The circle shows where the remains were found. The other GIFs represent women who have gone missing, or have been murdered in the area:
In 1996 the Quebec government appointed Lawrence Poitras to lead a public inquiry into the Sûreté du Québec following accusations of corruption and evidence tampering within the force. Three years later Poitras submitted his 2,700 page report accusing the force of abusing its powers of arrest, being more concerned with protecting its image than investigating misconduct. Total cost to taxpayers? Over $20 million.
Did the Poitras Commission recommendations have any lasting influence? Judging by the release this week of the Charbonneau Commission’s report the answer is No.
On Tuesday Justice France Charbonneau submitted her 1,751-page report detailing how organized crime has infiltrated the Quebec construction industry, and how political forces such as elected officials, the ministry of transportation and the Quebec police force stood idle and let it happen, or in many cases participated in the collusion. The report – which cost taxpayers close to $45 million – states that there was the an “appearance” of corruption in Montreal and Laval, a “vulnerability” in contract-awarding by certain provincial departments, such as Transport Quebec, and that there were bodies, such as the Sûreté du Québec, that could have done something to address problems but did not.
Plus ca change.
And now we stand on the brink of another public inquiry into Canadian injustice, that of the missing and murdered indigenous women. A coalition of groups including family members, the First Nations Summit, and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is wisely recommending the Trudeau government exercise caution before jumping into an expensive and lengthy public process. Chiefly they recommend that officials consult with indigenous women, and learn from the lessons of the Oppal inquiry (the Missing Women Commission borne from the conviction of serial killer Robert Pickton) before again engaging in a “fundamentally flawed” process.
“We need to get to the root causes of why this is happening, so we can prevent this from happening,” said Lorelai Williams, whose aunt went missing in 1977, and whose cousin, missing since 1996, was among the women whose DNA was found on Pickton’s farm.
And when B.C. Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone, ponders why there are still challenges to keeping indigenous girls and women safe along the Highway of Tears one wonders why he hasn’t consulted the the reams of public reports and documents – including recommendations – that have been filed over the past decade. Between 19 – 40 girls and women have gone missing or been murdered along the 450 mile stretch of highway over the last 42 years. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or even a gifted profiler – to conclude that this is not the work of a single person, the problem is systemic. Judging from the report from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, you might want to take a closer look at the very institution charged with protecting these women.
The investigation was triggered by a 2013 Human Rights Watch report titled Those Who Take Us Away – a scathing document detailing such allegations as women being strip-searched by male police officers, an unwarranted attack by a police dog against a young girl and the 2012 rape of a homeless woman by four officers. Researchers heard allegations of sexual assault or rape in fully half of the 10 northern towns they visited, the report said.
An American friend recently remarked to me, “how can these things go on-and-on in your country?!”. Because they go on-and-on everywhere. I need look no further than my own back door – Rocky Mount, North Carolina – to see how the plight of a marginalized group – namely female black prostitutes – was completely ignored when women slowly started disappearing and turned up murdered over the course of 6 years in a town no bigger than Cornwall or Fredericton.
Bad people will always prey on the weak and vulnerable. C’est la meme chose.
Watching some of these investigative reporters attempt to solve crimes gets as boring as watching American league baseball. No-one wants to single and bunt their way to victory, it’s all about the DH bases loaded home run, let’s hang it all to a serial killer and solve five crimes at once.
Take the case of Nancy West writing in a recent New Hampshire Sunday News article about murder suspect Israel Keyes. Keyes is being held in Alaska for the alleged kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig from an Anchorage coffee shop. Keyes is also apparently a person of interest in the slaying of Essex, Vermont couple, Bill and Lorraine Currier, who were randomly abducted and murdered in June 2011 (apparently Keyes has told investigators the bodies could be found in a Vermont landfill). The article (and apparently an impatient public, and capitulating law enforcement agencies) then attempts to tie Keyes to the disappearance and murder of Celina Cass, whose body was retrieved from a local river over a year ago, less than a quarter of a mile from her home. The evidence? Cass disappeared the month after the Currier murders.
Never mind that where the Curriers live in Essex, Vermont is a good five-hour drive on rough roads to where Cass disappeared in New Hampshire. Never mind that the psychological profile of someone who robs and kills a couple in their 50s is vastly different from someone who murders an 11-year-old. Investigators also note that Keyes owned a cabin near the Canadian border in Constable, New York. Let me put that in perspective for you; that’s three states, and over 300 miles. It’s like saying a person from Cornwall, Ontario is a suspect in a Sherbrooke, Quebec murder simply because there once was a penitentiary in Cornwall.
I’ll make this really easy for everyone. There is no evidence that Israel Keyes murdered Celina Cass (or Murray or Chaput). Cass was found a quarter of a mile from her house and was most likely murdered by a family member.
As I wrote about in my last post, through a long process of trial and error I have become a disciple of the least effort principle of Occam’s Razor. By all means keep your mind open for the unexpected, but also keep it simple, let the facts speak for themselves. The pressure and temptation to throw everything into some great unifying theory in criminal investigation is strong. I remember back in the Summer of 2005 I was working with NBC television to do a story for Dateline NBC on my sister’s murder. The producers were interested in exploring an angle between her case, and the then two new investigations into the twin disappearances of Briana Maitland and Maura Murray. The producers wanted myself and Geographic Profiler, Kim Rossmo to go on record and suggest that all the cases might be related, that their was a possibility that a serial killer had been operating across the American-Canadian border over a period of three decades. There was absolutely no evidence to support this theory. Rossmo explained that when establishing locus and territoriality in geographic profiling, the span of a serial predator quickly diminishes at a point of say, 30 miles. For someone to be operating in a playing field of several hundred miles is very rare, if not impossible. Some might cite Ted Bundy, but that was never really the case: Bundy travelled. In the case of the Green River Killings one of the major inhibitors to resolving that investigation was the temptation to tie too much together (to essentially make Gary Ridgeway and Robert Pickton one person). When we told the producers at NBC that there no evidence to support such a sensational theory they didn’t care. They wanted us to say it anyway.
Eventually we backed away from the Dateline story, and the producers were not interested in doing a show that stuck with the facts. I will admit that the temptation to give them what they wanted was there. Regardless if it was true, a Dateline story would have given my sister’s case International exposure. It could have led to information that could have solved the case. But the premise wasn’t true, it could have done more damage than good. And anyway, an American audience would do little to shed light on events of 3o-years-ago; what ultimately was needed was a program in the French language, produced for locals, by locals (which is ultimately was what we got).
