A discussion with Jo-Anne Wemmers, Professor at the School of Criminology of the Université de Montréal about her latest book, Victimology – A Canadian Perspective.
Jo-Anne has published widely in the areas of victimology, international criminal law and restorative justice. Her research interests focus on victims in the criminal justice system in the broadest possible sense. Former Secretary General of the World Society of Victimology, she is currently Editor of the International Review of Victimology and the Journal international de victimologie.
So the world’s up in arms again about the latest geographic transgression of Karla Homolka.
Yesterday the Montreal Gazette reported that the Canadian serial killer supervised kindergarten children from the Greaves Adventist Academy on a field trip in March and once brought her dog to the school for students to pet. Homolka’s three children attend the private school ( Karla volunteered at an N.D.G. elementary school ).
Like any parent I am outraged. Now tell me how you’d better handle the situation. It’s a private school. The school knew of her history. They apparently made the decision that everyone deserves a second chance. Their decision.
I well remember speaking with a British Columbia corrections administrator some years ago who talkedto about when a registered sex offender moved into her neighborhood. She baked a plate of cookies, and she and her daughter walked across the street to present them to the man:
“Hi, welcome to the neighborhood. My name’s Jane Smith, I work for the department of corrections,”
Translation: “Hi, “m Jane Smith, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.”
The point was very simple. Welcome, but I’ll be watching. Trust, but verify.
When my children were younger I used to spend time periodically probing the sex offender database to see who had moved into the neighborhood. I soon stopped because there were just too many coming and going, and I didn’t have that many cookies. Better to teach my kids how to be vigilant, and to NOT TRUST MEN. Harsh, I know, but why not cut to the chase.
On further consideration I might prefer having Leanne Teale – the name Homolka’s currently using – living in my neighborhood because having identified the threat, I could then mitigate the risk.
In all this bluster and bombast I fear people are missing a larger issue; Homolka’s threat might be real, and the warning signs are deeply woven int the fabric of Montreal’s history.
In choosing to live on Montreal’s south shore Homolka selected a community with a remarkably similar tragic history to that of Saint Catherines, Ontario, where Paul Bernardo and Homolka carried out the brutal murders of 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy and 15-year-old Kirsten French.
Jump forward to last spring and you get some idea of the true source of the community’s outrage. Remarkably, no news agency bothered to point out the “irony” of Homolka choosing this town. One reporter told me at the time that “they didn’t want to further traumatize people”, as if as a society we are incapable of having difficult discussions. When the media muzzles such conversations they do more damage than good, leaving communities no other resort but to sling shit at the towers in the social media circus (and the media have no qualms about stirring that shit pot).
And can Homolka moving to Chateauguay really be best summed up as “ironic”? Is it not possible that she deliberately chose this community because it was as familiar to her as Saint Catherines? A small suburban community, a history of tragedy with two young victims similar in age to Mahaffy and French, who physically resemble Mahaffy and French. Did Homolka learn of the tragedy while serving her time in Quebec prison? Inmates talk about such things. In short, did Homolka choose Chateauguay because it felt like home?
If you think the idea of an offender compelled to re-live the gruesome experiences of crimes the stuff of fiction consider this:
So I just wonder whether Homolka had specific intention when she chose to live in Chateauguy. If I were an investigative journalist? I’d want to check and see if corrections / parole assigned her to Chateauguy or if she chose it.
I’ve been thinking about my reasons for being so vested in these cases.
This is why:
I need to take a fresh look at my sister’s case. I’ve been gearing up for it for a while now, but I need to look at something similar from a fresh perspective first. I’m not ready for it yet (it takes 4 o’clock in the morning courage to look at your sister’s autopsy report… all of it drains you). Corresponding with folks on the Hannah Graham / Morgan Harrington / Jesse Matthew affair, sharing ideas, this all helps with the process.
It’s not like I need the attention. I surely don’t. I appreciate connecting with all you lovely folks in the States, but for my purposes, the people I need to engage with to solve a crime are all in Canada, more specifically in Quebec, and more directly most likely Francophones from the Eastern Townships.
