Longtime Detroit disc jockey stabbed to death; police say suspect in custody

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Highland Park — A man is in police custody awaiting arraignment on murder charges in connection with the stabbing death of a longtime Detroit disc jockey, the city's police chief said.

The body of John O’Leary, 68, who spent nearly 40 years at rock radio stations WWWW, WLLZ, WCSX and WABX, was found by police in his Highland Park home Sunday after friends reported him missing, Highland Park Police Chief Johnny Thomas said.

Longtime Detroit disc jockeys Doug Podell (left), and John O'Leary, with Podell's wife, Susan Podell. O’Leary, 68, who spent nearly 40 years at rock radio stations WWWW, WLLZ, WCSX and WABX, was found by police dead in his Highland Park home Sunday after friends reported him missing.

O'Leary had been stabbed to death, Thomas said, although it was unclear when he was killed.

"We have a suspect in custody, and he's awaiting arraignment," Thomas said. The chief declined to release further details about the ongoing investigation.

O'Leary graduated from Redford High School in 1972 and graduated from the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in 1974, according to his LinkedIn profile. The following year, he began his radio career at WWWW FM.

"He was very passionate about radio," said Doug Podell, who was O'Leary's co-worker and boss at four Detroit radio stations. "He was almost a historian when it came to Detroit radio, and he was just about to launch a podcast with some friends looking at the early days of Detroit rock radio."

O'Leary's most recent radio gig was at WCSX in 2013. Since then, he had done voiceover work.

Podell said O'Leary's on-air style was understated. "He didn't have a schtick," he said.

"We called him 'The Tall and Lanky One,'" Podell recalled. "He was all about local music, and he did a lot of appearances for local bands, and tried to promote them wherever he went."

Friends said O'Leary, who lived with a roommate, had no known relatives.

Jamie Hughes, a friend of O'Leary's who worked with him at WCSX, said they regularly got together with other friends in the radio industry around Thanksgiving each year.

He described O'Leary as a fixture of the Detroit market and as the kind of person who was respected by many in music and radio.

"He meant a lot to people in this town," Hughes said. "To say he is going to be missed is an understatement."

ghunter@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN

Staff Writer Hayley Harding contributed.