Source: Christine Jessop Investigation
I wonder if York Regional Police would have been interested, let’s say, if another girl about the same age had been kidnapped from outside a Peterborough corner store and driven west towards Sunderland, and the location where Christine Jessop was found, but she had been released unharmed because the kidnappers truck had broken down? And say this breakdown occurred about 45 minutes from Sunderland and the incident occurred less than 3 weeks after the disappearance of Christine? Now say the kidnapper worked as a woodcutter, a profession that would have him traveling many backroads? I wonder if they would have looked at this, or were they focused on Morin even this early?
From: Toronto Star – Tuesday, October 23, 1984 (Page A1)
Police seek abductor as girl, 6, found safe
PETERBOROUGH – Police were searching through bush near here last night for the man who abducted a 6-year-old girl and held her for 19 hours.
Lynn Serena Ferguson was taken from outside a downtown variety store and was found about 32 kilometres (20 miles) away on a country road, west of the city.
Police said the Ferguson girl hadn’t been harmed.
Although she wasn’t harmed, Peterborough Police Inspector Bob Lewis said the reason for abduction is pretty obvious “when you get a girl 6 years of age taken from a candy store.”
A search of the area where the girl was found turned up an abandoned vehicle which police speculate broke down while being operated by the abduction suspect.
Lewis said Lynn didn’t escape but had been allowed to leave and it was only a short time later when she was spotted by a passing motorist.
He said the abductor may have also panicked and be hiding somewhere in the area.
Lynn was picked up at the North George One Stop Variety after walking one block from a Division St. home where her mother, Karen, was visiting friends.
Police looking for suspect in kidnapping of Peterborough girl
From: Toronto Star – Thursday, October 25, 1984 (Page A7)
Girl, woman kidnapped at random, police say
PETERBOROUGH – A 6-year-old Peterborough girl and a 41-year-old Lakefield woman were random victims of separate kidnappers, according to police investigators.
Police said the girl; Lynn Serena Ferguson, was lured into a pickup truck Sunday by a man who offered her $2 to help him find his lost puppy.
The victims did not know the kidnappers and investigations indicate they were picked randomly.
Police haven’t yet been able to establish motives for the separate kidnappings.
Although both victims were held several hours, police said neither was sexually attacked.
Police are still hunting for the man who abducted the Ferguson girl and have issued a Canada wide warrant charging Richard Stanley James with kidnapping.
James, 35, had lived only a block from the downtown variety store where the girl was abducted but recently moved to Fraserville, south of here, where he worked as a woodcutter.
From: Toronto Star – Tuesday, October 30, 1984 (Page A2)
Suspect in girl’s abduction gives himself up to police
Richard Stanley James, sought in connection with the October 21 abduction of 6-year-old Lynn Ferguson, is to appear in Peterborough Provincial Court today on a kidnapping charge.
James, unshaven and looking as if he had been sleeping outdoors, was accompanied by lawyer David Ross when he walked into the Peterborough police station at 10:08 a.m. yesterday.
The Ferguson girl disappeared after a visit to a variety store near her Peterborough home and was found 19 hours later, unharmed but about 32 kilometres (20 miles) away. The Emily Township couple who had found her said she had been wandering along the little used Hog’s Back Rd. near the southwest edge of the township of Omemee.
Police said the girl had been abducted in a red pickup truck. A disabled red truck owned by James’ employer was found abandoned not far from where she was found.
Karen Ferguson, the girl’s mother, said Lynn went to the store while she was visiting friends nearby. James had at one time lived in the same area of Peterborough as the Fergusons, but had moved to the small community of Fraserville before the kidnapping.
Christine Jessop Murder and possible connection to a kidnapping in Peterborough 3 weeks later.
Likely routes of abductors.
October 3, 1984 Christine Jessop abducted from Queensville, Ontario (left). Note: Final location in Sonya not exactly as shown. The correct location is just north of Concession 4, which itself is just north of Sonya.
October 21, 1984 Lynn Ferguson abducted from Peterborough, Ontario (marker right). Note: Final location in Sonya not exactly as shown. The correct location is just north of Concession 4, which itself is just north of Sonya.
