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. …
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.
Girl, 6, found dead, foul play suspected
By Rosemarie Boyle
Globe and Mail
May 15, 1975
Metro Police suspect foul play in the death of a 6-year-old girl found yesterday in Etobicoke Creek hours after her mother left her miles away at school.
Tracey Ann Bruney of St. Clair Avenue West was discovered at 1 p.m. in the creek near the bridge at Lake Shore Road. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Queensway General Hospital.
The girl’s mother told police she dropped the child off at the schoolyard of St. Clare Separate School t 8:55 a.m. yesterday. The school is on Northcliffe Boulevard in the St. Clair Avenue and Dufferin Street area.
The child was not in class when the bell rang at 9 a.m., her teacher told police.
The parents, Earl Chambers and his young wife, Merle, interviewed early this morning after six hours of questioning at No. 21 Division in Etobicoke, said they were completely shaken.
“We have no enemies. i don’t know how something like this could have happened to us. I keep asking myself ‘Why'” Mr Chambers, a machine operator, said in the family’s one-bedroom walkup apartment.
Mrs. Chambers, still wearing a scarf over pink sponge rollers in her hair, tried with difficulty to light a cigaret.
“She was such a good little girl and so happy..” I questioned her this morning and she said she liked school and she liked her classmates. I don’t know what to believe.”
She left Tracey at school at 8:55 a.m., seconds before the bell rang. When the child did not return for lunch she began to worry.
“The next thing we knew we were at the police station.” Mr Chambers said.
Tracey was Mrs. Chamber’s child from a previous marriage.
Mrs. Chambers and Tracey came to Canada from Dominica when the child was 10 months old. The family recently moved from Rexdale.
While her husband was in the bedroom, Mrs. Chambers sat on the sofa with her face in her hands and worried about the cost of a funeral.
“I don’t know where we will get the money. I’m not working and we don’t know how we’ll afford it. Do you think the Government pays for things like this?”
In a flat emotionless voice, she said “Why would someone do this?”
“All the questions…How would we know why it happened”
Herbert Howard, principal at the school, said last night Tracey had only been a pupil at St. Clare since April 28.
“The school is about 500 yards from her home so it is doubtful that someone would take her from school,” he said.
“She got along very well with other kits and fitted right in. She seemed to enjoy school and her teacher said she was a good student.”
The family’s apartment, situated above a restaurant, was guarded last night by police on the stairs leading up to the apartment and on the street outside.
Police went to the restaurant below several times to question the staff and patrons. Inside the apartment police searched every room.
Police refused to say where the child’s mother was. Police reports that shew as being interviewed in No. 14 station on Eglinton Avenue proved false.
An autopsy performed last night indicated the girl died of drowning police said.
Mrs Chambers is a housewife. The couple have a 3-year-old daughter, Terri.
Last night Terri, who had accompanied her parents while they awaited the postmortem results, stood in the middle of the crowded livingroom as though in a daze. She looked up at the two uniformed policemen in wonder as her parents searched the apartment for a picture to give police and reporters.
Police ask anyone who may have seen the girl in the schoolyard or elsewhere to call the duty inspector at 567-2347.
She is described as black, four feet tall, weighing 53 pounds and having short brown hair. She was wearing a cream-colored short spring coat, blue jeans, a blue long-sleeved T-shirt and white sandals.
Globe and Mail, Friday May 16, 1975
Police say girl beaten before death
Metro homicide police believe 6-year-old Tracey Ann Bruney was severely beaten on the head and thrown into Etobicoke Creek where she was found on Wednesday. An autopsy revealed the child died by drowning. Her body was discovered by Mark Norrie, 13, of Lake Shore Road East at 13, of Lake Shore Road East at 1:05 p.m. while he was playing in Marie Curtis park. The body was in 18 inches of water near a bridge at Lake Shore Road. She was fully clothed and had not been sexually molested, police said.
