#JesseMatthew #HannahGraham : Wait for the facts

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I don’t know who said, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear?”, possibly an artist, probably a social scientist. Anyway, the speculation surrounding #HannahGraham and #JesseMatthew is getting out of hand.

My point in emphasizing the need to wait for facts is this: This case is ripe for confirmation bias. There is now a growing hysteria to throw every unsolved case at the feet of Jesse Matthew, while overlooking  every rational fact that may disprove he is a homicidal maniac.

Up to this point the information connecting Graham and Matthew is not looking good for Matthew. He appears to have been the last person seen with Graham, he fled 1,300 miles to Galveston, 12 years ago he has accused of rape.

But given the number of exonerated criminals in this country over the last ten years I would think the last thing anyone wants is another falsely accused black male.

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Sherbrooke Record publishes missing persons ad of Maura Murray

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On Friday, February 7th, a full-page ad seeking information about the whereabouts of Maura Murray appeared in the English language newspaper, The Sherbrooke Record. From this blog post, it appears that the investigative reporter, James Renner, who has been aggressively pursuing the case of Maura Murray for a number of years, is responsible for the ad.  Murray went missing 10-years-ago when her abandoned car was discovered along a state road one winter evening in New Hampshire. Initially, the belief was that she was the victim of a predator, but recently, there has been a growing contingent – Renner among them – who believe that Maura is alive and in hiding, possibly n Canada.

Some thoughts:

1. Could Murray be hiding in plain sight? Easily. Recall the story of Julie Bureau. The 14-year-old went missing for three years when she disappeared from a Coaticook restaurant (suburb of Sherbrooke). Everyone thought it was abduction and murder, apparently on the basis that she shared the same first name as two other victims, Julie Boisvenu and Julie Surprenant.  The local French newspaper published an article about the cases titled, Les Trois Julies (you can read more here).

Bureau was found three years later. She had been living  under everyone’s noses  with her new boyfriend about 60 km away in Beauceville (North East of Sherbrooke).  When asked why she disappeared, Bureau blamed the pressure from her parents who, “wanted to control her life,” .

It would be easier than you think to “get lost” in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, especially if you were English. No one would question an English person there; Americans have been coming to the region for years. Further, no one would bother you; the French culture and authorities are pretty much insular and self-absorbed; they would never stop to question who you were, or what you were doing there if you were English.

2. My question is, if Maura Murray is hiding somewhere, how did she get there? To disappear from an isolated New Hampshire road in the middle of winter with little more than the coat on your back is some trick. And I don’t buy this notion that because she had a half a year of cadet training under her belt from West Point that she was suddenly transformed into a survivalist.

3. Maybe the answer is a combination of ideas. Maybe Maura was running away, and she died trying; her body still not recovered from some dense forest area surrounding Route 112. The runaway theory is a powerful narcotic, and I have heard it before: She was stressed, she fought with her family, she was pregnant and ashamed, she was failing school, she had a substance abuse problem, she was in Florida, she was in Montreal, she was in Calgary. This is how they initially described my sister, Theresa Allore, but I could easily be describing what people have conjectured about Maura. In the end, Theresa was none of those things. She was dead, less than a mile from where she lived. 

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Theresa Allore Investigation

T-051A follower has brought forward some questions I feel would be beneficial to share with everyone:

Q1: Do you have the feeling that the Quebec police or other police have lied to you ? Or
do you believe that police have always said the truth about that matter?

A1:  I have the feeling that the Quebec Police have their reasons for keeping the truth from me, and their reasons can be separated into three categories:

1. In the most positive sense, they have an interest in solving the case; and sharing too much information with me could potentially damage any ability to solve it.

2. In a negative sense, they may have reasons  for withholding information that could potentially embarrass them.

3. In the EXTREME NEGATIVE sense,  the police may be withholding information that could potentially compromise them, or even implicate them in the case: It has long been suggested that possibly the police were involved in Theresa’s death; either through their association with criminals, or perhaps because some of them were criminals themselves. The evidence here is anecdotal (hearsay), there is no documented evidence of this.

Q2: Is it true that someone has suggested to exhume her body….and why?

