An inquiry about Melanie Cabay

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Dear Sir:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the unsolved murder of Melanie Cabay.
First, I am aware of all those cases you speak of, and I believe Poirier Enquette is doing stories on both Cabay and  Marie-Ève Larivière. I am happy to help you with anything. I have been asked before to take my research into the 80s and 90s: I haven’t done that because I find the work exhausting / disturbing: I can’t do everything. But I am happy to assist anyone with my ideas.
I will offer a few things:
On the one hand, there are similarities with the cases I researched and the cases you bring up from the 1990s: abductions in cities, with bodies being disposed of on the frontier of cities. Clothing scattered. These may be patterns of a single offender. On the other hand they may also be patterns of simply what offenders do: You don’t “shit where you eat” as they say in english. So you don’t want a body around where you live and play (in this case “play” = stalking and killing women).  The clothing scattered: this may be what all offenders do in a panic: they dump the body: they don’t want anything associated with the body near them, in their car, etc… so they get rid of it quickly: I don’t think in any of these cases we are talking about the rape and murder occurring at the site where they were found: the rape and murder (in the cases where this happened) occurred somewhere else, THEN they dumped the bodies.
So again, could this be the work of one person? Possibly. I am more inclined to think it is maybe 4 or 5 similar offenders, who repeated several crimes, and who copycatted each other (if you observe that a woman in the early seventies gets raped and murdered and the police do nothing about it? maybe this inspires a criminal: maybe they think they can get away with it too. Better still, if they copy it, maybe the other guy will get blamed for it. Understand?) This happened in London, Ontario in the 70s, so it is not unprecedented:  
That the murders in the Montreal / Sherbrooke area stopped around 1981 may be attributed to many things:
1. Offender moves away
2. Offender gets arrested for some other crime, is in prison for an extended period.
But there is another element. Around 1981 the Quebec police stopped being so generous in sharing information. Up until 1981 there was a fairly fluid relationship between the police and the media in Quebec (The offices of Allo Police were across the street from the Surete du Qubec’s Montreal headquarters on Parthenais). The crime scene photographers were quasi-journalist / civilian police staff. As a result, a lot of information about victims and crimes was accessible, and still is accessible. After 1981, the policy with Quebec police must have changed. You can see it in the crime archives at Rouge Media  / Allo Police: the files from the 70s are filled with all kinds of things, from photos to police reports. When you research the the files from the late 80s? All of that is gone. There are only newspaper clippings. There are none, or very little source documents.
What I am suggesting is that maybe there were other murders, we just never heard of them because the Quebec police closed its doors.
So I will get to the question you are ultimately asking: could one serial killer be responsible from the 70s up until now: from Prior to Allore to Cabay to Cedrika Provencher, and all of the others along the way?
Highly improbable when you look at the length of the timeline 40 years? An offender in their 70s today. Improbable, but possible.
More probable? We are talking about several offenders with overlapping timelines. This is just an example: 
  • Offender 1: Prior, Houle, Leakey (75 to 81).  
  • Offender 2: Camirand, Allore, Bazinet – goes to jail then – Cabay? (77 – 94) Maybe.
  • Offender 3: Nicole Gaudreault – moves from Montreal to Sherbrooke, gets a good job, has a stable life, dormant for decades, then a crisis happens, he re-emerges – Cedrika? (79 – 2007) Maybe.
I see no issue with entertaining such possibilities. There are all kinds of examples that can back up such behavior. 
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You asked, how did I access police information. Well, one source I mentioned above, the archives of Allo Police, now located at Section Rouge Media in Longueuil. The other source is the Grand Bibliotheque on de Maisonneuve in Montreal. You can make a records request (give them the victim name, date and location of disappearance, date and location of discovery) if they have it, it will cost you a few dollars for the service.  
I have already put a request in for you for Melanie Cabay. If I receive anything I will pass the information on to you, with my complements. 
Thank you for reaching out to me, and I wish you every success.
Regards,
John Allore
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Surete du Quebec: I am still “inquiet”

Chantal Tremblay

Physician Heal Thyself!

This is a good first step but it is actually bad advice. It’s like the addict’s lament; “I’ve proven you wrong on dozens of occasions, throughout the years, but THIS TIME I’m gonna change,  All through the force of will power.” 

The truth is these are just words. Without a strategy and goals, without a means to measure results, without assistance from others; self-willed change rarely happens.

And this is the situation in which we find ourselves with Quebec police. 

I sat down with the Surete du Quebec in Montreal a few weeks ago. This is what I heard:

  1. It’s better now, they have new, motivated investigators who work tirelessly to solve crimes.
  2. They have new technologies that can better advance investigations.
  3. I am just a guy working with newspaper files and historic documents; the SQ has access to MUCH more information.

It’s the same thing we heard in the CBC online article posted this week:

Lt. Martine Asselin, the spokeswoman for the SQ’s cold case unit, acknowledges it was tougher then to solve cases.

“A lot of things have changed since those years: the evolution of the techniques and the evolution of the DNA and the way to treat the evidence has also changed,” she said.

