Monday, February 21, 2022

Disappearance of Nicole Morin

On July 30, 1985, eight-year-old Nicole Louise Morin left her penthouse apartment on the 20th floor of an apartment building in the Etobicoke borough of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to meet a friend in the lobby for a swim date. She never arrived and has not been seen or heard from since. The Toronto Police Service launched the biggest missing-person investigation in their history, forming a 20-member task force and investing more than 25,000 man-hours following up leads. No physical evidence has ever been found to solve the disappearance. While it is now considered a cold case, Toronto police and missing-child organizations continue to keep it in the public eye in an effort to garner fresh leads. They have produced several video re-enactments of Morin's last known movements and released age-enhanced photographs coinciding with anniversaries of her disappearance. Early life: Nicole Louise Morin was born on April 1, 1977. She was the only child of Arthur (Art) and Jeanette Morin, who had married 12 years before her birth. Morin had brown hair and brown eyes. At the time of her disappearance, she was 4 ft 0 in (1.22 m) tall and weighed 51 lb (23 kg). In July 1985, Morin was living with her mother in a 20th-floor penthouse apartment in the Etobicoke borough of Toronto. Her father lived in Mississauga. Morin was on summer vacation from Wellesworth Junior School, where she was in Grade 3. Disappearance: On July 30, 1985, at approximately 10:30 am, Morin went down to the lobby of her building to pick up the mail. She returned to the apartment to get ready for a planned swim date with a friend. The pool was located in the rear of their building complex. Before leaving the apartment, she spoke to her friend via the intercom and said she would meet her in the lobby shortly. She left the apartment at about 11 am wearing a peach-coloured, one-piece bathing suit, green hairband, and red canvas shoes; she carried a plastic bag containing a white T-shirt, green and white shorts, suntan lotion, hairbrush, a peach-coloured blanket and a purple beach towel. Fifteen minutes later, the friend buzzed her apartment to ask why Morin had not met her yet. Nicole's mother Jeanette, who was busy with small children in a daycare group that she ran in her apartment, assumed that Morin had gone to the pool herself or was playing with other children at the rear of the complex. She did not call the police to report her missing child until about 3:00 pm. Investigation: The police investigation initially involved "active searches and canvassing" of all of the apartments in the complex. The first day, police set up roadblocks around the building and circulated vehicles with public address systems to alert neighbourhood residents to the missing child's description. Knocking on every door in Morin's 429-unit complex, police entered apartments even if no one answered the knock. After a woman who lived in the building identified Morin from a photograph, police determined that Morin had travelled down the elevator and entered the lobby. From there, however, no other evidence was found as to Morin's whereabouts. The next day, additional Toronto Police Service officers were brought in, and a "police dragnet consisting of mounted horsemen, marine units, helicopters and foot patrols" began combing the area near Highway 27, which was in the vicinity of the apartment building. Tracking dogs were also brought in to explore the building's underground garages, utility rooms, storage units, and sump pump rooms. A neighbour recalled seeing an unidentified blonde woman with a notebook on the floor that Nicole's apartment was located on, about 45 minutes before the disappearance. Police sought her as a possible witness, but she was never identified, nor did anyone come forwards claiming to be her. More than 900 neighbourhood residents joined the search. The newly formed Toronto Crime Stoppers organization took on the disappearance as its first significant case. This organization posted a $1,000 reward, printed posters, and produced a video re-enactment of Morin's last known movements which aired on television several weeks later. The Toronto Star printed 6,000 copies of a poster showing Morin's picture and the phone number of the Metro Toronto Police. Three thousand copies of a watercolour sketch of Morin were commissioned by the Toronto police and distributed to police departments, post offices, and local stores. The search was the biggest missing-person investigation in the history of the Toronto Police Service. Toronto police formed a 20-member task force which remained active for nine months. They invested 25,000 man hours following up leads. By November, police had questioned about 6,000 individuals, including hundreds of sex offenders. The