Editor’s note: the DEAD WRONG homepage has links to previous articles, the cast of characters, extras, and commentary.
Part 4: Channelling Kimberly McAndrew
This article contains graphic accounts of violence and sexual violence that will disturb some readers.
In the next few months Glen Assoun will likely be fully exonerated in the murder of Brenda Way.
Brenda will then join at least 22 other women and girls on the Major Unsolved Crimes list 1 published by the Halifax Regional Police Department. Here they are:
Age at death: 22
The first unsolved murder dates to July 26, 1974, when Helen Knickle was found dead on the Halifax Common.
In 1991, Daily News reporter Rob Roberts published six-part series on unsolved murders headlined, appropriately enough, “UNSOLVED MURDERS.” To this day, Roberts’ series remains the most detailed look at many of the murders on this list. In Part Three of the series 2 he wrote about Knickle’s death:
At 2:50 a.m. on Friday, July 26, 1974, her body was found just off the sidewalk at the southwest corner of the Commons, across the street from where the chip truck often parks today [that is, just off Cogswell Street, across from the tennis courts].
Two pedestrians crossing the Commons at first thought it was a drunk — until they saw stab wounds.
It looked to detectives like Knickle had been walking home after an evening out when she was grabbed off the street and pulled into the bushes.
Or maybe Knickle, a Macara Street 3 housewife, had been with a friend. The police could not find out. The motive appeared sexual. Her clothes had been pulled down.
A woman had been molested by a man earlier in the week in the same area, and police had evidence the murderer may have attempted attacks on other women that very night.
“I think she just happened upon that area at the wrong time and became a victim,” says Halifax police Staff Sgt. Don Thomander.
Knickle was stabbed many times, the killer seemingly in some kind of frenzy. There was evidence of strangulation as well. Detective Supt. Fitzgerald Fry said at the time the violence indicated the killing was the work of a “psychopath.”
About two years passed, and then two girls were killed in the Spryfield area:
Age at death: 14
Fourteen-year-old Judy Parks was reported missing on July 11, 1976, and her remains were discovered on October 9, 1976 in the woods off Highway 103 in Timberlea. Wrote Roberts in 1991:
The last time anybody saw Judy Parks, she was sitting on the front step of her apartment building at 2 Keating Rd. in Armdale, on July 10, 1976, around suppertime.
“We went to the horse races, and she didn’t want to go,” says her mom, Frances. “She was going to stay at home. To this day, I still partly blame myself for not taking her. It’s the only time I ever left her home.”
Judy was 14, a blonde, brown-eyed Grade 7 student at J.L. Ilsley High School.
“She was well-developed for her age. She may have looked older,” says Frances Parks.
Nobody saw her leave, but she went missing for months, says Halifax RCMP Cpl. Bill Roy.
Police theorized Judy had run away, but her mom did not think so: “I knew my daughter wouldn’t run away,” she says.
Three months went by, and the Parks family received many crank calls and false tips. Parks would check them all out, without luck.
On Oct. 9, 1976, a Greenwood Heights man found her body when he went out to bury his cat off a woods road off Highway 103, in Timberlea. Time, weather, and scavenging animals had left little evidence for the police to work with.
“The body was there that long,” Roy says, “any evidence would more likely be gone.”
Police had trouble even confirming cause of death. There was little or no physical damage to the remains that were found.
Age at death: 17
Florence Keeble’s body was discovered on October 30, 1976 by hunters in the woods off Old Sambro Road. Again, Roberts, the Daily News reporter, provided specifics in his 1991 article that were missing from previous press reports:
Florence Keeble, an attractive, 17-year-old blonde, was found in a wooded area off Old Sambro Road on Oct. 30, 1976. She had been raped and strangled.
She was to have spent the previous evening at a shower, but instead went to a small house party with some friends. She was last seen leaving alone, near the fire station on Herring Cove Road between midnight and 1:30 a.m.
“We can put her leaving by herself. But that’s it,” said [police Staff Sgt. Don] Thomander.
Her body was found by two youths out hunting the next afternoon, just a mile from where her friends last saw her, covered in leaves and brush. …
Police suspected a number of people, including a young man close to Keeble’s social circle.
He was one of several Keeble friends who left the Halifax area shortly after the death, and there were indications he was seen with scratches on his face the day after Keeble’s death.In 1990, detectives travelled to Ontario to interview the man. He said he had been in a scuffle in a tavern. Police had nothing to disprove it. He remains one of the possible suspects, but nothing more.
Roberts speculated that Parks and Keeble were the victims of a serial killer. The girls, he noted, “were similar in age and appearance.”
The two girls could have known each other. Police theorized the killer might have known both of them.
“Because the two murders were very similar we were very concerned there might be a serial killer involved,” says Staff Sgt. Don Thomander, who heads Halifax police’s criminal investigations division.
Frances Parks says her daughter and Keeble looked alike in pictures. She says it certainly seems as though the two killings were connected.
“Both girls were buried partially, with twigs,” she says.
Years later, police came to believe that serial killer Clifford Olson, who was later convicted of murdering three boys and eight girls in the Vancouver area, 4 was living in the Halifax area at the time of Parks’ and Keeble’s deaths and may have killed both girls.
“We were never able to confirm it. But there was some indication that he was here. We checked it out and we could never really determine whether he was here for sure,” Thomander told Roberts. But it’s unclear why police thought that.
By the end of the 1990s, police had found another suspect for the murders of Parks and Keeble: Andrew Paul Johnson.
I’ll return to Johnson later in this article.
There’s then a welcome decade-long gap in the list of unsolved women’s murders.
[no photo available]
Age at death: 17
On November 4, 1985, 17-year-old Tina Barron’s body was found in a ditch along Robinson Road near Indian Brook. She was a sex worker, and had been living at the Inglis Lodge.
Her murder remains unsolved.
Age at death: 27
On March 28, 1986, Ann Masson, a 27-year-old masseuse and married mother of four, was found murdered in a rooming house at 2468 Robie Street, having been repeatedly stabbed. 5
A police investigation revealed that Masson lived on Lemon Walk in Spryfield, but at 3pm left her house to visit a friend at the rooming house.
