Hey what ever happened with the Stephanie Bennett Investigation?
Every spring WRAL rolls out a piece on this, then we have to wait another twelve months to learn the police still don't have any leads.
Pain Endures For Stephanie Bennett's Parents
Bennett Found Dead In Raleigh Apartment; Police Still Looking For Leads
ROCKY MOUNT, Va. -- For two long years, the parents of a murdered North Raleigh woman have waited for answers. They want to know who did this and why. The pain is almost too much to bear, but they continue to talk about it, to keep her memory alive and to keep her murder investigation open.
Two years ago, Stephanie Bennett was raped and murdered in her north Raleigh apartment. Police have followed up on hundreds of leads, but those leads have not panned out. Despite those setbacks, her parents hold on to hope that her killer will soon be caught
The parents of Stephanie Bennett remember their daughter with a smile that would not quit, a heart that gave freely and a special love for tulips. In May 2002, she was raped and murdered in her North Raleigh apartment. No one has ever been arrested for the crime.
"It just tears the deepest hole in your heart that you've ever hard torn in your heart before. It's a hole that will never be filled," said Mollie Hodges, Stephanie's mother.
"It's just a very, tough situation to be in, and one that you never dreamed you would be in this situation," said Carmon Bennett, Stephanie's father.
"Just to lose your child, it's just unexplainable," Hodges said.
The crime is also unexplainable to Raleigh police who, despite hundreds of leads, have not been able to find the killer. Lt. Chris Morgan has been on the case since day one.
"Just to lose your child, it's just unexplainable."
- Mollie Hodges, Stephanie Bennett's mother
"It just tears the deepest hole in your heart that you've ever had torn in your heart before. It's a hole that will never be filled," said Mollie Hodges, Stephanie's mother.
Stephanie Bennett would have been 25 years old this month. Instead of sending her daughter flowers, her mother is making an arrangement to put at her gravesite.
"There won't be any telephone calls saying, 'Happy Birthday, Stephanie,'" Hodges said. "No presents, no birthday cake, no party -- all I'll get to do is go visit her grave and wish her a happy birthday."
Bennett's parents find comfort in family and friends, but there will be no true comfort until her killer is behind bars.
"She was so undeserving of this. She had her life in front of her and tragically taken away for someone's sickness," Carmon Bennett said.
Last year, Bennett's father offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the suspect. It generated hundreds of tips, but none of them panned out. Despite the amount of time that has passed, Bennett's parents remain convinced her killer will be caught.
Anyone who might have any information regarding this murder should contact the Major Crimes Task Force at (919) 890-3555 or Crime Stoppers at (919) 266-CRIME(27463).
Who Killed Theresa?
Ce blogue est une investigation de le meurtre de ma soeur, Theresa Allore. Il y a 30 ans Theresa est mort aux secteurs de Compton, Sherbrooke et Lennoxville, Québec.
Life isn't fair, Justice is blind... and dysfunctional, and some cops aren't smart and dedicated like on tv.
Si vous avez information contact Sue Sutherland: CP 45 Succursale Lennoxville, Sherbrooke J1M 1Z3,Canada:firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 514-264-7830
Friday, April 30, 2004
Hey what ever happened with the Stephanie Bennett Investigation?
Thursday, April 29, 2004
A fair analysis from Don Macpherson in the Gazette on the Marc Bellemare resignation:
Bellemare's resignation will also hurt the cause of victims' rights, by depriving it of its advocate at the cabinet table where the real decisions to make or change laws are made. He will enjoy more freedom on the outside, but less influence.
Translation: we've been reamed again! Macpherson notes,
As Denis Lessard of La Presse pointed out yesterday, by making sure to resign a couple of days before he had served a full year as a minister, the "man of principle" will be able to hire himself out immediately as a paid lobbyist, instead of having to wait two years.
I guess it's always important to look out for number one.
Don't look for much relief from interim replacement, Jacques Dupuis who is already stretched too thin multi-tasking as government house leader in the Assembly AND minister for the reform of democratic institutions -
Sure, I can work three jobs at once!
Get a number and take a seat; you're gonna' be here for a while.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
I think I'll wait a day before I address the resignation of Quebec Justice Minister and victims rights activist, Marc Bellemare less than a year into his post with the Charest Cabinet.
I find Newsweek's My Turn column to be hit-and-miss. The weekly one-pager gives ordinary joes a chance to offer up their two-cents on pet topics ranging from the fascinating (overworked EMS employees) to the mundane (how to raise my son in a post-911 world order - yawn!). I think an all time low - and therefore one of my favorites - came from the psychic, Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, who claimed all she wanted was to be anonymous, then used the column to publicize her new book!
This week's submission entitled Why Revenge Isn't The Right Answer by Los Angeles cop, Sunil Dutta is not to be missed. As a boy growing up in India, Dutta witnessed attrocities in the aftermath of the 1947 division of India and Pakistan. In the piece he gives an informed lesson on the futility of vengeance and retribution. The climax of the article comes in Dutta's meeting with a granduncle who remained unrepentant of the slaughter of Pakistani Muslims. My favorite section:
For a long time after our meeting, I thought about how easily victims of crime can lose their moral bearings and turn into criminals themselves. As a police officer, I know how often we focus on punishing the guilty while leaving the victims to suffer alone with no support. Perhaps that is one reason the cycle of violence continues.