first year's investigation cost an estimated $1.8 million. The police also offered a $100,000 reward for Morin's safe return, a reward that is still applicable today. Police cleared all family members and acquaintances from suspicion. An unexplained note was found in the apartment on which Morin had written in pencil a few months earlier: "I'm going to disappear". Although police discouraged it, Art Morin raised funds to hire a private investigator. He also left his job, set up an office, and searched for clues for his missing daughter in Canada and the United States. He moved back in with Jeanette after Nicole's disappearance, but the couple permanently separated in 1987. Jeanette consulted with a psychic in Calgary in her own effort to locate her daughter. In 2004, researchers for a Belgian organization known as Fondation Princesses de Croÿ et Massimo Lancellotti announced that they had tentatively matched photographs of Morin seen on a Canadian police website with pictures on a Dutch website that advocates for sexually-abused children. Using biometrical analysis, the researchers claimed a strong resemblance between Morin and a child in a pedophile network in Zandvoort. Despite the years of investigations and thousands of leads, no physical evidence has ever been uncovered to solve the disappearance. Ongoing efforts: -While the case is considered a cold case, Toronto police and missing-child organizations continue to keep it in the public eye in an effort to garner fresh leads. Several video re-enactments of Morin's last movements have been produced, including a 2007 television re-enactment for GTA's Most Wanted. For the 29th anniversary of the disappearance in 2014, the Toronto Police Video Unit produced a re-enactment which was also screened at Mac's Convenience Stores throughout the province of Ontario. -For the 30th anniversary of the disappearance in 2015, Toronto police organized a 5K run called Nicole's Run at Centennial Park in Etobicoke. The event included a candlelight vigil. In addition to raising awareness of the case, the run collected $3,000 in donations for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which operates a missing-child website. -In 2019, on the 34th anniversary of the disappearance, the Toronto police's missing-persons unit released an age-enhanced picture of Morin suggesting what she might look like in her early 40s. -In 2001, Toronto Crime Stoppers disseminated an age-enhanced photograph of Morin as a woman in her mid-20s to more than 1,000 Crime Stoppers programs in 17 countries via the internet. Child Find Ontario has also endeavoured to maintain public awareness of the case by arranging for Morin's picture, physical description, and age-enhanced photographs to appear "on electronic screens in Esso gas stations, billing envelopes from Rogers Cable and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto Transit Commission display screens, and on the back of transport trucks". -Morin's mother Jeanette died in 2007. Her father still lives in the Etobicoke area.

Disappearance of Cédrika Provencher

Cédrika Provencher was a Canadian girl from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada, who disappeared aged 9 on 31 July 2007. Her disappearance resulted in one of the biggest police searches in Québec's history. She was declared "missing" on 31 July 2007, (but some commentators in the media already believed that she was kidnapped), and "likely abducted" 72 hours later. Despite the offer of a reward, her whereabouts remained unknown for more than eight years. On 12 December 2015, Québec provincial police (SQ) announced that her remains had been found by hunters in a woody area not far from Trois-Rivières. No one has been charged in relation to her death. Disappearance and search: It is believed that Cédrika was asked by a man to help search for a lost dog, and agreed to help. She cycled around the area, knocking on doors and asking residents if they had seen the dog. She was seen emerging from a wooded area with a friend, closely followed by a man. She was then seen on her bike in a local park and on various nearby streets. At 8:30 pm, her bicycle was found leaning against a fire hydrant on the corner of streets Chabanel and Chapais. On 2 August 2007, 72 hours later, municipal officers suggested that she had been abducted, even though it was already known since day one that a man asked her about a dog. The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) therefore took over the investigation from the smaller Trois-Rivières police service, as per law. Neither police forces declared the AMBER Alert. Hundreds of citizens assisted in the search for Cédrika, to no avail. On 13 August, while around 60 investigators were working full-time on the case, a reward of CA$80,000 was offered in exchange of information. It was raised to