December 31, 1984 Christine Jessop’s body found near Sonya, Ontario (centre). Note: Final location in Sonya not exactly as shown. The correct location is just north of Concession 4, which itself is just north of Sonya.
Jessop was 8 years old at the time of her abduction.
Ferguson was 6 years old at the time of her abduction.
Both were abducted from outside a corner store.
Kidnapper (Richard James) had his truck break down just south of Lindsay at the approximate area where 35 meets Hwy. 7.
Note – I don’t think James took Hwy. 7 so he could avoid police, both coming out of Peterborough and coming southeast from Lindsay. I believe he continued straight across Parkhill Rd. and continued straight across Hwy. 7 where the road name changes to Hayes Line/Concession Rd. 1. Hayes Line/Concession Rd. 1 ends at Ski Hill Rd. and directly across is an entrance to Hogsback Rd., which is a Township forestry road access. Hogsback Rd. continues as a forestry road until it finally becomes a proper dirt road eventually ending at Mount Horeb Rd., 2.5 km south of Hwy. 7. Somewhere near the point where Hogsback Rd. ends at Mount Horeb Rd. is the spot where James’ truck broke down or got stuck. From here it’s just a 12 minute drive along Hwy. 7 to the point Hwy. 7 crosses over the north end of Lake Scugog at the south end of Lindsay. 1 minute further east of this point is Little Britain Rd. If you continue along Little Britain Rd. for another 16 minutes to where it ends at Simcoe St., you are 900 m from the location where Christine Jessop’s body was located. All in all, Christine Jessop was located 43 minutes or 60 kilometres from where Richard James’ truck broke down.
Considering the woods which James’ took the girl through, which would have allowed him all the privacy he wanted, yet she wasn’t assaulted, I believe he had another destination in mind as I’ve shown above.
I also included a map showing the forestry entrance of Hogsback Rd.
Lynn Ferguson was released safely that night after being held for 19 hours and found in this area where James’ truck broke down.
James lived in Fraserville, which is just south west of Peterborough.
Note that James’ direction of travel seems to be taking him directly to Sonya, Ontario where Christine Jessop’s would be found a couple of months later and in both instances the abductors were driving away from the location of the kidnappings.
From: Toronto Star – Thursday, May 16, 1985
Man is found guilty of abducting girl, 6
PETERBOROUGH – A man who abducted a 6-year-old Peterborough girl last October, triggering a massive search by police and volunteers, has been found guilty of kidnapping and abduction of a person under 14.
A pre-sentence report was ordered yesterday on Richard James, 36, of nearby Fraserville. James was the object of a Canada-wide arrest warrant until he surrendered to Peterborough police a week after the kidnapping.
Lynn Ferguson, who was kidnapped October 21, was found by a farmer the following day, walking down a deserted country road about 17 kilometres (10 miles) west of the city.
The girl told the three-day District Court trial that a man driving a red truck had lifted her into the truck and slammed the door closed. She said he drove her into the country and they spent the night sleeping in the truck’s front seat.
The story was a quarter front page in the Toronto Star for a single day. Then relegated to the back pages a few days later when he turned himself in and back pages about 8 months later when he was convicted. That was all. Nobody deeply interested with the Jessop case that I’ve talked to have ever heard of Richard James. The name certainly doesn’t come up in any book or the Kaufman report, thought I understand they were based on Morin. But just as the books were fixated on Morin, the police were as well.
I’ve read of people around Queensville especially, and some in the Sunderland area being looked into, but I’ve never, ever seen the name of James. Often when a detective or policeman are sent to talk to somebody, they really only do a cursory job and/or the information gets lost in all the rest of the information over time and the name just gets forgotten, especially if the investigators become fixated on a suspect as was the case with Morin. However it is still an assumption that York Regional Police even went to talk to Peterborough police at all.
Either way, it’s the only new name I’ve come across in the last 20 plus years.