In November 1999, 16-year-old Julie Surprenant disappeared from a Montreal bus-stop. Less than two years later, 14-year-old Julie Bureau went missing
from her home near Sherbrooke, Quebec. Then ten months later the body of 27-year-old Julie Boisvenu was found in a ditch near Sherbrooke. She had been raped, beaten and strangled to death. The press quickly tried to suggest that the cases were somehow linked. Their evidence? The girls were all named Julie. I’m not joking. I remember the La Presse headline, Les Trois Julies, and I myself got caught up in this hysteria. So what happened? Julie Surprenant was abducted and killed by serial offender Richard Bouillon who, on his prison death bed, confessed to a nurse that he killed her. Her body has never been found. Julie Bureau was a runaway who resurfaced three years later, apparently living under everyone’s noses in Sherbrooke. Julie Boisvenu was murdered by Hugo Bernier, who is currently serving a life sentence. Bernier was a repeat offender, but not a hardened criminal like Bouillon.
This brings me full circle to the cases on Briana Maitland and Maura Murray. Both disappeared
within a month of each other eight years ago. Both disappearances involved abandoned automobiles on lonely forested highways. Both were young, attractive women with their whole lives ahead of them. For years investigators, the media and the public have tried to link the cases. It took the first year and a half before investigators officially dismissed any connection, wasting valuable resources and time.
The cases are vastly different.
Murray appears to have been under numerous stressors that could have given her a reason to runaway. She may be living somewhere else, or she may have been in despair and perhaps died in the woods. Maitland’s disappearance seems to be linked to foul play. Friends and associates to this day are not talking. She may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Where Maitland’s investigation appears to have stalled, the Murray case has received fresh interest with the creation of a blog by investigative journalist James Renner ( apparently to the dismay of the family unfortunately). Nevertheless, Renner appears clear-headed and dedicated to sticking to the facts of the case. I hope both cases soon find their resolutions.
The Vanishing Point: Monica Jack headed home but she never arrived
It was a clear spring day that Saturday in 1978, when 12-year-old Monica Jack and her 14-year-old cousin Debbie John embarked on a childhood adventure: riding their bikes into the nearby town of Merritt to go shopping.
It was the first time Monica’s mother Madeline Lanaro had given her permission to do such a long trek. It was 12 km along Highway 5A from Monica’s rural Nicola Lake home to Debbie’s house in Nicola, and then the two rode another 10 km into Merritt, a city in B.C.’s Interior.
“It was going to be a good day. We had money to go shopping,” John said, the memory still eliciting tears more than 30 years later.
Monica, who was to turn 13 in a few days, had received money from her father to buy new shoes. She also purchased a birthday gift for her younger sister Liz, who had just turned 11.
The two parted ways close to John’s house. “I went home and then she went home,” John said softly.
But Monica never arrived.
Her body was not found until 1996. In October 2007 her name was added to the RCMP’s E-Pana investigation, which is probing the disappearances and murders of 18 girls and women along Highways 16, 97 and 5 over the last 40 years.
Thirteen of the 18 victims on the so-called Highway of Tears list were under 20 years old. Monica, 12, was the youngest.
Here is her story.
Monica was the third-youngest child in her family and was mainly raised by her mother, who is now a retired social worker. The girl’s father Philip Swakum owned a ranch nearby, where Monica liked to visit his horses.
She was a popular girl, both within her large family and among all the neighbourhood kids.
“Monica was beautiful, cool and sweet. She wore bell bottoms,” sister Liz Kraus recalls now.
“She always took care of me. She never let anybody hurt me.”
Added John: “Everybody loved her. . . She was always in good spirits. I don’t think I ever saw her get mad.”
She was a good student. “She had already decided what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wanted to be a social worker and work with kids,” Lanaro said during a recent interview at her Spences Bridge home, where she was surrounded by her close-knit family.
There are carefully cherished items in Lanaro’s home that the family proudly shows off: a clown-shaped wooden spoon holder and a yellow floral blanket, two of the last gifts Monica had given to her mother; the trophy the family won for their float in the 1977 Kinsmen parade in Merritt, when Monica wore her grandmother’s buckskin dress; and the intricate wooden native carving she made at school, which was photographed by the local newspaper at the time.
The family did not have a lot of money, but the girls have happy childhood memories of swimming in Nicola Lake and hiking the local mountains for picnic lunches. The kids collected errant golf balls and sold them back to the local course, using the proceeds to buy candy at the store.
Well-perused family photo albums show Monica blowing out birthday-cake candles, dressed in shorts with her arms around younger sisters Liz and Heather on a hot summer day, holding a Bible — a gift from a relative — smiling with a new pair of moccasins, sitting with Liz on the hood of Lanaro’s beloved yellow Mustang. Monica was just starting to get into sports, and was turning into a talented softball pitcher.
By the dining room table, where the family shares a meal to remember Monica, hangs a large, brightly coloured collage with three pictures of the pretty, slender teen, surrounding a native image of two loons, the sun and some feathers. A constant reminder of their loss.
Earlier on the morning of May 6, 1978, Monica had helped her mother bake Liz’s birthday cake before she set off on her bike ride.
Lanaro and the other adults in their large extended family were getting ready for a favourite tradition: fishing for trout on nearby Stoney Lake, an all-night affair. For generations, the adults caught fish by the bucketful, using bonfires and blankets to keep warm; this time the children stayed home — the teenagers looking after the younger cousins and siblings.
On her way to Stoney Lake that fateful evening, Lanaro saw her daughter riding her bike home from the shopping trip and offered to give her a lift for the last little way. Monica refused; she wanted to complete her journey on her own. “She didn’t want to ride in the car. She wanted to ride her bike,” Lanaro said quietly, wiping away tears.
The mother and the other adults continued driving to Stoney Lake and did not find out from the children, until they returned to the house the next morning, that Monica had never made it home.
“We didn’t know what to think and we called the cops right away. They came out pretty fast. They got boats and they searched the lake,” Lanaro said. “Then we started looking and looking.”
It was family members who found Monica’s prize bike thrown down a bank off the highway, not far from their house.
Neighbours had heard shouting from that area around the time Monica is believed to have disappeared but they dismissed the noise as a couple squabbling. “It took me years to be comfortable driving by there. I still cry,” said Lanaro.
Area residents reported earlier seeing a man standing in the area where the bike was found, as well as a light-green truck with a camper on the back.
That was the last year the adults went out as a large group for the traditional trout fishing, instead leaving some behind at the houses. And since Monica’s disappearance, children in the extended family have not been allowed to ride their bikes on the highway and are closely guarded by their parents.
The whole family’s innocence had been shattered.
Lanaro has overheard comments from people who, over the years, thought the family should be done grieving. “I have heard people say, ‘Her daughter probably just ran away. People don’t steal Indian kids,’ ” Lanaro recalled. “You don’t ever get over it.”