CA$170,000 in 2009. Between August 2007 and July 2008, various newspapers published information on various aspects of the search, but no concrete information surfaced to be able to find Cédrika or even to establish whether she was still alive. Discovery of remains: On 11 December 2015, three hunters stumbled upon a set of human remains in the woods in Saint-Maurice, a small town near Trois-Rivières close to Highway 40, about 15 km (9.3 mi) from the last place Cédrika had been seen. On December 12, it was confirmed that the remains were Cédrika's. Police had no further information at the time, and said that they would need to carry out further investigations. On 16 December, Radio-Canada revealed that investigators were still looking for a person of interest who had been seen around the area where Cédrika disappeared. Investigation: Jonathan Bettez has been considered a prime suspect since early on, but has never been indicted due to a complete lack of direct evidence. Suspect in Cédrika's disappearance: The case against Bettez, at least as revealed in media, is strictly circumstantial. Around the presumed time and place of the kidnapping on 31 July 2007, someone witnessed a "suspicious" red sedan car with chromed door handles. Since this car was also recorded by a surveillance camera at a nearby gas station, police managed to narrow it down to the 2004 red Acura TSX model, which is assembled with such handles. The news that the police were looking for a "red Acura" quickly spread through media outlets. In summer 2007, 258 vehicles of this model and color were registered in the province. Only six exactly matched the characteristics that were sought and Bettez was the only owner whose alibi could not be corroborated. He met with investigators for the first time on 6 September 2007, and on five more occasions before 24 October. Since then, he has been the object of intense police surveillance, including the use of hidden cameras and wiretapping. On 6 September he initially agreed to let his vehicle be searched, but at that time the car was in a repair shop. Investigators only gained access to the car in December after obtaining a search warrant, but no meaningful forensic evidence was found. In the meantime, the SQ announced through media in November that it was "certain" the infamous Acura rouge car was involved in the kidnapping. Bettez has always refused to take a polygraph test and, according to crime journalist Claude Poirier, he was at some point planning to flee to Switzerland, a country which has no extradition treaty with Canada. According to court documents filed during pre-hearing and obtained by journalists, he was the object in 2009 of a year-long undercover operation similar to the "Mr. Big technique", in an attempt to elicit confidences concerning Cédrika — to no avail. Even before 2016 Bettez was already rumored to be involved in the case. In 2011, a journalist from the investigative television program J.E. tried to interview Bettez, which he declined on camera. At the time, the segment aired on TVA channel but the suspect was kept unnamed and his face blurred. Arrest and acquittal: The fact that Bettez was the main suspect was revealed by journalists on 29 August 2016 after he was arrested and charged with six counts of possessing and distributing child pornography. He was however acquitted on 6 October 2018 by judge Jacques Lacoursière, before the beginning of hearings, as the proof against him was considered to have been obtained illegitimately. This evidence was acquired in December 2015, a day or two after the finding of Cédrika's remains, when investigators involved in the case decided to look into whether Bettez, the sole suspect, could be a user of such pornography. Without any warrant, Facebook gave them 12 IP addresses associated with his account within the previous year or so. They justified their request by claiming a sense of "urgency" inherent to the recent finding of the corpse, and concern that evidence could be destroyed. However, Judge Lacoursière found that there was no urgency and that a proper warrant should have been obtained. The querying of an international police database then showed that one of the IP addresses, which investigators learned was from Bettez's place of work (a small company owned by Bettez's father, with more than a dozen employees on its network), had been used to view and share illicit content between 2010 and 2011. With this knowledge, police officers chose, instead of asking a judge for a specific search warrant, to only request a "general warrant" from a justice of the peace, which is easier to obtain and was only intended as an "overview browsing" of Bettez's seized goods. The detailed and thus unauthorized inspection of his electronic devices subsequently revealed traces of a number of illegal files that had been deleted.

