Man convicted of murdering Oakland University student testifies before parole board

Kenneth Tranchida on Tuesday gave a Michigan parole board member and state prosecutor chilling and contradictory accounts of how he killed Oakland University student Tina Biggar ago is almost 26 years old.

In a bid to get out of prison, Tranchida, now 67, described in chilling, graphic detail the final moments in the 23-year-old’s life in a rented room in Southfield.

“I smothered her with my hand,” Tranchida said, illustrating with his left hand how he covered the young woman’s mouth on August 23, 1995 as she tried to leave her room.“I put my hand on her face. She couldn’t breathe.”

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Tranchida said he and Biggar had met four months earlier at a gas station he worked at in Southfield, not far from where Biggar took his car to be fixed.

Described by police as a vagrant, he also told the hearing how he initially fled from his Southfield residence after killing Biggar. He returned to Biggar’s body before moving it to a house that police identified as a relative’s former residence. He left his remains there, he says. Police said he was later found with his vehicle.

Biggar died of blows to the head and neck, according to an autopsy.

Tranchida, sporting almost shoulder-length gray hair, told her story under questioning by Assistant Prosecutor Genera Alicia Lane and Michigan Parole Board member Jerome Warfield at the platform hearing video.

“I didn’t strangle her,” said Tranchida, who wore a dark blue Michigan Corrections Department inmate uniform with a red stripe across her shoulders.

Biggar was working on a research project on prostitution and AIDS funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Biggar had interviewed prostitutes in prison and on the streets for the project and left to work for an escort service, where she met Tranchida, who was a client, police said.

Tranchida said he and Biggar had been drinking and using drugs when they argued about his job in the escort service. He also admitted that she learned that he did not have the money or the family ties he told her.

“I was mad because I was discovered. I was not who I said I was.”

Tranchida testified on Tuesday that he was a client of Biggar but wanted her to leave the life of a prostitute.

“I didn’t want to lose her,” Tranchida said.

He testified Tuesday that Biggar fell while in his residence and hit his head against a safe in the bedroom. But after being questioned later by Lane, he said he suffocated Biggar in an attempt to prevent him from leaving his rented room.

Lane and Warfield have repeatedly asked Tranchida if he is being honest.

Warfield questioned Tranchida’s refusal to strangle Biggar, noting that the inmate previously gave another parole board member a different version of how she was killed.

Warfield told Tranchida that “I don’t buy” his answers about Biggar’s death.

Tranchida was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced as a repeat offender. Many books have been written about Biggar’s life, his relationship with Tranchida, and his murder.

Tranchida told Lane and Warfield that he was a changed man and that he had taken classes in anger management, drug and alcohol addiction, and Bible studies.

“I’m not the same person I was 25 years ago,” said Tranchida, who apologized to Biggar’s family. “I’m sorry I ruined your life. I ruined your daughter’s life. I wish I could go back … give up her life and let her live.”

Tranchida said if he was released he would need a “monitor” placed on him to keep him away from temptation.

“That way it will help me stay away from anything that is not good for me,” Tranchida said.

Tranchida, who Lane said had an extensive criminal record and had previously served prison time, said on Tuesday he found out as an adult when he went to apply for a passport that he had been adopted. He also said on Tuesday that he had mental issues, drug addiction issues and had been raped twice.

A 10-member majority of the Michigan Parole Board must vote for an inmate’s parole. A transcript of Tuesday’s hearing and a report from Warfield will be distributed to other board members in about six weeks, Michigan Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz said.

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