Then one day in June 1995, forestry workers came across some human remains in a ravine off a logging road on Swakum Mountain, about 20 km from where Monica’s bike had been found.
It took until February 1996, nearly 18 years after the girl disappeared, to confirm through DNA testing and dental records that Monica had been found.
A police officer phoned Lanaro at work. “He said, ’Madeline I want to talk to you.’ And I knew right away,” she recalled, crying.
Three of Monica’s sisters went to the police station to collect a box containing her clothes. They braced themselves before opening it, and Kraus was overcome by the small size of her big sister’s pink floral top, brown cords and blue running shoes.
“It was the little clothes of a little girl. She was small, but I never thought of her like that because she was my big sister,” Kraus said.
About 150 relatives and friends made a pilgrimage up the steep mountainous road, and along a rugged trail, to see where Monica had been all these years. It was a snow-covered trek, and people helped each other on the treacherous climb to the isolated spot. “It was so nice to see that kind of support from the community,” Lanaro said.
“We went and got her spirit,” John added, noting the turnout was a testament to how popular Monica had been nearly two decades earlier.
Burying a child is a traumatic event, but at least it put 18 years of uncertainty to rest.
“I guess the worst part of it, really, was the not knowing. We think of ourselves over the 18 years, and we hear of people who disappear and we know how the families feel because we have been through the same. The hurt never stops,” Lanaro said.
Police said in 1996 that they had a suspect but not enough evidence to lay charges. It isn’t clear if that person is still considered a suspect today. Investigators said at the time that the suspect was not a local man, and described him as someone who was once married and had also lived the life of a drifter.
Officers investigated the possibility that child killer Clifford Olson was responsible for Monica’s death, the family says, but determined he had an alibi on the day of her disappearance.
“We just have to find out who did it, but it still won’t go away,” Kraus said. “We wait and wait and wait. We waited that long to find her. We won’t give up.”
Lanaro is skeptical, however, that there will ever be an arrest in the three-decade-old case. “I honestly don’t think we’ll find out. [The killer] could be dead now.”
And, John wondered, “if we found out, would it make our lives any different? Because it won’t change what happened. I try to remember her the way Monica was a long time ago, and try to envision her the way she would be today if she were still here.”
Public inquiry demanded in deaths
Racism cited as a reason the murders and disappearances have not received more attention
B.C. needs a public inquiry and a multi-agency police task force to examine the many cases of girls and women who have met violence on B.C. highways, say two community leaders who have been vocal about the so-called Highway of Tears case.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, has repeatedly called for a public inquiry into why girls and women, many of them native, have disappeared from or been found murdered along B.C. highways over the past 40 years.
The provincial government has so far failed to commit to an inquiry. That isn’t good enough, Phillip argues, because the families have waited too long for answers.
“It infuriates me that these things have gone on for so long and there hasn’t been closure and these families have continued to suffer and there has been so much indifference,” Phillip said.
Solicitor-General Kash Heed, who has the power to call such an inquiry and fund a police task force, was not available to speak Tuesday about the case, his staff told The Vancouver Sun.
The newspaper has just completed a four-day series about the Highway of Tears, which has generated much debate.
Phillip and NDP North Coast MLA Gary Coons both believe B.C. should follow the lead of Manitoba, which has formed an inter-agency task force to investigate cases of missing and murdered women in that province.
Coons also pointed to Edmonton, where a $100,000 reward has been offered for information about similar unsolved cases. His requests for a reward here have been rejected by provincial government, he said.
The current RCMP E-Pana investigation is examining only cases of murdered or missing women along three specific B.C. arteries: Highways 16, 97 and 5. Similar cases on other highways in B.C. and Alberta are not included, police say, for funding reasons and to keep the investigation a manageable size.
Coons also argues the provincial government needs to provide funding to enact the 33 recommendations that stemmed from the 2006 Highway of Tears symposium in Prince George.
“We thought with the 33 recommendations that we would finally move forward and here we are, four years later, and people are feeling like it is not getting the priority it should,” he said.
There needs to be, Coons argues, better transportation options between northern communities, an improved public awareness campaign to keep girls and women safe, and more police patrols on Highway 16, especially in the uninhabited 140 km stretch between Prince Rupert and Terrace.
There also needs to be permanent funding for the Highway of Tears coordinator, a position created after the symposium called for better communication between police and the family members.
Funding for the position ended Dec. 1.
Heed’s staff sent an e-mail to The Sun indicating some action has been taken on the recommendations, including: community forums and family meetings; a handful of anti-hitchhiking billboards erected along Highway 16, and police officers are now required to stop to talk to hitchhikers “if duties permit.”
The government has provided $100,000 to implement the report recommendations, and one-time funding of $68,000 for the coordinator’s position.
Phillip argues much more action is necessary in B.C., where there are two high-profile missing women cases: the Highway of Tears and the 64 women who vanished from the Downtown Eastside, 26 of them alleged victims of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton.
A recent tally by the Native Women’s Association of Canada indicates there are 520 “known” cases of missing or murdered native women, and that B.C. has the most of any province with 137 victims.
Phillip called for a change in how police investigate these cases, noting that many victims’ families have complained over the years about how their initial missing-person reports were treated poorly by officers.
He hopes to plan a coalition in January, possibly involving NDP MLAs and MPs, civil libertarians, native leaders, women’s advocates and others to push the government for an inquiry.
With the world watching Vancouver during the Olympics in February, Phillip hopes a record number of people will take part in the annual missing women Valentine’s Day march in the Downtown Eastside.
“We wouldn’t have been out marching in the streets demanding public inquiries into the missing and murdered women in the Downtown Eastside for the last 12 or 13 years if we had more effective policing, and I don’t think that will happen until we have fundamental changes,” he said.
Phillip said The Sun’s series on the Highway of Tears case is also a crucial piece of the puzzle, so the unsolved cases are kept alive in people’s minds.
Highway of Tears coordinator Mavis Erickson has also met with B.C.’s solicitor-general and attorney-general to demand an inquiry into the Highway of Tears case, to try to answer questions such as: What’s happened? How did justice fail us? What do we need to fix the problem of women’s safety?
“These cases have been cold for too long and we want the conspiracy of silence to end. And we want to know why the justice system failed so miserably,” said Erickson.
“I just think an inquiry will go a long way for closure for some families, although not all families.”
While some families also back a call for a public inquiry, Brenda Wilson does not. Wilson’s sister Ramona, 15, disappeared in 1994 from Smithers, and her body was not found for a year.
Brenda Wilson believes her sister’s case would benefit from an individual review so that the family’s specific questions are addressed.