Twenty-five-year-old Josh Randall Borden was charged with first-degree murder in Masson’s death, but that charge was subsequently dropped.
“Police have said that Masson was not involved in prostitution, but there was some indication she was involved in the local cocaine trade along with her roommate,'” reported the Chronicle Herald.
Rob Roberts of the Daily News reported that Masson and her husband were Satanists: 6
At their Lemon Walk home in Spryfield, photo albums contained pictures of them in ritual satanic poses. One shot had Anne with a knife posed over her chest in a ritual fashion.
On the morning of March 29, 1986, her friend, Brenda Simon, climbed the stairs [of the Robie Street rooming house] after a night’s work. It was Easter weekend.
Anne lay at the foot of the bed, fully clothed, a dagger in her chest and multiple stab wounds across her body.
On the dagger was carved “666′ and ‘Satan.” Masson’s wrists and neck were cut in what the papers described as “ritual-like fashion.”
A meat cleaver and butter knife lay on the bed. Pieces of rope, apparently used to tie Masson’s wrists, lay on the floor.
On an oval mirror, written in lip liner, were the words: “Brenda, you’re next.”
Age at death: 22
The Halifax police department’s unsolved crime page 7 relates the following:
During the evening of November 17, 1988, Suzanne Elizabeth Dube, a 22-year-old mother of two young children, went missing from her residence in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. Ms. Dube left her children with a baby sitter stating she had to “check something out” and would be back in a few minutes. There were reported sightings of her in the area of The Load of Mischief and Club 2000 in Lower Sackville during the evening hours of the November 17 and in the early morning hours of the November 18, 1988.
Four months later, on March 25, 1989, Dube’s decomposed body was found floating in the Bedford Basin, near Shore Drive.
In 1991, police had Dube’s body exhumed in order to perform forensic tests. Police would not say what they were looking for, or if they found any new information. 8
The case remains unsolved.
Missing person, presumed homicide
Age last seen: 19
I’ll discuss McAndrew’s case below.
Age at death: 31
On April 5, 1990, Jean Myra’s body was found under the stairs at the grain elevators off Atlantic Street. She died from asphyxiation. “Her body was found naked from the waist down, her jeans turned inside out and draped over her body. Her grey boots were placed neatly on her back and a cigarette butt had also been placed on top of the body.” 9
Myra was the mother of three and had been living at the YMCA; she was said to be a sex worker.
Police reported 10 that:
The victim had last been seen leaving a tavern located in the south end of Barrington Street around midnight on April 4, 1990, and she was known to frequent the general surrounding area in the south end of Halifax.
Age at death: 21
On June 5, 1991, Carla Strickland’s body was found in the woods in Shubie Park, near the highway. She had been strangled to death.
Strickland grew up in Lunenburg County. At the time of her death, she was a student at Mount Saint Vincent University and working in a downtown bar. She had no court record. The police release on Strickland’s murder 11 relates that:
The investigation revealed that Carla had spent the evening of June 2, 1991, celebrating a friend’s birthday at a popular Halifax club. She then went to Albro Lake Beach in Dartmouth with three men where they hung out until dawn. At approximately 7 a.m. on June 3, 1991, Carla was reportedly dropped off by one of the men at the Tim Horton’s on Wyse Road in Dartmouth, where she was reportedly going to use the pay telephone. Carla was not seen alive again.
The “popular Halifax club” was the Palace. Subsequent press reports said that police had a suspect but not enough information to charge him.
Age last seen: 25
Leslie Katnick has not been found in the almost 25 years since her father reported her missing in November 1991. The Halifax police explain: 12
On November 4, 1991, Montreal Police received a complaint from Mr. Katnick reporting that his daughter Leslie Anne Katnick was missing. Leslie Katnick had been residing in Montreal, Quebec, until November 1, 1991, which was the last time she was seen by either friends or family.
The investigation revealed that a Leslie Katnick registered into the Halifax YMCA on November 2, 1991, for several nights, and returned the key on November 4, 1991. Ms. Katnick’s banking card was used on November 2, 1991, in Halifax. No further information has surfaced with respect to Leslie’s whereabouts.
The circumstances of Leslie’s disappearance are suspicious and foul play may be involved.
Age at death: 18
Andrea King flew to Halifax from New Westminster, British Columbia to check out local universities she was thinking of attending. After landing at Halifax International Airport, she called her parents and said she would call again the next day, after she had found a place to stay. She never called back, and was reported missing on January 4.
Charlie Craig, who was out hunting, discovered King’s remains in the woods near the end of Glendale Drive, behind the Sackville Business Park on December 22, 1992.
Age at death: 17
On June 1, 1993, Shelley Connors’ body was discovered in the woods behind the Spryfield Lions Rink.
Two days before, on a Saturday afternoon, reported Ryan Van Horne: 13
Shelley’s brother Corey answered the phone. “A guy on the other end told me he wanted to talk to my sister,” says Corey, who didn’t recognize the voice and suspects the caller “Chad” was using an alias.
“Shelley went out maybe 20 minutes later and that’s the last time we saw her,” he says.
Connors was a student at St. Patrick’s High School.
In 2003, police said they had received “fresh evidence” that “re-ignited the investigation” into Connors’ murder, 14 but 13 years later no one has been charged.
Age at death: 25
On November 23, 1994, Kimber Lucas’s nude and mutilated body was discovered at about 8:30am in the parking lot behind 5783 North Street. She was last seen between 1:30 and 3:30am on the Maitland Street stroll.
Lucas was a promising student and model, who had become addicted to cocaine and turned to sex work to support her habit. At the time of her death she was seven months pregnant.
Speculation is that Lucas was killed because of a drug debt. 15
Age when first reported missing: 30
Crystal Jack was last seen at her Agricola Street apartment by her mother on July 15, 1997. Her remains were found on June 9th, 2011, in the woods about a kilometer east of the Irving station at the Mount Uniacke exit off Highway 101.