Fine words. I wish I had said them. Dutta ends by saying, "Only forgiveness and compassion can put an end to violence."
Let's leave it at that.
Monday, April 26, 2004
I'm slumming today. Go read Small Dead Animals. Kate always has something funny to say.
Friday, April 23, 2004
"I really don't get what all the fuss is about"
So said PETA's director of vegan marketing campaigns, Bruce Friedrich, in response to the organization pulling billboard ads depicting images of a young woman and a "smiling" pig with the slogan "Neither of us is meat" from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
You don't get the fuss? The remains of 22 women were discovered at the Pickton farm outside Vancouver, some of these woman most likely ended up in pork products manufactured at the Pickton farm.
Mr. Friedrich - you don't see this as a tad insensitive to the victims?...
Thursday, April 22, 2004
I hear you are singing a song of the past
Someone asked me if my sister and I were close. I don't know. I can't remember. She died when I was fourteen. She's been dead twenty-five years; which means I've had a longer relationship with her dead than alive.
We are close now. But most of what I have to go on is a mish-mash of old photographs, home movies, fantasies, memories, selective memories, false memories.
I like to think we were close in that I'm a lot like her. She was very adventurous. Of course a lot of what I'm like may be a product of me having co-opted her life and tried to live it in some form of pseudo-tribute to her, which she would have found pathetic. So it goes.
How did she die? She was most likely picked up hitch-hiking and strangled to death with her scarf. I've heard that it possibly didn't get that far - she might have been frightened to death before anything happened, and that's an image that I don't like to dwell on.
It's not horrible, it's just what happened. It was a long time ago. I don't carry a lot of reverence for the dead. Don't respect it, learn from it.
Judging from the lack of progress in victims rights over the past 25 years this is something that evidently has not been done.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
I don't talk a lot about my sister here. It's not like I don't have something to say about her. I'm the youngest, so sometimes I feel like I'm the least qualified to address the subject. My brother remembers her better. My parents definitely knew her better. So I'm not much of an expert on her.
There is this other thing. I don't want you to think I'm hung up on her (me? never!) in the sense that I think she was the most special person in the world. She wasn't. She's special to me. But then everyone's lost someone like that, so you know what I mean when I say I miss those things she contributed to my life.
So I was thinking about her hair. She colored it and cut it quite often. I think her natural color was auburn. Just before she died, she got this awful perm, she looked like a french poodle. What a way to go out, with hair like that.
I've got a picture of her on my desk. She's got a great smile. I also have a picture of the place where her body was found. I took it last winter. It's desolate. The trees are without leaves. The water is frozen over. The corn husks in the field are cut down to stubble. I can't make up my mind if its the ugliest or most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Wow. This one was news to me. You hear about these guys with cellar dungeons in the States... I thought Canada was supposed to be such a warm-and-fuzzy place?
Rapist on trial. Key witness faces abductor 8 years later
April 20, 2004
Convicted child rapist Marc Dutroux told a victim rescued from his cellar dungeon after being locked up for 80 days that he bore full responsibility for her ordeal but that he never considered killing her.
Sabine Dardenne, now 20, a key witness at the rape and murder trial, came face to face with Dutroux for the first time since her kidnapping. Dutroux is standing trial for the kidnapping and sexual abuse of six girls, four of whom died.
"Why did you not kill me?" Dardenne asked at the end of her testimony.
Dutroux answered he never considered it. He did admit abusing her and said, "I bear the full responsibility for that."
Dardenne says she saw only Dutroux during her kidnapping and lawyers say her testimony dispels theories that he was part of a pedophile network.
Dardenne was rescued along with another victim, Laetitia Delhez, from the secret cellar two days after Dutroux, his wife and a third defendant were arrested in August 1996. Delhez, now 22, was kidnapped just a week before being freed and will testify today.
Two 8-year-old victims - Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo - are thought to have starved to death in Dutroux's basement in 1996 while he was in jail for four months for a car theft and his wife neglected to feed the girls. Two others - Eefje Lambrecks, 19, and An Marchal, 17 - were also killed in 1996. Their bodies were unearthed from Dutroux's yard.
Lawyers lauded Dardenne's courage during the hour-long testimony.
"She was a bit timid at first. We have to thank court president Stephane Goux for questioning her like a good father would question his daughter," said Dardenne's lawyer Jean-Philippe Riviere. "I was happy to see she turned around in her chair to look Dutroux in the face and ask him for explanation."
Delhez's lawyer, Jan Fermon, said his client will be just as tough today. "Two girls who survived hell and live to tell the story shows great courage," he said.
Pol Marchal, An's father, was so shaken by Dardenne's testimony that he had to be taken out on a stretcher and to hospital for observation. "He doesn't feel right and we will do some tests," said his wife, Betty.
The mother of Delhez was also taken out of the courtroom, overcome by emotion.
Dutroux, a convicted pedophile on parole at the time of the abductions in 1995 and 1996, has admitted kidnapping girls, but claims he was working for a criminal network recruiting prostitutes.