These include why police waited so long to search for Ramona after she was reported missing; why the phone company wasn’t asked to trace a tip by a caller who told police where Ramona’s body would be found; and why the town of Smithers didn’t rally behind the Wilson family, instead opting to hold a fundraising dance for Melanie Carpenter, victim of a high-profile kidnapping in the Lower Mainland.
“It broke my heart. I knew we had to fight hard,” Wilson said.
She is somewhat optimistic that, one day, she may find out what happened to her sister, but that won’t be easy either.
“Because we’ll have to deal with it all over again, and to see if there is forgiveness and if we can learn from the process.”
Sally Gibson, the aunt of Lana Derrick, 19, who went missing in 1995 from Thornhill, remains frustrated there are still no arrests in her niece’s case and doesn’t feel these rural files get the kind of attention as those in the Lower Mainland.
“I think it is racism-plus. I don’t know what it is about being up north, but we don’t get the attention that they get down south. It seems like things happen down south and people are all over it. With the Highway of Tears, people didn’t talk about it,” Gibson said.
The wondering and waiting has been horrendous.
“There are people out there who say, ‘Oh, you’ll get over it.’ And you don’t. There’s no answer, no closure, no nothing,” she said, wiping away tears.
“It’s just like an open wound that people poke at once in a while.”
Connie Menton has her own hunches about who killed her niece Alisha (Leah) Germaine in Prince George in 1994, and is curious about why no arrests have been made. She believes people on the street have information about her niece’s case.
“All I can do is put out a plea. Please, if anybody knows anything, help us. We need to close the book on this thing,” Menton said.
“They know but they are too afraid. It was 15 years ago — you’d think there would be a crisis of consciousness to come forward.”
Her niece, and all the others whose lives were cut short, deserve justice, she added.
“I’ll never give up hope. I believe on that highway, somebody is doing something,” Menton said. “They are all girls. They are somebody’s poor innocent. Nobody deserves to die that way.”
Cory Millwater continues to pray for answers regarding her daughter Tamara Chipman, who disappeared from Prince Rupert in 2005, and the other unsolved cases.
“It scares me. I think it’s criminal that this many girls have disappeared and they’ve never figured out who’s doing it. I believe that a lot of them are connected because of the similar scenarios and the places they have disappeared from. There’s just too many of these girls who have gone missing for there not to be a connection,” she said.
“I think that as long as people keep [speaking out] that police will be forced to work on it and hopefully figure out what is going on. I’d like not only our case but all the cases solved… We all need to know.”
A former Kamloops detective got excited about a possible break in the murder of Colleen Rae MacMillen, 16, when a U.S. man confessed to killing her.
MacMillen’s body had been found on a logging road about 25 kilometres south of 100 Mile House about a month after the she went missing in 1974.
But the man changed the details of how the murder was carried out, and police later concluded it was a bogus confession, said Ken Leibel.
The suspect, Edwin Henry Foster, 19, made the confession while serving an eight-year sentence for a gas station robbery. He hanged himself in a Washington state prison in 1976.
The prospect of resolution fizzled into yet another frustrating dead end in the unsolved murder of Colleen MacMillen.
Her brutal death is just one of a grim series of disappearances and murders of women in northern B.C. that have haunted Leibel and other detectives over the years.
Leibel said he got excited again when he began investigating another likely suspect, who lived outside of 100 Mile House in the 1970s.
“Somebody came to the detachment and said a man had tried to abduct them and they took down the licence plate,” Leibel recalls today.
Police ran the plate and saw that the man, Jerry Baker, had a history of sex offences, had done time in prison and had returned to the Williams Lake area around the time MacMillen was killed — the teenager was last seen hitchhiking to a girlfriend’s house about six kilometres away in Lac la Hache.
At the time, Leibel felt the man could have been responsible for other murders as well. His name had surfaced in several other investigations, including the murders of Pamela Darlington in Kamloops in 1973 and Gail Ann Weys in Clearwater in 1974.
He tried questioning Baker about MacMillen’s murder, “but he was extremely nervous and denied it.”
Fifteen years later, Baker became the prime suspect for the murder of a young girl named Norma Tashoots, 17, whose body was found on July 10, 1989 in a wooded area near 100 Mile House. She had been shot.
She was last seen about a month earlier being dropped off near 100 Mile House while hitchhiking to Vancouver.
A local resident suggested Baker was responsible for the Tashoots murder.
Baker, who had reported his Ruger handgun stolen to police the day after Tashoots was last seen, was interviewed and denied being involved. The investigation eventually dead-ended.
But it was re-opened in 2001 after a complete file review and a decision to try an undercover operation.
Baker eventually confessed to murdering Tashoots to an undercover officer and confided where he had disposed of the murder weapon — the gun he had reported missing — which was recovered. He was convicted in 2003 of the murder.
“Is he responsible for four or five [murders] or one? I don’t know,” Leibel said of Baker.
He said police considered the possibility of a serial killer being involved in the growing number of unsolved murders that occurred along highways in B.C.’s Interior.
“If you’ve got somebody driving, you could have one guy,” Leibel said. “You can cover a lot of ground in a day.”
‘It could be anyone’
There has been criticism levelled at police and RCMP over the years for failing to solve the majority of the highway homicide cases including those of the 18 girls and women on the Highway of Tears victims’ list.
Leibel said the cases were especially difficult to investigate because they seemed to involve a killer who was a complete stranger to the murder victims, many of whom were teenage girls trying to hitch a ride.
“It could be anyone,” he said of trying to find a suspect. “It’s different than when you’re investigating a jealous husband or boyfriend.”
There has also been criticism from native communities that police didn’t properly handle cases involving some of the aboriginal victims.
But Leibel said police treat every murder the same, regardless of the race, colour or socio-economic background of the victim.
“I always looked at the victim the same: You’re my client and I’m going to get some justice for you,” Leibel said. “You investigate it as if they were your own brother, sister or parent.”
He retired as a Mountie in 1992 and currently works on contract with the RCMP, interviewing people who apply to become Mounties. Even today, he still thinks about the unsolved murder of MacMillen.
“The odd time I’ll be walking with my morning coffee and I’ll think: Could I have done something different?” Leibel, now 58, recalled.
“I’m a proud sucker,” he said, adding he solved dozens of murders over his 21-year career. Those were the days when a murder file was kept in boxes, before computers and modern forensic science, including DNA testing.
“Overall, I had a pretty good success rate but there were ones that got away [with murder].”
Leibel says he still has his notebooks from those days, which he keeps in his basement, hoping one day to get a phone call, asking him to to testify about the cold case if it gets solved and goes to trial.
“One day, you hope for the call,” he said.