Jack was a sex worker frequently seen on the Maitland Street stroll. Police say that “Jack may have been threatened by others who were known to frequent the north end of Halifax.” 16
Age at death: 32
Rachel MacQuarrie was a 32-year-old woman living at 234 Victoria Road, an apartment building near Russell Street, not far from where Brenda Way’s murdered body was found. MacQuarrie was reported missing on October 8, 1997, but the last anyone had seen of her was two weeks before, on September 27. The investigation into MacQuarrie’s disappearance is what led police to interview Robin Hartrick, which in turn led to the conviction of Glen Assoun for the murder of Brenda Way.
Police had always suspected MacQuarrie was murdered. “She [MacQuarrie] had never been located or apparently there was no trace of her using any credit cards, telephone, hydro, so on and so as a result of that, the MacQuarrie file became one of our investigations,” testified police investigator Stephen Maxwell at Glen Assoun’s trial.
On June 13, 2002, MacQuarrie’s skeletal remains were discovered in the woods by a construction worker who was working on the twinning of Highway 101 near Stillwater, at the Mount Uniacke exit.
People who remember MacQuarrie when she was alive tell me that she was a sex worker.
Age at death: 27
Christine McLean was reported missing on April 14, 1998. Her body was found on May 11, 1998, near the water treatment plant in Cherrybrook. She had a court record that included prostitution-related convictions.
The discovery of McLean’s body was what David Carvery said led to the conversation between he and Glen Assoun in the Halifax Correctional Centre. Carvery said that Glen had admired the way McLean’s murderer had disposed of her body, allegedly admitting that he killed Brenda Way but didn’t properly dispose of her body.
Margaret “Robin” Hartrick
Age at death: 35
Robin was Brenda Way’s best friend. I discussed Robin’s murder at length in Part 2 of this series.
Age when reported missing: 33
Laura Cross was last seen on July 12, 2001, and was reported missing in August 2001. Her remains were discovered by two hunters on a logging road near Dollar Lake Provincial Park on October 14, 2002.
Cross had left her family home at age 13, and somehow ended up working the streets of Boston for a few years before landing back in Halifax. Her local court record is full of shoplifting and prostitution-related charges. Reportedly, in the years before she died, she had a $300/day drug habit.
“In a presentence report prepared for one of her court cases,” reported the Chronicle Herald, 17 “Ms. Cross told a probation officer that she had been shot, stabbed and beaten by clients while she was working as a prostitute. She claimed one of her worst beatings was by an ex-boyfriend in September 2000.”
Just before her disappearance, Cross seemed to have been making progress in kicking her drug habit. 18
At the time of her disappearance, Cross lived at 18 Middle Street in North End Dartmouth.
Age at death: 26
Naomi Kidston was found dead inside her apartment at 61A River Road in Spryfield on June 7, 2005. One of the people who found her told Daily News reporter Andrea MacDonald 19 that Kidston’s pants were down and her head looked badly beaten. MacDonald said Kinston had told people she had “days to live, and Kidston’s neighbours believed the murder was related to a drug debt:
Allyson Franklin, who lived downstairs from Kidston, said drugs could have been behind the murder. She had no comment when asked whether her friend owed someone money at the time of her death.
Franklin urged people not to focus on that aspect of the case and said her upstairs neighbour was a wonderful person whose emotions ran the gamut.
“She could be a beautiful amazing woman and she could make you laugh until you’re falling off your chair and then the next moment, really down and depressed,” said Franklin, who was in group homes with Kidston when the two were young.
Age at death: 34
Nancy Forbes was last seen on November 7, 2006, at a bus stop on her way to a job interview in Burnside.
Forbes had sometimes worked as a sex worker. I’ve been unable to find any more information about her.
Age at death: 36
At 2pm on May 11, 2009, Tanya Jean Brooks’ body was discovered in a basement window well of St. Pat’s Alexandra School in North End Halifax. The means of death haven’t been announced.
“Friends remember her as a mother of five who loved her kids,” reported Hilary Beaumont: 20
“She could draw, oh my lord, and paint,” said Candy Hutchinson, who used to run with her when they were little.
She always had a notebook on her, and wanted to be known as a poet, remembered a Mi’kmaq elder.
“Tanya was funky and creative and very artistic,” recalled her sister, Vanessa Brooks. But she wasn’t perfect. “When she was good she was good, when she was bad she was bad,” her sister said. “She was human.”
“Tanya had a sickness,” Hutchinson said. “If she hadn’t been addicted to the drug, her life might have been a whole lot different.”
Tanya’s criminal record is a long list of skipped court dates and breaches plus charges for fraud, assault, and uttering death threats. In 2008 she spent time in prison, where she continued to write poetry.
When she was released, people who knew her said she tried to clean up. According to court documents, she found a job at a café and began going to school.
When Tanya’s murder hit local media, reporters mentioned her history as a sex worker. She worked in the sex trade at times in her life, but there’s no indication that she was in the business when she died, or that her history as a sex worker had anything to do with her death.
[no photo available]
Age at death: 39
On April 29, 2011, Angela Hall was found in the foyer of an apartment building at 44 Primrose Street in North End Dartmouth. Police reports give no details, but she was seriously wounded and died from those wounds later at hospital.
Hall had had a troubled life, including over 20 court convictions, several of which were prostitution-related. In 2004 she was in a bizarre standoff with RCMP officers in New Glasgow; she later pleaded guilty to possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, uttering a threat by telephone to cause death to members of the RCMP, and breach of a recognizance. 21
That so many murders and presumed murders have not been solved raises questions about the ability of the Halifax police department to properly investigate them. Halifax has by some estimations the highest unsolved murder rate in Canada.
From time to time over past decades, the police department has formed special task forces to investigate murder clusters, or cold case squads to look at all the unsolved murder cases. The problem was the special investigative squads were not given the time or resources required to solve cases, and some of the task forces seem in retrospect to have been searching for preconceived solutions — i.e., the tunnel vision AIDWYC says often leads to wrongful convictions.