Monday, April 19, 2004
Big Mouth to Blow Hard at Victims Conference
I keep forgetting to mention this: someone thought it a good idea to invite me to speak at a victims conference in Vancouver. Aparently British Columbia's Police Victim Services felt sorry for me after being snubbed by Justice Canada's National Victims Conference (you know, that victims conference back in November where no victims were invited to the party). I hope they know what they're getting into. I'm supposed to talk about Theresa's case, but maybe I'll spend the entire hour-and-a-half discussing those PETA billboards...
Oh well, it's a free trip to Vancouver. If you're in town, come see me; we can dish about this-and-that. Here are the details:
MONTREAL – John Allore - the brother of Theresa Allore, who was murdered in Compton Quebec over 25 years ago – has been invited to present at a provincial victims conference in Richmond, British Columbia.
Theresa Allore’s story drew national headlines in the summer of 2002 when Mr. Allore presented evidence that suggested her death was the result of a sexual assault and murder at the hands of a serial sexual predator, not a drug overdose as Quebec investigators originally speculated.
Since then Mr. Allore has become an independent victims’ advocate, working with several victims associations in Canada and the United States. Last Fall Mr. Allore, along with fellow advocate, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, whose daughter was murdered in Sherbrooke in 2002, traveled to Ottawa to criticize the Justice Department’s National Victims Conference for failure to invite enough victims to the symposium. Mr. Allore had applied to present at that conference, but his application was refused. As well Mr. Allore has been working with Mr. Boisvenu to initiate a Quebec victims association, and with victims’ advocates from across Canada to form a National association for victims assistance.
The B.C. conference, hosted by the province’s Police Victim Services, is the only annual conference of its kind in Canada. This year’s theme, The Dawning of Hope – Triumphing Through Adversity, will feature close to 40 presenters speaking on topics of criminal justice and victims issues. The two day event will be held in Richmond on June 4th and 5th. Mr. Allore will address the conference on two occasions; first on the topic of the investigation into his sister’s death and his relations with Quebec’s Surete du Quebec, and then on issues concerning campus security at Canadian universities.
Saturday, April 17, 2004
This one hurts
Missing student's body found
Saturday, April 17, 2004 Posted: 5:49 PM EDT (2149 GMT)
(CNN) -- The body of missing college student Dru Sjodin was found around noon Saturday, Donald Osborne, the mayor of Crookston, Minnesota, told CNN.
The body was found just west of Crookston, near the Minakwa Country Club golf course, he said.
Sjodin, 22, disappeared November 22 after leaving her job at a Victoria's Secret shop in a Grand Forks, North Dakota, mall. She was on the telephone with her boyfriend as she walked to the car, and he said he heard the phone go dead.
Convicted sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez, 50, was charged December 1 with her kidnapping after authorities found a knife and blood matching Sjodin's DNA in his car. Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping.
Later, a knife sheath was found near Sjodin's car in the mall parking lot. The sheath was sold at a local store and only with a knife of the type found in Rodriguez's car.
After her disappearance, a shoe belonging to Sjodin was found beneath a bridge along the bank of the Red Lake River. The bridge was on a highway heading into Crookston, Rodriguez's hometown, about 25 miles east of Grand Forks.
A Minnesota State Patrol helicopter hovers over an area where the body was discovered Saturday.
According to the affidavit filed for Rodriguez's arrest, Sjodin's call to her boyfriend ended at 5:04 p.m. with her saying, "OK, OK." At 7:42 p.m., an outgoing call from her cell phone was made to her boyfriend, but only static could be heard. The call lasted 55 seconds and was made at a rest stop near Crookston, the affidavit says.
Rodriguez was released from prison last May after serving 23 years for the rapes of two women and attempted rape of another woman.
Official searches for Sjodin were suspended late last year because of winter conditions, although family members continued the search on their own. Saturday was the first day official searches were restarted.
Friday, April 16, 2004
Let's close out the week on a high note
Lay it down cold, Mr. E -
it's a motherfucker
being here without you
thinking 'bout the good times
thinking 'bout the bad
and i won't ever be the same
it's a motherfucker
getting through a sunday
talking to the walls
just me again
but i won't ever be the same
i won't ever be the same
it's a motherfucker
how much i understand
the feeling that you need someone
to take you by the hand
and you won't ever be the same
you won't ever be the same
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Pair accused of assaulting girl
Thursday, April 15, 2004
A 30-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy are to appear in court today, charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl and holding her against her will for almost one week. The two males face charges of sexual assault, unlawful confinement, kidnapping and assault. Both are to be arraigned today in St. Jean sur Richelieu, 40 kilometres south of Montreal. The girl, a St. Jean resident, was reported missing to municipal police on April 8. Local police had not been able to track her. Surete du Quebec found her early yesterday near near Henryville, 70 kilometres south of Montreal. The girl was treated at a hospital.
Indulgio Ad Absurdum
For the past week I've been working with a person who contacted me with a credible tip that could help solve my sister's murder.
Don't get too excited - I get a lot of these "tips", sometimes they are interesting, but misguided. Often it's people with information that is entirely irrelevant, they just want to talk to someone. Very often it's real fruit-cake stuff.
But this one is different. It got my interest. There was enough detailed information there to get me preoccupied. Forgive me for being a tease, but there's not a whole lot I can discuss about it - I turned it over to the police, they are looking into it.
While we're waiting for them to get back to me, allow me a brief moment to talk about the blog.
