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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Toronto-area victim identified as Guang Hua Liu

The victim in the Toronto-area human remains case has been identified  as 41-year-old Guang Hua Liu of Scarborough Liu was last seen alive on Aug. 10 and was reported missing by friends the following day.

 

Bizarre and disturbing. The first set of remains were found near Hewick Meadows Park in Mississauga, not far from the Square One shopping mall. The second set of what appear to be human remains were found in a bag near Kennedy Road and BonisAvenue in Scarborough. That’s about a 30 minute drive using the 401 and 403.

Here’s the latest:

Peel Regional Police say they have identified Guang Hua Liu, 41, of Scarborough, as the victim.
Peel Regional Police say they have identified Guang Hua Liu, 41, of Scarborough, as the victim. (Toronto Police Service)

Peel Regional Police say the remains found in Mississauga and Toronto in recent days belong to a single mother who went missing earlier this month.

Insp. George Koekkoek named the victim as 41-year-old Guang Hua Liu of Scarborough during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Koekkoek said Liu was last seen alive on Aug. 10 and was reported missing by friends the following day.

Liu, a Canadian citizen of Chinese descent, was a single mother of three.

Until recently, Liu was employed as “the owner of a now-defunct spa” on Eglinton Avenue in Scarborough, Koekkoek said.

Koekkoek said police have executed search warrants in their investigation.

“We are working on suspect information,” he said.

The investigation that led to Liu’s identification began when a human foot was found in the Credit River in Mississauga’s Hewick Meadows Park last Wednesday. Further remains were found nearby.

On the weekend, Toronto police were alerted to the discovery of remains on back-to-back days in the West Highland Creek.

While police had previously said there were “obvious similarities” between the finds in both cities, Koekkoek said Tuesday that police had “forensically linked” the recovered remains.

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A severed head, a foot and two hands discovered in Mississauga, Ont., last week and human remains found in Toronto on the weekend, are likely from the same victim, police said Monday.

Police say they can’t be 100 per cent certain, but there are “obvious similarities.”

Forensic scientists will make the final determination but Peel Regional Police said Monday morning their investigators believe the gruesome discoveries in the nearby cities over the past week are from the same victim.

“It is fair to say that … somehow parts of a person’s body have been discovered in two different locations,” said Const. Peter Brandwood.

On Saturday and Sunday remains were found in a creek in Toronto’s east end.

On Monday Brandwood confirmed those remains are human.

“Those remains that were discovered in Toronto have now been confirmed to be identified as human remains. Investigators are convinced that there are obvious similarities between the body parts in our investigation here and the human body parts and the recovery of those human body parts in the Toronto jurisdiction,” he said.

 

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The Serial Killer Ate My Homework

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.

Israel Keyes

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.

It gets better. The article also notes that the cases of Maura Murray and Louise Chaput remain unsolved in New Hampshire. 

Celia Cass

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

Julie Surprenant’s father, Michel

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

Maura Murray

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.

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Did Brianna Maitland go to Montreal?

Brianna Maitland

In a 2011 television interview for, I believe, The Discovery Network, Brianna Maitland’s mother said that Brianna was a restless girl, eager to find her independence, and had indicated that she wanted get away from the rural confines of upstate Vermont and live in a big city like New York or Montreal.

So, did Brianna Maitland – missing since 2004 – run away to Montreal? Certainly it would be easy to slip away over the Quebec border unnoticed. A recent Montreal Gazette article marks the closing of the Stanstead – Derby Line border crossing, the last unstaffed crossing, where criminals have been going back-and-forth for decades. Note that Stanstead is less than an hour from where Brianna was last seen in Montgomery, Vermont. When I was a kid, I attended hockey camp in Stanstead and I well remember walking back and forth across the border to get American candy bars; no-one every stopped you.

Still, although the Quebec police at one time were investigating the possibility that Brianna was in Montreal (I know because I asked them, and they confirmed it… and then later Brianna’s father, Bruce told me  he was working with Quebec Police) I think it is highly doubtful that Montreal was her destination the night of March 19, 2004. I think what’s been the biggest problem since the beginning of this case is too many silly leads that have distracted the investigation. Investigators lost valuable time trying to establish or discredit a link to the Maura Murray disappearance. In 2006, an affidavit surfaced from a young woman claiming that Brianna’s body was dismembered, and the remains scattered at a Vermont pig farm (note that in 2006, the Robert Pickton trail was in full swing in British Columbia: pig mania was everywhere). I have even heard the stories about Brianna being sacrificed by local teens in a devil worshipping ceremony. Then there was the runaway angle (she’s in Montreal, no she’s in New York, no she’s in Atlantic City).