For instance, in 1986, a RCMP-Halifax police task force was created to look into the murders of Helen Knickle, Elizabeth Tucker, 22 Judy Parks, Florence Keeble, and Tina Baron. But the task force set out to find a connection between the murders — specifically, because each of the victims had been dumped in the woods, it was presumed they were all killed by the same person. Some unidentified “files” were sent to the FBI’s behavioral science section in Virginia, but evidently no common ties were identified, and the task force was disbanded after just six months. 23
In 1997, another RCMP-Halifax task force, this one dubbed “Operation Full Course,” was established to look at cold cases. This was the one headed by Dave MacDonald, who pegged Glen Assoun for the murder of Brenda Way.
It’s unclear how long Operation Full Course existed, but in October 2000, Halifax police announced the creation of another “cold case squad” with the aim of “opening up 20 unsolved murder and missing person cases dating back to 1974.” 24
But that 2000 cold case squad was disbanded within a year due to “lack of resources,” Deputy Chief of Police Chris McNeil told a reporter. 25
Yet another cold case squad was created in 2003, when the RCMP and HRPD started an “integrated” police effort. The new squad supposedly had five members, but by 2008 the Chronicle Herald was told that the squad had just two investigators. Even then, officers assigned to cold cases were often put on temporary assignments on more pressing cases. 26
So while the police department said it wanted to solve cold cases, and while it would periodically announce the creation or re-creation of a cold case squad to investigate them, the history of cold case squads shows that the efforts were half-hearted and starved of resources and personnel.
“I am completely and totally disgusted with management’s lack of commitment when it comes to [investigating cold cases],” retired detective Tom Martin told Halifax Magazine last year. 27
And the various cold case squads “solved” just two murders, one that resulted in no conviction 28 and a second — Brenda Way’s murder — in which they apparently got the wrong guy.
The quintessential Canadian girl
Like Brenda Way and Robin Hartrick, many of the victims mentioned above lived on the margins of society. Whether or not police were indifferent to their murders, the public was — after an initial salacious news item or two, apart from the occasional retrospective look at unsolved murders, these women and girls quickly faded from public memory. Most people in Halifax couldn’t tell you who Jean Myra or Crystal Jack or Laura Cross or most of the others were.
The big exception is Kimberly McAndrew. Seemingly everyone in Halifax knows Kimberly McAndrew’s story.
Kimberly grew up in rural Parrsboro, the daughter of Cyril McAndrew, an RCMP cop. She was a small, pretty 19-year-old woman, still wearing braces, who came to the city to attend Dalhousie University. She shared an apartment with two of her sisters on Maxwell Avenue, in the far North End of Halifax near CFB Willow Park. She got a job at Canadian Tire on Quinpool Road.
On Saturday, August 12, 1989, Kimberly had to work, but she had made plans for after: at five o’clock, her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, and her own boyfriend, also from Parrsboro, were to pick her up at work and go out to celebrate her boyfriend’s birthday. But for some reason Kimberly clocked out early, at 4:20, and was never seen again.
Kimberly was “a pure victim,” reported Stephen Kimber. 29 “She didn’t do anything to deserve this,” Tom Martin told Reader’s Digest. 30 Kimberly’s “story was poignant for much of society, especially the middle class, of which she was a member, and marked the pinnacle of the moral panic,” noted a student thesis. 31
And Kimberly’s family and supporters had the skills and connections to keep attention on her story. After Kimberly’s disappearance, her sisters stapled posters all over town and took out ads in newspapers. Cyril McAndrew worked his police contacts to pressure investigators, who were more than willing to help a fellow cop. Reporters were receptive to the story of the quintessential Canadian girl gone missing, and in the years since, hundreds of articles and media reports have been published about Kimberly’s disappearance.
Everyone wanted Kimberly’s case solved. Her family wanted it solved, the public wanted it solved, the cops wanted it solved. And so in 1995, in one of the periodic police re-investigations of cold cases, Kimberly’s file was assigned to detective Dave MacDonald, the same cop who three years later would arrest Glen Assoun for the murder of Brenda Way.
“A little bit mentalness”
With no fresh ideas and no new leads, Dave MacDonald took an extraordinary step: he called a psychic.
Noreen Renier is perhaps the psychic best known to law enforcement, including to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, a connection she plays up on her website: 32
In 1981, when Psychic Investigator Noreen Renier first lectured at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, her work with police detectives was considered controversial. Now, she is a well-known psychic detective who has worked on over 600 unsolved cases with city, county, and state Law Enforcement Agencies in 38 states and 6 foreign countries. She has a unique understanding of both the police and the paranormal.
Noreen Renier has often stated a Psychic Detective should be called into an investigation as a last resort, when traditional methods have been exhausted.
Last year, I called Renier at her Florida home to ask her about the Kimberly McAndrew case.
“Nova Scotia? Where’s that?” she asked. I explained that Nova Scotia is a province in eastern Canada, and that Halifax is the capital city. Reiner was talkative and pleasant, and as we continued our conversation, I could hear her rifling through her papers. “Oh yes,” she said, “Kimberly! Here it is! Do you want the tapes?”
Indeed I did, and a couple of weeks later three cassette tapes, the recordings of psychic Noreen Renier’s sessions with Halifax police Constable Dave MacDonald, arrived in my mailbox. I’m publishing those recordings here in their entirety because they provide an extraordinary look into a police investigation that went terribly wrong.
The psychic sessions were conducted over the telephone. The first session lasted just short of an hour, the second almost a half-hour, and the third about 45 minutes.
“I’ll have to do a little bit mentalness on [Kimberly],” said Renier, explaining the process. “Maybe I’ll go into her mind a little bit, because I can see how she looks, and just how she was before she left.” From there, Renier shifted back and forth between her own voice and channeling Kimberly.
Through the sessions, Renier appears to play on MacDonald’s ego. About halfway through the first session, for example, there’s this exchange:
MACDONALD: Kimberly, we have Kimberly now, do we?
MACDONALD: Kimberly, is there anyone we can talk to to help us find you?
