DA: Oregon man confesses to ‘brutal, ice-blooded’ 1979 murder in Boston


Susan Marcia Rose, 24, was found bludgeoned to death in a Back Bay apartment building nearly 44 years ago.

An Oregon man is charged with murder after he allegedly confessed to bludgeoning a woman to death in Boston’s Back Bay in 1979, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said Monday. 

John Michael Irmer, 68, was arraigned Monday morning in the “brutal” slaying of 24-year-old Susan Marcia Rose, the DA’s office said.

Prosecutors said Irmer walked into an FBI field office in Portland, Oregon, last month and told agents he had met a red-haired woman at a skating rink in Boston around Halloween in 1979.

An undated photo of Susan Marcia Rose, who was murdered in Boston in 1979. An Oregon man allegedly confessed to the killing last month. – Suffolk DA/Handout

Irmer allegedly said the pair walked into a Back Bay apartment building at 285 Beacon St., which was under renovation at the time. Shortly after they entered the building, Irmer said he grabbed a nearby hammer and struck the woman on the head, killing her, according to the DA’s office. 

Irmer said he fled to New York the next day. 

A construction worker discovered Rose’s body at 285 Beacon St. on Oct. 30, 1979, The Boston Globe reported at the time. Rose, a redheaded Johnstown, Pennsylvania, native, had been living on Dartmouth Street. 

According to the DA’s office, she died of multiple blunt injuries to the head, with fractures of the skull and lacerations of the brain. She had also been sexually assaulted, the Globe reported in 1979. 

Investigators matched a DNA sample from Irmer to samples preserved from the murder scene, the DA’s office said. Boston police detectives transported him from Portland to Boston over the weekend. 

Irmer is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated rape, court records show. In 1981, another man was tried and found not guilty of Rose’s murder.

In a statement, Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden described Rose’s slaying as “a brutal, ice-blooded murder made worse by the fact that a person was charged and tried — and fortunately, found not guilty — while the real murderer remained silent until now.”

Prosecutors said in court Monday that while admitting to the Back Bay murder, Irmer also allegedly confessed to another murder in a different state, according to a recording of the hearing provided by the DA’s office. 

He has also reportedly served time in prison for a murder in California, prosecutors said.

Steven J. Sack, an attorney for Irmer, did not contest prosecutors’ bail request, but noted that his client allegedly turned himself in to police and returned to Boston to face charges “without a fight.”

Irmer was ordered held without bail and is due back in court on Oct. 17 for a probable cause hearing. 

“Nearly 44 years after losing her at such a young age, the family and friends of Susan Marcia Rose will finally have some answers,” Hayden said. “No matter how cold cases get resolved, it’s always the answers that are important for those who have lived with grief and loss and so many agonizing questions.”