As he worked as a woodcutter, that would be the kind of job that you would get to know a lot of back roads and wood lots and where the farmers entrances would be in rural areas. I’m trying to find if any records still exist from the period of the early 1980’s of where the company was working as the Peterborough Police have misplaced the file pertaining to the kidnapping of Lynn Ferguson.
The other things is that this kidnapping in Peterborough was 100km away from Queensville, and at that time Christine’s body was yet to be found near Sonya, so even the direction of travel wouldn’t have meant anything at that moment. Only after December 31st, when she was found, would the connection of the direction towards the same location even start to make sense, and by then the police already had Morin firmly in their sight.
From page 107 of Redrum:
(this is not a direct quote – I’m paraphrasing)
Stephanie Nyznyk (Centre of Forensic Sciences) found a number of small reddish plastic chips which had adhered to either C’s socks or underwear – Nyznyk couldn’t tell which clothing item – because the chips had fallen off the garments. Nynznyk sent them to the chemistry section of the lab where they were promptly lost and never seen again.
While it’s worthless because the chips were lost, the truck that Richard James was driving (a company truck) was a red pickup.
In regards the damage done to Christine’s sternum, this (or these) injuries of both a cut and crushing of the sternum and ribs in the area, would be consistent with the damage that would be inflicted upon being struck with an axe. James, working for a woodcutter, would very likely to almost certainly have had an axe on board his work truck.
I haven’t found Richard James’ name turning up for any other arrests, and if he was arrested in 1984 and convicted in early 1985, nobody would have taken his DNA. To this day, police must have a warrant to collect someone’s DNA, and if he had no further arrests there would be no reason to collect a sample for DNA comparison.
Virtually every single second of the investigation initially was limited to the Queensville area. Many people even three weeks later (the Peterborough kidnapping) still felt that Christine had wandered off somewhere. No matter what, there was very little reason to look into the Peterborough kidnapping due to the distance.
Until you look at the Christine Jessop murder from the location of where her body was found as the starting point, you get bogged down in all the conflicting witness statements and rumours in and around Queensville. The one thing we do know for sure is that Christine was found near Sonya, Ontario (or Sunderland if you prefer). That’s the one solid, indisputable point. I obviously had to guess at the route someone would take from Queensville to Sonya, but the route I showed on the map a few posts previously seems to be the most direct and logical route. Right after abducting someone is not the time to be going site seeing.
When you look at the comparisons to the kidnapping of Lynn Ferguson in Peterborough you get very similar circumstances to the abduction of Christine Jessop.
1. The ages were similar – Christine was 8 and Lynn was 6
2. Both were last seen at or near a corner store.
3. Lynn was enticed with an offer of $2 to help find the guys lost puppy. Would this work on Christine, who loved animals? I’ll let you decide, but I sure think it would.
4. In both instances, the abductor was likely heading to Sonya. Christine we know ended up there, and in the case of Lynn, if James’ truck hadn’t broken down just south of Lindsay where Hwy. 7 crosses the north end of Lake Scugog, his route, whether it be Hwy. 7 or Little Britain Rd. heading towards Little Britain, takes him directly to 2kms north of where Christine was found if he used Hwy. 7, or if along Little Britain Rd., virtually directly across County Road 2 (Simcoe Rd.) from where Christine was found. James could have headed to his home in Fraserville but he didn’t. There is only two choices around Lake Scugog, and that’s Lindsay to the north and Port Perry to the south. He choose the northern route, and you can look for yourself on the map where that westerly direction heads towards. Of course I’m guessing at James’ ultimate destination, but by choosing the northerly route around, and we know for sure he did, the odds start narrowing. He could have assaulted Lynn right where he broke down but he didn’t, so again, I’m guessing that he had another location in mind that was west of Lindsay.
Without being able to check those “red plastic chips”, it couldn’t be confirmed it came from James’ red pickup truck, but it’s one more check mark. Maybe just a check in pencil, but a check mark nonetheless.
Just going by the description of the injuries and without any medical consultation, that wound on Christine’s chest to her sternum sure sounds like it could be consistent with an axe. A woodcutter would almost certainly have an axe on his truck.