“The communications between the police forces is very present. We have a task force to manage serial killers or serial sexual assaults,” Asselin said.

The cold case unit has recently added more officers, and Asselin said the provincial police force is looking seriously at these unsolved crimes.  As for the decrease in the number of homicides over the years, Asselin credits improved police techniques, including those aimed at crime prevention.

Let’s address the last point first. The SQ can take all the credit it wants for the reduction in violent crime over the years. The reality is that nobody knows what has caused the reduction in violent crime in North America over the last three decades, and I don’t know of a police agency or academic anywhere that is claiming that they know the answer.

But since we’re talking crime statistics, here’s what I do know. Over three decades, Quebec has had one of the worst homicide clearance rates of any province in Canada. That’s not my opinion, that is according to Statscan’s 2005 report, Homicide in Canada. From 1976 to 2005 Quebec had a homicide clearance rate of 74%. The average for Canada was 84%. Even worse, here are the homicide clearance rates for the major forces in Quebec over the same period – among the very worst in the country:

Surete du Quebec: 80%

Longueuil police: 74%

Laval police: 67%

Montreal police: 65%

The SQ Cold Case Website

There’s been a lot of chatter about my sister’s case being put up on the Surete du Quebec’s Cold-Case website, as if this signifies that the case has been “re-opened”. To begin with, I never said that and the police never said that, that was just a headline. Theresa’s case was never closed. Putting the case on a police website is a symbolic and important victory,  a transparent and accountable acknowledgement that the police recognize her death as a violent crime. 

When I met with the Surete du Quebec I asked them,  “since the case has been up on the website, how many calls / tips have you received?”. 

Answer? None.

That’s was not surprising to me. The police have lost so much credibility in these matters that it will take a lot of time before the public trusts them enough to come forward with information. The truth is they need to do more than hide behind a website to restore good will with the public. Much more. I’m not going to waste words on this, there are many fine examples of community policing efforts in North America, anyone can look it up, but the basis if community policing is to get out into the community and act like a societal partner, not simply as a another perceived threat to that community, and believe me, police in Quebec are seen as a societal threat.

Back to the issue of public engagement. In the same time period that the police had my sister’s case up on their website, how many credible contacts / tips did I receive?

Answer? Two, both of which I turned over to the police.

For those of you keeping score:

Who Killed Theresa?=2, SQ=0

Ok, enough with the silliness, I will get to my point. I asked the SQ, when will you get ALL the cases up on the website;  Bazinet, Houle, Camirand, Tremblay, etc…

I was told that they needed to take it slow, if they put too much information out there, they could risk an overload on their resources.

Really? You can’t have it both ways. You cannot – on the one hand – say that no one visits your website, then turn around and say putting more cases on that website will crash the system. The point here is transparency, acknowledgement and accountability. The SQ cold-cases of Louise Camirand, Jocelyne Houle, Denise Bazinet and Chantal Tremblay need to be presented on the SQ website immediately to demonstrate to the public that they are the police agency accountable for solving these crimes.

Chantal Tremblay

Speaking of Chantal Tremblay. Recall that this is a case from 1977. Chantal went missing in March of 1977 and her remains were found nine months later in somewhat of a police jurisdictional no-mans-land on the border of Rosemere and Terrerbonne.  There’s very little information on Chantal, so I’ve been trying to determine who owns the case; SQ, Terrebonne, or the intermunicipal police of Therese-De-Blainville (which now represents Rosemere). 

I am now going to relate to you a series of correspondences that transpired between me and the police. This is nothing personal, my intention is not to embarrass them, this is an important demonstration of a problem that needs to be addressed.

The Surete du Quebec attempted to find the Chantal Tremblay case, they concluded that it wasn’t their case. The Therese-De-Blainville police looked into the matter, they concluded that it too wasn’t their case either, and advised me to contact the Surete du Quebec.

At this point the SQ called time, and generously offered to get to the bottom of the matter to locate the case of Chantal Tremblay.

The next morning the Surete du Quebec informed me that the case of Chantal Tremblay was in fact an unsolved-murder, and that they would immediately assign an investigator to her file.

While I appreciated the fast follow-up, the situation hardly inspired confidence, and I expressed my dissatisfaction to the SQ. They responded that maybe it was the case that I knew the name of every unsolved homicide, but that they didn’t, and that they never promised that they did.

Wait a minute.

That is EXACTLY what they promised. They assured me that I may think I know everything with my old newspapers and historical files, but they had access to much more information and technologies.

I realize that being called out like this is difficult to hear. Believe me, it brings me no pleasure in doing it.

It is even less of a pleasure feeling a lack of confidence in the investigative capabilities of the agency tasked with solving these crimes. 

It’s not like the police can claim they are being blind-sided, or didn’t see this coming. In 2013 I gave a summary of all these cases and suggested / cautioned that they should be looked at (link here). In February I stated explicitly I was disappointed that nothing had been advanced since that time, and gave fair warning that I was going to provoke and embarrass them (link here). No one can accuse me of pathetic “gotcha” tactics.