First things: By their nature, blogs are self-indulgent. You either like that or you don't. Now I hate blogs that have posts explaining what the blog is all about: it's about whatever's there before your eyes. Still, I'm going to break my rule and do a little self-conscious doodling about my motives and intentions which are sometimes misunderstood.
A while ago I read a posting about my site on another weblog. The message said something to the effect of, "somebody please help this poor man who has suffered for 25-years...". Now I appreciate the support, but I'm really not suffering. This site gives the perception that I'm preoccupied with death and murder 24-7, but that is not the case. I have a family. I have a life. I have outside interests. They are off limits. They are none of your business. I am actually a ton-of-fun outside the world of the blog. And most of what I write is tongue in cheek - I have a pretty ripped sense of humor.
I don't like that word "closure". A victim who lost their parents over seven years ago recently asked me, "when does it go away". It doesn't. You form a thick, hard scar. But sometimes that scar tickles you. It tells you things. It doesn't always haunt you. It can be a gift if you allow it to be.
Yes, I do want to solve the murder of my sister, but not because I will then find closure. I bare no hostility to the individual that did this - yet. They were just doing what they do. My bitterness and resentment is reserved for a system that failed to come to the aid and support of my parents. I want to solve the crime to prove that -even after 25-years - it can be done. It just takes a little dedication.
A good friend - whose ancestors died in concentration camps during World War II - recently emailed me with a revelation: "Ah..." he blurted "you're not keeping your blog to solve a crime, you do it so that this horrible event in your life - that once slipped from memory - will never again be forgotten."
There it is.
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
IVAC Lab Rat
April 13, 2004
Indemnisation des victims d’actes criminals
Attn: Mireille Doucet
1199 rue de Bleury
I am in receipt of your letter dated April 5, 2004 requesting additional information to complete the processing of my claim for victims compensation in the matter of the death of my sister, Theresa Allore who was murdered 25-years-ago in Compton, Quebec. It is appropriate that I respond to you today, as this is the 25th anniversary of the date that Theresa’s body was recovered from a Coaticook drainage ditch after having lain in the frozen snow and ice for over five months. Specifically you have asked for the original bill for funeral services.
Ms. Doucet, this murder occurred over twenty-five years ago, do you think it reasonable to assume that I would have in my possession the original invoice for funeral arrangements?
Still, allow me to challenge my memory and provide you with some details that may assist your attorney in completing my claim:
The coffin was white. She was buried in a plot in an upscale cemetery. There was a coffin liner and marker. My mother ordered a lot of flowers. Does this help?
I have also enclosed the following documents from my father’s notes concerning the funeral arrangements:
- A CPR train schedule detailing the route that the coffin would have traveled from Montreal to Ontario, where she was buried.
- The address of the Weaver Funeral Home where the coffin was held for viewing.
- A reference to $390.00 for the Mount Evergreen Cemetery – I imagine this would have been the cost to dig the hole and cover it up.
Anyway, adding up the costs and allowing a percentage for the time value of money, I have estimated the funeral expenses as follows:
Travel and lodging for family: $500.00
Transportation of corpse: $600.00
Funeral Service: $100.00
Coffin, Liner and Headstone: $3,000.00
Total: funeral expenses: $4,800.00
Please make the cheque payable to Mrs. Robert and Marilyn Allore, Theresa’s mother and father; they’re the ones who have suffered. If you have any questions, or require any additional information please do not hesitate to contact me.
c.c. Marc Bellemare, Ministère de la Justice
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
25 years ago today my sister's body was discovered by a muscrat trapper in a ditch-backflow off the Coaticook river near Compton, Quebec. This is the "official" press release that was so sensitively distributed by Champlain College - the school she was attending - following her discovery:
Theresa Allore Tragedy
The Champlain Regional College community is deeply saddened by the death of Theresa Allore. College officials will cooperate fully with police authorities in their investigation of this tragic event.
To enable our students to recover from this traumatic episode in their lives, the college respectfully requests members of the media to exercise discretion and good judgement in their overall conduct in reporting the incident.
The details of the crime are irrelevant. Theresa's loss will undoubtedly be mourned by those who knew and will remember her, and by those who are only witnesses to this tragedy.
Champlain Regional College
R.I.P. Theresa Marie Allore
you're dead but the world keeps spinning
take a spin through the world you left
My brother marked this date by taking his family on a vacation to Mexico.
Meanwhile here I sit writing this stupid blog.
Monday, April 12, 2004
Warm-and-Fuzzy from IVAC
For any of you who missed it, I recently submitted a claim for victims compensation to the Montreal office of l'indemnisation des victimes d'actes Criminels (IVAC) in the matter of my sister's murder which occured 25-years-ago. Today I received the following letter from IVAC:
MR. JOHN ALLORE
500 ROBIN ROAD
CHAPEL HILL, NC 27516, U.S.A.
File of: THERESA MARIA ALLORE
Date of Event: November 3, 1978
Dear Madam (Madam?),
We were sorry to learn of the death of your sister. On behalf of the Direction de l'indemnisation des victimes d'actes Criminels (IVAC), please accept our condolences.
Representatives from the Direction de l'IVAC will be in contact with you throughout the processing of your claim. In the meantime, please send us the following documents as soon as possible:
- original bill for funeral expenses
Once the file is complete, a lawyer will reach a decision on your claim. You will be informed as soon as this decision is rendered.