The girl disappeared Wednesday after her mother, Merle Chambers of St. Clair Avenue West, left her in the schoolyard of St. Clare Separate School on Northcliffe Boulevard, about 500 yards from the family’s home, police said. She was found dead 10 miles away. Police said they have no suspects.
Toronto Star, May 20, 1975
SLAIN GIRL’S PURSE FOUND NEAR SCHOOL
The black plastic purse in which 5-year-old Tracey Ann Bruney carried her lunch to school just before she disappeared last Wednesday was found in a yard at the weekend, police said today.
The girl’s body was found about 1 p.m. the day she disappeared, about 120 miles away in Etobicoke Creek at Marie Curtis Park. Police have offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the person or persons suspected of killing her.
An autopsy showed she had drowned, but before death ha d received a number of bruises and cuts on her head and neck.
The purse was found in a yard on Northcliffe Blvd. near St. Clare Separate School where Tracey was a kindergarten pupil.
Globe and Mail, May 21, 1975
Bag was dead girl’s, Metro police find
Metro police have confirmed a black school bag found on Monday in a Northcliffe Boulevard backyard belonged to Tracey Ann Bruney, 5, who was beaten and left to drown in Etobicoke Creek last Wednesday.
Staff Sergeant Jack McBride of the homicide squad said there is no doubt in his mind that the vinyl shoulder bag is the one Tracey used to carry to her kindergarten class at St. Clare Separate School on Northcliffe Boulevard. The bag was found less than a block from the school.
Her parents, Earl and Merle Chambers of St. Clair Avenue West, will be asked to identify the bag today.
Tracey was buried yesterday after a service at St. Anne’s Anglican Church on Gladstone Avenue. About 35 people, including the principal and teachers from her school, attended.
Today, police will canvass residents on Northcliffe Boulevard, which is near St. Clair Avenue West and Dufferin Street, and near the creek for new leads. Thus far, there are no suspects, police said.
Police have e offered $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the child’s killer.
Tracey was last seen by her mother, who took her to school at 8:55 a.m. last Wednesday. Four hours later she was found 10 miles away in the creek. in Marie Curtis Park. An autopsy revealed she had been severely beaten and drowned.
Toronto Star, May 30, 1975
$5,000 REWARD OFFERED IN GIRL’S DROWNING
A $5,000 reward is now being offered for the arrest and conviction of whoever beat Tracey Anne Bruney, 5, and threw her into Etobicoke Creek to drown.
The little girl disappeared May 14 after her mother, Mrs. Earl Chambers of St. Clair Ave. W., dropped her off at school. Her body was found later that same day about 10 miles from the school, and police are seeking anyone who can help p them track down how the girl got from the school to Marie Curtis Park.
The increased reward, up from $2,000, was approved yesterday by the Board of Police Commissioners.
Toronto Star, May 1, 1976
Little Tracey Ann Bruney’s bruised body was pulled out of the water in Etobicke Creek on May 14 last year, less than four hours after she disappeared.
The pretty 5-year-old had been drowned – deliberately in about 18 inches of water under the bridge of Lakeshore Blvd.
She was taken there, police believe, after being abducted near St. Clare School at Northcliffe Blvd and St. Clair Ave. W., where she should have attended a morning kindergarten class. She was seen alive a few minutes before class started.
Tracey was then taken more than 10 miles across town and murdered in the creek in Marie Curtis Park.
Tracey, just 3 feet 7 inches tall and weighing only 43 pounds, was seen face down in clean water by a young boy playing in the park about 11:30 a.m. He dashed home and told his mother, who called police.
Homicide detectives believe someone may have seen Tracey as she was being taken across town to her death. She was wearing a gray-green cloth, hip-length coat with button4d front, dark blue turtleneck sweater, medium-blue corduroy slacks, white socks and white striped sandals.
The child, who wore her born, short curly hair in braids, was carrying a black vinyl shoulder-strap bag, 6 inches by 8 inches.