We family members hanging on with these cold-cases, with hopes of resolutions to the horrors and trauma we have experienced, are faced with a paradox. By calling attention to the issues, we risk losing the communication and cooperation of the police; the only means of bringing these cases to justice. But by being silent and complicit, we again run the risk that these crimes will never be solved.

The police can say they are doing better, and we can call that into question, but the fact remains there is a measure for evaluating who is right and who is wrong: the homicide clearance rate. Solve a cold case, move the needle, watch the line on the graph go down; that is the only metric for evaluating the effectiveness of homicide investigation.

Update: The file of Chantal Tremblay is missing from the Quebec public archives (BANQ).

 

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Quebec cold cases: Families of 8 dead women call for public inquiry

The CBC’s Joanne Bayly did an unexpected follow-up story; it’s really good so I’m going to simply post the whole thing.

To recap:  Yes, I was in Quebec a few weeks ago, apart from meeting with the SQ (more on that later), we had a meeting with several victim families. With the help of Stephan Parent and Marc Bellemare we came up with a a series of reforms to present to current Quebec Minister of Public Security, Martin Coiteux.

The families present / who met were:  Sharron Prior, Johanne Dorion, Lison Blais, Denise Basinet, Helene Monaste, Roxanne Luce.

A note on the article: That the SQ can’t confirm their own measure of the number of homicides in 1977, 1978 speaks to the problem. The numbers are well documented in StatsCan’s 2005 report on crime, which delved specifically into homicide (I believe my numbers were off by 1):

http://publications.gc.ca/Collection-R/Statcan/85-002-XIE/85-002-XIE2006006.pdf

victims-families

The relatives of eight women who suffered violent deaths in the 1970s and early 1980s are calling on Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux to call a public inquiry into policing methods in the province.

For decades, those families have honoured the memory of their lost sisters and daughters, waiting for a call from police to confirm an arrest and, in some cases, becoming detectives themselves.

Now their hope has been renewed through the efforts of a Quebec filmmaker, Stéphan Parent, who is making a documentary about seven of those women, tentatively entitled Sept Femmes. 

“We found [much] evidence was destroyed by police,” Parent said.

Marc Bellemare and victims' families

Former justice minister Marc Bellemare (left) is calling on Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux to look into police techniques when it comes to missing and murdered women.

Parent, who began investigating the unsolved homicide of 16-year-old Sharron Prior, noticed a pattern in other cold cases from the same era: destroyed evidence, relatives whose calls went unanswered, police forces that failed to communicate with one another.

Parent contacted former Liberal justice minister Marc Bellemare to help the families build a case for an inquiry.

The missing girls and women

The late 1970s were not an easy time to be a teenage girl or young woman in Quebec. Month after month, another was reported missing – and then found dead.

Among them:

  • Pointe–Saint-Charles: March 1975. Sharron Prior, 16, was on her way to have pizza with friends at a restaurant five minutes from her home. Her body was found three days later in the snow in Longueuil. No one has ever been arrested.

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    Sharron Prior was last seen March 29, 1975. (CBC)

  • Chateauguay, two teenage girls are found killed: 12-year-old Norma O’Brien in July 1974 and 14-year-old Debbie Fisher in June 1975. A young man, a minor, confesses to the killings, though his name and the details are still cloaked in mystery.
  • Sherbrooke, March 1977: 20-year-old Louise Camirand is found in the snow, 11 days after stopping at a convenience story to buy milk and cigarettes. Her killer is never found.
  • Montreal, June 1978: 17-year-old Lison Blais is found dead just metres from the entrance of the home where she lived with her parents on Christophe-Colomb Street. She’d left a disco bar on St-Laurent Boulevard early that morning. She had been raped and struck on the head, and there were choking marks on her neck.
  • Lennoxville, November 1978: 19-year-old Theresa Allore disappears from the campus of Champlain College, only to be found at the edge of the Coaticook River five months later. Police rule her death suspicious.

    Theresa Allore in her family's kitchen

    Theresa Allore in her family’s kitchen. She was 19 when she disappeared.

A serial killer?

“I think Quebec in that era was a very violent place,” said John Allore, one of the relatives who is asking for a public inquiry.

 

“People got away with a lot more. In today’s world, with cellphones and all this technology, cameras everywhere, it’s not as easy to get away with these kind of behaviours.”

His research shows there were 179 homicides in Quebec in 1977 and 177 the year before. In 2013, there were 68 homicides in the province.

The SQ won’t confirm the statistics, but it’s clear that in the 1970s, criminals were getting away with rape and even murder.

He said because police forces at the time worked in isolation, they failed to identify patterns.

If there was a serial killer on the loose in the greater Montreal area, as some relatives of the dead women believe, police didn’t figure that out – or didn’t share their suspicions with victims’ families.

Change in attitudes

Lt. Martine Asselin, the spokeswoman for the SQ’s cold case unit, acknowledges it was tougher then to solve cases.

“A lot of things have changed since those years: the evolution of the techniques and the evolution of the DNA and the way to treat the evidence has also changed,” she said.