Please feel free to contact us should you require further information regarding this matter or for any other questions you may have.
(514) 906-3019 extension: 2130
Holy shit... this is more fucked-up than I thought it would be.
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Bad Dream House
Very cranky these days... I'm coming up on the 25th anniversary of the discovery of my sister's body - I can't sit still.
Anyway, I've been chewing on this bone for a while wondering how best to write about something, but I think I'm just going to go for it and spit this one out...
The fact is I just recently moved. For four years my wife and daughters lived in a house that was the former residence of the lead suspect in a missing persons investigation. Here is how we came to buy that house:
When my wife and I first moved to North Carolina we were quite restless to put down some roots. We had spent a great deal of our married life living like gypsies, wandering from one city to the next. We moved to North Carolina in search of stability. Our daughter was two at the time, and we had another child on the way. My wife had grown up in Chapel Hill. She still had all her family here. It was a good place to raise a family. We were tired of living in apartments. Two children needed a home. They needed a yard to play in. I was thirty-seven years old. It was time to buy a house.
My wife had here heart set on a “fixer-upper” just outside Chapel Hill. From the outside the house was inviting. It looked like two A-Frames stuck together. A sort of Swiss chalet tucked neatly in the forest. As we approached the front door, my wife braced me with the words; “you’ll have to just go with me on this one.” That’s when I knew we were in for trouble. The odor was the first thing that hit me. As I crossed the threshold, I caught a waft of “the-dog’s-been-pissing-on-the-carpet-for-the-last-eight-months.” Then there were the visuals. The floor was absolutely covered with garbage - think D-Day and Omaha Beach, only substitute dead bodies with old pizza boxes, hard packs of Marlboros, and crushed Mello-Yellow cans. Anything that could hold water was absolutely filled to the brim with cigarette butts. Whoever lived here was an “artist”, there were nude drawings covering all the walls – cartoon anime; cinched wastes and big tits. And a complementary pornography collection in the video cabinet. There was a Christmas wreath over the fireplace mantle. It was March 31st. There were weapons - numb chucks and broadswords and crossbows - a D&D nerd’s dream come true. A thought crossed my mind; This must have been what it looked like when Guns and Roses recorded their first album. Then I heard the music coming from down the hall. There’s someone actually living here?
We started down the hallway. The carpeting was gone, torn up by whatever animal had lived there. The sub-flooring was all that remained. For some reason it was stained dark brown. I came to the door where the music was coming from. The door had about fifty knife marks in it. There were also silver dollar sized holes. It looked like someone had shot at it. I opened the door. Black Flag or Anthrax or some crap was screaming from the stereo. On the bed rested a big fat lump. The lump was sleeping. It was three in the afternoon, and this lump looked comatose. Suddenly, it rolled over, looked me briefly with one glazed fish-eye, and passed out again. I closed the door.
My wife and I were still arguing when we went to bed that night. To cut a long story short - against my better judgment - I decided to go with my wife on this one. We bought the house. Things only got worse. Before the closing, my wife was prone to coming out to the house alone. She would wander around the place and fantasize about all the little improvements we could make. A building inspector - an ex-Marine - advised my wife never to set foot alone in the house again. He had seen the lump on the bed. He thought he looked lethal. At the closing, none of our real estate people showed up. They found the house too disturbing.
Eventually we learned an elderly widow and her teenage son (the lump) had owned the house. We were told that the father had died, and the mother wanted to move to smaller accommodations that were more manageable. Junior was getting to be a handful - what with the medieval arsenal and all. When we walked around the neighborhood people would give us that funny look. You know, that, “you’re the fools who bought that house” look? One neighbor confided in us that the family had lived in the house for twenty years. The son was a quiet boy, but troubled. At age eight he walked up to this neighbor’s daughter on the street, smiled sweetly, and proceeded to pummel her with the brick he had concealed in his hand.
It’s not like we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. The evidence was tattooed all over the house. These folks were troubled. There were knife marks everywhere; not only through the bedroom door - on the kitchen walls, on the bathroom ceiling tile, there were so many stab marks on the wood floor in the living room, you’d have thought that Christmas dinner had been carved there. But our feeling was, don’t blame the house for the way it looked. It wasn’t the house’s fault. All it needed was a little love - and several dozen trips to the Home Depot. Fixing what was broken became my spring project. I ripped up the kitchen, tore out the pissed-stained carpet, replaced all the brown stained sub-flooring. I threw out drywall, re-tiled the bathroom floors, pulled-out horrendous amounts of hair and body-gunk from the drains. Finally I decided it would be easier to simply gut the bathrooms altogether.
When I’d go outside to work on the landscaping my wife would quip, “Tell me if you find any dead bodies out there.” I, of course, thought this was hysterical. A corpse would make our home complete. After six weeks, we finished our renovations. We burnt some sage given to us by our real estate agent, placed a small quartz crystal in the southwest corner of each room - because our real estate agent told us this would help with any bad vibes - and moved in.
Of course, it came as no surprise whatsoever when four weeks later the police phoned us up and asked if they could pay us a visit. It turned out the son of the former owner of the house was the lead suspect in a missing person investigation, and the police wished to check the property for a dead body.