To me, it’s a crime of opportunity, along with enough knowledge of the areas of both the abduction and the site in Sonya. In the Peterborough case, James’ actually had previously lived within a kilometre of the corner store where Lynn was abducted from. Lynn had also left her mother, who was at her friends place, to go to the nearby corner store and when James’ offered her $2 to help find his lost dog, she was immediately snapped up and put in the truck. Doesn’t sound like she was targeted, it was just the wrong place at the wrong time, and somebody who was looking for a little girl to snatch. Unfortunately it can be as simple and quick as that.
One constant assumption is that whoever drove to the site where Christine was found, entered off of Concession 4. That winding path would not give you line of sight to the trailer. You wouldn’t know if anyone was there, or a farmer walking their dog, until you were nearly on top of them.
But follow that tractor trail in the opposite direction from the trailer (more of a southerly direction) and it’s leading up a small hill across an open field towards Simcoe St.. towards a farmers entrance off of Simcoe St.
Rather than enter off Concession Rd. 4, where you wouldn’t be able to see if anybody was on the property, if you came in off of Simcoe St. you would be at the top of a hill looking down onto the trailer and have a wide open view to see if anybody was around either the trailer or just walking a dog.
I lean toward someone knowing that nobody was at the trailer. It could be that they knew the trailer was only used on weekends or they may have driven by earlier in the day and checked if anybody was there. But not seeing a car parked at the trailer wouldn’t guarantee that nobody was there. A person could have been at the trailer while the other person took the car to pick up groceries or something like that. You would have to knock on the door to make sure and you sure wouldn’t want to do that with a little kid you just grabbed sitting in your truck. There was definite knowledge of the site and very likely the schedule of people using the trailer. It wasn’t picked randomly. But I do think they entered off of Simcoe St. rather than Concession Rd. 4. That would definitely give you a far better chance of seeing a farmer or somebody walking a dog eliminating at least that possibility of being disturbed.
One other possibility is that tire tracks leading to the trailer may have been visible. No tracks, no one there. Tractor tracks would be very different than tracks of road tires. Certainly if it was at all muddy you could tell if a car had gone in. From weather data for Seagrave, Ontario, which is 4km away from Sonya, Ontario, for the days of October 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, there had been 3.8mm of rain. That leads me to believe the tire tracks, or lack of, would be clearly visible. If there were no marks off of Concession 4 then you would be pretty sure that nobody had gone into the trailer. Then drive around the corner onto Simcoe St. and enter from there and see there are no farmers or dog walkers and no car at the trailer and they would be alone.
Now there’s a driveway out to Simcoe St. from the lot where Christine was found. The lot hadn’t been developed in 1984 and just had the tractor trail into the trailer, but the trail also ran well past the trailer up a small hill heading in a southerly direction. Usually farmers would have at least two entrances, especially on a larger corner lot like that. They weren’t exactly “legal” entrances, but what they would call a farmers entrance. They may have a culvert to get over the ditch, but often the ditches were shallow enough a farm vehicle or even a car or truck, could enter. Often the same farmers would be working a few lots in the area, so it would be easier to go in and out the closest entrance and certainly the one that is less muddy. With the southern portion of the lot being higher ground, it would be less muddy than the lower northern entrance off of Concession 4, and by accounts of that entrance in various books and reports, it was a well rutted entrance. Likely harder for a civilian vehicle to get in and out of.
Picture: Shows the lot as it is today, including the location of Little Britain Rd. (the distance was incorrectly marked as 700m, it should be 900m)
The black and white picture shows a bit better of what I’m getting at, when I say if you enter off of Simcoe St. you could see everything in front of you wide open, plus be a wider elevation. It doesn’t quite go back far enough, but it gives the basic idea quite well. You could see from up there clearly. There’s no trees blocking your view of the trailer as there is if you come in off of Concession 4.
The map picture in colour, is obviously an earlier picture than the Google Maps picture from the previous post. The driveway in this earlier picture doesn’t go back in as it does now, but you can clearly see the farmers entrance I’m referring to.
If you go to Google Maps and go down to street view you can clearly see the entrance off of Concession 4 is at a far lower elevation than the entrance off of Simcoe St.