“The communications between the police forces is very present. We have a task force to manage serial killers or serial sexual assaults,” Asselin said.

The cold case unit has recently added more officers, and Asselin said the provincial police force is looking seriously at these unsolved crimes.  As for the decrease in the number of homicides over the years, Asselin credits improved police techniques, including those aimed at crime prevention.

 body of Theresa Allore

The body of Theresa Allore. She was found in her underwear by a passing trapper.

John Allore agrees there has been a change in attitudes.

“Certainly, in the 1970s, rape and sexual assault were not taken as seriously then as they are today,” Allore said. He said blaming the victim was the norm.

“A woman is found with a rope, a ligature around her neck, and police say it could have been suicide. A young girl is found abandoned in a field, and they say it could have been a hit and run.”

My sister is found in her bra and underwear in a stream, and they say it could have been a drug overdose.”

Inquiry demand focuses on 8 cases

The letter to the public security minister focuses on eight cases: Sharron Prior, Louise Camirand, Joanne Dorion, Hélène Monast, Denise Bazinet, Lison Blais, Theresa Allore and Roxanne Luce.

Hélène Monast

Hélène Monast was walking home from an evening out celebrating her 18th birthday when she was killed in a Chambly park in 1977.

In it, the families ask for the following changes:

  • That all murders and disappearances anywhere in the province be investigated solely by the Sûreté du Québec.
  • That a protocol be established to make sure all evidence and information is held in a centralized place.
  • That police officers be paid to undergo specialized training.
  • That families of victims be kept systematically informed about the evolution of any investigation.
  • That families of victims, accompanied by their lawyers, have access to the complete dossiers of the investigations, if the crime is still not solved after 25 years.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Security says officials are well aware of the difficult situation that relatives of missing or murdered people have to go through. The Ministry says it has received the letter asking for a public inquiry, and that demand is currently being analyzed.

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July update

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I’ve changed my site theme. I had some complaints that the posts were not date stamped, and it was hard to track the chronology of information. True enough. It was time anyway. I was using a WordPress theme called “Fog” that had a picture of Charlie Manson on it in demo mode: never sat well with me.

Will you let me know what you think? What works / what doesn’t? I’d appreciate it.

A few notes:

1. Someone linked me on a Facebook page about the Eastern Townships and the response was unbelievable: I had no idea that many people still  came to this site for updates on the case. Still, it felt a little intrusive. There’s this page with nice pictures of Quebec landscapes, and then someone drops this mess in the middle of it. Just like life.

2. A have been asked – again – to consider taking down graphic photos of crime scenes. I’m considering it, but it’s doubtful I’ll do it. They serve there point. These things are real, terrifying and uncomfortable. If someone doesn’t like that then don’t come to my site.

3. I’ve been corresponding with a student at Bishop’s university. He is a criminology student there (a new program for the school) and wants to work with me. Always good to have boots on the ground. We’ll see.

4. I was approached to be part of some sort of memorial to murder victims that would be erected in Montreal. I declined. It’s just not my style. I have a name on a monument: it’s called a tombstone. Enough already. Solve the crime; that will be the testament to tragedy.

5. I’ve also been approached to be part of a group calling for a public inquiry into these crimes. I’m luke-warm, but could be convinced. An inquiry like that would need to have very specific goals and outcomes. If one of the outcomes is increased resources to solving these crimes, How fair is that? So  we’re going to raise taxes on current taxpayers to solve 30 year old crimes for which they bare no responsibility? What current priority is going to be sacrificed to achieve these new and old priorities? Finally, show me a Quebec public inquiry that achieved what it set out to do: Poitras? Charbonneau? The answer is, “none”. You can search this website for the “why”, I’m too lazy to make the links.

6. It’s always great to come home at 11 pm on a Saturday evening and get a message from the Priors asking for copies of autopsy reports. No really: this is what we do! (Just messin’ with you, Doreen, I’ll send them this morning).

7. What are the Surete du Quebec up to? Well several things, but here’s one. They are looking seriously at a suspect. On their own, I didn’t bring the suspect to their attention. This is why I don’t know the details. It’s good in the sense that the police are being pro-active. Theresa’s case isn’t sitting in a box on a floor at 1701 Parthenais (well, actually it is); they are doing things. But because they are doing it right, I don’t know the details.

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Still Alive and Well

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Someone posted on social media that I had “retired” from all this.  I haven’t retired. You can’t truly grieve until you know what happened. I still don’t know what happened so I haven’t retired.

I just haven’t been posting anything, and typically that is for one of two reasons:

 

1. I’m preoccupied with something else (work or family)

2. The police are cooperating.

In the case of number 2, this is true. I only post about the Surete du Quebec when our relationship is broken and I feel I can’t trust them. Currently this is not the situation. The Surete du Quebec are cooperating, in fact, they are even showing initiative, which is the best possible situation. When the police take initiative and start investigating things, that means I don’t have to. The consequence is that I have minimal information about what they are up to, but that’s for the best: keep it tight, solve crimes. How do I know they’re working the case? I know, I trust it: I’m sort of aware of what they’re up to, but I can’t discuss it.

