan, what a miserable story. Most times the crimes a pedophile is charged with are the tip of the iceberg. Glad the statute hadn’t run out on all of them.

  4. I know this isn’t the case for this situation, but don’t some people confess to crimes they didn’t commit? I’ve always wondered why anyone would do that, but maybe it has to do with free room and board.

    At least this brings closure. If there are any relatives of Susan Marcia Rose still living, maybe this will give them some peace.

  5. What a sad story! She’ll never be back, but I certainly hope this helps her family take another step toward healing.

    The discussion of “why” is fascinating. Why did he confess? The three hots and a cot is probably one explanation.

    I wonder if it’s a variation of “Stockholm Syndrome” that makes folks either do what he did, or confess to something they didn’t do. They’re used to the security of captivity.

    Happy Thursday! (I think…) 🙂

  6. Justice at last, Debbie. It will not bring Susan Marcia Rose back to life, but it will, hopefully, give a little solace to those who knew her, and underscore the value of a human life.

    Like others, I wonder what motivated him to confess now. Did he feel remorse, or guilt, and want to atone?

    Looking forward to hearing about your writing conference. Have fun!

    • Dale, just spent a fun day sightseeing with Terry. We each plan to write a post about the conf. so you’ll hear from two POVs.

      I wonder if he gave any reason to the officers who interrogated him. Would be interesting to be a fly on the wall.

  7. Like Phillip, I wonder what made him confess. Notoriety? Guilt? Hope it comes out at trial, but we rarely get the answers we want. The confessor holds the power.

    You find such fascinating stories, Debbie!

    • Maybe the stress of living with a murder on his conscience
      grew too great and he wanted some kind of closure. Living every day not knowing if the next knock at your door will be the cops has been a reason to be relieved when it finally happens. That has been portrayed on at least two episodes on the true crime series, Forensic Files. So he feels the guilt and it finally caught up with him.

      • Brian, that’s a possibility. Sometimes when people see their own mortality in sight, they confess. That’s why deathbed statements are so compelling. At that point, what do they have to lose by confessing?

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