A2: The idea of exhuming my sister’s body has been suggested on several occasions. The reasons are to examine whether there might  still be trace DNA evidence that can only be examined by today’s standards. My family is ok with it, we have given our approval anytime any agency should wish to conduct it. One SQ officer wanted to do the exhumation examination, but he couldn’t get the SQ to pay for it. Alternatively we tried to raise money for a private laboratory to do an examination of the remains, but we could never get enough money together to do it, and no one would do it for free.

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10 year search for Maura Murray continues

mauraFascinating piece in Boston Magazine about the disappearance of Maura Murray. Some thoughts:

1. The piece’s documentation on the 10 year history of internet sleuthing is really interesting, and I am pretty sure Who Killed Theresa? was one of the first blogs of this nature. I know I started covering the story around 2004.

2. If theorists really do believe Maura went to Canada, specifically Sherbrooke, I wonder if they are aware there is a monastery there, Abbaye St. Benoit Du Lac, that might have provided refuge. In fact, my father knocked on their door 35 years ago when my sister went missing.

3. Maura’s father, Fred Murray and I have corresponded over the years. He may now feel she was abducted by “a local dirtbag”, but for a time he took the notion of her fleeing to Canada very seriously. I know because I put him in contact with some police investigators with the Quebec police.

4. I have also corresponded with James Renner. I respect James’ tenacity, but his comment that Fred Murray must be hiding something because, “In the history of missing women, what father has ever not wanted more publicity about their missing daughter?” is unfair, irresponsible, and simply not accurate. When my sister disappeared, authorities accused her of being everything from mentally disturbed, to a runaway, to a “lesbian” (heaven forbid). At that point, the very LAST thing my parents wanted was more publicity. They felt betrayed by the people they supposed were there to help them, and so they shut up. This is exactly what Fred has done, and I don’t blame him one bit.

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Rouge Media / Allo Police

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Here are some photos from my trip to the archives of Allo Police this Summer. For those of you that don’t know the history of this Quebec tabloid newspaper – and it is a fascinating history – sometime ago a journalism student at Ryerson wrote this great piece on the paper’s long relationship with Quebec police agencies through the early 50s to it’s eventual decline in the early 80s. Here is an excerpt:

“The Allo Police formula was simple, says former-editor Bernard Tetrault: send one reporter and one photographer to every murder scene. Because other newspapers were not writing about crime in the magazine’s heyday, there was little competition; the tabloid could cover every crime that occurred within miles of its Montreal offices at a leisurely pace.

Allo Police has essentially covered every murder in the province since 1953,” says Tetrault. Journalists hopped in their cars, drove for a few days, filed their reports, and the story appeared five to 10 days after the events. There was no technology enabling journalists to go live from the scene, so there was little impetus for anyone to get there fast. Nor did All0 Police have to look too hard for local crime stories – Quebec police usually tipped them off.”

You’d never find the current home of the Allo Police archives. Rouge Media, Allo‘s current parent company, resides on the second floor of a Longueuil strip-mall tucked along an industrial parkway just across the Jacques Cartier bridge:

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The main archive consists of leather bound volumes of the weekly newspapers of both Allo and Photo Police:

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I was given a conference room and basically all day to look at and photograph whatever I liked. I chose the era 1970 – 1982:

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The newspaper archives are remarkable and informative, but the real treasure here are the photo archives. Each murder has a manilla file associated with it, containing photos from the case:

file of Helene Monast

file of Helene Monast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The information can be inconsistent. If it was a big case – and let’s be frank… a French victim – the photos can be quite comprehensive. Everything from details from the crime scene, to precise documentation of all the investigating officers, and endless photos of the funerals. This is the case with the files on Louise Camirand and Johanne Dorion; many, many photos.

There were very few photos in the  files of Sharron Prior and my sister, Theresa Allore. And in some cases, there is no information at all. At one time Rouge Media had a policy of loaning out the files to media and police; a lot of it was never returned. There is also personal bias: I know some of the past archivists have removed disturbing information out of sympathy for families and victims.

the actual "archive" consists of these metal filing cabinets; none of the information has been digitized.

the actual “archive” consists of these metal filing cabinets; none of the information has been digitized.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there are times you get lucky: The files of Norma O’Brien and Debbie Fisher contained the typo-ridden, signed confession of their murderer, the Chateauguay Sex Killer. The Johanne Dorion file contained a letter of sympathy from the mother of Sharron Prior. The Denise Bazinet file contained police reports.  In the case of Louise Camirand, the photographer took a picture of the names of the other residents in her apartment building at the front entry:

from Camirand apartment

from Camirand apartment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all, I took 800 photos that day. All of it is now archived on my computer, and I shared the information with Rouge Media, in hopes that they might start a more formal and comprehensive digital archiving project: Some bright, young criminology student in the Montreal are might want to suggest this as an intern project. 