RENIER/KIMBERLY: I don’t know if he would talk to you, but the person that — who would help find me… well, you’re going to find me. You’re going to find me. I see you finding me.
MACDONALD: You mean me?
RENIER/KIMBERLY: Yes, you find me. You find me.
MACDONALD: Yes, I will.
RENIER/KIMBERLY: Now just be careful, because I see all these women just hugging you to death.
RENIER (as herself): Yeah, I see you finding Kimberly. This is Noreen.
Then, at the end of the first session, Renier “reads” MacDonald:
I do feel like you’re strong. I feel like either you work out. You’re very disciplined. Very disciplined. Maybe a neat fanatic, in some extent. I think you would be athletic, but you’re not competitive with outside influence. But I feel like you have an athletic body. Maybe the stuff you do would be more loner. You’re not into competing. You do have a temper that you’ve learned over the years to control. It’s amazing. Right there you should have a little medal. It was pretty bad at the beginning. And I see some very strong [sores?] on your knuckles.
In that first session, MacDonald was joined by Audrey McAndrew and Heather McAndrew, Kimberly’s mother and sister respectively. Several times, Renier pulls Audrey and Heather into the conversation:
RENIER/KIMBERLY: I want to hear my mother’s voice.
RENIER (as herself): Detective, she wants to hear her mother.
AUDREY MCANDREW: Kimberly, I love you.
RENIER/KIMBERLY: What have you done with your hair?
Later in the session, MacDonald asked Renier/Kimberly, “How are you now? What is your condition?” Renier complained a bit about “jumping around” in time from the past to the present, and then continued:
RENIER: This is a difficult question because I have family there, and I don’t want to be swayed. Would you have a symbol? One thing meaning life, and the other thing meaning the person’s not alive? And let me see if I can pick the symbol that it is without knowing what the answer is. Does that make sense?
MACDONALD: Yeah, I understand what you’re asking.
RENIER: Do you want to take a second and think up a symbol? Because this is very hard for me to say.
MACDONALD: OK, why don’t we just go on, Noreen?
RENIER: OK. [then, with irritation] Can we just find her? She’s under water — she’s not going to be alive.
About three seconds of silence followed, and MacDonald, apparently uncomfortable, moved the conversation along. About two minutes later Renier returned to Kimberly’s family.
“I want to hear the mother, I want to hear the sister,” said Renier. “I want them to ask me to guide you, or give you mileage or give you information. I want to hear their voices. We need to get this more emotional so Kimberly will stay with me, because she’s not here now, I don’t have her.”
Then Renier brought Heather into the conversation:
RENIER: Heather, you had a lot of dreams, during your sleep period, of your sister, didn’t you?
HEATHER MCANDREW: Yes.
RENIER: Did you write any of it down?
HEATHER MCANDREW: No.
RENIER: Well, I try to recall as much as I can, because I think there’s even clues in the dreams. Your sister just finally gave up on you. You’re the procrastinator in the family.
So much of this strikes me as cruel and unnecessary.
Regardless, the point of the session was to get information on Kimberly’s whereabouts, so let’s get into the details.
I shared the recordings with Gary Posner, a writer for The Skeptical Inquirer magazine, which is devoted to “the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view.” Posner has long dogged Renier and criticized her work, and the recordings I shared with him are the basis of an article The Skeptical Inquirer will publish next month.
In his article, Posner details inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the recorded interviews that occur right from the start:
The first session… Renier soon makes “psychic” contact and offers news that everyone has been waiting six long years to hear: “I have Kimberly here. … She’s going to show us pretty soon where she is.” Yet matters quickly devolve into a protracted “wild goose chase,” beginning at the very beginning with a couple of serious stumbles. Kimberly (being channeled) declares, “I’m going to go out the south side of the building.” But although that side does face the street, witnesses attested to her exiting the rear parking-lot door along the building’s north side. And mere seconds later Renier tells us, “Her car is taken a short distance,” though Kimberly did not drive to work that day.
The most important part of the psychic’s reading for MacDonald came about a third of the way into the first session:
AUDREY MCANDREW: Kimberly, could you tell us how far you would be from the Canadian Tire store right now?
RENIER: I’ve got a 1-7 this time. I got a 1-7 this time when you asked. It could be 1.7. It’s by the, I don’t know what you call something up there a park, or parkway, or park something. Park road. But there’s something with a park involved in the area that she’s at.
RENIER: There’s also a — let me just see how she is now. There would be a submersion — the submersion would be in water that didn’t travel. It would be more still, quiet…
RENIER: …not moving water. Still water. It would be three peaks or three — something very strong with a 3 — I don’t know, towers, peaks, something going high up in that area.
RENIER: I lost it. It comes and goes.
MacDonald then suggests that Heather McAndrew speak to Kimberly:
HEATHER MCANDREW: Kimberly, wherever Kimberly is now, is it a familiar place? Is it some place she frequented?
RENIER: Yes, I, everybody’s been there. Everybody in that area has been there in a time period. I mean, some place popular, some place that’s visited or seen a lot.
HEATHER MCANDREW: Is it familiar to us? Like, is it familiar to the family?
RENIER: We went there more for a holiday, I think, one time. It was during a holiday we went there. I don’t know what the holiday was, but I just feel that it was during a holiday that we went there. The water, the towers, I just feel, it doesn’t have to be in the main water. It could be other areas that go in the ground. That would be more safe. It has to be more small. It’s not the big thing. It’s something more small, more contained. It’s strange, but more often than not, if the murderer is local, he wants to be able to observe the body, and it not being disturbed.
HEATHER MCANDREW: [gasp]
MacDonald understood that Renier was saying Kimberly’s body was stashed in the caverns under one of the historic fortifications in Point Pleasant Park. After the first session, police sent divers into the watery depths below Fort Ogilvy and the Point Pleasant and Cambridge Batteries. They found nothing.
It’s possible that MacDonald was bringing his knowledge of another unsolved case into his take on Renier’s reading.
