A women who was a student at Champlain college (and in residence at King’s Hall, Compton) in 1977 contacted me this morning. During the 1977-78 academic year she and some friends were hitchhiking back from Lennoxville to Compton.
I receive a lot of emails like this. But rarely are they this detailed (and frightening) – and she herself warned me of the compromises of memory. Also, it’s not a single account, it’s three witnesses (yes, I have their names):
In Fall ’77 or Spring ’78 (I know there was no snow on the ground) two friends and I missed the mid afternoon shuttle from campus and started hitchhiking to King’s Hall. I think we got picked up just past the last bar on the right on the way out of Lennoxville. I can’t recall the name of this bar, which was patronized by locals. I got in the back and slid over to behind the driver, leaving room for one friend beside me, the other friend got in the front. The car was older, not “beat up” in the sense of damage, what we would have called a “clunker”. It reminded me of an old taxi with two bench style seats and with the loose suspension and maneuvering of a large american car, more boat like than car. I cannot recall the colour of the car, but it was not something flashy or out of the ordinary.
From the back I thought the driver was “old”. To a 17 year old I am guessing this meant older than my father who would have been 52 at that time. My impression was that he was short and even on the slight side. He drove us part way to Compton but then turned left onto a side road, going the wrong way to take us to Kings Hall. Initially we assumed he would stop but he kept driving despite our protestations. Within a short distance Susan, in the front seat, shouted something, maybe “stop the fucking car”. Just then the driver slowed a little to cross what might have been a bump or railroad tracks? There was nothing around, no houses, cars or people. She opened the car door while we were moving, at which point the driver slowed down even more and she jumped out. This startled him enough that he stopped long enough for those of us in the back to scramble out. He drove off ahead. We got to the main road and I think we were either picked up by the school shuttle or possibly walked the rest of the way.
In 2012 I revisited Kings Hall, was reminded of the story, and happened to pass a police officer parked in the town of Compton. I actually stopped to told her the story and left my phone number in case your sister’s death was still under investigation. I always regretted that we did not say anything to the school administration about this incident. My only excuse was my abysmal judgement as a seventeen year old plus fear that my parents might find out I had been hitchhiking.
So here’s my question: Compton police follow up on this? Report it to HQ? Report it to the Surete du Quebec? Ask anyone in the community if they remember anything? Drive the road (probably Moe’s River – we’ve heard lots of accounts leading to there) to see if it jars any memories? Do anything?
I used to think this unrealistic, not anymore. It’s a 38 year old cold-case: there is nothing to lose. And besides…
that’s what good police officers do.