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Cold Cases Montreal

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There is a new website out there dedicated to Montreal (and surrounding area) cold cases. Cold Cases Montreal takes a look at some of the more notorious unsolveds in the last 4 decades (Helene Monast, Roxanne Luce, Melanie Cabay, Jolene Riendeau, Sharron Prior, Manon Dube, Louise Camirand, and of course, Theresa Allore).

The site was started by Jo Anne Lachance, who has set the ambitious task of interviewing survivors of the victims and placing their testimonies on YouTube.

Also, I see on Youtube that someone has started a channel dedicated to cold cases that attempts to link some of these cases. 

I’ve never been a great believer in connecting too much in these matters. Predators don’t usually work outside a familiar, specific geo-region without cause, but it never hurts to look.

For what it’s worth, I still keep a page on this website with all kinds of crime maps for cold cases in the Quebec region. It basically uses photos and Google Maps to give you an indication where the victims lived, disappeared from and where found, as well as any specific evidence that has a documented geographic reference point. You can find the maps here (in both French and English)

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Short Shafted: The Emmett Till Act

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There’s a great piece in the Sunday New York Times on  the FBI’s follow-up on Civil Rights era cold-cases in the wake of the passing of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act in 2007.  To date, little has been done to close cases, and the FBI’s work appears to be perfunctory.

Here’s the last update from the Department of Justice in 2010 where they claim to have made progress, but since then it would appear that the project has stalled.

However, if you look at the original legislation, you have to wonder if the Justice Department was ever serious about this project:   A scant $10,000,000 in annual appropriations, with a heavy focus on reporting and community relations. I don’t think congress was serious about truth or justice, they simply wanted to turn the page.

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SQ Redux: Again they refuse to help

First, my apologies for my absence: first I got really really busy, then I got really really sick.

Everyone eventually (and really) wants to know about any current developments in Theresa’s case. Usually I can’t talk too much about that, but I am willing to discuss this:

Last summer an anonymous donor came forward offering $10,000 for information that might lead to solving my sister’s murder. The situation was sticky because in order to do rewards properly you usually need the help and cooperation of the local police authority, in this case, the Surete du Quebec (SQ). So I went to the SQ and asked if they’d be willing to work with us on this (answer phones, take tips, etc…).

There were a lot of opinions. The SQ was initially reluctant. They don’t like the idea of chasing down a lot of false leads and creating a lot of false hope. I tend to agree with them here; you offer strangers money and they are likely to say anything to please you and themselves. Also, it can be very traumatic for the family of victims to go through all that (the false hope).

Initially things were looking pretty good. Kim Rossmo weighed in indicating that the reward amount was in the right ballpark (not too big, not too small…). My SQ contact approached the SQ cold case squad and their initial feeling was that they would do it, they just wanted to check on a few things.  Well, last week I got the final word (that’s right, it took approximately 6 months to get a final answer out of them, no surprises there): they will not work with us on offering a $10,000 reward on the grounds that Theresa’s case “does not fit their criteria for rewards” because the SQ still regards the case as a “suspicious death”.

For those of you who have been playing along for the last ten years, you know how bitterly funny all this is. For those of you new to the case (and you can find a brief summary here on my Wikipedia page), let me explain it to you:  The SQ has long regarded the case a “suspicious death” because there is no primary evidence of a murder, but the SQ threw out all evidence from the case in 1983 (clothing) just five years after she died, when the case was still unsolved.

I hate having an adversarial relationship with the Quebec police, I really do. But they bring it on themselves. Their decision forces me (again) to work against them and offer a reward outside their circle of influence, thus inviting media scrutiny as to why we are not working together; and I guess ultimately, that’s fine with me: Media brings attention, and attention is the only thing that solves cold cases.

So I have a request in to Crimestoppers to see if they would be willing to administer the reward outside the influence of the SQ, but while I wait for a response, I ask you readers, what would you do in this situation?