Two days after Kimberly McAndrew disappeared, another woman, 24-year-old Lesley Levy, was found just outside the entrance to Point Pleasant Park, her throat slit. “Levy had been seen the evening before at the Misty Moon Cabaret in downtown Halifax,” reported Blair Rhodes. 33 “She was with a man. They were spotted later in the evening on a bench inside Point Pleasant Park. They were questioned by police sometime after midnight.”
Leslie worked in a Chinese restaurant across Quinpool Road from the Canadian Tire where Kimberly worked.
Leslie’s story ended tragically. Although she physically survived the attack, she didn’t survive it psychologically: six months later she died of a drug overdose. Her attacker has never been found.
Then again, was MacDonald being played? Although Leslie wasn’t named, reports of her attack appeared in local newspapers in the days afterward. If Renier or her associates conducted a news search of Kimberly’s disappearance in 1989, she would have certainly learned of the attack on Leslie near Point Pleasant Park.
In the second session (Audrey and Heather McAndrew were not present, but investigator Tom Martin joined Dave MacDonald), MacDonald mentioned that his search came up empty and asked Renier/Kimberly if she was sure she was in Point Pleasant Park. “Yes, yes I am,” replied Renier/Kimberly. “I’m there. You all came within 10 to 12 yards of some seriousness, some serious searching. I feel close. I feel like 10 to 12. 10 to 12, feet, yards, I don’t know what the measurement is but I feel 10 to 12. Or you were.”
But the Macdonald Bridge was also introduced as a possible element in Kimberly’s disappearance. Posner, of The Skeptical Inquirer, explains:
Before the first session concludes, Renier mentions going over a bridge that “has an alphabet or numbers or something but not really a name.” … [In Session #2 MacDonald] asks Kimberly to better describe that bridge. “The metal bridge is over … swift-running water. It is quite a ways down there. A lot of boaters, rafters.” MacDonald: “Could it be the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge?” Kimberly answers, “Sure.” But as Constable MacDonald then points out, “The only problem with that, Kimberly, is the Macdonald Bridge leaves Halifax and goes to … the city of Dartmouth.” (It also has a name!) Renier’s comeback: “I could be seeing this in another stage of her life.” But the only problem with that, Noreen, is that he was conversing with Kimberly, not you!!!
Kimberly also reveals that there is “some other stuff in here with me,” to which Renier adds, “He’s not just hiding a body, he’s hiding a body and evidence. … And I think this is why we haven’t found him yet.” Discussion ensues about Point Pleasant Park’s three points of entry, and Kimberly selects the one at the park’s eastern border just north of Black Rock Beach. MacDonald is directed to enter through the gate “and then we’ll hang a right. It might be two rights in a row.” When he asks if “old Chain Rock Battery” means anything to her, the response is, “Yeah … on one side is water. Yes, yes, and it’s got a very, brick, gray, that gray is there” (those were some earlier clues). They agree to check that part of the park next, even though it is at the far west end, and hanging a right upon entering that eastern gate would take you due north. Nonetheless, confidence abounds as Renier half-jokes, “If we find her, can I come up and say hi to you all? … And make plane reservations [for me], that’s how confident I am.”
MacDonald decided he additionally needed to check beneath Chain Rock Battery. That search as well came up empty.
Some weeks later, MacDonald called Renier back for a third session. MacDonald was alone on his end of the line, and Renier was by herself on her end as well. MacDonald called Renier because a federal prisoner named Jamie Mayo had come forward with information that Kimberly had been buried in The Dingle park, across the Northwest Arm from Point Pleasant Park.
“You were very accurate in your first session,” MacDonald told Renier, even though none of the new information lined up with what Renier said in the first session, and two separate and thorough searches of Point Pleasant Park had been conducted to no avail.
MacDonald then told Renier that Mayo had said Kimberly was driven to Dartmouth, where she was killed, and then her body was put in the trunk of a car and driven back to The Dingle, where it was buried. As Renier recreated the journey in her mind, MacDonald decided the killers must have been driving to Preston.
MacDonald had told Reiner about Mayo before the session began, but Renier seemed to have forgotten about that conversation:
RENIER: I didn’t tell you before. I got the name Jimmy.
RENIER: Before you called, I was writing Kimberly’s name, and was trying to get into her energy and all of a sudden… I started writing, I thought it was going to be Kimmy, and then my hand leaped over to another section and it said Jimmy. So is there anybody in our cast of characters named Jimmy?
MACDONALD: Well, this is Jamie Mayo, James Mayo.
RENIER: I didn’t know that, did I?
MACDONALD: Yeah, actually you did.
RENIER: Oh, darn. He could be Jamie then, right?
MACDONALD: That’s what he goes by, Jamie. And as I say, he’s Indian.
After the third session, MacDonald had two ponds in The Dingle drained. Again, nothing was found. It was later decided that Mayo was giving the cops false information for his own purposes.
An investigation derailed
What are we to make of the psychic readings?
Aside from the cruelty of bringing Audrey and Heather McAndrew into the nonsense, I wanted to think the psychic sessions were mostly harmless, but careful consideration leads me to conclude otherwise.
To begin, MacDonald was utterly involved in and committed to the psychic sessions. In the recordings, he never expressed doubt or skepticism about the process. When Renier stumbled or got off track, MacDonald pulled her back and made suggestions about how to proceed. He clearly wanted the psychic sessions to work.
As a result, untold police resources were dumped into the search prompted by Renier channeling Kimberly. I’m guessing that three separate searches using divers must have cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Besides the money spent, the psychic sessions may have derailed the investigation into Kimberly’s disappearance, or at least delayed it long enough that two good suspects weren’t identified in time to get a conviction.
The first suspect was an unnamed man whose property was the subject of a search warrant in the Spring of 1997.
That man was “obsessed” with Kimberly, reported Amy Pugsley Fraser and Eva Hoare in the Chronicle Herald: 34
He said he frequently “watched” McAndrew and followed her home on occasion so that he “could feel close to (her)” but admitted he didn’t want the police to find out his true feelings…
The man, who lived in west-end Halifax and worked in the Quinpool Road area, was seen talking to her that day.