Disappearance of Julie Surprenant

Julie Surprenant is a missing Canadian girl who disappeared in Terrebonne, Quebec on November 15, 1999 at the age of 16. Her family's neighbor, Richard Bouillon, reportedly made a deathbed confession regarding her murder, though her remains have yet to be found and her fate remains unknown. Background: Prior to her disappearance, Surprenant was a member of her school's improv-comedy troupe and worked as a gift wrapper for the holidays at the Galleries Terrebonne shopping center. She resided with her father, who had recently separated from her mother and moved into the neighborhood. Allegedly, he asked the landlord whether the neighborhood was considered safe. Disappearance: After school, on the evening of November 15, 1999, Surprenant informed her father she would be spending a majority of her evening at the youth community center near the corner of Hauteville and Côte Boisée streets, as was common for her. The center was located next to the bus stop for the line she regularly took home or to work. Surprenant departed from the youth center at 8:30 PM with a friend prior to boarding the line to her house. Her friend boarded off at the shopping center stop, noticing Surprenant sitting at the front next to the driver. The bus driver recalled chatting with her for the remainder of the bus ride, noticing a man standing in the bus shelter at the stop. Upon asking him whether he wanted to board, the man replied he did not. At the time of her disappearance, Surprenant was wearing a floral skirt with a blue petticoat, navy blue socks over black tights, a blue scarf with a fish pattern, a green wool jacket and a dark brown leather coat. She was also carrying a black canvas backpack on which she had drawn a peace symbol. Upon awaking the following morning, Surprenant's father realized she had still not arrived home. He proceeded to check their answering machine, phone her high school, and call her boyfriend to inquire about her whereabouts. Investigation and aftermath: The police were officially notified of Surprenant's disappearance at 5:45 PM on November 16, the following day. Initially, her case was considered an abduction. Upon learning of the man at the bus shelter, they attempted to determine his identity, though were ultimately unsuccessful in doing so, resulting in Surprenant's disappearance becoming a cold case. The family's neighbour, Richard Bouillon, a convicted sexual predator, became a prime suspect. Initially, he insisted he was not responsible. In 2001, when confronted by a journalist regarding microscopic traces of blood found in his apartment during a police search, he claimed an old roommate was responsible and left hurriedly, slamming his car door on the journalist's arm in the process. In 2004, Michael Surprenant established the AFPAD, an association dedicated to families of missing or murdered people to aid in the investigations of his daughter's disappearance as well as those of others. In 2011, it was revealed that Bouillon had made a deathbed confession to two hospital employees in Laval in 2006, admitting that he had murdered Surprenant after having previously proclaimed his innocence. He claimed he had killed her, stuffed her body into a sports bag with some bricks, and thrown it into the Rivière des Mille Îles across the way from a church in Terrebonne, having also considered leaving it on the doorstep on the church. The coroner's report, released in 2012, concluded that Bouillon likely raped and killed her. Bouillon was never charged as the authorities had insufficient evidence to do so. In 2014, Surprenant's family and friends created a monument in her memory. Despite a search of the river Bouillon claimed he dumped Surprenant in completed in September of 2011, her remains have yet to be found.