My interest in Graham / Harrington / Matthew is all about the similarities (not connections, there are none) with Allore / Camirand / Dube:
1. Multiple victims / cold cases
2. “Town and Gown” environments / politics
3. Similar populations: Under 100,000, but they balloon when school commences.
4. Rough, wooded, mountainous surroundings.
5. Disappearances in the Fall.
6. Re. 5 above; hinderances with the coming snow, hinderances / opportunities with the coming of hunting season.
7. Seemingly high-risk victims who initially got blamed for their final circumstances.
Probably other reasons, I will leave some room for comment / input.
What’s not similar?
The French / English issue in Quebec, but this is easily substituted with the potential for a Black / White race issue in Virginia. And on this issue, I would offer this advice: If it comes down to this, always take the high ground. I have already heard some despicable comments in reference to Jesse Matthews. Don’t go there. He’s a suspect, that’s all. The first thing I did when I started my sister’s investigation was to learn French, so that card could never be played. You can’t change the color of your skin, but you can avoid being an ignorant fossil.
I feel so much love for the families of Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington. 3 weeks is a long time. 5 years is a long time. 36 years is a long time.
If this is true, and professionals are now being called in to redo the efforts of volunteer community members, it could be that areas previously searched will need to be searched again.
This kind of work is so difficult. I recall being involved in a search of a wooded area back in 2005. This was in a rural area of Quebec where the body of a victim was found in 1977, and where two hunters thought they spotted clothing matching the description of what my sister was wearing when she went missing back in 1978. Albeit the search took place over 25 years after the events, we had less than a couple of acres to cover of dense woodland (the Graham investigation has targeted an 8 mile radius around downtown Charlottesville). There were about 25 of us over the course of 2 days. We found a lot but to this day I feel we were searching too far West, and therefore in the wrong spot.
What we found: A shovel, a purse, remains of a woman’s shoe, some other things. We sent it all to a forensics lab in British Columbia (the same lab that processed the recovery site in the Robert Pickton case): the results came up empty: no DNA evidence or forensic ties on any of it.
In my recollection – and don’t be too harsh on me, I haven’t Googled this – these mass searches rarely come up with anything evidentiary (the one exception I recall is the Molly Bish case in MA). It’s usually very much like the discovery of Morgan Hartington’s remains:
Theresa Allore = a muskrat trapper
Theresa Allore’s wallet = a farmer on a tractor
Sharon Prior = a farmer
Louise Camirand = two hunters
Having said that, LE should not stop what they are doing. The case is still relatively fresh: keep looking, keep asking for help.
I have been asked this question by a number of posters. So here is my answer, with the following caveats:
1. I don’t pretend to know where Hannah Graham is. This is just my opinion. And judging on what I’ve seen so far? The police / FBI know what they are doing.
2. I am about to break the cardinal rule: Don’t chase suspects. Having said that, this is more about chasing – what we have been told is – evidence, not suspects. So I will avoid what I observe a lot of sleuthies are doing: trying to pin every missing persons case / unsolved murder on Jesse Matthew.
3. 15 years has gained me access to a lot of material; I have a library of over 1,000 photos of Quebec crime scene photos, I have pretty much exclusive access to Quebec cold-case files (no, you can’t know my source). I have frequently been asked for advice on cold cases (for better or worse). I sometimes “think” better than law enforcement on these matters… that is no-knock to law enforcement. As I said, I’ve got 35 years of experience.
4. And, one more time: I’m a dad. I couldn’t post about this until now because I was making dinner. But I think of these things because last night my eldest daughter was out at a concert until 12:30 AM: it’s hard not to think of these things.
