Searching for the Truth – Chapter 3

‘Searching for the truth’ is a case study based on an actual police investigation. The investigation is used as an example to describe one method of Major Case Management used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the mid 1990’s. As a reminder, chapters are recorded in descending sequence. Please scroll to locate the chapter desired.

Chapter 3

I walked into the coffee room at 5:45 PM. In my absence since that morning, it had been converted into a major case management room. When investigating a serious or complicated incident, it helps to have a dedicated space that becomes an environment for discussion of the information collected and sometimes heated debate on the next investigative steps to be followed. Once beyond the threshold of that office door, the rest of the world ceases to exist, and those that enter recognize and accept their responsibility to work both independently and cooperatively toward that one common goal, finding the truth.

Ultimately, the major case management room will be decorated with a myriad of flip chart paper, photocopied documents and photos; puzzle pieces of information and evidence collected from a wide variety of sources that form a picture of the truth and are a monument to the team’s overall success. To risk it looking otherwise is the greatest incentive for an investigative team to work hard and dig long and deep for each puzzle piece; puzzle pieces that historically have brought full answers to the investigative questions of who, what, when, where, why and how.

Bob had reorganized the room based on my instructions and Dan’s direction. A large whiteboard on wheels had been installed in the corner and two flip charts and paper were on either side of the room.  The two coffee room tables had been converted into desks. Chairs had been positioned on either side and each was equipped with a laptop computer and deep metal filing basket.  A regular desk was positioned against the back wall near the window. On the desk were a 17-inch monochrome computer monitor and a bulky impact printer. The printer paper was roll type and the bulk of the roll was still in its box on the floor below the printer. Various personal items adorned the desk as well. A picture of a lake scene was in a frame on the corner of the desk. In it, a man and woman with three children in bathing suits were enjoying a sunny day. The computer keyboard was on a pullout shelf in front of a high-end desk chair and on that chair was the woman in the picture, Linda Davis.

“Hi, I think you’re Bill. I’m Linda, the part time steno. I hope you don’t mind me finding my own space. The light is better here and I’m out of the traffic flow. I don’t want to get in the way.”

“Actually Linda, you need to be an active member of the investigative team. You will be touching everything that goes into the system and you need to feel free to identify concerns you may have that we might miss. Are you ok with that responsibility?”

“Linda reflected before responding, “Well I’m not sure.”

“Linda, how long have you worked here?”

“Full and part time, 16 years. I started the year I graduated from high school.”

“And how many bosses and members have you trained over the years as they transferred in and out.”

“Linda’s face went blank as her eyes lifted to the ceiling, focused in thought.”

Finished with her count she dropped her eyes to meet mine and smiling replied,

“Dozens! I see your point, I’d be glad to contribute in that way.”

Bob had made fresh coffee and someone had ordered take out pizza. Two large boxes were sitting on the kitchen area table. I wandered over and observed black felt pen writing on the top box; ‘pep dbl chse.’

“The bottom one is veggie,” came a voice from behind me and I turned to see Anna enter the room with Ted. Turning back to the counter, I shifted the top box. A black round circle face with sad eyes and a frown adorned the center of the box.

Moving in beside me Anna chuckled, “that’s a joke between Sheila and me. Sheila owns the local restaurant and was the one that converted me to a vegetarian.  I’m actually from a family of meat-eaters. Our family runs a cattle operation in Alberta. My brothers will not be amused by my new diet on my next trip home. ”

The room was filling fast. Other members of the team had arrived and had started unloading clipboards and tape recorders, cameras and other personal items. Without being assigned, all had claimed a space behind a desk. All had grabbed at least one piece of pizza. A variety of beverages were retrieved from the kitchen fridge. Dan entered the room and things quieted sharply.

“Ok, Anna, let’s start.”

“Thanks boss. Terry can you start? You had the male victim, maybe we should start using names as well?”

“Yeah sure. We got an ID from the driver’s license. The male victim was Alfred Richard Wilkins, DOB 1973-04-21, single and living alone at 243 Arness Avenue in Stonewall, Manitoba. It’s an apartment and we went there first thing this morning after our briefing. We met the super and he keyed us in.”

“Without a warrant?” Dan interjected.

“Well, we weren’t sure what we were dealing with. There could have been another victim, or someone hurt. I made the decision and we went in and looked around. There was nobody there so we left and sealed the door. Later that morning we got a tele-warrant with the help of Stonewall Detachment and went back and searched. We just finished before coming here. I’ll get to the results later?”

“Ok, continue,” spoke Anna

“Well, one thing I did on the first entry was check his land-line. His speed dial had his mother’s number on it. It was the first number, ‘MOM’, so I took it down and we called her from the car. She’s from Winnipeg and we drove in to interview her. Got a statement. Let me just look at it to keep things accurate.”

Pausing to retrieve the statement, Terry continued.

“The mother’s name is Marjorie, Marge. We did a formal notification of the death of her son.  She calls him Freddy. An uncle will be making the identification at the morgue and calling me when it’s done. We took a formal statement from her; full name, DOB, address yada-yada and she told us the story of Freddy and Angie. From the description, that was Angie Murdock beside him in the back of the wagon. I hope that’s right?”