There are times when you realize life is trying to tell you something. This was one of those times. It would be fair to say that I have a restless soul. I’ve traveled around a bit. Fifteen years ago, I left Canada, and eventually became an American citizen. I’d like to say that I did this because I love America, but the truer statement is that I’d grown to hate Canada. I hated the Canadian sense of superiority. The idea that Canada offered the same opportunities as the U.S. - only without the crime, without the chaos, without the social problems. It wasn’t true. There were the same problems in both countries. If the U.S. was a freak show in an open-air market, then Canada’s dirt lay hidden in a filing cabinet market “confidential”. Canada kept secrets. More to the point - after my sister died - I believed secrets were being kept from me.
For a long time I was determined to keep moving. I suffered from acute wanderlust. My wife and I traveled all over the country. In eight years we had moved from southeast Texas to Toronto to California to the Carolinas. I had an aunt who said we lived like gypsies – when were we finally going to settle down?
So what were the odds that me of all people - when I finally made the decision to settle down - would chose to buy a home with a dead body on it?
Deborah Key was known for her independence, and for taking risks. On the night of Sunday, November 30th, 1997, the 35-year-old woman was seated at the bar of Sticks and Stones, a local pool hall in Carrboro, North Carolina. Seated at the other end of the bar, within Deborah’s view, was a young man in a leather jacket - his hair tied back in a ponytail. The man was busy drawing nudie pictures in an artists sketch book - pre-pubescent girls in space suits with huge cans; Sailor Moon with a hormonal imbalance. The young man was drinking diet coke. Deborah Key was drinking too much. At some point, Deborah got up from her barstool and ragged on the young man for drawing such disgusting pictures. The man apologized for offending her. He asked if she’d like to join him for a drink. Not at the bar, they would move to a booth at the back. Shortly before closing time the bartender saw the couple together in the corner. She was giving him a back massage. They were very flirtatious. The 5’6”, 115 lbs brunette was last seen at two-thirty a.m. in the parking lot of Sticks and Stones. Key and the young man were leaning up against her car, kissing. A few days later the police found Deborah’s unlocked car, still parked in the lot of Sticks and Stones. Her purse was resting on the passenger side seat. No one has seen her since.
It took police six months to track down the young man with the ponytail. When they asked the man - the former resident of our house - to come in for questioning he said that he would be at police headquarters in the morning. By the time morning came, his lawyer intervened and told them that he would not be available to answer any questions. The police got a search warrant for the young man's car, but the lab results came back inconclusive. They found some bloodstained women’s underwear in the car, but they were never able to link the underwear to Deborah Key. The police were unsuccessful in trying to obtain a search warrant for the house. The car was easy, since it was established that the young man and his car were at the location where Deborah Key was last seen alive on the early morning of December 1st, 1997. The house was another matter; there was nothing to suggest that he and Key had traveled in the car all the way back to the house. The case dragged on for two years. The police had a lead suspect; they just didn’t have a body. And their suspect wasn’t talking.
In December of 1999, our soon-to-be house was put on the market. Immediately, the investigation into Deborah Key’s disappearance began to take life again. Detectives believed that Key’s body might be buried somewhere on the lot. In an effort to gain access to the property, police had agents pose as interested buyers to see if they could learn anything from viewing the interior of the house. They found the place in such a dilapidated state, investigators speculated that their suspect might be deliberately trashing the house, in an effort to keep what was inside hidden. If the place looked like crap, then no one would ever buy it. In the Spring of 2000, the local police chief was making a routine pass in an unmarked car when she noticed that the heaps of garbage that were normally piled up in the front yard, had suddenly been replaced with children’s toys. Someone actually bought this dump? A week later the chief of police called my wife, and asked to pay a visit.
When the police arrived they assured us they wanted to get this over with just as quickly and smoothly as possible. But there were problems. They couldn’t locate a cadaver dog. The one they wanted was from Florida, but he had suddenly been called away on business in Atlanta. It seemed the cadaver dog was over-booked. We would have to wait two weeks before they could search the grounds for a body.
“But couldn’t you just get another dog?”, I asked.
“Well we could, but we want the best. This dog’s the best.”
“Why do we have to wait two weeks?”
“The dog needs the rest. It’s exhausting work.”
Before they left, they wanted to assure us we were in no danger. Deborah Key was most likely this guy’s first kill. Police felt confidant that the body wasn’t buried anywhere in the house. If he did dispose of the body here, then it was probably back in the woods some place. In any case, they did ask us not to speak about the matter to anyone. Word might get around, and they didn’t want to tip off their suspect. Just in case he got it in his head to run. “Or maybe come back and move the body”, an officer added. Finally they all got up, and said that they’d see us in two weeks.
That first weekend we stayed at the beach. Then we stayed at my mother in laws. When we had run out of favors, we came back home. Home. We always talked about how neat it would be to live in a haunted house. But this wasn’t haunted. This was mother-fuckin’ creepy. There was the added benefit that my wife was by now seven month’s pregnant and looked like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. So began our two-week FREAK-OUT. We didn’t sleep. Not ever. I went to bed with a baseball bat, the telephone, the phone number of the police department, and a fifteen-pound Mag-lite next to my bed. I’d wake up every night in a cold sweat. Was he coming back? Was there something he left behind? Was he in the house now? He probably still had keys to it. He’s probably standing in the living room right now with a pickaxe just waiting for me to be foolish enough to come out after him.