I wouldn’t come in off of Concession 4, even if you could see no tire tracks in the mud and had scouted the location to see if anyone was there earlier in the day, you couldn’t guarantee that somebody wasn’t walking a dog near the trailer or if the farmer had come in off the other entrance off of Simcoe St. because you couldn’t see them through the trees from Concession 4. From higher ground with a clear view, though you can see everything.
I filed a Freedom of Information request with Peterborough Police but it’s not looking promising for further information on the kidnapping of Lynn Ferguson in Peterborough. There’s still a chance but it seems the original files may have fallen through the cracks of digital archiving and may not be found. There are still some other options of foot work, trial transcripts, phone calls and newspaper archives, and maybe some luck the files will be found.
In regards the time to commit a murder during daylight: Christine was assumed to have been abducted about 4:00 pm. It’s 45 minutes from Queensville to Sonya. Sunset for October 3rd, 1984 in that area is 6:56 pm. Twilight was 7:25 pm. That’s a two hour window of daylight, so it is definitely possible it could be done.
I received a letter from Peterborough Police regarding my Freedom of Information request for the files pertaining to the arrest and conviction of Richard James in the kidnapping of Lynn Ferguson and it says “the search concluded that no records exist. The Peterborough Police Force automated their records system in 1987. Records prior to January 1st, 1988 are limited.”
Nothing’s easy. But, there are still searches to be done on the Peterborough Examiner archives of the era when Trent University is finished working on the library building in the spring, as well as an attempt to located the trial transcript, and more footwork in the area in the hope that someone remembers something.
From everything I can find James was never in prison prior to being convicted of the kidnapping in Peterborough, and I also can’t find any connection with him and anyone in Queensville, so I doubt very much he ever met Christine’s father. It certainly isn’t conclusive. His company and/or himself may have done work in Queensville and had direct contact with people there, even Christine’s family, but I get the feeling James was one of these “people” (I really want to use another word, but I don’t want to get in trouble) who get the urge and see a situation they can exploit.
I think it’s far more likely he was working nearby and had noticed the school was on his route home and decided to see if he could grab a little kid when the opportunity presented itself. I don’t think this was as much a thought out plan, as it was a crime of opportunity and some local knowledge of the site in Sonya and at least a very good working knowledge of the roads in and around Queensville.
I don’t think she took her bike to the store that day. She was found with her recorder with her, and as somebody pointed out, she likely was afraid she would break it while holding it and riding her bike. Certainly seems reasonable and would explain why her bike was at home. Without a bike to throw in the pickup truck box it would only take a second to grab a little kid and toss them in the truck. James used the ruse of needing help to find his lost puppy and $2 to grab Lynn Ferguson, and we know Christine loved animals so I wouldn’t doubt he used the exact same approach.
As for jobs being done in and around the area, I know there was work being done on various subdivisions and some commercial lots and on some farms and some road work. Nobody has the precise records for that time period that I’ve contacted, but every one said that at some point the lots had been cleared of scrub brush and woodcutters were hired to remove and dispose of the brush.
One thing of note is that at the time of Christine’s disappearance, Highway 404 was being extended from Bloomington to Aurora Sideroad between August 1982 and September 1985.
It just goes to show just how easy if would be for a red pickup to fit in without anyone noticing even right in the middle of Queensville.
Source: Christine Jessop
Christine Jessop, 9, Queensville, Ontario, 3 Oct 1984
Basic summary of the case:
October 3, 1984. At approximately 3:50 pm, Christine Jessop got off her school bus on Leslie Street, just north of the main intersection in Queensville, Ontario. She was most likely excited about her new acquisition – a plastic recorder (a whistle-like musical instrument) given to her that day by her school teacher. She had apparently made plans to meet her classmate, Leslie Chipman at the park (just east of the main intersection and near the corner store) around 4 pm.
Christine picked up her family’s mail and bounded up the lane and into her home. No one was there. Her father (Bob) was serving time in a correctional facility. Her mother (Janet) was out running errands with Christine’s older brother (Ken).