The reporters obtained the application for a search warrant related to the case, and explained:
[P]olice said they had reasonable grounds to believe the man — in his 30s — killed McAndrew and kept souvenirs to remember her by…
[The application] outlines reasons the suspect was pinpointed, including that “he personally knew the victim … that he was in love with the victim … and stated, ‘I think she was abducted, abused, and killed.'”
When they searched his premises, police found numerous photographs of McAndrew on the walls of his home, including “missing” posters and enlarged photos.
Items seized by police in the search included a handwritten book dedicated to Kimberly McAndrew, six strips of film, five slides, women’s makeup, a white envelope containing pictures of McAndrew, a red wallet and a blue knapsack.
McAndrew had a blue knapsack with her on the last day she was seen.
In addition, a collection of books were taken, including Encyclopedia of Modern Murder, Case Book on Murder, and a book by the Marquis de Sade. There were also newspaper clippings about serial killer Paul Bernardo as well as clippings about Andrea King and other missing persons.
Just then, a second suspect in Kimberly’s disappearance arose: Andrew Paul Johnson. As Stephen Kimber explained: 35
In 1992, [Johnson] had pleaded guilty to confining and sexually assaulting his Halifax girlfriend. In 1997, he’d been caught masturbating in his car while watching girls at play in Hammonds Plains. There was a warrant for his arrest for harassing a 12-year-old Whites Lake girl while posing as a teen fashion representative. And, shortly before turning up in BC, he had disappeared from a Dartmouth sexual offender treatment program — but not before turning in a chilling assignment. Psychiatrist Joseph Gabriel asked participants in the program to write an essay about a sexual assault from the point of view of its victim.
Johnson had written his about the rape and murder of Kimberly McAndrew.
Soon after he fled Dartmouth, Johnson was arrested in Nanaimo, British Columbia “after police received two complaints about a man asking two 12-year-olds to get into his car,” reported Chris Lambie of the Daily News. 36 “When police picked him up, Johnson was with an emotionally delayed 20-year-old woman who apparently believed she was with a police officer.”
When Johnson was arrested, police found a “rape kit” in the trunk of his car. “It included: pornographic magazines, a Halloween mask, toy handcuffs, a meat cleaver, lubricating gel and packing tape,” reported the Canadian Press. 37
After Johnson left Dartmouth, Gabriel, the psychiatrist, called Halifax police and told them of Johnson’s account of the murder of Kimberly McAndrew. Then, when Johnson was arrested in BC, police put together a task force headed by Sergeant Dave Worrell to try to link Johnson to Kimberly’s presumed murder. I don’t know if Dave MacDonald was assigned to the task force.
“Intriguingly,” wrote Kimber, “at the time of Kimberly’s disappearance, the telephone directory lists Johnson’s girlfriend as living in an apartment in a complex across from the Canadian Tire parking lot. ‘If someone had identified himself to Kim as a police officer,’ [task force member Tom] Martin suggests today, ‘she — being the daughter of a police officer — might have gone with him.'”
In 1998, Johnson pleaded guilty to kidnapping and attempted kidnapping charges in BC, and was designated a dangerous offender. He refused to talk to Halifax police.
The unnamed man who was “obsessed” with Kimberly and who was the subject of the 1997 search warrant was never charged. Nor was Andrew Paul Johnson, identified as a suspect in Kimberly’s disappearance in 1997 and arrested on other charges in 1998.
It’s impossible to say if a different outcome would have been reached had Dave MacDonald not invested so many investigative resources and police officer efforts into the “wild goose chase” resulting from the psychic sessions with Renier in 1995.
But one can envision a different unfolding of events. Perhaps the unnamed man could have been identified earlier, and the search warrant on his property conducted months or years before it was, when memories were fresher and other information still obtainable. Perhaps the officers’ time spent chasing phantom psychic vibrations beneath Point Pleasant Park could have been instead spent reviewing the case files of local convicted sexual predators, and perhaps Johnson’s 1992 conviction would have tweaked an investigator’s interest, leading to an arrest.
Perhaps. But perhaps not. We just don’t know.
But one thing we do know is this: A year after he hired the psychic Noreen Reiner to help in the Kimberly McAndrew investigation, Dave MacDonald came across not one, but two witnesses in the investigation into Brenda Way’s murder who had their own psychic encounters.
The first was Robin Hartrick, who said she had “psychic premonitions” about Brenda’s murder before telling investigators she had met Glen Assoun near the murder scene the morning of the murder, and that Glen knew Brenda was dead.
The second was Jane Downey, who said she met a psychic at a baby shower. The psychic told Downey that Brenda was killed with a knife with the tip missing, and then miraculously, over a year after the murder, Downey said she just happened to be walking through the murder scene and found a knife with the tip missing.
An investigator with a healthy skepticism of psychics and psychic phenomena would have questioned Robin’s story and found Jane Downey’s story highly unlikely. That investigator, I think, would have compared Robin’s multiple stories of her run-in with Glen and discounted them. That investigator would have also further investigated Jane Downey’s story and, possibly, learned that she was at the centre of a conspiracy to frame Glen Assoun.
But Dave MacDonald was not that investigator. Dave MacDonald believed in psychics. He hired one himself. And he was invested in the process, helping the psychic along, and returning to her a second and then a third time.
So when witnesses in Brenda’s murder based their evidence on psychic phenomena, Dave MacDonald didn’t question it. Instead, he ran with their stories.
As a result, Glen Assoun spent 16 years in prison for a murder he probably didn’t commit.