So mostly I’ve been assisting Stephan Parent with his work. He’ll contact me and ask, “do you have information on this cold case?” and usually I do. But just this week he stumped me. A case I’d never heard of:

A woman found April 20, 1975 (about 2 weeks after Sharron Prior) along the 440 in Laval. Strangled. Some clothes found about 200 feet from body. No identification (Elements very similar to Louise Camirand and Denise Bazinet).

I will be in Quebec next week, meeting with associates. Regards,

————————————————————-

T-051Quelqu’un a posté sur social media que je l’avais «retraité» de tout cela. Je ne suis pas à la retraite. Vous ne pouvez pas vraiment pleurer jusqu’à ce que vous savez ce qui est arrivé. Je ne sais toujours pas ce qui est arrivé, donc je ne l’ai pas pris sa retraite.

Je viens pas été rien poster, et typiquement ce qui est pour une des deux raisons:

1. Je suis préoccupé par autre chose (travail ou la famille)

2. La police coopèrent.

Dans le cas du numéro 2, cela est vrai. Je posterai seulement de la Sûreté du Québec lorsque notre relation est cassée et je sens que je ne peux pas leur faire confiance. Actuellement, ce ne sont pas la situation. La Sûreté du Québec collaborent, en fait, ils sont même faire preuve d’initiative, qui est la meilleure situation possible. Lorsque la police prend l’initiative et commencer à enquêter sur les choses, cela signifie que je ne dois pas. La conséquence est que je dois un minimum d’informations à propos de ce qu’ils sont, mais ce sera pour le meilleur: le garder serré, résoudre des crimes. Comment je sais qu’ils travaillent le cas? Je sais, je l’espère il. Je suis une sorte de conscience de ce qu’ils font, mais je ne peux pas  discuter.

Donc, la plupart du temps, je l’ai aidé Stephan Parent avec son travail. Il me contacter et demander, “avez-vous des informations sur cette cold-case?” et d’habitude je fais. Mais cette semaine, il m’a déconcerté. Un cas, je ne l’avais jamais entendu parler de:

Une femme trouvé 20 Avril 1975 (environ 2 semaines après Sharron Prior) le long de la 440 à Laval. Étranglée. Certains vêtements retrouvés à environ 200 pieds du corps. Aucune identification (éléments très similaires à Louise Camirand et Denise Bazinet).

Je serai à Québec la semaine prochaine, une réunion avec les associés. Salut,

 

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Quebec Power Vacuum 1975 – 1979

“It was like the wild west.”

Private Investigator Robert Buellac describing the conditions of crime and law enforcement in Quebec in the late 1970s.

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Homicide Investigators, Surete du Quebec 1970s

In a post titled Quebec 1977: Who was the Bootlace Killer,  I presented information to suggest a possible connection between approximately 20 disappearances and unsolved murders in the province of Quebec in the late 1970s.  Between 1975 and 1981 young women routinely went missing and turned up dead in rural and wooded areas. Many of them were straggled, raped and brutally beaten.

Montreal 1977

Montreal 1977

In the Winter of 1977, the Quebec tabloid, Allo Police reported that there had been 212 homicides in the province in 1976, 4 per week, with 1 in 4 of those crimes going unsolved by the police. Two years later the Sherbrooke Record proclaimed “Townships Crime worst in Quebec”.  Statistics released by the Quebec Police Commission showed that the Eastern Townships had the highest rate of crime of any region in Quebec in 1978. The report noted that crimes against persons had “skyrocketed” in the region. The eleven Township municipalities having their own police forces collectively logged 377 crimes in the nature of homicides, rapes, sex crimes, armed robberies and other assaults in the year 1978. This was a 9% increase from the 345 crimes against persons reported in 1977. For those Township municipalities that did not have their own police forces – towns patrolled by the Quebec Police Forces (QPF) – the figures were even worse. The QPF showed a rise in violent crimes against persons from 87 in 1977 to 142 in 1978, a staggering increase of 63%. Raynald Gendron, the director of the police commission’s research and statistics division stated there was no accounting for the increase in crime.

Gendron’s statement is false and irresponsible. Though the specific actions that led to these crimes – and more pointedly to the murders and disappearances cited in the Bootlace Killer piece – are to this day unknown, the conditions which gave rise to this environment of disorder and lawlessness are familiar and well documented:

Political Unrest

In the 1976 provincial election, the Parti Québécois was elected for the first time to form the government of Quebec. Regardless of where you sit on the argument of whether this was ultimately good or bad for the province, the original elected members of the Parti Québécois were academics, not managers. They were not well equipped with the tools of decision making, communication and leadership that were so greatly need in a time of social upheaval and change. The Quiet Revolution unfolded with the previous Liberal administration; the PQ government was not well positioned to manage it. Almost immediately the new party got down to the business of what is always most important in regime change: investigating the actions of the prior government. In 1977 René Lévesque  launchds the Malouf Commission’s Public Inquiry into Jean Drapeau’s 1976 Montreal Olympics (and you thought Charbonneau was something new).  The Commission was a huge time-suck on the new and inexperienced PQ government. While attending to grand spectacles like public inquiries, the Parti Québécois took its eye off the ball of the day-to-day aspects of governing like public safety, organized crime, and education; with education specifically coming home to roost in their indecision over granting a certain small Eastern Township CEGEP permission to build a new dormitory for their newly created college. Champlain college would continue to use their grossly inadequate facility in Compton, Quebec, resulting in disastrous consequences for students (as documented many times on this website).