This kind of fear-culture hysteria is not uncommon, My family experienced it ourselves in the 5 months in which Theresa was missing. Here’s the litany of time-wasters we had to endure:

– She was in Montreal, or Florida, or “out West”.

– She committed suicide.

– She had a baby and was living in a convent.

– She was a lesbian and was so ashamed that she ran away to… a convent.

– The Hells Angels got her.

– Her friends killed her. No wait… her friends did drugs with her, THEN killed her. 

– She was strapped to a bed for five months before finally being allowed to die.

Sound familiar? 

Brianna’s mother describes her daughter as being fearless, trustful of others, she saw the good in everyone. she wanted to be independent, to try new things, she experimented with life, used drugs recreationally, extremely beautiful and attractive, wanted attention, wanted to be loved. Could give as good as she could get (took martial arts), if confronted she would put up a fight.

When I hear that description I hear my mother describing Theresa. They are the same women. And women like that court danger, and sometimes danger stalks them.

When Theresa was eventually found – she wasn’t where any of the “experts” said she was. Her body was less than a mile from where she lived.  Eight years later, I believe investigators need to go back to square one with Brianna. I believe in Occam’s Razor. I believe in the compelling principle of simplicity, especially when it comes to criminals and their behavior. Can people keep a secret after eight years? If they can after thirty-four, they definitely can keep their mouths’ shut for eight. Especially if you refuse to apply any pressure. I would DEFINITELY take a trip to Jamaica / Queens and speak again to Ramon Ryans and Low Jackson (I have every confidence Bruce Maitland has tried to, the police need to). Don’t wait for the forensic results from that skull found in Danby last winter. Trust me, it’s not her. Your answers lie right in Montgomery, and with the people who were in Montgomery, March 19, 2004.

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10 Years Later – Who Killed Theresa?

 

Ten years ago today we posed a question to Canadians through the medium of its national newspaper, The National Post: Who killed my sister, Theresa Allore? The point of those series of articles – written by Patricia Pearson, and featured on the front page of the paper over three consecutive days, August 10th weekend, 2002 – was not only to find an answer to that question, but to suggest that many things – while perhaps not killing Theresa – but certainly many things led to her disappearance and murder, and then later hindered a proper investigation, leaving the case unsolved to this day. The police, legal and justice systems in Quebec “killed Theresa”. The education system in Quebec “killed Theresa”. We killed Theresa because we failed her when she needed us most. Just as we killed Isabelle Bolduc, Julie Bosivenu, Julie Surprenant, Marilyn Bergeron, and on and on and on.

So here are some thoughts on those articles written ten years ago. You can find the original articles here (in English and French). If you need a primer on the case I started a Wikipedia page on it here . Also, if you’re more visual, CTV’s W-5 did an hour on the story in 2005 I believe, and you can find the video here. (I no longer like to talk to directly about the murders; it disturbs me).

 So, how did it come to be that this case got dragged out of obscurity and placed on the front page of a national newspaper? Well, I knew the writer, Patricia Pearson quite well. She was my first girlfriend in high School. We later attended university together in Toronto, so we were very close and she had lived through the death of my sister. I remember I had been visiting my parents in Saint John, New Brunswick, this would have been about a year before the articles were published, and I was thinking about re-investigating the case, and about several media avenues where to present it. I was on a plane and there was a copy of The Post. Patricia had written this funny little piece on shaving cream warmers. Remember those little devises you could stick on the top of a shaving cream can to warm the stuff before it went on your face? Stupid, right? Well she thought so too, and she wrote this piece about it. I remember thinking, that Patricia might be a good choice to do the story. I wouldn’t have to do a lot of back filling about how nutty my family was because of Theresa’s death; she had lived through that. And, she had covered the Holmolka – Bernardo case in Toronto, so she had that “going” for her.

She was not however my first choice. My first choice was Malcolm Gladwell. The Tipping Point had just been released, and Malcolm was another friend with whom I’d gone to college. (I went to school at Trinity College, University of Toronto… pretty tony. I would routinely breakfast, lunch and dine with Patricia, Malcolm, Atom Egoyan, Andy Coyne, Kate Zernike, Bruce Headlam, Pam Mackinnon, and on and on and on… (and no, don’t ask me what the hell I was doing there)). Anyway, Malcolm turned me down. He had been in the States too long and felt ill equipt to do an investigative piece on a Canadian murder, let alone what that involved sticking his nose in the politics of Quebec.

