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Part 3: If Glen Assoun Didn’t Kill Brenda Way, Who Did?
This article contains graphic accounts of violence and sexual violence that will disturb some readers.
Three months after the jury convicted Glen Assoun of the murder of Brenda Way, Justice Suzanne Hood sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole for eighteen and a half years. He was moved to Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick.
Glen steadfastly maintained his innocence. For 15 years he kept his bags packed, never settling into his cell, because unpacking would be admitting the prison was his rightful home.
Prisons are brutal, violent places — people are beaten, raped, stabbed, killed. Even the toughest prisoners adopt survival strategies, make compromises, learn to fit in. But not Glen. He kept to himself, avoiding the other prisoners as much as he could.
“Glen wore a hat that said ‘wrongly convicted’ 1 almost every day of his sentence,” said Sean MacDonald, a lawyer who represents Glen. “He made a hat… I used to tell him, ‘You’re like a shiny object. You walk in the yard by yourself, because you don’t have any friends. This was not your thing before you were convicted, and it’s certainly not your thing while you’re in prison. You don’t feed into that subculture. It’s not you. Here you are walking the yard alone with this hat on, and everybody’s staring at you.’
“That probably put him in more danger than a lot of other things,” continued MacDonald. “But he didn’t care.”
Maintaining his innocence — even proclaiming it, every day, with his hat 2 — caused immense problems for Glen.
“There are pressures that come to bear on people who are serving their time and not admitting to guilt,” MacDonald told me. “There are boxes that need to be checked by the case management team, and one of them is showing remorse, taking responsibility. As soon as they check those boxes, their security level gets titrated down. So, not admitting your guilt can put you in more danger because it will keep you either in a maximum security federal penitentiary or high-medium.
“When you won’t admit you’re guilty, they just don’t know how to deal with that.”
Glen was utterly alone. His ex-wife and his kids were back in Nova Scotia. He had no friends in prison. The guards probably hated him, or thought he was crazy. He sat in his cell, day after day, year after year, alone, contemplating what he insisted was the injustice done to him.
“I kind of liken it to the Chilean miners who were trapped how many miles beneath the surface of the Earth in a little cluster in an air bubble,” said MacDonald. “When you’re innocent in jail, it’s kind of like that, and you are at the mercy of strangers walking on the surface. You have one phone — one real means of communication to the outside world. You can write letters, but the phone is the real line of communication.”
How to appeal a wrongful conviction
Even before he was sentenced, Glen started the paperwork for an appeal of his conviction. He later submitted a hand-written notice of appeal. Realizing he was in way over his head, he then contacted the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted (AIDWYC).
AIDWYC was started in 1993 by a group of lawyers and other concerned people who came together to overturn the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin in Ontario. Unexpectedly, DNA evidence cleared Morin before the group’s appeal was heard, and Morin was declared innocent. But Morin’s supporters went on to form AIDWYC, and to seek out other wrongful convictions.
Since 1993, AIDWYC has successfully overturned the convictions of 20 people the group has taken on as clients, and has assisted in four other cases. If Glen is fully exonerated, as is expected, he will be AIDWYC’s 21st success.
AIDWYC has never lost a case. “We’re batting 1000,” said MacDonald.
The reason for AIDWYC’s success is that it extensively vets each case before agreeing to take on a client. A case review committee processes each application, then it goes through a “supervising assessment” in which problems are identified and considered. The process can take many years before AIDWYC even agrees to represent a convicted person, and then begins more years of investigation and court work.
AIDWYC won’t take on a case until all appeals have been exhausted, 3 and Glen hadn’t yet exhausted his appeals. So AIDWYC passed Glen’s file along to Jerome Kennedy.
Kennedy had earned a reputation as a dogged criminal defence lawyer in St. John’s, Newfoundland. After Ronald Dalton was convicted of murdering his wife, 4 Dalton’s lawyers let an appeal of the conviction languish for eight years before Kennedy took up the case and won on appeal in 2000. 5
It’s about then, just as Kennedy was looking around for a new case to champion, that Glen contacted AIDWYC, and AIDWYC in turn got Glen in touch with Kennedy.
Kennedy worked on Glen’s file for five years.
There’s a remarkable progression in the documents related to Glen’s case. The first document is Glen’s appeal application from 2000, written by hand, by a man with no legal expertise.
The second document is Kennedy’s appeal, written in 2005 and heard by the Court of Appeals in January 2006. Glen’s arguments from five years before form the kernel of Kennedy’s application. To be sure, Kennedy based his argument on case law, and added quite a few other arguments, but Glen clearly understood his case and understood what was wrong with his conviction.