Babes in the Wood murders (Stanley Park)

The Babes in the Wood murders is a name which has been used in the media to refer to a child murder case in which the bodies of two brothers, David and Derek D’Alton, also known as David and Derek Bousquet, were found concealed in woodland. The Vancouver Police Department identified the brothers publicly on February 15, 2022. Discovery: The remains of two male victims (murdered about 1947) were discovered in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on Wednesday, January 14, 1953. Police determined that a hatchet found at the crime scene, which was of a type commonly used by shingle weavers and lathers, had been used to kill the boys by striking them in the head. Their corpses had been arranged so that they were lying down in a straight line, with each boy's soles facing the other's, and then concealed with a woman's rain cape. The investigation was hampered when the medical examiner concluded that one victim was female. A DNA test conducted in 1998 proved that both victims were male and that they were brothers; they were between the ages of six and ten when they died. In 2018, detectives were planning on using consumer DNA databases such as and 23andMe to research the identities of the victims. This investigation came to a close in 2022, when the children were identified via forensic genealogy as David and Derek D’Alton, the sons of Eileen Bousquet, who died in 1996.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Disappearance of Joanne Pedersen

Jo Anna "Joanne" Maria Pedersen disappeared on the evening of 19 February 1983 around 8:15 p.m. in Chilliwack, British Columbia. Disappearance: Pedersen, age 10, her 11-year old sister, and her 14-year old female cousin were walking home from a mall when an argument ensued between Pedersen and the two elder girls. Her sister and cousin ran to their house to lock Pedersen out of the house as a prank. When Pedersen eventually arrived, she tried for a few minutes to get in, but the girls did not open the door until Pedersen had already left. Pedersen decided to give up on trying to get into the house and instead went to a corner store close to her house with the intent to call her mother and step-father, who were at a Legion hall at the time, to pick her up. Pedersen tried to talk to an employee at the Penny Pinchers, a convenience store that was located at the corner of Watson Road and Vedder Road in Chilliwack, but the employee was busy with other customers. She resorted to using a payphone outside and dialed the number to the Legion hall and asked for her step-father. As Pedersen's parents arranged to pick her up, a man took the phone from Pedersen and told her parents that they had thirty minutes to pick up their daughter before he would call the police. Her parents made it to the location within the time frame, but by the time they were there Pedersen had vanished. Investigation: Witnesses reported seeing an adult male standing next to Pedersen at the location from where the call was made. The unidentified man was described as approximately 20 to 30 years old, 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, slim to medium build, light to dark colored hair that was below the ears, clean shaven, and wearing a dark or brown jacket. Witnesses also described a vehicle associated with the man, a two-door white or cream-colored domestic car from the early to mid-70s with a dark Landau roof. The man has been associated as a suspect, but Upper Fraser Valley police say it is possible that the man was initially trying to help Pedersen and urged him to come forward and talk to police to help with the investigation. Pedersen's mother, Angela Reilly, said in 2008 as a message to the man, "As a mother, I'm pleading with you to come forward. Please do that for me." Police believe the man is still somewhere in the Fraser Valley and aware of the media coverage. Chilliwack RCMP have received three anonymous letters since the 25th anniversary from a man who claims to be a witness to the events leading up to the disappearance of Pedersen. Police say it is imperative to identify this witness so they can speak with him. The investigation remains open.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Disappearance of Dylan Ehler

Dylan Ehler is a Canadian boy who disappeared on May 6, 2020 while allegedly playing by a river near his house in Truro, Nova Scotia. Last seen on Elizabeth Street before his disappearance, which occurred during strict social distancing restrictions at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dylan became the subject of numerous news articles, podcasts and videos throughout Canada. Dylan's parents, Ashley Brown and Jason Ehler, argued that the police response to the disappearance should have been stronger. They also brought to court allegations of cyberbullying, accusing social media user Tom Hurley, who believed that Dylan was killed by someone within his immediate family and had created a Facebook group on the subject. Background: Dylan Norman John Ehler was three years old when he went missing from his grandmother’s (Dorothy Parsons') backyard on Elizabeth Street in Truro, Nova Scotia. Dylan's mother, Ashley Brown, had gone to meet a friend for coffee and had dropped the boy off to be babysat by Dorothy. Ashley and Jason Ehler had recently been in a domestic dispute involving a broken cell phone at the time. According to Dorothy, Dylan had been in the backyard with her pet dog, and went missing when Dorothy went to tether the dog to its lead. "I went to tie the dog on her lead and I turn around and Dylan is just gone. Gone. I have no explanation," Parsons