To be published in two weeks: DEAD WRONG, Part 5: A Girl and Her Pimp
- http://www.halifax.ca/police/UnsolvedMurders/MajorUnsolvedCrimes.php ↩
- “UNSOLVED MURDERS Part Three: ’76 murders prompted talk of serial killer Despite theories no links found in deaths of young Halifax women,” Daily News, November 4, 1991. ↩
- This contradicts a police release, which says Knickle lived on Cook Street — presumable Cook Avenue. See http://novascotia.ca/just/public_safety/rewards/case_detail.asp?cid=48 ↩
- For more on Olson, see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/the-life-and-death-of-clifford-olson/article4197011/?page=all ↩
- See Patricia Brooks Arenburg, “Police look for more information on two Halifax homicides,” <em>Chronicle Herald</em>, March 28, 2013. ↩
- See “UNSOLVED MURDERS Part 6: ‘Satanic’ killing believed to be drug- linked,” <em>Daily News</em>, November 18, 1991. ↩
- http://www.halifax.ca/police/UnsolvedMurders/info/DubeSuzanne.php ↩
- Don Urquhart, “Officials mum on testing planned after exhumation,” Daily News, April 26, 1991 ↩
- Peter McLaughlin, “Police still seek new leads in year-old Halifax murder,” Daily News, April 5, 1991. ↩
- http://www.halifax.ca/police/UnsolvedMurders/info/MyraJean.php ↩
- http://www.halifax.ca/police/UnsolvedMurders/info/StricklandCarla.php ↩
- http://www.halifax.ca/Police/MissingPersons/Info/KatnickLeslie.php ↩
- http://halifaxmag.com/features/opinions/who-killed-shelley-connors/ ↩
- See Richard Dooley, “Police inch closer to catching killer: Fresh information in Connors murder brings 10-year-old case to fore,” Daily News, May 30, 2003. ↩
- A week before she was killed, Lucas was threatened by three men travelling in a Dartmouth cab, said her aunt, Tuney Flint. “They drove down the street and came back and they said ‘No, we’re looking for Kimber. You tell her if we see her we’re going to do her good.’ Good or whatever, right? And had a gun or something in their hand.” Craig Boyce, “Trio sought dead woman: Gunmen said they would ‘do her good’ days before murder,” Daily News, November 26, 1994. ↩
- https://www.halifax.ca/Police/UnsolvedMurders/CrystalDawnJack2.php ↩
- Brian Hayes and Randy Jones, “Young woman’s short life a rough one,” Chronicle Herald, January 29, 2003. ↩
- “[Essie Hickey, co-ordinator of the Direction 180 methadone clinic] does not believe Cross had fully kicked her drug habit before she died,” reported Chris Lambie. “‘She was doing good, but I can’t say she had completely stopped.’ But the former prostitute’s appearance did change considerably in the last few months of her life. ‘All of a sudden, she came with make-up every day, and had her hair done,’ Hickey said. ‘She was in a good mood — happy and bubbly.'”
See “Cross owed for drugs, clinic users suggest,” Daily News, January 30, 2003. ↩
- “Victim told friends she had ‘days to live’,” Daily News, June 9, 2005. ↩
- http://www.vice.com/read/murdered-in-halifax-before-loretta-saunders-there-was-tanya-brooks ↩
- See Lana MacEeachern, “Woman pleads guilty to three charges arising from standoff,” The Cape Breton Post, February 26, 2004:
Hall was taken into custody on the night of Feb. 6 after holding the RCMP at bay for almost 18 hours.
Shots were reportedly fired during the incident but no one was injured. Hall was sent for an assessment at the East Coast Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, where it was determined she was fit to stand trial.
Legal Aid lawyer Stephen Robertson asked the court to release his client from custody and place her on house arrest at the home of her boyfriend in the Annapolis Valley until her sentencing hearing March 23.
Judge Clyde Macdonald denied the request, saying the public would be best protected by her being in a secure, structured environment.
Hall is also scheduled to stand trial on April 1 in Kentville on several charges, including a mischief charge stemming from a hoax that led to an extensive search for a man who wasn’t missing.
Last October, RCMP, searchers, rescue workers, fishing boats and a Cormorant helicopter combed the Minas Basin area in Pereau after an extremely agitated woman reported the row boat had capsized, sending her and a male friend into the water.
She told police she had managed to swim to shore. The man was located alive and well in Yarmouth later that day. ↩
- Tucker was the 17-year-old Dartmouth girl who was killed while hitchhiking to a job at a fish plant in Church Point; her case was unsolved in 1986, but serial killer Michael McGray would later admit to killing her ↩
- Rob Roberts, “Unsolved Murders.” See above. ↩
- http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/halifax-police-reopen-20-unsolved-cases-1.199149 ↩
- See, Patricia Brooks, “Top Mountie pushes integrated policing,” Chronicle Herald, August 26, 2003. ↩
- See Michael Lightstone and Davene Jeffrey, “Cold case squad left out in the cold?; HRM has 27 unsolved murders, but cops won’t say how many officers are working to help solve them,” Chronicle Herald, July 25, 2008. ↩
- Richard Woodbury, “59 unsolved murders,” http://halifaxmag.com/cover/59-unsolved-murders/ ↩
- “The solved case is the 1988 murder of Arnold ‘Smiley’ Joseph Bailey,” wrote Woodbury. “In 2003, Gerald Patrick Dow pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact for hiding the murder weapon. In a 1991 preliminary hearing, Dow fingered Terry Marriott Sr. for the murder, but a judge acquitted him. ↩
- “Halifax’s unsolved murders,” The Coast, November 19, 2009. ↩
- http://www.readersdigest.ca/features/hot-topics/murder-watch-reheating-cold-cases-halifax/ ↩
- Tanya Dawn Smith, Pimping and Prostitution in Halifax in the early 1990s: The evolution of a moral panic, http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp01/MQ57327.pdf ↩
- http://www.noreenrenier.com ↩
- http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/no-closure-in-1989-vicious-attack-of-lesley-anne-levy-1.2738103 ↩
- The March 25, 1998 article was reprinted in 2014 with the headline “FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Numerous leads in McAndrew case, but no answers,” Chronicle Herald, August 12, 2014. ↩
- “Halifax’s unsolved murders,” The Coast, November 19, 2009. ↩
- “Dangerous-offender trial starts for suspect in N.S. murders,” Daily News, November 29, 1998. ↩
- “N.S. RCMP disband task force investigating possible serial killer,” May 19, 2001. ↩