Oral arguments on Kennedy’s appeal were heard on January 17, 2006 by a three-judge panel at the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. The judges were Elizabeth Ann Roscoe, Jill Hamilton, and Joel E. Fichaud. 6
The judges ruled against Kennedy and refused to send Glen’s case back to trial.
Kennedy then decided to leave his law practice and get into politics. 7
“But before he went into politics, Jerome was diligent enough to put together a full memo on Glen’s case,” Sean MacDonald told me. “And that memo sat in AIDWYC, in a box. And then one day I just happened to be at the office, and I picked it up and started leafing through it sort of casually at first, and as I read every paragraph, paragraph after paragraph, it was sort of like a Grisham turn-pager. So I took it, and sunk my teeth in it — that was nine years ago. I’m so happy Jerome wrote that memo, because that’s what grabbed me.”
MacDonald was AIDWYC’s main investigator for Glen’s case, but MacDonald also provided Glen the moral and emotional support he needed to survive in prison — MacDonald spoke with Glen in prison over the phone every day for nine years.
Glen Assoun was the trapped Chilean miner; Sean MacDonald was the voice from the surface.
MacDonald won’t tell me the results of his investigation, but I’ve learned that through the years he uncovered significant new evidence and obtained several signed affidavits from witnesses who were not known either at the time of Glen’s trial in 1999 or at the time of his appeal hearing in 2006. MacDonald also found previously unknown links between the witnesses who testified against Glen.
Which brings us to the third document — AIDWYC’s 2014 application for Glen’s release filed with the federal Justice Department. That document is still sealed by court order, but enough of it was discussed in open court that I can determine that it also repeats many of the arguments Glen made 14 years before.
Taken together, the three documents suggest that Glen was the victim of a combination of circumstance, bad luck, improper legal procedure, and conspiracy. 8 The three documents reveal a chain of events comprised of three sets of issues: the witnesses, a botched police investigation, and the conduct of the prosecutors and judge at trial.
Let’s take them in turn.
There were five main witnesses against Glen:
• Robin Hartrick said she ran into Glen outside 109 Albro Lake Road the morning Brenda was murdered, and he knew Brenda was dead.
• Roberta said she was assaulted and raped by Glen in 1997, and he admitted to killing Brenda.
• Wayne Wise said Glen had admitted to a murder during a phone conversation between the two men.
• David Carvery said Glen confessed to the murder while Carvery and Glen were prisoners at the Halifax Correctional Centre.
• Tina Cameron said she overheard Glen telling Cathy Valade he had murdered Brenda.
I discussed Robin’s evidence at length in Part 2 of this series, and showed that she contradicted herself and was otherwise unreliable. The question remains, however: Why would she say she met Glen outside 109 Albro Lake Road if she hadn’t?
My guess is that Robin was so traumatized by her best friend’s murder that it dominated her thoughts to the point of obsessive delusion. Perhaps the constant use of crack fed the delusion, but for whatever reason, she spoke of having “psychic visions” about the murder, and she told police — I think she believed it — that she started working the streets in order to find out who killed Brenda.
Robin likewise had an intense relationship with Glen. It had been sexual, but also, after the murder, seemed built on mutual distrust. Robin came to believe Glen killed Brenda, and the evidence suggests she created the memory of the meeting outside 109 Albro Lake — she didn’t tell anyone she had run into Glen the night of the murder for almost a year, and even then she spoke first of her psychic visions.
Further, Robin’s ever-changing accounts of the meeting suggest she was playing with it in her mind, trying to get it right, trying to get the particulars of the story to line up with what investigators and then prosecutors wanted her to say. And, the police investigators and prosecutors held the theory that Glen had killed Brenda.
The problems with Robin’s testimony were overlooked. Justice took a back seat to getting a conviction.
Roberta was, in my opinion, a credible witness. I think she truly was horribly assaulted in the spring of 1997, by a man who fit Glen’s general description. And Glen’s lawyers have likewise never suggested that Roberta was lying.
Rather, their argument has been that Roberta was mistaken. That is, someone else, not Glen, attacked her.
We know that Glen moved to British Columbia in July 1996. Another Crown witness, Wayne Wise, testified that Glen was in British Columbia when he spoke to Wise over the phone in January 1997. Glen’s brother’s common-law wife, Brenda Williams, testified that she had seen Glen nearly weekly from the time he moved to BC until he was arrested in 1998.