“She was a cute little kid,” said one detective. “We can’t imagine any reason for this killing. She had not been molested.”
At 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14th, 1975, a teenage boy walking through Marie Curtis Park found the body of 5-year-old Tracey Ann Bruney in 18 inches of water near a bridge in Etobicoke Creek, 15 km from the youngster’s home. She had died of drowning, but there were cuts and bruises all over her head and neck from a beating administered by her killer. An autopsy showed she had not been sexually assaulted. She was last seen alive by her mother at 9a.m., when she was dropped off at St. Clare Catholic School on Northcliffe Blvd. On the weekend, Tracey’s purse was found in a yard on Northcliffe Blvd., suggesting someone forcefully pulled her into a car near the school.
Police using 2014 technology to solve little girl’s 1975 murder
By Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun
First posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014 06:59 PM EDT | Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014 08:59 PM EDT
TORONTO – Somewhere, her murderer has escaped justice for almost four decades now.
When five-year-old Tracey Ann Bruney was snatched from school and drowned in May 1975, there was no such thing as social media. The sad story of her murder was played out in the newspapers and on radio and TV newscasts but within a year, it was not heard about at all.
Just another unsolved murder for the records and an unknown tragedy to the rest of us.
But no more.
Toronto Police Det.-Sgt. Brian Borg took to Twitter last week to announce that he was now using social media as a tool to investigate more than 550 unsolved murders that remain on their books. Using anniversaries of the murders and birthdays of the victims, the veteran homicide detective plans to tweet details of each one.
Tracey’s murder was the first: “Tracey Ann BRUNEY 5yr never made it to her morning kindergarten class at St Clare Separate School on May 15 1975 Can you help?” The photo is black and white, grainy and unfocused, of a smiling child who slipped in and out of this city in such a short period of time.
News stories of the day recount that she was 10-months-old when she was sent back to live with her maternal grandmother in Dominica while her mother Merle tried to establish herself financially. Her mom went on to marry machinist Earl Chambers and together they had a daughter, Terry.
In December 1974, Tracey was brought back to Toronto to be reunited with her mom and to meet her stepdad and new half-sister. Just five months later, she was dead.
The family had recently moved from Rexdale into an apartment above a restaurant on St. Clair Ave. W. Her mother told police she had dropped her daughter off outside St. Clare Catholic School just around the corner on Northcliffe Blvd. where Tracy had been attending morning kindergarten for several weeks. She never made it to her classroom.
“Tracey was so happy with us and she laughed all the time,” her mom told the Sun at the time. “When she didn’t come home at lunch hour, I went back to the school to look for her but no one had seen her.”
While Chambers was frantically looking in her neighbourhood, 13-year-old Mark Norrie was playing in Marie Curtis Park about 16 kilometres away when he saw a girl lying face down in Etobicoke Creek. He ran home to tell his mother, who quickly called police.
Officers responded shortly after 1 p.m. and attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But it was too late. Tracey was pronounced dead at Queensway General Hospital. “The official cause of death was drowning but the post-mortem showed a number of injuries consistent with physical assault,” Borg explains. She was not sexually assaulted.
Her mom was taken to the hospital to identify her.
“I told them it couldn’t be Tracey. But then I went in and they pulled the sheet back from her face and I could see it was her,” Chambers recalled the following day.
“Why is it that children pay for everything? Why do we always turn on the radio and hear of children being kidnapped or killed?”
A month later, a Sun feature story questioned whether there was a child killer responsible for the deaths of Tracey and another little girl as well as the disappearance of three other kids between Toronto and Hamilton that year.
Tracey was just a tiny doll of a child — 3-foot-7, weighing all of 43 pounds, her black curly hair in braids, dressed in a grey cloth coat, blue turtleneck and blue pants. “It was a terrible case,” Borg says after reading the file. “I see nothing here that indicates to me that the family were suspects. We didn’t get very far with the investigation. A number of rewards were issued over time which didn’t provide any investigative leads.”