It didn’t help that we had only lived in the house for a month. The place was scarier because you never knew where anything was. In the dark I’d bump into walls and fumble for the light switch. I couldn’t find anything. My daughter was sleeping in his room. Her bed was in the same spot where that lump rolled over and looked at me. One night she came running out of her room, “Mommy, Daddy, my room scares me!” Oh, that’s okay, pumpkin, the whole house is scary. Didn’t you know? We bought it from Leather-face. There was also the added spooky benefit of living in a deep dark forest. Outside our bedroom window, we’d hear something moving that sounded like a five hundred pound gorilla. I’d be cramming my heart back down my throat before I realized it was a herd of grazing deer. There were lots of critters out there. Possums and coons. Screech owls and badgers. And something that made a sound so terrifying that my wife and I just labeled it the flying-bush-pig. We never did find out what it was.
Somehow we survived. Two weeks passed. One morning a caravan of vehicles came up our gravel driveway.
We said hello again to the local detectives. Joining them for the day’s proceedings were various patrol officers, the County Sheriff’s department, a big fat agent from the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), a team of forensic technicians, and the gang from Pee Wee’s Septic Tank Service. Everyone gathered round and tried to look like they knew why they were there. Officers discretely slurped on their Wendy’s Big Gulps. From out of the back of a kennel in the police van stepped the star of the show. I was expecting a big, droopy bloodhound. I was surprised to find a svelte, handsome German Shepard. I never got his name. We were never formally introduced. The dog wrangler stepped forward,
“We’ll start with the outer perimeter of the house. It’s a good morning. The ground is wet, so he should be able to sniff through the clay.”
The wrangler pulled the dog up close and shoved a small, black ball against his nose. Then he clipped the lead and let him run loose. The dog bolted off with officers and the wrangler in quick pursuit.
While we were waiting to see what the dog would find, I insinuated myself into the conversation with the agents. My wife remained indoors. Earlier, we had pawned our daughter off on my mother-in-law. We didn’t want her around for this. My wife certainly wasn’t setting foot outside. Unlike me, she held no fascination in seeing a corpse pulled out from under the dirt and the mud. Investigators were confident. They came dressed for the event, decked out in black SWAT fatigues. The SBI agent wore checkered pants and an ugly tie. The mood was intense and full of expectation. Everyone was certain that after two and a half years, the mystery of Deborah Key’s disappearance would finally be solved. The SBI agent spoke,
“We feel pretty confident he buried her out in these woods somewhere. Or maybe in the septic well.”
“In our septic well.”
“Ya. He might have chopped her up and dumped the pieces down the shaft. PEE WEE! YOU WANNA GET THAT SEWAGE PUMP STARTED!”
The dog worked all morning. He sniffed the better part of an acre of our property. The dog came up with nothing. Their efforts were hampered by the soil. In this part of North Carolina it is mostly made up of thick, hard clay. If anything were buried more than three feet deep, the dog would have a tough time picking up the scent. On the other hand, because the ground was so hard, it would be difficult for anyone to dig a grave deeper than three feet. I tried digging a garden in the stuff and the effort practically killed me. My harvest consisted of one dwarf sized pumpkin. Nothing grows in this stuff.
Meanwhile, Pee Wee had managed to suck our septic well dry. Everyone gathered around the well opening and looked down with gruesome expectation. The tank was empty. There were no bones at the bottom. The mood turned from confident to confused.
“If it’s alright, we’d like to check the inside of the house?"
It was the SBI guy. I explained that we had gutted the place. There would be no trace evidence. Everything was gone - the brown-stained flooring, the clumps of hair from the bathroom traps.
“You didn’t keep any of it, did you?”
Sure. It’s in the medicine cabinet next to my collection of human excrement.
As confusion turned to desperation, the recovery party agreed it was time to take the dog under the house. I opened the crawl space door, told everyone to mind the five-foot ceiling; the wrangler did his little black ball trick, and in went the dog.
“What’s in that ball anyway?”, I asked.
“Rotting flesh… I’m just kiddin’ ya’, we don’t use real corpses.”
Funny. Yeah, that’s some joke.
I was getting bored. Three hours and these loafers were still at my house. Then finally, the dog did something. At the back of the crawl space between two central supports, we all watched as the dog paced back and forth, and began scratching on the red dirt floor.
What’s he doing?”
“He’s lighted on something.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means he’s found something.”
It was scary. The dog kept pacing and scratching. I looked over my shoulder and there was a police officer with two shovels. Everyone began to dig. I couldn’t believe it. A dead body was buried under my house. I’d been under this house alone. I’d come under to repair the insulation, to fix the telephone wiring. The digging took a lot of effort. The space was too small to raise the shovel over your head. You couldn’t get a full arc. It was hot and humid. We kept running out of breath. The clay was as hard as rock. You couldn’t really dig; you had to chip away at the layers. We got two feet down. Finally - after forty-five minutes - we decided to stop. There wasn’t anything here. We didn’t find Deborah Key.