Keith Hildebrand, the commander of the Quesnel detachment until he retired last year, also finds it frustrating that he could never find the solution to the murder of Deena Braem, 16, who was last seen alive hitchhiking on Sept. 25, 1999. Her body was recovered three months later, on Dec. 10, northwest of Quesnel near Pinnacles Provincial Park.
Hildebrand said the unsolved murder file was already gathering dust when he arrived as detachment commander. He oversaw the Braem investigation and brought in detectives with the Surrey-based Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. They thoroughly went through the file and tried to find any tips that were not probed.
“We had some good leads but they ended in another dead end,” explained the 58-year-old retired officer, who now runs the community policing office in Quesnel.
“They are investigating tips,” he added about the state of the current investigation.
Hildebrand estimated that over the years, more than $1 million has been spent investigating Braem’s murder.
It was frustrating for him, when he retired in 2008, that the case remained unsolved.
“It bugs me the most of all my  years of service. It was like a loose end you leave behind,” Hildebrand said.
“Usually, when I took on a file, it had a good result to it,” he added.
“It was a frustrating investigation for everybody, including her parents,” he recalls. “It still bothers me.”
Asked if he believes a serial killer is operating along the highways of B.C.’s Interior, Hildebrand said he is uncertain.
“The evidence is that there is something,” he said. “Something unusual.”
‘They never leave you’
Retired Mountie Fred Bodnaruk, who was a staff-sergeant when he headed the investigations into the murders of Colleen MacMillan and Pamela Darlington in the early 1970s, admitted that even though he retired in 1977, he still thinks about the cases.
“They never leave you,” he said. “You dream about them, especially the ones you don’t solve.”
He always thought a serial killer could have been responsible for several “highway murders,” as they were called then.
At one time, Bodnaruk suspected U.S. serial killer Ted Bundy was responsible for Darlington’s murder.
The nude body of the 19-year-old was found at the edge of the Thompson River in 1973 with bite marks on her body — a Bundy trademark in some U.S. killings. But investigators concluded that although Bundy had been known to visit Canada, there was no evidence he was in the area at the time.
Bundy, a former Seattle resident, was caught and sentenced to death in Florida for three murders. Just before Bundy was executed in 1989, he confessed to committing more than 20 murders but investigators felt he was responsible for many more.
“Bundy didn’t confess anything until the end,” Bodnaruk said. “I felt police here should have gone down to talk to Bundy.”
Bodnaruk also compared notes “all the time” with Seattle detectives investigating the serial murder case known as the Green River killer. The man eventually caught, Gary Ridgway, pleaded guilty in 2003 to killing 48 women.
Now 78, Bodnaruk recently watched a TV documentary about a man named Wayne Clifford Boden and felt he might be a suspect. Boden was a travelling salesman who killed three women in Montreal before moving to Calgary, where he killed again and got caught in 1972.
He was known as the Vampire Killer because he left bite marks on all his victims, similar to Darlington.
The TV documentary detailed how Boden travelled through Kamloops to Vancouver.
Boden, however, was arrested in Calgary in 1972, convicted of four murders and died in prison in 2006.
Surrey private investigator Ray Michalko has been investigating the Highway of Tears cases on his own time since 2006.
“I was watching the news about the second anniversary of Tamara Chipman going missing [in 2005] and I complained to my wife that nobody seemed to be doing anything, and she said ‘You’re a PI, why don’t you do something’,” he recalled.
He started investigating the initial eight mysterious disappearances and murders along Highway 16. He estimates he spends up to 40 hours a month pursuing tips he receives by e-mail or on his toll-free line, which he publicizes using letters and posters, including some posted in federal prisons and provincial jails in B.C.
He said when he receives a paying job in the north, he stays a few days longer to do follow-up on the Highway of Tears tips.
Michalko, 62, a former North Vancouver Mountie, said there is no shortage of theories and rumours about who is behind the murders and disappearances.
Some say it’s a cop or a long-haul trucker preying on young girls walking along the highway alone, he said.
“I have seen no evidence of that,” Michalko said of the rumours. “There’s a million places to pull off and go undetected, but not in a tractor-trailer.”
One name popping up
He’s also been told that the girls were abducted and used in some sort of sex trafficking ring. Again, he discounts that theory because he has received no solid tips of it happening.
He initially believed there was a serial killer cruising the highway “but I don’t believe that now. But until you catch somebody, you don’t know.”
Despite “one name that keeps popping up” — he wouldn’t reveal the man’s name, other than to say he is linked to a community close to Prince George — there is little to link the unsolved cases together, other than the fact the girls and young women were last seen on the highway, many of them hitchhiking.
He now believes the murders were likely crimes of opportunity committed by various men living in the local communities where the tragedies took place or passing through those communities.
“That’s scarier than having a serial killer,” Michalko explained, adding it means more than a dozen men got away with murder and are still walking free.
60 people assigned
Currently there are 60 people, including retired homicide detectives working on contract, assigned to the Project E-Pana investigation, which is conducting homicide probes of 18 female victims along Interior highways.
Investigators descended last August on a piece of property in the Isle Pierre district west of Prince George looking for evidence related to the 2002 disappearance of Nicole Hoar, 25, who was from Red Deer and working as a tree planter when she was last seen hitchhiking near a gas station west of Prince George.
At the time of Hoar’s disappearance on June 21, 2002, the property searched by police was owned by Leland Switzer, a welder who told police in 2004 that the night Hoar disappeared he and a friend stopped and urinated near the Mohawk gas station — Hoar’s vanishing point.
Switzer told police about this because he said he didn’t know if police used a “fine tooth comb” to search the scene.
During his police statement, which was obtained by Global TV and provided to The Sun, Switzer provided the name of a friend and neighbour whom Switzer claimed had broken down crying when Switzer asked if he was responsible for all the “girls” going missing along Highway 16.
“My daughter heard a gun shot that night,” Switzer added. “When Nicole Hoar went missing, right?”
He said his wife and daughter were home that night but Switzer said he was at a dance and maintained 33 people saw him there.
Two days after Hoar’s disappearance, Switzer fatally shot and killed his older brother, Irvin Switzer, at his parents’ property, near his own home. He now is serving life for that murder.
Police confirmed last week that investigators seized a vehicle and other exhibits during the search related to Hoar. The exhibits now are being tested in the RCMP forensics lab.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Dec 7, 2009 6:34 pm US/Eastern
Unsolved Crimes In New Hampshire
The Associated Press,
(AP) Here are some examples of old criminal cases getting another look by New Hampshire’s new cold case unit:
Rita Roy — May 20, 1991 at 11:26 a.m., Manchester police responded to a call that a woman was being stabbed in a parking garage. They found Roy, 69, suffering from multiple stab wounds. She died at a nearby hospital. An extensive investigation produced no arrest.