Now four decades later comes a tool that helps detectives reach out for new clues. “Time is a friend in cold cases because people change,” he says. So Borg is hoping his tweets may jog someone’s memory — or their conscience — to help solve the identity of who killed this innocent little girl.
A child still waiting for justice, all these years along.
CBC News Posted: Aug 31, 2015 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Mar 20, 2016 11:09 AM ET
Was the killer of Tracey Bruney a serial killer from London, Ontario?
In 1975, we have five-year-old Tracey Bruney in Etobicoke. In 1981, we have Erick Larsfolk in the company of his best friend, John McCormack. Neither body have ever been found. Do you believe this is all connected to the man that he referred to as the neighbour?
At first glance, London, Ont., doesn’t seem like the type of place that would harbour a serial killer, but a new book has revealed it may have been a more dangerous place than meets the eye.
Only 192 kilometres southwest of Toronto, the city became the “serial killer capital of the world” from 1959 to 1984, according to Michael Arntfield, a criminology professor at the University of Western Ontario. With only a population of roughly 200,000 people at the time, the city may have had as many as six serial killers, more per capita than everywhere else on the planet.
In his new book, Murder City: The Untold Story of Canada’s Serial Killer Capital, Arntfield reveals the dark history of the Forest City. Thanks to the work of an OPP detective who followed his hunches and took detailed notes while following the killings, more is known about suspected murders who wreaked havoc in the area.
Arntfield, who also served as a London police officer for 15 years, analyzed 32 homicides, all the victims being women and children, over a 15-year period. Some of those cases were solved, but most of the remaining homicides were likely the work of serial killers, the author contends.
Monsters such as the Mad Slasher, Chambermaid Slayer and Balcony Killer are suspected of having roamed the city’s streets. Some of the murderers were never captured, Arntfield says, but he suspects they escaped to Toronto, where they continued to harm the innocent.
The author of this chilling book sat down with CBC Toronto host Dwight Drummond to discuss this disturbing period. The following is a condensed and edited version of the interview:
You owe much of the information to OPP officer Dennis Alsop, how important was his documentation to your research?
It is extraordinarily important. A lot of the stuff that happened during this period, there is no other living record of it — much of it was thought to have been lost to history. But he took the time to diligently document his thoughts, his hunches, his findings, things that could be acted on but also things that would go no further than him.
And ultimately contained in that codex, as I call it — the basement book of the dead — are answers to these cases and he knew they couldn’t die with him so he left them behind to be found as a sort of a time capsule. His son then gave them to me knowing my work at the university with respect to unsolved homicides.
Let’s talk about one of the alleged killers, a man you identify as the neighbour.
After great deliberation and consultation with the families in the first of the murders, I’ve decided not to name him or reveal any other identifying information about him other than he was the neighbour of the first victim, Frankie Jensen, in February 1968. There is no question in looking at Dennis’s documents from this period, his diary entries, his own thoughts, his own narrative, that the neighbour was responsible. and the steps taken by the neighbour to avoid capture and elude investigators really speak to that.
After the first murder, he then targeted a second boy in the London area, [but] Dennis was not given the go ahead to make an arrest.
What happens next is Dennis stays on him, conducts surveillance on his own time, never really gives him any breathing room, so he leaves town.
In 1975, we have five-year-old Tracey Bruney in Etobicoke. In 1981, we have Erick Larsfolk in the company of his best friend, John McCormack. Neither body have ever been found. Do you believe this is all connected to the man that he referred to as the neighbour?
We then see four remarkably similar murders — in terms of ammunition and signature — in the Toronto area in the immediate vicinity of the area, in which he is living at the time after moving from London.
While these lives are being taken in Toronto, Alsop is trying to sound the alarm to his superiors that this is the work of a serial killer and it started in London and has moved to Toronto.