Police Force Consolidation

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Surete du Quebec: Arrêt Stop

After assuming power, the Parti Québécois began a project of consolidation that was merging smaller police forces under the umbrella of the Quebec Police Forces (QPF, and later the Surete du Quebec or “SQ”). In 1978, larger municipalities such as Sherbrooke and Magog were able to keep their forces in tact. By contrast, other towns such as Lennoxville and Brome were teetering on the brink of being swallowed up by the Provincial force. Still others such as Compton, Ayer’s Cliff and North Hatley had already succumbed to consolidation and lost their forces altogether. With consolidation came confusion. The QPF’s jurisdiction and responsibilities were growing at an accelerated pace. They were unfamiliar with the new territory and struggled to keep up adequate levels of service. The QPF force known as the Coaticook division had just eighteen men to cover over 2500 square miles, from Lake Memphremagog in the east to the New Hampshire border in the west, from the outskirts of Sherbrooke all the way South to the town of Stanstead on the Vermont border. The changes were confusing to both the police and public. For example, a short, two mile drive on route 143 – the main drag through Lennoxville -would take you through no less than three police jurisdictions – those of the Sherbrooke Municipal Police, the Coaticook division of the QPF, and the town police force of Lennoxville.

Similar problems were mirrored in cities like Montreal. Depending on where a crime took place in “Montreal”, the investigating force could be the Montreal police (SPVM), the provincial police (QPF / SQ), off-island police from Longueuil or Laval, or Federal investigators from the RCMP, or a combination of these forces! In the case of Katherine Hawkes, because the body was found at a CN train station, it was on federal land, so the RCMP took the lead, even though the Val Royal train station is squarely in the middle of the island of Montreal. The Hawkes case has been investigated largely in isolation from other Montreal crimes for over 37 years, more than likely a large contributor to why the case remains unsolved.

Gangs

IMG_0349For as long as there have been motorcycles there have been biker gangs in Quebec, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the gangs became organized.  Ganks like the Popeyes and the Devil’s Disciples were the forerunners of the Hells Angels in Quebec, with the first Hells chapter being formed in Sorel, Quebec in late 1977. In 1978, the newspapers were filled with tales of ‘Bébé’ Laverdière and the Black Spiders, who had full reign over the province.. Reports of drug killings, strangled go-go dancers, bodies of rival gang members turning up in local rivers anchored to wheel rims and cement blocks where weekly events. In 1978 the SQ stated that the biker problem was their number one priority. As documented by Paul Cherry in The Gazette, the disruption and chaos caused by conflicting biker factions continued for a decade until the Lennoxille Massacre in 1985; the violent murder of five Laval Hells members which ultimately lead to a period of relative quite and consolidation in Quebec biker culture. Almost 20 years and a biker war later we would learn what we had always suspected: that the relationship between police, the government and organized crime in Quebec was compromised, and that all parties had a long history of working together.

Organized Crime

Frank "Le Gros" Cotroni

Frank “Le Gros” Cotroni

The Cotroni crime family was a Mafia organization based in Montreal with strong ties to the Bonanno crime family in New York. From the 1950s through to the mid-1970s the Cotroni family controlled the Montreal drug trade, led by the family boss, Vic Cotroni. By 1975 Vic Cotroni was ailing in health, and operations were turned over the the family heir to the throne, Paolo Violi. In January 1978, Violi was assassinated. Eventually, Vic’s younger brother, Frank would take control of organized crime in Montreal, but that wasn’t until the Spring of 1979 when Frank Cotroni was paroled from a U.S. penitentiary.  For almost a year-and-a-half there was a virtual power vacuum in organized crime in Quebec.

Disorganization in organized crime, gang culture and the government; this was the environment in the late 1970s in which the murders of Sharron Prior, Denise Bazinet, Helene Monast, Louise Camirand, Jocelyne Houle, Johanne Dorion, Katherine Hawkes, Claudette Poirier, Chantal Tremblay, Manon Dube and Theresa Allore occured.

Do these cases remain unsolved due to conspiracy or incompetence, a culture of indifference and compromise? We do not know.

But consider the following cartoon from a 1975 edition of Photo Police:

(PHOTO REMOVED AT REQUEST OF PUBLISHER)

Further consider that at least two of the victims mentioned above had been violated by blunt objects. Now consider what the cartoon actually suggests: Not only was rape an accepted cultural norm in Quebec society in the 1970s, it was invited, considered humorous, and suggestively practiced by the very agents elected to protect citizens from harm and victimization.