Tammy Belanger — Nov. 13, 1984, Belanger, age 8, disappeared while walking to school in Exeter. A massive search and intensive investigation over the years failed to locate her.
Unidentified woman and three children — Nov. 10, 1985, a hunter discovered the remains of an adult woman, 23-33 years old, and a girl, 8-10 years old, inside a 55-gallon metal drum in woods near a trailer park in Allenstown. On May 9, 2000, two more victims were found in the same area, also in a metal drum. One was a child, 1-3 years old, and the other girl 4-8 years old. The children found in 2000 are related to the woman, and all four may be related. Police believe they were killed between 1977 and 1985. No cause of death has been released.
Pamela Webb — Webb, 32, of Winthrop, Maine, was reported missing July 1, 1989. She was last seen wearing a denim skirt, sweater and possibly moccasins. She was on her way to see her boyfriend in Mason, N.H., when she disappeared. Her 1981 blue pickup was found in the southbound lane of Interstate 95 in Biddeford, Maine. There were signs of a struggle near the truck. Her skeletal remains were found off Route 3 in Franconia, N.H., on July 18, 1989. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Luella Blakeslee — Blakeslee, a 29-year-old school teacher from Hooksett, was last seen alive July 4, 1969. Her skeletal remains were found May 9, 1998, in Hopkinton. Her death was ruled “homicidal violence of an undetermined type.” When her remains were found, suspicion focused on an acquaintance, Robert Breest, who later was convicted of the first-degree murder of another woman. Breest is in a Massachusetts prison. He remains a suspect in Blakeslee’s death.
I’ve made some updates to the map:
1. I added Patricia Scoville who was murdered in Stowe, Vermont. Vermont State Police recently used CODIS to make a DNA match and in April of 2005, they arrested Harold Godfrey, a 61-year-old Kirby man. He was convicted of aggravated murder and will spend the rest of his life in jail.
2. I updated the information on Pamela Brown. In February, 2009 police charged Theodor C. Caron, Jr., 47, of Barre, with Brown’s murder based on 27-year-old DNA evidence from the body of Brown, who had been seen with Caron the night before she was found dead, according to court documents released Feb, 2009:
In the same article Vermont police reveal they are aggressively pursuing the case of Angela Blouin who died near the Quebec border. Det. Sgt. Jason Letourneau has spent two and a half years probing the unsolved homicide of Angela Blouin, whose body was found on the side a Derby road in the spring of 1993.
And thanks again to Kim for pointing out this Wiki page on the Connecticut River Valley Killer. The page was created my Richard Egg in October so the information is very fresh (I’m just gonna post the whole thing here).
I have added Barbara Agnew to the map. The case is a little far South for my taste to be related to anything in Quebec, but in the off chance there is a connection this would be the entry point to link other cases in the Southern regions of VT, NH and ME.
There is A LOT of information out there on missing women in the North East. If this keeps up I may have to start an entirely separate WordPress blog to track everything:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Connecticut River Valley Killer|
Sketch of possible suspect
|Also known as:||Connecticut River Valley Serial Killer, Valley Killer, New Hampshire Serial Killer|
|Number of victims:||7+|
|Span of killings:||1978–1987 (speculated).|
|State(s):||New Hampshire, Vermont|
The “Connecticut River Valley Killer” refers to an unidentified serial killer believed responsible for a series of similar knife murders mostly in and around Claremont, New Hampshire, and the Connecticut River Valley, primarily in the 1980s.
In the mid 1980s, three young women disappeared from the Claremont, New Hampshire area. In 1985 and 1986, the skeletal remains of two of the vanished women were recovered within about a thousand feet of each other in a wooded area in Kelleyville, New Hampshire. The condition of the remains made the cause of death difficult to determine, but certain factors pointed to multiple stab wounds. Between the recovery of the first and second bodies, a 36-year old woman was stabbed to death in a frenzied attack inside her Saxtons River home. Ten days later, the remains of the third missing woman were found; postmortem examination revealed evidence of multiple stab wounds.
At this point, investigators began examining prior homicides in the area and found two previous cases, in 1978 and 1981, that further reinforced the presence of a burgeoning serial killer. At the peak of the investigation, and after additional homicides and one non-fatal attack, investigators noted similarities in M.O., oft-used dump sites, and specific wound patterns that linked many of the murders, suggesting a common perpetrator.
Seven homicides are commonly cited as being conclusively linked to the Connecticut River Valley killer.
On October 24, 1978, 26-year old Cathy Millican was photographing birds at the Chandler Brook Wetland Preserve in New London, New Hampshire. The next day, her body, with at least 29 stab wounds, was found yards away from where she was last seen.
On July 25, 1981, 25-year old Mary Elizabeth Critchley disappeared while hitchhiking. She was last spotted near Interstate 91 at the Massachusetts/Vermont border. Fifteen days later, her body was found on Stage Coach Road in Claremont. Her manner of death has not been disclosed.
16-year old nurse’s aide Bernice Courtemanche was last seen by her boyfriend’s mother in Claremont on May 30, 1984. She was thought to have set out to see her boyfriend inNewport by hitchhiking along Route 12. She did not reach her destination and was subsequently reported missing.
Two months later, on July 20, 1984, 27-year old Ellen Fried—supervising nurse at Valley Regional Hospital—made a late-night stop to use a payphone outside Leo’s Market in Claremont. Fried spoke with her sister for approximately an hour when she suddenly remarked on a strange car she’d observed driving back and forth in the vicinity. She stepped away from the phone briefly to make sure her car’s engine would start and then returned. After speaking for a few minutes longer, Fried concluded the call.
The next day, Fried failed to report to work and her car was found abandoned on Jarvis Road, a few miles away from Leo’s Market.
On July 10, 1985, 28-year old single mother Eva Morse was seen hitchhiking near the border of Claremont and Charlestown, New Hampshire, on Route 12. This is the last time anyone would see Morse alive, and she too was reported missing.
On September 19, 1985, the remains of Ellen Fried were found in a wooded area near the banks of the Sugar River in Kelleyville, New Hampshire. Postmortem examination revealed evidence of multiple stab wounds.
During the afternoon of April 15, 1986, 36-year old Lynda Moore was doing yard work outside her home in Saxtons River, Vermont, a short distance from I-91. That evening, her husband returned home to find his wife’s dead body, bearing multiple stab wounds. The crime scene suggested a fierce struggle had taken place.
Numerous witnesses reported having seen a slightly stocky, dark-haired man with a blue knapsack lingering near Moore’s home the day of the murder. The man was thought to be between 20 and 25 years old, clean shaven, with a somewhat round face, and wearing dark-rimmed glasses. The following year, a composite sketch was released.