In the days before the story went to press, Patricia was out of town, she was up north at her cottage in Peterborough, so that left me to work out the final details with the Post’s editors. I really can’t remember who came up with the title Who Killed Theresa?  Normally that sort of thing isn’t provided by the writer, an editor contributes that, but I believe in this case it was in fact Patricia. Anyway, it stuck. I do remember in the final days they came to me with the bi-line for the final installment, “Pattern Points to a Serial Killer”. They were quite concerned that this might be a bit too sensational, that it might upset my family too much. I thought it just fine; if it brought readers to the paper, the more the merrier.

The key to the stories was getting the endorsement of Kim Rossmo, the now famous geographic profiler who broke the case of Robert Pickton and the missing women from Vancouver’s downtown Eastside. Without Rossmo, the story would have been simply an antique love letter full of pain and regret. Rossmo suggested that someone could have been responsible for three unsolved murders, and that even after 25 years the cases were still solvable, if the Surete du Quebec would simple show some initiative and do their jobs. Patricia and I were two amateur sleuths, but with Rossmo’s buy-in we had to be taken seriously; it was like having Sherlock Holmes the guest star on The New Scooby-Do Movies.

When those stories broke, they did and did not have a profound impact on the case. Initially I received a lot of response from friends. August is the time to relax and go to the cottage. I had friends at their places in the Muskokas or the Eastern Townships and they were just trying to get away and do a little light reader, then they had this murder mystery thrown at them where they knew the main players.

It did cause a stir, but it played best in Upper Canada and points west (people love to point at shit in other people’s’ yards), in Quebec it did very little. It would take years more work, me having to learn the French language and then courting the French media before the story met with deserved outrage in the Quebec papers.

I trace the emergence of vicitms advocacy in the arena of homicide like this in Quebec:  Marcel Bolduc laid the foundation, myself, Michel Surprenant and Pierre Hugues Boisvenu converged at just the right time in a perfect storm of victim outrage. Pierre took the torch and ran with it. There is always room for improvement, but looking back, the relationship between the police and victims advocates has never been better in Quebec.

So ten years later… where are we? Patricia is still in Toronto, we email from time to time. Pierre Hugues Boisvenu is of course in the Senate (don’t be too hard on Pierre… some say he’s sold out, but Pierre keeps his cards close to the vest. He always has a plan, he will have the last laugh). Kim Rossmo is using crime mapping to make sure soldiers don’t get hurt in Afganistan; is there a better use of his talents? The last time we communicated Clifford Olsen had contacted him claiming responsibility for my sister’s death (Olsen always was a blowhard, and completely full of it). Kim and I are Facebook “friends”, but WTF am I supposed to say to him, “Hey Kim!,I like your new profile picture! LMFAO!”

So where are we? Well I think if we had had a man like André Noël at the helm we might have gotten some answers. Ten years later…almost thirty-four years later, I still don’t know who killed Theresa. Though I’m pretty confident I know where to find the answers. The National Post stories made the locus all of Canada (and over the years I have been urged to promote the case on America’s Most Wanted: pointless, trust me).  We slowly moved the focus to Quebec, then narrowed the focus to Sherbrooke and the Eastern Townships. Now bring that focus still closer. Go to the town of Compton, Quebec where Theresa’s body was found (population 3,000). So, 3,000 people… maybe 1,000 households. Knock on each one of those doors and ask them, “do you know who killed Theresa?”.  You’ll get your answer.

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Public Nut Cases

Some of you know Mary Diwell as the opinionated voice on the Russell Williams’ posts. While others were inclined to play super-sleuths, Mary has been quite critical of the “looky loo” mentality; expressing that we should all wake up and get a life.

I struck up a friendship with Mary because I saw the merit in her argument. While biding my time here at WKT? I often post about other cases, and I often get caught up in them. But like Mary, I really believe that this is a warped obsession. In passing a car crush it is oftentimes hard to avert our eyes, but lest we gaze too long it is always good to heed the words of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche:

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.
And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

I do not wish to be a hypocrite. I have many times watched “Unsolved Mysteries”, CSI. and any number of Discovery Channel forensic dissections that are lurid and fascinating. But I would emphasize that all my car-crash gawking came LONG BEFORE I had an inkling that my sister was a victim of murder. When that horrific reality took hold I abandoned television altogether, and became addicted to facts. To anyone who derives pleasure from unsolved crimes, a word of caution: unless you have been touched with such tragedy, go back to enjoying your lives… you have no business here.