(All photos are the  property/used courtesy of Allo Police/Section Rouge Média Inc.)

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Sharron Prior – March 29, 1975

sprior

Some words and a prayer for Sharron Prior who died 40 years ago tomorrow, Sunday, March 29th, 1975.

This is the oldest cold-case where I share a personal relationship with the family of the victim. The Priors (Sharron’s mother and sisters) became friends a number of years ago through our shared victim experience, and we have stayed in touch for close to 10 years. I had the great privilege about 2 summers ago to have coffee with Yvonne at her lovely home in St. Charles. We kicked-the-can over these cold cases one more time, sharing our ideas and frustrations.  

Ours is a club you’d never want to join, but we survivors of tragedy are a resilient, supportive, intelligent – and above all else – humorous bunch. I had a Skype interview with a Quebec journalist last weekend. She was surprised to hear the extent to which we all stood together and communicated with each other. The Priors, Monasts, Dubes, Camirands, Allores; we stay in touch and watch out for each other. We all know a break in a cold-case for one will be a victory for all; anything to advance the cause of justice in these horrible crimes that took place in the late 1970s in Quebec.

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Ontario revamps efforts to name unidentified dead

What a mess: To summarize; to speed up the process of identification, the Federal government consolidated missing persons databases into a centralized system. But the new centralized system is too slow and bureaucratic, so provinces like Ontario want to go back to their former, individualized process:

From the Globe & Mail:

When the federal government created a national missing-persons centre in 2011, the presumption was it would supplant siloed provincial and territorial online efforts and serve as a better tool for matching the vanished with the anonymous dead.

But the RCMP-led National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) hasn’t progressed fast enough for Ontario, the province with the most anonymous dead. A Globe and Mail investigation has found that Canada’s strategy falls far short of the U.S. model, considered the gold standard.

The Ontario chief coroner’s office and forensic pathology service are now working with the provincial police to revamp their digital outreach to help identify the nameless and bring some closure to families of the disappeared. In some cases, identifications could breathe new life into stalled police investigations and help bring killers to justice.

“We have a responsibility to the people of Ontario and we can’t abdicate our responsibility to a federal agency,” said forensic anthropologist Kathy Gruspier, who is leading a review of Ontario’s 239 unidentified-remains cases.

The Conservative government had heralded the national centre’s creation, noting it would serve as an important investigative tool for police and death investigators, and could also help address the “disturbing number” of unsolved cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women.

But The Globe has found that Canada’s national strategy, compared with that of the United States, is less citizen-driven and doesn’t store records such as dental charts and X-rays, which could assist in identifying human remains. NCMPUR also does not know whether its database analysis is leading to confirmed identifications.

Federal plans for a much-anticipated DNA data bank to link missing persons with unidentified remains, expected in 2017, are also falling short of the U.S. model. The RCMP have told The Globe that Ottawa will not pay for DNA testing, as Washington does. It will also be up to Canadian police, coroners and medical examiners to decide which types of DNA to profile. In the U.S., a centralized lab always attempts to analyze two types.

Some aboriginal leaders are now calling on Ottawa to strengthen its plans for the data bank, saying families of vanished women deserve answers. Indigenous women are far more likely to go missing or be killed than non-aboriginal women. In May, the RCMP released an unprecedented report showing 1,181 aboriginal women disappeared or were slain between 1980 and 2012.

Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, said the government is committed to ensuring the data bank is effective. He said DNA analysis will be consistent with international practices.

There are 697 anonymous dead in Canada, according to a Globe survey of the country’s coroners and medical examiners. One-third of those remains are in Ontario.

The chief coroner’s office and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) launched a program to link the missing and unidentified in 2006. While updates to the public website have languished since the national centre’s creation, reports on missing persons and unidentified remains continue to be added to the database. Software is used to search for possible matches between missing persons reported to the OPP and Ontario’s unidentified remains.

The provincial effort, called Project Resolve, has led to the identification of 21 dead people since 2006, the OPP said. Meanwhile, the national centre, which launched a website in 2013 and a database for cross-matching last year, has not yet helped solve a single Ontario unidentified-remains case. The BC Coroners Service, which has 183 anonymous dead, said it doesn’t know whether tips from the national centre have helped identify any of its deceased.

NCMPUR has received 130 tips since its website started; other tips may have been reported to Crime Stoppers or the investigating agency noted on the site. The national centre’s database has flagged a dozen potential matches, but it’s unknown how many have led to identifications.

Ontario’s retooled effort is expected this year. The provincial website will include more information about individual cases than exists on the RCMP site.

Ontario’s chief coroner, Dirk Huyer, said he wants the NCMPUR initiative to work. Developing a robust national system is the best way to link cases that cross provincial and territorial boundaries and international borders, he noted.

“Anything we can do at the bigger, broader level [is for] the best,” the chief coroner said, stressing that his office is still co-operating with the national centre.