“Yes, confirmed,” voiced Anna.

“Ok, here’s basically what she said.”

“Freddy and Angie have been going together since high school. They both lived within blocks of each other in Winnipeg. A year after graduation her family moved to Stonewall and Freddy got a job in the same town and shared an apartment with another guy, Frank Harvey. They both worked in the same garage on the outskirts of Stonewall. Angie got a job at a local restaurant and was taking night courses to upgrade her education. Over the past year Freddy was pressing Angie to get married, but Angie was a free spirit and didn’t want to commit. It caused problems. Freddy wanted to settle down right away. Angie was angry with him all the time lately. She didn’t know a good think when she had it, according to Marge.”

Flipping through the next few pages Terry stopped, scanned the page in front of her and continued.

“Marge says that Angie was young and immature. Freddy only had her best interests at heart. She can’t figure out why they would commit suicide, she thinks it must have been a Romeo and Juliette thing, or Angie’s idea. Freddie had a good job at the garage and her husband would have given them a down payment for a house when they got married. She met Angie’s mother a couple of times, more accidentally than planned, but there was never a discussion on the kid’s future. I think there was some bad blood there,. Marge was evasive when pushed for more detail.”

Terry put her notes away, paused to see if there were any questions, then continued.

“We went looking for Frank Harvey at the garage but he was off. The owner stated that Frank was in Vegas. I guess he and a couple of friends go there every year to see some shows and gamble the quarter slots. He’ll be back tomorrow night. We got his address and phone number as well as a photo from his personnel file. I’m running down any cars registered to him. A criminal records check was negative. Freddy was clean as well by the way.”

“I’ll put that on the task list for you to do,” said Bob.

Terry rolled her eyes, “I think I’ll remember Bob.”

I interjected, “It not about remembering. It keeps an historic record of what’s done, an archive of the investigation that can be electronically linked to the eventual inquiry, statement etc. When you find Frank he may have nothing relevant to say. In the past, no record was kept of negative inquiries. Then bang, 15 years from now,  someone points a finger at him and you will be scrambling trying to figure out what you did or didn’t do.”

“I plan to be on a beach somewhere in 15 years,” she retorted.

Dan brought things back into focus, “Listen to Bob or you’ll be walking in sand sooner than that.”

With another subdued eye roll thrown in for effect Terry changed the subject.

“We got the warrant to search Freddy’s place at 3 this afternoon. Stonewall Detachment assisted with the search. I’ve got the member’s names and photocopied notes in my file here.  Basically the place was a dump, a crash and sometime party shack for the most part, each guy had his own room. Frank’s room was neat and tidy, his clothes clean. We just did a preliminary poke around. The Justice wouldn’t authorize a search of any area strictly under Frank’s control unless we had information linking him to this incident. We argued that we wouldn’t know that until we looked, but the justice denied what he called a “fishing trip”.

“There was nothing in the shared part of the apartment, just a lot of dirt. Lots of empty beer bottles, some evidence of cannabis use but no drugs themselves were found. Freddy’s room was cluttered. We seized about a dozen items; pictures of the couple at various locations, one with her in the front seat of the wagon. The rest of the seized items just link the two. He had a diary.”

“A diary?” Anna exclaimed.

“Well, not a locked pink hard cover book with a unicorn on the front if that’s what you’re asking, but he kept a record of her. He was following her, stalking her, spying on her. The book dates back about six months. His writing was quite agitated.  I think he felt he was losing her, perhaps to someone else. The pages contained a lot of name-calling and threats. I’ll need to look deeper at the content, but it was no Romeo and Juliette story for sure.”

Dan asked “Did you get any sense from the day that Freddy was capable of killing Angie, like could this be a murder/suicide? Oh never mind, let me just plant that thought. If you’re finished, let’s hear from Anna and Ted.” 

Anna and Ted made eye contact and Anna gave him an imperceptible nod. Whatever their story, they had planned the presentation and it was obvious by their body language that Ted would start. He opened his notebook and started.

“Angela Delores Murdock was 20 years old.  She and her mom were living together alone. I have the particulars in my notes. Her mom Delores and father Peter have been divorced since Angie was 12. We made the notification and Delores was understandably upset. We asked her if she had anyone who could be with her and she called a neighbor, Mandy Swanson, who came right over. We left the two alone while we searched Angie’s room with her mom’s permission. “

Flipping through notebook pages, Ted stopped and continued.

“Nothing remarkable, a tidy person all-in-all;  a few aged pop posters on the wall, lots of makeup at a corner desk, an I-pod charger for music, a dusty guitar in the corner of her room. The cupboard was moderately full of clothes, a mix of casual and dressy, and a gown that could have been from her grad. Dresser drawers were similar, nothing racy. And we saw no pictures, except those in her school year book. Comments from her graduating friends were positive, cheery and encouraging. ‘Good luck in your future, hope we keep in touch’ comments. There were no comments linking her with Freddy. She was on the volleyball team and a member of the drama club.”