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Coolopolis: Montreal’s Finest Blog

I wish this was a piece about my first New York or LA apartment, those places were cool. But this is about my first Montreal apartment; the story here is pathetic and honest.
 
I grew up in the West Island. I has an older brother and sister. My first exposure to living on your own was through them, and some of the shit-holes they inhabited. My sister moved out at age 18 and lived in a place on St. Charles boulevard near the Trans Canada. This would have been around 1977; she had dropped out of school and was working at some ski factory near Point Claire (she would later return to school, attending CEGEP at Champlain College… that experience killed her, but that’s another story).
 
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Theresa in the St Charles apartment
 
Shortly after this, around 1980 my brother was attending McGill and lived in this place, I think it was around Metcalf and de Maisonneuve (near where Ben’s was). Anyway, you would remember it because it actually crossed over de Maisonneuve, and he lived in this hovel above the road. I might have the location wrong, but some of you will remember it. Anyway, I remember going up there and staying with my brother. I definitely stayed there the night we saw The Police together at the Sports Center at U of Montreal. 
 
My First Montreal Apartment
 
1982. I was in Montreal for the Summer doing an internship at some computer company before going of to school at the University of Toronto. I lived at the corner of Aylmer and Avenue des Pins, in a place affectionately called “The Wedge”. It’s still there, a white, 12-story building across from Molson Stadium. I lived there with my father, who had rented the place because he was travelling back and forth on business from Saint John, New Brunswick (I’m still not convinced that my mother hadn’t turfed him out, and this was some sort of punishment before they reconciled). Anyway, on weekends I would get the place to myself, but this was my first experience alone in Montreal (I was 18) so I really didn’t know what to do with it. I remember getting a six-pack and sitting on the roof of the “The Wedge” watching this concert at Molson Stadium (The Police, English Beat, The Go-Gos?).  I would wander down to Phantasmagoria and buy records. One time I saw King Crimson at La Ronde. I saw Steel Pulse in an area of town that I don’t even remember.
 
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The Wedge
 
It should have been a great Summer, but the whole experience was lonely and pathetic. I’d take the bus in the morning to some industrial complex in Lachine. Sit in a cubicle all day and get ignored (they weren’t going to give an 18-year-old intern NOTHING to do). Take the bus back to The Wedge, wander around downtown, do it all over again. The apartment was on like the 8th floor, it was really Spartan; my dad was re-living his Jesuit days at Loyola… I think we had 2 spoons, 2 knives, 2 forks, a can opener and a toaster oven. Nothing on the walls. 
 
That was my first, and only experience living on my own in Montreal. I had received a partial scholarship to McGill, and by the time the Summer was over, I changed my mind and opted for U of T. 
 
I since moved to the States and have lived here in North Carolina for the past 10 years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love Montreal, because I LOVE MONTREAL. I was back in July with my three daughters. We did Mount Royal and La Ronde. We saw Beaver Lake before they drained it. I loved looking through the carnage that was Expo, now resembling a set from Planet of the Apes. I love that Wednesdays are still Classic Car nights at the Orange Julep. I love that the Kraft sign is still there. And if I have it my way, one of my daughters will attend McGill in the next five years. 
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The SQ’s Cold Case Unit: How are they doing?

The answer is, “Not bad”. Solving 2 cold cases a year is actually pretty decent. I sure would like to know their progress since 2010:

La SQ replonge dans ses affaires classées: 200 meurtres non résolus – La Presse 
« on: April 19, 2010, 08:03:12 »
 
(Montréal) Des centaines de dossiers de meurtres non résolus dorment dans 
les entrepôts de la Sûreté du Québec (SQ). Mais depuis la création d’un module 
spécialisé il y a six ans, d’anciennes affaires classées sont portées devant les 
tribunaux à un rythme constant.
 
De 1998 à 2009, 201 meurtres dont l’enquête relevait du corps policier provincial 
n’avaient pas été résolus, indiquent des documents que La Presse a obtenus grâce 
à la loi sur l’accès à l’information. Motivée par les avancées scientifiques et l’arrivée 
des banques d’ADN, la SQ a décidé de revisiter ces anciens dossiers en créant, en 
2004, un module consacré aux cas non résolus. Depuis, 10 affaires classées (cold 
cases, dans le jargon policier) ont été remises à l’appareil judiciaire, dont deux 
depuis janvier dernier. Selon la SQ, deux dossiers ont été résolus en moyenne 
chaque année.
 