In the book, there is a very chilling document that was found in his codex … and it is the first of several teletype transmissions he sent, like an early version of a fax, and it is sent to the higher ups in Toronto saying, listen, London is under siege by [what he refers to as] sexual psychopaths, which is not a common term certainly for a police officer to be using at the time. He is saying there are at least two or more sexual psychopaths preying on this city. We need reinforcements. He was effectively alone in the hinterland. And there is no evidence there was any response. It fell on deaf ears and really the city was left to its own devices with him as the sole person chasing these killers.
They call it the Forest City, forests are picturesque and suggest a sort of bucolic nice tranquil place but there are also dark places that harbour secrets and dangerous people. There is something about the design of the city circumscribed by these remote areas, and this is why Dennis also inherited all these cases because victims were taken, abducted, murdered inside the city and taken or disposed of outside the city. He would inherit those cases because outside the city was purely OPP territory and at the time, that was the jurisdictional practice.
On Sunday, December 4th, 1983, art teacher Thomas Cahill was stabbed to death in his home on Berkeley St. Charles Furlong, a tenant in Cahill’s house, had heard Cahill talking to someone downstairs, and then, at 4:45 a.m., he heard Cahill call his name. When Furlong came downstairs, he found the front door open and Cahill lying in a pool of his own blood. Police believed Cahill was stabbed by a departing visitor. He had spent Saturday night at the Parkside Tavern on Yonge St.
From The Body Politic (January/February 1984)
Police are asking for help in locating the murderer of Thomas Cahill, 44, a high school art teacher found stabbed at his Berkeley Street home early Sunday morning, December 4.
Cahill was taken to St Michael’s Hospital, where he died 30 minutes later.
Sgt Herman Lowe of the homicide squad said police have been questioning people, including hustlers in the downtown area, who may have seen Cahill in the hours before his death. Individuals have been “most cooperative,” Lowe said.
Cahill was last seen at the St Charles Tavern early that Saturday evening.
Anyone with information about Cahill’s whereabouts between 7 pm December 3 and 4:30 am December 4 can call Toronto Homicide.
Elementary school teacher Graham Pearce, 36, was stabbed in the throat in the master bathroom of his 25th-floor apartment at 35 High Park Ave. on Sunday, March 20th, 1983. By the time his roommate found him shortly before 1 p.m., Pearce had bled to death. Police believed the bachelor was murdered by someone he either brought home with him or admitted to the apartment early on Sunday morning. Police later learned Pearce had spent Saturday night at Stages, an upstairs gay bar at the Parkside Tavern on Yonge St. near Wellesley St., where he was last seen by a friend walking to his car at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
Toronto police are appealing to the public for leads in a cold case murder dating back to 1983.
Graham Hugh Pearce, 36, died on Sunday March 20, 1983 around 12:40 p.m. after being fatally stabbed in an apartment at 35 High Park Ave.
Pearce’s roommate called police after arriving home to find Pearce dead on the bathroom floor.
Pearce was a single, gay man, who was a teacher in Peel Region, police said.
Police issued a YouTube video appeal Wednesday to the public asking for assistance in finding Pearce’s killer.
Toronto police homicide Det.-Sgt. Stacy Gallant said the investigation revealed Pearce had bar-hopped the night before his death on March 19, 1983.
“That night, he visited Boots Bar at the Selby Hotel on Sherbourne Street and Stages Bar at Yonge Street,” Gallant said.
Pearce drove home that night after 3 a.m. in his vehicle, a 1973 Plymouth, “along with his would-be killer or killers,” Gallant said.
Police identified a person of interest through evidence, Ronald Thomas Gale, then 22, Gallant said. Gale died in 2001, before investigators identified him in the case, he added.
Cold case investigators are appealing to anyone who knew Gale, or knew who Gale’s friends and associates were in 1983, to contact police, Gallant said.
Investigators are also appealing to people in their 50s and 60s in the gay community who may have information.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-7474 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).