Four days after Moore’s murder, a fisherman happened upon the remains of Bernice Courtemanche about one thousand yards from where Ellen Fried’s remains had been recovered. Forensic examination uncovered evidence of knife wounds to the neck and an injury to the head.
Six days later, the remains of Eva Morse were found by loggers about 500 feet from where Mary Elizabeth Critchley’s body had been discovered in 1981. Postmortem examination found evidence of knife wounds to Morse’s neck.
On January 10, 1987, 38-year old nurse Barbara Agnew was returning from a skiing outing with friends in Stratton, Vermont. That evening, a snowplow driver encountered her greenBMW at a northbound I-91 rest stop in Hartford, Vermont. The door was cracked and there was blood on the steering wheel. On March 28, 1987, Agnew’s body was found near an apple tree in Hartland. She had been stabbed to death.
There was a heavy snowstorm in the area during the night of Agnew’s disappearance, and she was a mere 10 miles from her home. Her reasons for pulling into the rest stop have been puzzling to investigators.
Jane Boroski attack
The killings remained unsolved and had apparently stopped when, late in the evening on August 6, 1988, 22-year old Jane Boroski, seven months pregnant, was returning from a county fair in Keene, New Hampshire when she stopped at a closed convenience store in West Swanzeyto purchase cola from a vending machine. Boroski returned to her car and began drinking the beverage when she took notice of a Jeep Wagoneerparked next to her. Via her rear-view mirror, Boroski then saw the driver of the vehicle walking around the back of her vehicle. He then approached her open window and asked her if the pay phone was working, at which time he immediately grabbed her and pulled her from the vehicle. Boroski struggled, and the man accused her of beating up his girlfriend and asked if she had Massachusetts plates on her car. Boroski responded that she had New Hampshire plates, but this did not deter her attacker, who proceeded to stab her 27 times before driving away and leaving her to die.
Boroski managed to return to her car and drive on Route 32 toward a friend’s house for help. As she neared the house, she noticed a vehicle driving in front of her and realized that it was her attacker. Boroski finally reached her friend’s home at which the occupants immediately came to her aid. Her attacker apparently performed a u-turn and slowly passed by the house as Boroski was tended to before speeding away into the night.
Boroski was treated at the hospital, where it was determined that the attack had resulted in a severed jugular vein, two collapsed lungs, a kidneylaceration, and severed tendons in her knees and thumb. Fortunately, Boroski’s baby survived, although not without complications; Boroski’s daughter would later be diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy.
Boroski was able to provide authorities with a composite sketch and the first three characters of the attacker’s license plate.
Despite two composite sketches, the formation of a task force, assistance from criminal profiler John Philpin, a handful of local suspects, and an Unsolved Mysteries segment concerning the murders (aired April 10, 1991), no arrests were made in the Connecticut River Valley killings and the case grew cold, as the killings ceased after the attack on Boroski.
In 1993, Scribner published a book, The Shadow of Death: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, by true crime author Philip E. Ginsburg. Both the Unsolved Mysteries segment and Ginsberg book featured substantial input by Philpin.
On May 20, 1984, 16-year old Heidi Martin went for a jog in Hartland, Vermont, on Martinsville Road. The next day, her body was found in a swampy area behind Hartland Elementary School. She had been raped and stabbed to death. 21-year old Delbert C. Tallman confessed to the crime and was tried; however, he later recanted his confession and was acquitted. Nearly three years later, Barbara Agnew’s body would be found approximately a mile from where Martin was discovered.
Tallman has resided in Bellows Falls, Springfield, and Windsor, Vermont as well as Claremont, New Hampshire, the locus of most of the Connecticut River Valley killings. He was convicted in 1996 on two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and is currently serving time in a Lake County, Florida prison for failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements.
Given the circumstances of Martin’s murder, and the dearth of information related to the arrest and trial of a suspect, some websites cite Martin’s death as unsolved and part of the Connecticut River Valley killings. There is, however, no evidence presently available to the public that Tallman was involved in any other cases.
In 2001, private investigator Lynn-Marie Carty was contacted by the mother of Michelle Marie Ashley, a Vermont woman who had been missing since December 1988, along with her two children. The woman hired Carty to gather information pertaining to the possible whereabouts of her daughter, as well as her two grandchildren, whom she believed to be in the company of Ashley’s common-law husband, Michael Andrew Nicholaou.
Michael Nicholaou was a Vietnam veteran who’d served as a helicopter pilot in the Army. Nicholaou had earned two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars before being charged in 1970, along with seven comrades, with strafing civilians while on a reconnaissance mission in the Mekong Delta. (Years later, military acquaintances would describe Nicholaou as having, on at least one occasion, abandoned his camp to seek hand-to-hand individual combat with the enemy, armed only with a knife, stating that he was going “hunting” for humans.) Murder and attempted murder charges were ultimately dropped, and Nicholaou returned home disgraced and bitter, subsequently filing suit against the US Army. During this time and throughout the remainder of his life, Nicholaou received treatment from the Veterans Administration for Posttraumatic stress disorder.
While living in Virginia, Nicholaou opened and operated a sex shop called The Pleasure Chest. The store was raided twice and he and his business partner were charged with selling obscene materials; in one instance, they were convicted, and in the other, there was a mistrial. At the time, Nicholaou remarked to the The Progress, “Evidently the police don’t have enough serious robberies, murders and rapes to occupy their time.”
It was in Virginia that Nicholaou met Michelle Ashley and soon after moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts, where the couple had two children, Nick and Joy.
Michelle’s family, who lived in New England, regarded Michael Nicholaou as strange and quiet. As his marriage to Michelle became more troubled, Michelle attempted to leave him, taking her two children with her. This prompted Nicholaou to pursue Michelle’s whereabouts, making contact with her family during this period. Michelle, who told family members that she feared for her life, eventually returned to Nicholaou, but expressed intentions to family to leave him for good. In December 1988, Michelle’s mother dropped by the home of Michael and Michelle to check on her daughter after weeks of no contact; she found spoiled food in the refrigerator, an abandoned baby book, and the apartment vacant. There was no trace of Michelle, Nicholaou, or the two children.
Shortly after being hired by Michelle’s mother in 2001, Carty was easily able to obtain Nicholaou’s contact information with some cursory Internet research. She called Nicholaou, who was living in Georgia, and he answered. Nicholaou initially asked how she had found him and denied knowing anything about the family’s whereabouts. Eventually, he stated that Michelle was a “slut” who had been doing drugs and ran off, abandoning the children. He stated that the children were fine, and Carty confirmed this by reaching Nick the following day, who tearfully described life with his combat-traumatized father, who had since remarried.