As you might have now guessed, I have invited Mary Diwell to post some comments here about our public obsession with horror, tragedy and violence. Here is her piece. Thank you Mary:

“The recent arrest of Colonel Russell Williams on sexually motivated murder charges brings to mind the notion of those who derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others. In this case, a voracious media and ignorant on-line commentators have had a field day.

Surely this is a human tragedy for all concerned – firstly for the victims and their families but also for the colonel and his family particularly his wife. However, what do we see? A media attributing every rape and murder in Canada to the colonel and a public baying for the blood of both them. Particularly disturbing to me is the fury over the defence of property transfers in order to financially protect Ms. Harriman. Woman who probably call themselves feminists are baying for this woman’s blood – supposedly in support of the women who were the colonel’s victims.

We all should be silent in pity for those who are victims of violent crime. The pain of their families can only be imagined by those of us who have no experience of such horror and special concern should be for the families for whom there is no closure because the killer has never been found. The anguish is there forever.

And then there is the hypocrisy in the case of Colonel Williams. The media was ever so quiet and respectful when the bodies of three teenage girls and an older woman were pulled from the Rideau Canal last summer – murdered by their own family. Political correctness demanded a muted response to such barbarism because it was a “cultural” matter. The colonel and his wife have no such excuse. Its been open season on them.

The sometimes tragedy of the human condition should be considered by all those who pass judgement on others and a humble respect given in its place.”

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The Lost Girls of Rocky Mount

GQ’s a day late and a dollar short on this one. (well, 9 months at least to be precise)

What you will: They certainly know how to package a story:

The elderly black woman sits on her couch and rummages through a cardboard box until she finds the newspaper article—raggedy and faded like the town of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where her daughter Melody spent her final years. The headline reads, POLICE SEEK MORE CLUES IN MURDER.

“That’s what Melody’s son used to ask me all the time,” says the woman. Her weary voice assumes the pitch of a little boy: ” ‘Grandma, have they found out who did it to my mama?'”

And then she mimics a grandmother’s loving cadence: “I’d say, ‘Not yet. But the Lord knows who did it.'”

She falls silent. Then the woman points to a large photograph propped against the wall of her modest home. Below her grandson’s name and grinning face are the dates “October 15, 1997-November 15, 2008.” A tornado had engulfed their house that November night while she and her husband and her murdered daughter Melody’s son were all asleep. She remembers how the astonishing white light made her gasp, “Jesus…” Then she remembers her grandson flying away from her, as her daughter had three years earlier.

“Now he’s up there with her,” the grandmother murmurs as she looks down at the newspaper clipping on her lap. “Now he knows, too.”

The farmer who discovered the second body found off Seven Bridges Road, a few miles north of Rocky Mount, had been taking down his electric fence, and what drew him to the tree stump was a foreign odor. He initially mistook the carcass in the woods for that of a rotting deer. But then he saw the hands raised above the small round skull, as if waving for help. The skeletonized woman lay facedown, naked. Maggots and beetles dug into what was left of her leathery flesh.

When Corneta Battle saw the news that day in March 2008, she knew that her prayers—Lord, you’ve got to show me where my sister is. Let me dream it. Let me see it—had finally been answered. Corneta called the authorities. They asked her to swab her mother’s mouth for DNA. After the tests came back indicating a 99.9 percent probability of kinship, the police showed Corneta the photographs taken out at Seven Bridges Road. Corneta Battle looked at them and nodded silently. Though there was almost nothing left of her sister, she still recognized Ernestine.

For almost six weeks, Ernestine Battle had been missing. It was well known that she walked the streets of Rocky Mount all night, selling her body to support her crack habit, that she had stopped taking care of her two young children, that she had been in and out of jail for the past nine years on drug- and prostitution-related charges, that when her family gave her food, she would trade it on the streets for a rock of cocaine. Her disappearance was nonetheless alarming for two reasons. The first was that Ernestine, no matter how strung out, always managed to stay in touch with her family. The second was that in the past five years, several other African-American women who wandered the streets of Rocky Mount at night had never been seen alive again.

Among the disappeared, Ernestine had known Nikki Thorpe best. Nikki lived down the street from her. And on her way to the park to score some drugs, Ernestine would wave to Nikki’s mother sitting on the porch drinking a Pepsi and call out, “Hey, Miss Jackie! Nikki there?” Or “C’mon, Miss Jackie, I know you’ve got another cold Pepsi.” As with Ernestine—who once had a respectable job with the cable company and took pains to do herself up, almost like a fashion model—there had been something to Nikki before all this. Nikki grew up playing football with the boys in the projects on Stokes Street. She’d been a cheerleader in high school. She wrote poetry and spent entire evenings at the O 64 Bingo Parlor. Nikki’s talent for braiding hair was highly regarded by the crack dealers, who sometimes gave her a rock in exchange for a hair job instead of a blow job.