According to witness testimony, at some point between 4:00 and 4:30 pm, Christine strolled into the convenience store located at the intersection south of her home on Leslie Street and bought some gum.
Leslie Chipman, who had apparently called Christine’s house shortly after she got off the school bus and got no answer there, went to the park to await Christine. Christine never showed up.
When Janet and Ken Jessop arrived home at about 4:10 pm, they saw Christine’s bicycle where she normally kept it – but it was in a fallen state with some minor damage. Her book bag was on the kitchen counter, as well as the mail.
Unable to find Christine, they called her friends and searched the neighbourhood and the nearby park. She was nowhere to be found. Sometime between seven and eight o’clock, Janet called police and a massive search for the little girl began.
On December 31, 1984, Christine’s body was found at the edge of a farmer’s filed near Sunderland, a community 40 km east of Queensville.
Details of the crime scene according to the “Kaufman Report” (CHAPTER V):
“Her body was on its back and decomposed. Her legs were spread apart in an unnatural position and her knees were spread outward. Animals appeared to have eaten at the legs. Her head was pointed north and her feet south. A sweater was pulled over her head. A few bones were scattered between her head and what remained of her legs, giving the appearance that her head and waist were not connected. The victim was wearing a beige turtleneck sweater, a blue pullover sweater, a blouse on which some buttons were missing and two pairs of socks. Her panties were found at her right foot. Blue corduroy pants with a belt and a pair of Nike running shoes were found just south of her feet. These clothes were subsequently identified as belonging to Christine. Her school recorder, with her name still taped on it, was found next to her body. The hand-knitted blue sweater with the zippered front and no collar, which she was last reported wearing, was not found on the body; nor was it ever located.”
Christine had been killed by multiple stab wounds to the upper body.
In 1995, DNA from the semen found on her underwear was used to exonerate a Queensville man who had been wrongly convicted of her murder (Guy Paul Morin). A subsequent inquiry into the matter revealed numerous police blunders and misconduct during the investigation, contaminated evidence, and fabricated witness testimony.
Christine Jessop’s murder remains unsolved to this day.
Some people feel that the following person was involved in the murder of Margaret McWilliam:
James Marr was convicted in 1994 of the May 16, 1992 murder of Martha Watson McKinnon. Her body had been found behind an apartment against a fence. She had been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted.
| TORONTO SUN
Wednesday, August 27, 2003 Kim Bradley
‘Shemale’ is 34th murder
Transgender escort strangled in apartment
The murder of a “shemale” escort in her downtown apartment has friends and fellow escorts fearful they may be next. Cassandra Do, 32, of Toronto, known as Tula on the street, was found dead in her 11th-floor home on Gloucester St. on Monday at 10:30 p.m. by horrified relatives after failing to hear from her. An autopsy yesterday revealed Do had been strangled.
“I just can’t believe it,” said Tasha Jones, a transgender friend and former escort. “That’s why I don’t do what she did anymore. It just got too scary.”
Jones is suggesting the transgender escort community come together and look out for each other when working.
“It could have been one of us. We need to bond and stick together,” she said. “Being a transsexual is sometimes very lonely. We really can’t trust a lot of people.”
Jones said Do lived a reclusive life and only let a select few know her real identity and background, adding she was well-liked and well-known by others in the business, but only as Tula.
“I didn’t even know her real name,” Jones said, her voice breaking with emotion.
Do, the city’s 34th homicide victim of the year, used to turn tricks out of her apartment and advertised on the Internet using the Web site www.shemaletula.com. She also advertised in local community papers.
Another fellow escort, who asked not to be named, said she was in a state of disbelief when she heard about Do’s death.
“I still can’t accept it,” she said, adding Do was a loner.
“She was a very private person. All I really knew about her is that she loved cats.”
Her brother was visiting her at the time of her death, but police wouldn’t confirm if he was the one who found her. Friends are planning a memorial service.
Det.-Sgt. Craig Sanson from Toronto Police is asking anyone with information on Do’s final hours to call 416-808-7400 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477).