claimed, and argued that she believed that somebody had stolen Dylan. Police investigators, who began looking into the case six hours after Dylan's disappearance, believed that the boy might have fallen into Lepper Brook, which fed into Salmon River, a waterway in Truro known for a strong undercurrent. Dylan was last seen wearing a camouflage winter jacket with a fur hood and United States flag patches on the arms and chest, a red dinosaur t-shirt, camouflage jogging pants, and grey-and-orange rubber boots. The rubber boots were all that was left of Dylan after his disappearance, having been found in the water by firefighters. Allegations of police misconduct: Ashley Brown and Jason Ehler have since argued that the inability to find Dylan is related in part to the lack of prompt response time by authorities, and have expressed criticism toward volunteer rescue workers aiding in the search. According to Ashley, "they never treated Dylan’s case like a criminal investigation. They just treated it like a search and rescue. I know that they didn't block off any streets. They didn't stop the public from coming into the crime scene of the area that he went missing and they were very late on issuing alerts and getting help. So I think that tunnel vision did have a play in that. Once they found the boots and that was it, that's where he went and essentially the police tell us that we need to accept it. And move on." Police searched the waterways near Dorothy Parson's backyard for several days, using underwater cameras and thermal imaging devices, as well as rigging up a mannequin with similar bodily proportions to Dylan, putting it in the water to test what would happen. Ashley Brown's videos: After Dylan's disappearance, disturbing videos were discovered posted to the social media platform TikTok by Ashley Brown. One video featured Ashley smoking marijuana and calling Dylan a "motherfucker" to his face, then telling him that he would get her sent to jail one day. Another video had been posted of Ashley singing, to the tune of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" from Disney's Frozen; "Will you help me hide a body? Come on, we can’t delay... no one can see him on the floor... get him out the door, before he can decayyyyyyy..." The videos had been deleted by Ashley, then reposted to a true crime website, after which they were eventually removed from there, as well. They are still publicly available elsewhere. Snippets of Ashley's TikTok videos can be found featured in the W5 documentary by CTV News, Where's Dylan?. Public response: In the wake of Dylan's disappearance, and in the light of Ashley Brown's video uploads, various online communities considered that Ashley or another family member had murdered Dylan and hidden his body somewhere. Katherine Laidlaw of Wired considered that this public response was in part fuelled by the rural nature of Eastern Canada and the high rate of missing persons in the province, noting that much of Nova Scotia was covered with thick forestry and undeveloped land, and that the town of Truro was most famous for "being the headquarters of one of the world’s oldest underwear factories." A Facebook group was started by Tom Hurley (using the name "Tom Hubley") with over 17,000 members at its height, where the case was debated and it was alleged that one of Dylan's family members had killed him. Dylan was jokingly compared to fictional character Georgie from the Stephen King book It, a little boy who was killed by a clown while sailing a paper boat in the water. The Ehler-Brown Family was also accused of negligence toward Dylan, leading to Halifax lawyer Allison Harris enacting Nova Scotia's "Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act" in order to have Hurley's Facebook group removed. A settlement was reached in August 2021, in which Hurley was forbidden from contacting the Ehler-Brown Family, and from creating any new internet groups about the disappearance of Dylan. This sparked a debate about the general public's right to speculate on true crime cases even if it offended those involved, versus crossing the line into illegal content, which the Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act does not define. Ehler-Brown Family response: Ashley Brown, Jason Ehler and Dorothy Parsons have consistently maintained their lack of involvement in Dylan's disappearance. Dorothy in particular has suggested that the boy may have been kidnapped while she was busy with her dog, although the police do not suspect foul play. In an interview for CTV News, Ashley Brown admitted that her TikTok videos were inappropriate, but argued that the public has taken them out of context; the Frozen dead body song video in particular was intended, according to Ashley, to coincide with an ongoing internet trend of posting parodies of Frozen soundtracks, and Ashley's video was meant to be morbid humour in no way related to Dylan. A year after Dylan's disappearance, the Ehler-Brown Family placed numerous paper boats in Lepper Brook as a form of memorial to the boy, which the public could join in on. "Today was more of a gathering for Dylan, to talk about him and spread awareness, to hold a special moment for him," said Jason Ehler. "He would have loved to have thrown boats in the water." Ehler Alert petition: In the hopes of establishing a stronger public alert system in Nova Scotia, Ashley Brown and Jason Ehler started a petition for setting up the "Ehler Alert", a public alert system which would facilitate "the rapid distribution of information to the public about young children lost in potentially hazardous environments," according to Jason.