Then, in the summer of 2007, Nikki’s became the first body left to rot away alongside Seven Bridges Road. So little remained of her, or of Ernestine the following year, that the pathologists who examined the corpses could not determine a cause of death. All that could be said with certainty was that the Rocky Mount women had died far from home—like Denise Williams, whose bloated body was discovered floating in a swamp southeast of town in 2003; like Melody Wiggins, found in the woods in May 2005; and perhaps like Christine Boone and Joyce Renee Durham, who in 2006 and 2007, respectively, simply vanished from the streets.

Someone was apparently taking drug-addicted black women from the drab streets of Rocky Mount—women who were not well connected or captivating to the media—and ending their sad lives and gambling that it would not matter.

Six years running, someone’s bet was paying off.

The cabbie believed that the someone was like him. Someone who knew the girls. Someone they would feel comfortable with. Let their guard down with. Jump in a car with, no problem.

He’d been driving these girls—Nikki, Ernestine, Denise, pretty much all of them—for years. Sometimes the cabbie (who asked not to be named) would drop them off at one of the grubby motels on Highway 301, where a john had bought them a room and where they’d turn tricks and smoke crack till checkout time. Then the cabbie would get a call on his cell and pick them up. In their state of dubious afterglow, he would see them strung out beyond comprehension, bruised and cut up, their clothes reeking from having been worn days in a row. Oftentimes they had no money despite their long evening of work, and the cabbie would give them a few bucks or drop them off at a church where they could get a hot meal.

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Remains of Tiffany Morrison ID’d

Lack of media coverage indeed; I’d never heard of this case:

Human remains found in an aboriginal community south of Montreal on Tuesday have been identified as those of a woman missing since 2006.

The bones have been identified as those of Tiffany Morrison, 25, from the Kahnawake reserve, officials with the local police force confirmed on Friday.

The remains were found by a construction worker in a wooded area near the Mercier Bridge, which links Montreal to the South Shore region, said Warren White, an investigator with the Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers.

The bones had been covered with some branches, White said.

Morrison was reportedly last seen in a taxi with a man on the Kahnawake reserve, southwest of Montreal, on June 18, 2006.

Morrison’s family had been critical of what it said was a lack of media coverage of her disappearance.

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Former suspect in Natalee Holloway case wanted in Peruvian murder case

CNN) — Joran van der Sloot, the Dutch man once considered a suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, is the suspect in the killing of a woman in Peru, Peruvian police officials said Wednesday.

There is “incriminating evidence” linking van der Sloot to the killing of 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramirez, who was found dead in a Lima hotel room Wednesday, Cesar Guardia Vasquez, of the criminal investigations unit said at a news conference.
The hotel room where Flores was found was registered in van der Sloot’s name, he said.

A hotel guest and an employee witnessed the pair entering the hotel room together at 5 a.m. on Sunday, Guardia said.
Police have video of the previous night, May 29, of van der Sloot and Flores together at the Atlantic City Casino in Lima, he said.

According to immigration officials, van der Sloot fled to Chile over land on Monday, Guardia said.

“We have all the evidence to show that the killer is this man,” the victim’s father, businessman and race-car driver Ricardo Flores told CNN en Español.

But van der Sloot’s attorney, Joseph Tacopino, told CNN it was too early to make any conclusions.

“If history teaches us any lesson from van der Sloot/Holloway case, it’s that there have been way too many false facts that have been leaked and rumors that have been proven untrue,” Tacopino said. “We need to take a step back. I have not been contacted and the family has not been contacted. Joran has not been asked by anyone to surrender.”

Ricardo Flores said that police found his daughter’s car about 50 blocks from the hotel, and that inside, they found pills like those used in date rape cases.

Similar to the Holloway case, van der Sloot allegedly met at a night spot, in this case, a casino. Ricardo Flores said he did not believe that his daughter knew the Dutch citizen from before.

Both of them speak English, and at the casino they struck up conversation, he said.

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Human remains found near Mercier bridge (thanks Anon)

Kahnawake Peacekeepers are investigating human remains discovered Monday afternoon near the Mercier Bridge.

A construction worker found bones and a skull on the south shore, between routes 138 and 132.

The remains were hidden underneath saplings and branches, leading police to declare the area a crime scene.

A forensics investigator is examining the remains, and trying to determine whether they belong to a man or a woman, and the approximate age of the person.

Police hope that preliminary results will be available as of Thursday.

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