TORONTO, Sat, Nov 29/2003
A Trans woman was sexually assaulted by a client matching the description of Cassandra Do`s murderer and a 1997 assault (see below for description). It was an incall at her place in the Parkdale area at about 2 am. He got her number from her ad in an EYE magazine edition from last August. She hadn`t advertised since August. At the beginning of the date he seemed fine, though he wasn`t interested in foreplay. He then got rougher and began choking her. She managed to push him off of her and she got up to get something from behind the curtains. He lunged at her. She then told him that the camera on her dresser was recording everything. He stopped immediately and apologized. He got dressed and left but not before stealing a substantial amount of money from her purse. An interesting detail is that he removed the condom he was wearing and took it with him. Also he was completely shaven. Not a hair on his body. The sex pro has his work number and has given it, along with this info to police.
Cheryl Rowe was last seen Thursday, December 22, 2011. On Rathfon Crescent In the town of Richmond Hill, Canada. She may be in the U.S.Cheryl Rowe is 5 feet tall 125 lbs thin buildDark Brown Hair, …
Post by @Snively68.
Source: Frank Roberts Murder
Frank Roberts was gunned down on the morning of Thursday, August 13th, 1998 in the parking lot of the OBUS Forme Ltd. factory on Hopewell Ave. at Dufferin St. Roberts, 67, the inventor of the OBUS Forme backrest support cushion, and president of the company, arrived at work at 7:30 every morning, and police speculated his killer knew his schedule and ambushed him the morning of the 13th. The murder had hallmarks of a professional hit.
Roberts’s life had seen some changes in recent months, things he had kept secret from many of those close to him. He had been dating Etty Sorrentino, a 31-year-old married Florida woman. Earlier in the year, he had taken out an $830,000 mortgage on his Toronto home and bought a dream house in North Beach, Florida, a new Mercedes, and expensive gifts for Sorrentino. His extravagance may have been beyond his ability to afford.
Several witnesses to the slaying came forward and, days after the murder, police received an anonymous call from someone who provided what authorities considered “vital information”. Police have never revealed what that information was, and it is unknown if the unknown caller ever contacted police again.
Death of a self-made man.(OBUS Forme Ltd. founder and head Frank Roberts)
Article from: Canadian Business | November 13, 1998 | Kaihla, Paul
Frank Roberts transformed a humble piece of plastic into the OBUS Forme back rest, one of the biggest success stories in Canadian marketing history. Then his brutal murder revealed the millionaire’s secret life.
Hundreds of mourners packed a sweltering Toronto chapel to pay their final respects, while condolences from the rich and famous poured in from across the land. The Aug. 16 funeral reflected the life and achievements of Frank Roberts, whose peers in corporate Canada had once ranked him among the country’s top entrepreneurs and twice honored his company as one of the nation’s best-managed private enterprises. Roberts, 67, had invented the OBUS Forme back rest and made a humble piece of plastic the greatest single success story in the history of Canadian product marketing. But the enigmatic millionaire was fated to be even more famous in death than in life. For Roberts is the only high-profile CEO in memory to be gunned down in a mob-style execution.
The killing happened an hour after sunrise as the grandfather of 13 children stepped out of his black Mercedes SL 500 convertible and walked toward the gleaming facade of OBUS Forme Ltd.’s headquarters in a west-end Toronto neighborhood populated’ by working class immigrants and building supply retailers. The killer, who is still unidentified, shot Roberts in the head and chest at point-blank range. It was Aug. 13, a Thursday, and the brutal murder transformed a mundane workday into a media circus. Those in the CEO’s immediate universe, friends, family and his 100 employees – many of them immigrants from poor countries – reeled in shock. Their tears were sprinkled with accolades. “He would always come in with a smile, and he treated us all with respect,” a worker told a Toronto newspaper the day of the shooting. “He didn’t have an enemy in the world,” Roberts’ older brother, Walter, told Canadian Business weeks later. “He was just a kind, nice man.”