OPP Detective Superintendent Dave Truax said Project Resolve underscored the need for a national effort. By working with BC Coroners Service – an initiative that also began in 2006 – Ontario was able to put names to some of its deceased.

“It’s extremely important that Canada capitalizes on the opportunity to network all or our provinces and territories together,” Det. Supt. Truax said.

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40 year old cold cases solved:

Pretty amazing story out of BC on the arrest of Garry Taylor Handlen in the 40 year old cold cases of Kathryn-Mary Herbert and Monica Jack. Police say advances in forensics lead them to Handlen, and are asking that his photo be published in the event that information comes forward implicating him in other crimes. Here is the story from the CBC:

Garry Taylor Handlen charged in 2 child slaying cold cases

Garry Taylor Handlen has been charged by RCMP in B.C. with two counts of first-degree murder in a pair of cases going back nearly 40 years.

The victims were Kathryn-Mary Herbert, 11, and Monica Jack, 12.

A present day image shows Garry Taylor Handlen, who has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Monica Jack in 1978 and Kathryn-Mary Herbert in 1975. (CBC)

​Handlen remains in custody, RCMP announced Monday at a news conference with the girls’ families present.

Herbert disappeared in September 1975 close to her home in Abbotsford, B.C., while returning from a friend’s house. Two months later, her body was found hidden under a rotting outhouse on the nearby Matsqui First Nation.

Jack disappeared three years later in 1978 while riding her bike. Her body was not found until the mid-1990s north of Merritt.

RCMP today said Handlen was suspected in the killings shortly after they happened, but police didn’t have enough evidence to charge him until now.

Garry Taylor Handlen

Police want to speak with anyone who remembers seeing Garry Taylor Handlen around the time of the killings. This image of Handlen is from the 1970s. (RCMP)

Investigators wouldn’t specify what the new evidence is, but did say advances in forensic science are a factor.

Police also released a photograph of the suspect, taken around the time of the killings. They’re asking anyone who recognizes Handlen to call if they have any memories of him from that time.

Speaking at the news conference, Madeline Lanaro, Monica Jack’s mother, said she prayed for decades for her daughter’s killer to be found.

“Over the years, thinking about this on a daily basis … even today it’s not easy because, no matter what happens and no matter what you do in your life, that hurt never goes away.”

She remembers her daughter as a beautiful girl with a distinctive laugh, who was loved by relatives, friends and teachers.

Monica Jack

Monica Jack was out for a bike ride when the 12-year-old was abducted and killed.

A feature documentary on Herbert’s case aired on the CBC in 2009. It examined flaws in the investigation, including missing files, overlooked evidence and other problems.

At that time, Herbert’s mother, Shari Greer, talked about her frustration with the investigation and her determination to keep police working on her daughter’s case.

Today Greer thanked the cold case investigators who took a fresh look at the case and gathered the evidence that led to charges.

“There is no such thing as a cold case to the families, nor is there ever closure, only resolution surrounding the events.”

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#HannahGraham Our Greatest Hopes, Our Worst Fears:

Hannah Graham

Hannah Graham

Maybe this will bring some good. Help Save The Next Girl:

WASHINGTON POST

Human remains believed to be those of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham have been found on an abandoned property outside Charlottesville, authorities announced Saturday evening.

Graham, 18, of the Alexandria-area of Fairfax County, vanished in the early hours of Saturday Sept. 13. She was last seen by witnesses on the Downtown Mall with a man identified by police as Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said authorities must still make a conclusive identification of the remains. But he said police have notified the teen’s family. Authorities also said Graham’s case has become a death investigation.

If the body is that of the sophomore, it marks a grim end to a five-week search for the teen, who apparently became lost after a night out drinking and socializing with friends.

The remains were found by a sheriff’s deputy in Albemarle County.

“I want to thank everyone who gave up their days, their nights, their weekends,” Longo said of the search for Graham. “People who called, wrote and dropped food and good wishes and words of encouragement to the search groups and the detectives who work so hard through this investigation.”

“Today would have not been possible without their prayers, their encouragement and their help,” the chief said.

Longo said a police official reached out to Hannah Graham’s parents, John and Susan Graham, with “a very difficult phone call to share this preliminary discovery.”

Police said they have been searching the property for any clues, and said they would not release further details at this stage of the investigation.

“Today’s discovery is a significant development. And we have a great deal of work ahead of us. We cannot and we will not jump to any conclusions in regards to today’s discovery,” said Col. Steve Sellers, of the Albemarle County Sheriff’s Office.

“This sadly is now a death investigation,” Sellers said.

Police have said they linked Matthew’s DNA to the investigations of a violent sexual assault in Fairfax City in 2005 and the abduction and murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, in October 2009.

Hannah Graham timeline

Matthew has also been identified as a football player who was accused of sexual assault at Liberty University in 2002 and transferred to Christopher Newport University, where he was accused of another sexual assault in 2003 before dropping out. The university investigations did not lead to criminal charges.

James L. Camblos III, the lawyer representing Matthew said he would await further information. “The police have located human remains and we will wait to see what the medical examiner says to see who it is,” Camblos said.

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