À première vue, le chiffre peut sembler peu élevé, mais la résolution d’anciens 
crimes exige un travail de moine de la part des enquêteurs. Une démarche très 
loin du glamour mis de l’avant par les séries télévisées américaines, explique 
l’homme derrière la création de la section. «Des émissions comme CSI ou Cold 
Case, c’est 55 minutes d’action et 5 minutes de rapport! Alors que dans la vraie 
vie, c’est plutôt 15 minutes d’action et 45 minutes de rapport!» lance, à la blague, 
le sergent Martin Hébert. «Notre travail est beaucoup plus long et ardu. Il demande 
de la rigueur et de la persévérance. C’est un travail stratégique qui s’apparente au 
jeu du chat et de la souris, car lorsque tous les éléments sont présents pour déterminer 
le responsable d’un crime, c’est à nous d’en faire usage de la bonne façon pour éviter 
de gaspiller notre preuve.»
 
La SQ n’a pas accepté de révéler combien de personnes travaillent à temps plein à la 
résolution de ces enquêtes. Plusieurs dizaines de policiers peuvent cependant être 
dépêchés lorsque le corps policier pense avoir une piste déterminante. Les motifs 
pour rouvrir une enquête sont très nombreux. Parfois, un criminel se met à table 
et admet sa culpabilité dans d’autres affaires. Ce fut notamment le cas l’an dernier, 
lorsque le tueur à gages Gérald Gallant a avoué sa participation dans 27 meurtres 
commis entre 1978 et 2003.
 
D’autres fois, l’ADN recueilli sur d’anciennes scènes de crime correspond à celui de 
délinquants dont les échantillons ont été colligés à partir de 2000 dans la Banque 
nationale de données génétiques. Les avancées dans la recherche scientifique 
peuvent également jouer un grand rôle.
 
La SQ pense d’ailleurs avoir résolu le meurtre de la petite Sarah Leblanc-Palumbi, 
5 mois, morte mystérieusement il y a près de 18 ans. Martin Hébert préfère ne pas 
trop s’avancer puisque l’affaire est actuellement devant les tribunaux. Le procureur 
de la Couronne a toutefois indiqué publiquement que l’affaire avait été résolue grâce 
à l’évolution des connaissances scientifiques en ce qui a trait aux bébés secoués. Le 
père de la victime, Gabriel Palumbi, a été accusé il y a quelques mois d’homicide 
involontaire. «Plusieurs raisons expliquent la réouverture d’un dossier, mais très 
souvent, c’est grâce à de nouvelles informations fournies par le public», précise 
toutefois Martin Hébert. Il cite notamment le meurtre de Michel Dugas, disparu 
en 1999 à Matane, pour lequel son ex-conjointe Marie-Jeanne Gendron a été 
inculpée en novembre dernier. «C’est un bel exemple de dossier qui a fait appel à 
un peu toutes les techniques auxquelles un enquêteur de meurtre non résolu peut 
avoir accès», explique-t-il. En 2008, la femme s’est départie d’un matelas. La 
personne qui en a hérité a alerté les policiers lorsqu’elle a remarqué qu’il était 
souillé d’une substance brunâtre. Après des tests d’ADN, les policiers ont conclu 
que la tache était en fait le sang de Michel Dugas.
 
Ils y ont également découvert des traces de balles d’arme à feu à la suite d’une 
enquête balistique. À la lumière des révélations, les témoins rencontrés neuf ans 
auparavant ont été revus. Les policiers ont finalement trouvé les ossements du 
disparu enfouis dans la cour arrière de Mme Gendron. «Ce qui motive nos 
enquêteurs, c’est surtout d’amener du réconfort aux familles, aux proches des 
victimes, de mettre du baume sur leurs plaies, dit Martin Hébert.
 
D’autres fois, ça reste une énigme, ce qui peut engendrer une certaine frustration. 
Le défi, c’est de ne pas nous laisser gagner par cela, parce que ça peut nous faire 
perdre une certaine objectivité.»
 
La Sûreté du Québec a offert une récompense de 50 000$ pour un triple meurtre 
particulièrement violent survenu à Saint-Paul-de-Joliette, en 1999. Aucune 
arrestation n’a été faite dans cette affaire.
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