So with that long introduction, here’s what I think about #HannahGraham / #MorganHarrington / #JesseMatthew:
1. I think police are targeting the right areas. I think Hannah Graham is West or South of Charlottesville. I believe this based on where Morgan Harrington was last seen and where she was found (that trajectory), where Matthew was born and recently lived, and because the North and East are more urbanized. Matthews has experience with the West (Harrington), and the the West and South are more rural. Also, for what ever reason, I have observed over time that predators tend to hunt near their living environment, and dump South. That’s not statistically significant, just something I’ve noticed in my experience.
2. Someone asked me – if we presume Matthew is responsible for the murder of Harrington and the disappearance of Graham – were the dump sites pre-meditated? Given those assumptions, I say No. If we take the account of Jesse Matthew’s assault on a driver to be true, he is very impulsive (consider the 1,300 mile run to Galveston). So, a guy who reacts, then figures out what he’s going to do later. No premeditation, though on the prowl. An opportunistic predator. Though I would say he’s learned from experience: impulsive in the heat of the moment, but over time, he’s learned to put contingencies in place.
I have met Detective Paul Krawczyk on two occasions; once when given a tour of the Toronto police’s major investigations unit, and once in Vancouver when the victims group, CAVA – for which I briefly served as a board member – was giving the entire Toronto child exploitation unit an award. He is a formidable and tenacious investigator. When so much about Toronto is an embarrassment, Krawczyck and the unit are things the city can truly be proud of.
And – because I grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick – I sadly also know Donnie Snook.
The Toronto Star has written an excellent profile of Krawczyk and his 22 month pursuit of the former Saint John Councillor who was arrested for sexual relations with a child and construction and possession of child pornography:
This issue extends – at the very least – as far back to the rape and murder of Jeanne Clery in 1986 in a campus residence hall at Lehigh University. The case lead to the establishment of the Clery Act which requires colleges and universities to annually disclose campus security policies and campus crime statistics. The Act is monitored by the U.S. Department of Education, and those institutions that fail to comply risk losing Federal student financial aid programs (yes, a VERY big deal).
It is no secret that in the Cleary era many schools have attempted to game the system by under-reporting campus crime stats (Jerry Sandusky / Penn State), and that is exactly the issue at UNC Chapel Hill, and why the stakes are so high in this matter. Do colleges fudge numbers? Of course they do. In my own personal experience, I don’t have to be a statistician to notice that a simple Google scan of newspaper archives for the words “Lennoxville” “sexual assault” “Campus” “Champlain college” will come up with exactly two hits; my sister’s case, and a case at Bishop’s college that police later claimed didn’t take place. 40 years, and exactly two incidents of sexual assault? That’s quite a record.
As a resident of Chapel Hill and 15-year proud employee with the City of Durham my first reaction was to weigh into the fray, even though that action might have caused me some personal trauma (I rarely discuss where I work on this blog). Fortunately I didn’t have to. In this morning’s Herald Sun the Durham Police Chief and Mayor did such a fine job of defending the Bull City that my actions and words are not neccessary. My observation – and this is supported with the hard data presented in the police chief’s crime report delivered to City Council on Monday, March 4th (a meeting at which I was present) – is that Part I Crime in Durham has been drastically reduced in the last 10-years while the population has doubled. This is thanks to a police force and a community that understands that a better quality of life is everybody’s business, and we all contribute to the solution. As Mayor Bell says, “are we satisfied? No I don’t think we will every be satisfied.”. But we are hopeful.
Two stories no one can hide from; Pistorius and The Sequester. Here are my thoughts on the former:
1. Innocent until proven guilty.
2. To the SteenKamp family: Patience… Justice is a slow, Fortune is a wheel.
3. Justice is also living up to my moniker of being “Blind and Dysfunctional”. Is it asking too much for the police not to go all to shit after a mere 2 weeks?
4. Ok, so Pistorius is out on bail, but he’s hardly living the life of Reilly. He’s stripped of all the freedoms he was accustomed to as a celebrity athlete. It may not be “just” according to some, but it is what the courts decided.
4. Whatever happened is a tragedy. It is unlikely that anyone will be satisfied with the legal outcome.
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