By 2005, Nicholaou’s second wife, Aileen, had also sought to escape him after he’d attacked her. On December 31 of that year, Nicholaou tracked down Aileen to her sister’s home in Tampa, Florida. Wearing a black suit and tie and carrying a guitar case filled with guns, Nicholaou led his wife and stepdaughter, 22-year old Taryn Bowman, into a bedroom while his sister-in-law fled to summon police. While awaiting for the arrival of the SWAT team, Nicholaou shot Aileen, Taryn, and himself. Aileen and Michael Nicholaou died at the scene; Taryn died at the hospital a short time later.
Carty read about the tragedy in the newspaper and was compelled to investigate Nicholaou’s past, as well as explore other New England crimes around the time of Michelle’s disappearance. It was then that Carty began reading about the Connecticut River Valley killings and suspected that Nicholaou could have been the perpetrator. Among many points of interest to Carty was that Michelle Ashley was a nurse, a profession shared with three of the Connecticut River Valley victims.
While Nicholaou’s residence in Holyoke was about 90 miles (140 km) from Claremont, Carty was able to determine that Michelle had relatives in the area, and a note in the abandoned baby book placed her in 1986 at the same Hanover, New Hampshire, hospital from which Barbara Agnew would disappear a year later. It was also determined that Michael Nicholaou owned a Jeep Wagoneer in the 1980s, which is consistent with the vehicle described by Jane Boroski.
Carty began communicating with Boroski shortly after Nicholaou’s murder-suicide (both were interviewed in a 2008 episode of THS Investigates: Serial Killers on the Loose that focused on the Connecticut River Valley killer). Carty shared her findings about Nicholaou with Boroski. Boroski was shown pictures of Michael Nicholaou and expressed that there was “some resemblance” between him and the man that attacked her. The culmination of Carty’s interactions with Boroski was that Boroski is now convinced that Michael Nicholaou was her attacker and, by extension, the Connecticut River Valley killer.
New Hampshire cold case detectives, in 2007, stated that they were in the process of examining surviving physical evidence, as well as Michael Nicholaou’s possible connection to the case. To date, no conclusions have been publicly announced, and Nicholaou has not been conclusively linked to the crimes of the Connecticut River Valley killer.
It’s worth noting that Nicholaou’s candidacy as a suspect is hampered by the fact that he appears to have been living in Virginia at the time of the Courtemanche, Fried, and Morse murders (reinforced by the date of his obscenity trial), and likely both up to and beyond that time. Furthermore, online sleuths have variously posited Nicholaou as being theColonial Parkway Killer, the Route 29 Stalker, the Blue Ridge Parkway Rapist, and the murderer of Julianne Williams and Lollie Winans at Shenandoah National Park . There is no physical or compelling circumstantial evidence presently available to the public which factually connects Nicholaou to any of the “Connecticut River Valley” cases or other case in VT or NH beyond his slight resemblance to some sketches.
Gary Westover’s deathbed confession
In October, 1997, a 46-year old Grafton, New Hampshire paraplegic named Gary Westover related to his uncle, retired Grafton sheriff’s deputy Howard Minnon, that he had a confession. Westover told Minnon that, in 1987, three buddies picked him up for what was described as a night of partying. Allegedly, they loaded Westover and his wheelchair into their van and set out to Vermont, where they abducted, murdered, and dumped 38-year old Barbara Agnew, who had long been considered a victim of the Connecticut River Valley killer.
Westover provided the names of the three friends and Minnon recorded them on a piece of scrap paper. Thereafter, Minnon shared Westover’s information with his wife, daughter, and law enforcement. Minnon felt, however, that authorities were not interested in his information. Westover died in March 1998, and Minnon died in 2006.
In August 2006, one of Westover’s aunts wrote Anne Agnew, sister of the victim, with the information originally given by Westover to Minnon. Agnew forwarded the letter to Carty, who ran the name of Michael Nicholaou by Westover’s aunt, who stated that the named “sounded familiar.” Carty believes that authorities are in possession of the names Westover provided to Minnon, and further speculated that Westover may have become acquainted with Nicholaou at an area Veterans Affairs hospital, although none of this has been confirmed and the Connecticut River Valley killings have not been solved.
Other possible victims
Joanne Dunham, 14, was sexually assaulted and strangled on June 11, 1968, in Charlestown, New Hampshire. Ginsberg cites Dunham as a Connecticut River Valley victim inShadow of Death, although this inclusion is primarily his own and is made on the basis of geographic proximity to the later crimes.
On October 5, 1982, 76-year old Sylvia Gray was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death in a wooded area, a few hundred yards from her Plainfield, New Hampshire home, a day after having been reported missing.
Sarah Hunter, 36, was employed as a golf pro in Manchester Center, Vermont. On September 19, 1986, her car was discovered parked at a gas station off Route 7A and she was subsequently reported missing. Two months later, her remains were stumbled upon in a brush at the edge of a cornfield in Pawlet, Vermont. She had been strangled. At the time, Hunter’s death was being reviewed by Vermont and New Hampshire authorities as being possibly connected to other unsolved homicides in the area.
38-year old Steven Hill was last seen on June 20, 1986 retrieving his paycheck from his Lebanon, New Hampshire employer. On July 15, Hill’s body was found with multiple stab wounds in Hartland, Vermont, across the Connecticut River from where Sylvia Gray’s body had been found four years prior.
On July 25, 1989, 14-year old Carrie Moss of New Boston, New Hampshire, left her parents’ home to visit friends in Goffstown and disappeared. Exactly two years later, on July 24, 1991, Moss’s skeletal remains were found in a wooded area in New Boston. While her cause of death could not be determined, she was thought to be the victim of a homicide.
Ok, the name’s a little weird, it sounds like the Feds are advocating for this… NEVERTHELESS, thanks to reader Kim for pointing this out to me; the FBI launched in April the Highway Serial Killing’s Initiative. Basically, they noticed a lot of unsolved murders along long-haul trucking routes and thought that maybe they should start mapping the cases using ViCAP:
ViCAP analysts have created a national matrix of more than 500 murder victims from along or near highways, as well as a list of some 200 potential suspects. Names of suspects—contributed by law enforcement agencies—are examined by analysts who develop timelines using a variety of reliable sources of information…
Bottom line: is the Highway Serial Killings initiative solving cases? Yes, it is. So far, at least 10 suspects believed responsible for some 30 homicides have been placed in custody…including a trucker arrested in Tennessee charged with four murders and a trucker charged with one murder in Massachusetts and another in New Jersey.
But what about the case that started it all—the series of murdered women being dumped along the Interstate 40 corridor in Oklahoma and three other states? Two people who were working together have been charged with some of the murders…and the investigation to tie them to others continues.
Let’s hope they turned their attention more aggressively to the American North East.