As things wound down the police told us not to worry. The good news was there wasn’t a body buried on our property. The bad news, Deborah Key was still a missing person. Everyone looked discouraged. The way you look when after the first 10 minutes you know the Super Bowl's going to be blowout. Detectives took the dog’s reaction into consideration and formed a theory. After she died, Deborah Key’s body was probably stored under the house for a brief period of time. Her killer took the time to plan how he would finally dispose of the body. Deborah Key was not buried here. If agents couldn’t dig through the clay, then their suspect certainly couldn’t either. The police also wanted us to know that Deborah Key probably hadn’t died in the house. Police believed she was killed earlier, in the killer's car.
After that day with the cadaver dog, I began to have terrible nightmares. I dreamed about rotting corpses all the time. I couldn't stop thinking about it.
Around the same time my daughter was doing some dreaming of her own. One day I caught her walking down the hall muttering to herself,
“No. No Way, I definitely don’t want to have that dream again. O Boy, I don’t want to have that dream where Mom and Dad turn into skeletons.”
She later confided to me that she had a reoccurring dreamed where she was strapped in her car seat, and the car was moving down the road, but no one was driving. I know just how she feels.
Some of my dreams got downright bizarre. There was one where I was at a party and Ralph Nadar sat down beside me. Only he was dressed like this classic, 60s G-man – Joe Friday or something - complete with blue suit and pork pie hat. We struck up a conversation. All at once he pulled out a brown manila envelope, and told me it contained autopsy photos of my sister. Would I like to see them? I had a dream where all the trees outside our house blew down. When I woke up, I swore it had happened. The screeching of the timbers as they snapped was so powerful. I went out on our deck at two in the morning to assess the damage. I found everything unchanged.
For a time I became obsessed with the Deborah Key case. I visited all the places where she had gone - where she was last seen. I did research. I started thinking about maybe solving the crime. Then one day while I was reading about the case on the Internet. I found an article written shortly after Deborah had disappeared. The reporter described Deborah as “loose”. They said she was in the habit of talking to strangers and partying all night. She would sometimes leave with strangers and not be heard from for 3 or 4 days at a time. In a subsequent letter to the editor, Deborah’s mother responded to the article. She said much of what had been written about Deborah was merely hearsay. Deborah’s mother was deeply hurt that the reporter would write such horrible things, as if she, the victim, was somehow responsible for the horrible, inhumane act that was her death. I felt so bad. I wanted to call her up and say I understood. I never called. I figured one of the last people she would have wanted to hear from was this guy who bought the house where the person who had murdered her daughter had lived.
The drama that had unfolded at our house became a common topic of conversation with friends and family. The story of Deborah Key became like a parlor game - shared with guests after a good dinner. One day I called up my brother.
“It’s pretty ironic don’t you think?”
“You know… House with a dead body. It’s a mystery. Theresa’s death’s a mystery.
“I just think it’s odd.”
“Are you at work?”
“We’ll don’t you have work to do?”
“I just think it’s funny that I would move into this house.”
“I mean, what are the chances…”
“Yeah, okay, I gotta go, I gotta go do some work.”
Walking around Carrboro, I sometimes run into the detectives who are working the Deborah Key case. I see them at the grocery store, or in the summer at a fourth of July party - sometimes in the fall at the Halloween festival. The officers are always with his kids. We talk about how we should get our girls together. Then I’ll say something like, “anything ever happen with Deborah Key?”, and then this look of disappointment crosses their face. Clearly the case disturbs them. They were so sure the body would be on our property. No one can understand how - in a town the size of Carrboro - someone can just disappear. I have been troubled by the same thought.
Eventually our house became just another house. I would take out the garbage, or clean out the gutters... rake leaves. We’ve never had the feeling that the place was haunted; only that it was dead - dead energy. In addition to the crystals, our real estate agent advised us to put up wind chimes and mobiles. The place was like a black hole; it needed movement and activity to bring it to life. Eventually I had to stop thinking about Deborah Key. It might have been my wife who said it, or I may have come to the realization myself – why was I so obsessed with Deborah Key, but kept avoiding my sister’s case? I don’t know. I tried to stop thinking about the spooky place where we lived. But sometimes when I would go under the house to fix something, I'd stop and listen. Nothing. My heart would race. I'd start to hyperventilate. Then I'd come out from under the house and close the door. I'd stand on the sloping side of the hill and stare into the forest. Then I'd go back to my family inside and pretend like nothing happened.
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
This via Eric Muller at Is That Legal:
The body of a woman missing from Syracuse, New York since 1990 was found in a U-Haul storage unit in Cicero. Margaret Reome's former boyfriend, George W. Geddes Jr. - who rented the storage unit under his own name and kept paying for it over the last 14 years! - is being held without bail.
Said District Attorney, William Fitzpatrick:
"I don't think there's anybody in law enforcement who would think a defendant would be that stupid to keep a dead body in a storage shed rented under his own name... Luckily, people like this keep us in business."
Monday, April 05, 2004
More Trouble For Toronto's Peel Police Force
A surprizingly blunt response from Toronto's Peel Regional Police who yesterday admitted they, "did not have enough manpower to properly investigate the disappearance of Rene Charlebois."
Charlesbois' remains were found in a landfill on March 19th. He had been missing from Mississauga since December 12th.
This Is The Law
Fly the flags at half-mast boys, the legal world has lost one if its greats.