“We found Freddy’s picture in the book. The comment with his picture said, ‘Nice guy, somewhat mechanical.’ We couldn’t find him involved in school activities. Anna spotted him in one crowd photo taken during a football game. We’ll need to follow-up with his work and classmates. Anything to add Anna?”

“She was taking birth control pills.”

“Yeah, we found pills in the bathroom cabinet, but the prescription was old and her mom later said she had stopped.”

Ted looked at Anna as if to confirm that they were on course, and then continued.

“Then we took a statement from Delores Murdock. It was quite different from Freddy’s Mom’s. Angie broke up with Freddy 3 months ago. It just wasn’t working for them. Angie was taking extra education to raise her average. She planned to enrol in the community college nursing program in the spring. During high school, Angie had struggled with a variety of teenage pressures. That’s what drew her to Freddy. ‘”Freddy made her feel important, loved”, she said. It was good in the beginning, or as good as young love can be.”

Ted flipped through his notebook, stopping a few pages further on.

“In her last year she had spent a lot of time with a new guidance counsellor and she changed. The counsellor, Ms. Wiggins, had challenged and encouraged Angie.  Told her she could be anything she wanted.  Angie believed her and starting setting her goals higher. I think Freddy was threatened by this and he first tried to discourage her from seeing Ms. Wiggins and dreaming big. When that didn’t work he got abusive. Not physical, just started insulting her and belittling her. Trying to make her look stupid. But that didn’t work with Angie. My Angie also had a stubborn streak in her. She pushed Freddy. Freddy pushed back.”

Ted looked at Anna and quietly spoke, “Tell them.”

All eyes turned to Anna, Linda rolled her chair closer to the group.

“He did it before,” she spoke quietly and with effect.

“He did what before?” exacted Dan.

“He gassed her in his station wagon a month ago, but she talked him out of finishing.”

“I think you’d better explain this.”

Anna retrieved Delores’ statement from her lap.

“It was Thursday, February 17th. Delores remembers the date because it was ladies’ night during Festival du Voyager in St. Boniface. Angie had gone out with friends. They were bar hopping around to a few festivals and ended up at the German one about 11 o’clock. Freddie was there. Angie was angry. She knew he’d been following her for awhile and figured that he had been following her that night. There was no other way he would have known she was there. Freddie wanted to talk and Angie said no, told him to go away. Freddie was insistent and started making a scene. The other girls were uncomfortable and wanted to call security, but Angie stopped them. She said she’d look after Freddy. They left the hall together.”

Anna stopped to clarify.

“All of this information was from Delores who got it from Angie after she got home late that night, actually, early the next morning. But talking to Delores it felt like I was talking to Angie herself.”

“Continue,” Dan spoke in a quiet but encouraging voice.

“Freddy told Angie that he wanted to talk to her in the car. When she got in,  he started the car and started driving. Angie became upset and wanted to get out but Freddy told her that he was hungry and wanted take out. They drove but didn’t stop. By the time Angie realized it, they were on the outskirts of the city and she couldn’t get out. That started a fight. Freddy drove to a secluded farm road and drove into a cornfield and out of view. They fought in the car and Angie tried to get out. Freddy pulled her back by her hair. He tied her up. Then he left the car running and went outside. He opened the driver’s rear door and opened the window a bit, then closed it. He was gone about five minutes. Angie struggled to get free but couldn’t. Freddy came back and stuck a tube into the back window, then opened the door and tightened the tube by rolling up the window and stuffing the space with a rag. Then he got inside the car. He was crying.”

Anna stopped, emotionally drained by the telling of this recollection. The momentary silence was broken by Linda’s exclamation, “Holy shit!”

Anna nodded to Ted, who continued without notes.

“Angie told this story to her mother when she finally got home at 4 AM. Delores told us that Angie was extremely upset, hysterical at the time and physically ill. Delores helped her with a bath to calm her. During that process, Delores saw some bruising on Angie’s arms. Angie said that she thought she was dead, and talked and pleaded with Freddie to let her go.”

“The next morning, Delores wanted to call the police but Angie said no. Angie didn’t want to relive the horror again, and she told Delores that Freddy had apologized and let her go. Delores argued, but Angie was resolute in her decision. She told her mom that everything was resolved.”

Recovered, Anna spoke.

“But that wasn’t true. There was no resolution. Freddy made the decision to kill Angie that Thursday night on February 17th, and he would have except for one problem.”

“What was that?” Terry asked.

“The asshole didn’t have the guts to kill himself,” she exploded. “He didn’t stop because Angie talked him out of it. He stopped because he didn’t want to die that day. That fits with the current scene. This time, he rigged the pipe in his wagon in a place where they wouldn’t be disturbed, handcuffed himself to her and both to the car and threw away the key. I wonder how long he spent with that key in his hand before he dropped it out the window. Did he throw it or just let it slip from his fingers? Regardless, that decision had nothing to do with Angie and her words would have rang hollow in his ears. He’d decided a month before to kill her. When he dropped that key, he’d finally made the decision to kill himself.”

“And take her with him in the process,” Ted finished.

“Can we prove this?” I asked.

“We will,” Anna replied.

To be continued…………

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