Cops seek help in murder cases
TORONTO — Metro police are asking for help in solving the separate murders of two Toronto gay men found stabbed to death in their apartments within a recent three-week period.
The body of Graham Pearce, a 36- year-old teacher, was discovered by his roommate in his High Park highrise apartment shortly after noon on Sunday, March 20, 1983. The previous night, Pearce had gone for a drink with a friend to the gay bar, Boots, and later to Stages disco on Yonge Street. (Note: the bars differ from the Parkside Tavern listed above) He and his friend danced until 3:15 am, walked up Yonge St and parted company at Wellesley St at 3:30 am. Pearce was last seen walking west on Wellesley St in the direction of a parking lot where his car was parked.
According to Metro Police Homicide Squad officer Sgt Brian Raybould, Pearce was wearing blue jeans, blue T-shirt and a dark bomber jacket at the time. Raybould described Pearce as 5 ft 8 inches, stockily built with dark brown hair going to bald. Although the photo released by police shows Pearce wearing glasses, he always wore contact lenses when downtown.
Less than three weeks later, at 11 pm on April 5, 1983 police and the fire department were called to extinguish a fire in a condominium in the East York apartment complex of Crescent Town. After the fire
was put out, police discovered the nude body of Donald Weir in the bathtub. The 50- year-old Weir had died of multiple stab wounds.
Homicide’s Staff-Sgt Don Sangster said Weir was last seen in a store in Crescent Town at 6 pm on the day of the murder. Earlier in the day he had also been seen in a bank and a couple of hotels on
Danforth Ave. “We don’t know if he was in the bars that night,” Sangster told TBP, although it is known that he occasionally drank at Boots and the Quest. Waiters at both bars do not recall seeing him that night. Weir’s roommate recently returned from a holiday out of the province. Police say he reported certain property was missing from the apartment. (Note: do they mean after he returned from vacation or after the murder?)
According to the investigating officers, there are no definite suspects in either case at the moment. The local media have attempted to link the murders (“Fatal pattern haunts gays,” screamed one Toronto Sun headline) but police were more cautious. “There isn’t anything that connects the two,” Staff-Sgt Tom Milne stated flatly.
Sgt Raybould said police were checking out hustlers and street people in the downtown area. He said a number of men were under investigation, and mentioned a list of individuals known to frequent downtown bars. “We’re not having much luck,” Staff-Sgt Sangster admitted.
Initial media coverage of the murders did not mention the sexual orientation of the victims. It was only after the Weir death that the Sun began to stress the gay connection. “We’ve never reported this as a homosexual killing,” Sgt Raybould said. Although he said there were no official police guidelines on the matter, “my decision is that you’re in big trouble if you brand a killing a gay killing. First of all, how do you know it is? One of these days we’ll have one that isn’t. Besides,” he added, “there’s a Charter of Rights in this country now.”
“We don’t mention anyone’s lifestyle,” said Staff-Sgt Sangster, “but there’s no harm in mentioning the bars the deceased went to.”
Both Sangster and Raybould said that members of the gay community have been cooperative in coming forward with information. “There’s been a great response from people,” Sgt Raybould said.
Fontaine was severely beaten in the washroom of the St. Charles Tavern on December 20,1975, and died in hospital six months later.
On Friday, May 31st, 1974, seven-year-old Cheryl Hanson vanished while walking east along Bloomington Sideroad near Yonge St. in the town of Aurora, about 35 km north of downtown To
ronto. Her parents had permitted her to walk to her cousin’s house for a sleepover, and the little girl left her home at about 6:30 p.m. Her route from her home to her cousin’s would have taken her about one kilometre east along Bloomington Rd., at the time a dirt road dotted with the odd residence or farm.
Despite massive searches, no trace of Cheryl was ever found, however the presumption is she was murdered. In 1976, a mental patient locked up for other crimes against young women confessed to murdering her, but his story was unable to be verified.