Frank’s most recent ex-wife had remained close to the slain businessman and his three children from a previous marriage. She sped to the crime scene after hearing of the killing from a friend. “He was a very happy man, and he was loved,” Dominique Leval recalled with emotion. “You ask me how, how, how. We would like to know because we don’t have any answers.”
Everyone was asking the same question: “Who in the world would want Frank Roberts dead?”
But a more telling point of departure, perhaps, would be to turn that question around. “Who didn’t?”
Within days of Roberts’ death, the fabric of a strange, secret reality began to unravel, details of which were unknown even to members of his own family. Roberts, it turned out, had a mistress in Florida, where he had owned a Miami condo for years. Etty Sorrentino, an Israeli emigre less than half Roberts’ age, lived with her eight-year-old daughter – and was still married to her second husband. He was a flashy Miami restaurant owner who had trouble staying in business and making support payments to an ex-wife and two kids he’d left behind in New York City. At the time Roberts was killed, the Sorrentinos were on holiday in Italy.
Roberts’ business life was no less complicated than his personal life. In the first in-depth exploration of the businessman’s private world, Canadian Business conducted exclusive interviews with Roberts’ son, Brian, co-owner and current head of OBUS Forme, and Roberts’ last wife, Leval. Canadian Business also located former employers, competitors and associates who offered their own revelations. What emerges is a portrait radically at odds with Roberts’ public image.
Consider these voices from Roberts’ professional life, from men who crossed his path as he took a garage invention and transformed it through raw will into a multimillion dollar, international export.
“Sometimes you wish that someone would just disappear,” says a former OBUS executive, adding slowly, “not that they deserve to get shot. He made a lot of enemies.”
Some of those enemies did little to disguise their enmity. “After Roberts was killed, my phone stopped ringing for two days,” joked a competitor. “Everyone thought I was in on it. Right. I don’t own a gun.”
Even a prominent Toronto business figure could not find it in his heart to forgive Roberts in death. ‘It really irks me when I see all these articles eulogizing the guy,” he complained. “I’ve worked hard and I’ve been successful, but I never had to cheat anybody to do it. He was not a nice person. He did not have a very good reputation.”
What Roberts did have was a faculty unique to born salesmen: the ability to visualize the exact point at which a demand curve intersects with a supply curve. “He had a calling,” says Frank’s 38-year-old son Brian, fondly reminiscing in the OBUS Forme boardroom. “He saw a product and he’d import it. That was his love.”
Roberts pursued that love with staggering stamina, relentlessly chasing the next high in either business or pleasure through tortuous cycles of boom and bust. His shrewd marketing instincts and his personal pain would lead him to develop the OBUS Forme, an invention that would generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue from Kuwait to California, and become to back supports what Kleenex is to facial tissues. After an agonizing half-century-long quest marked by personal and business failures, Roberts would finally find a goose that would lay golden eggs. …
‘I know who did it’; Toronto tycoon’s 1998 murder still bugs retired cop
TORONTO — The unsolved murder of a Toronto business tycoon continues to irk retired detective Ray Zarb even though it’s been almost 18 years since that summer morning when he first arrived at the bloody crime scene.
It was 7:24 a.m. on Aug. 13, 1998 when Zarb and his partner responded to a report of a shooting at an industrial parking lot.
When they arrived, the body of Frank Roberts — the millionaire inventor of the Obus Forme backrest — lay on the ground next to his Mercedes Benz SL 500 with one bullet hole to the head and two to the chest.
“I know who did it,” says Zarb, who investigated the killing first as a fresh murder and then as an unsolved crime when he transferred to the Toronto police cold case squad years later.
He won’t get into the details of the case, but Zarb says he had two “huge tips,” both leading him down a trail to organized crime. He believes there was a wheelman, a triggerman and someone who ordered the hit.
But the evidence gathered by detectives wasn’t strong enough for prosecutors, he says, and the case remains unsolved.
“It irks me, it bugs me,” Zarb says at his home in Burlington, Ont. “Police officers don’t forget. I’ll never forget. And we’ll catch the guys. We’ll get them.”
Now he’s pushing the leader of the cold case squad, Det. Sgt. Stacy Gallant, to look into the case again.