The Crown prosecutors suggested that Glen could’ve used the connection of his brother-in-law, who worked for Air Canada, to get a cheap flight to Halifax, where he attacked Roberta, and then flew back to BC, all without Brenda Williams knowing he had left. But prosecutors provided no evidence for their theory — no record of plane tickets, no other witnesses who placed him in Nova Scotia around the time Roberta was attacked.
Roberta was violently assaulted, and the memory tormented her. Eighteen months after the attack, she was watching TV in Ontario and saw a news clip about a man arrested for murder in Dartmouth. That man looked a lot like the man who had attacked her.
In her KGB statement, Robin briefly mentioned that there were men in Dartmouth who looked like Glen:
“There is only three guys that’s and almost look like him [Glen]. Two, I know one is a cop. One I don’t know who the hell he is. I think he just plays Mr. Dress Up day.”
Is it possible Roberta misidentified Glen as her assailant, 9 and the man who attacked her was instead one of the men Robin said looked like Glen? That is Glen’s lawyers’ theory, and in the absence of any proof that Glen was in Nova Scotia when Roberta was attacked, the theory seems plausible.
“In cahoots with each other”
That leaves the three other main witnesses — David Carvery, Wayne Wise, and Tina Cameron.
David Carvery, you’ll recall, had testified that while he and Glen were incarcerated at the Halifax Correctional Centre together, Glen confessed to murdering Brenda.
The appellant judges reviewed Carvery’s testimony and his extensive criminal record, mostly on drug charges, then stated:
“[Carvery] had no convictions for crimes involving dishonesty or lying and he had no history of informing.”
Let’s take that statement in reverse order. Did Carvery have a history of informing?
Carvery’s appearance on the witness stand in 1999 was not the first time his testimony was used by the crown to convict someone. Twelve years before, in 1987, Carvery testified in the crown’s case against Kimberley Dawn Nelson and Christopher John McGraw, who were involved in the 1986 murder of 19-year-old Kelly Dixon. 10
There’s a categorical difference between his testimony in the Nelson/McGraw case and his testimony in the Assoun case: in the first, he appears to have had nothing to gain personally from testifying, while in the second he had many years, perhaps as much as a decade, taken off a potential jail sentence in return for his testimony.
Could Carvery’s testimony for the Crown in the case against Nelson and McGraw be construed as “informing”? Perhaps not, but the fact that Carvery had previously testified for the Crown seems noteworthy. It’s curious that none of Glen’s lawyers or the judges that heard his case and appeal mentioned the earlier testimony. It appears they were unaware of it. 11
What about Carvery’s credibility?
It’s true, as the appellant court judges ruled, that “[Carvery] had no convictions for crimes involving dishonesty or lying.” And the judges cannot be expected to have foreseen subsequent events that serve to call Carvery’s credibility into question. 12
In any case, the judges went on to say that Carvery’s evidence was rightly allowed in at trial because it fit in with other evidence:
Was there other strong evidence to support the conviction? Yes. Mr. Carvery was one of four witnesses who testified to an admission by Mr. Assoun. Even if the evidence of Mr. Wise in not included, since it is argued that he too should have had a Vetrovec warning, there was the evidence of two other admissions to Ms. Cameron and [Roberta] in addition to all the circumstantial evidence of motive and opportunity. The evidence of Mr. Carvery was, in the words of [a case law citation], “important but not determinative.”
It is our view that, given the other Crown evidence, there were insufficient difficulties with the credibility of Mr. Carvery to require a clear and sharp warning [to the jury] about his evidence.
The appellant court judges repeated the same argument for Wayne Wise’s testimony:
Mr. Wise was a career criminal, an alcoholic and cocaine addict. His record consisted of more than 30 convictions for assaults, impaired driving, possession of narcotics, fraud, theft, resisting arrest, failure to comply with court orders, and uttering threats. Mr. Wise admitted to having used false names to escape detection for his crimes. He was under arrest and facing charges when he made his disclosure to police in February 1997…
The Crown concedes that Mr. Wise was not a credible witness.
[But] The evidence of Mr. Wise was not crucial to the Crown’s case for the same reasons that Mr. Carvery’s was not, that is, that it was only one of four admissions.
So, however questionable, the testimonies of two of the four witnesses who said Glen admitted to them that he had murdered Brenda were allowed because each was only one of four such admissions.
Glen saw the problem with that argument as early as his hand-written notice of appeal in 2000: setting aside Roberta’s evidence, the three remaining “admissions” to the murder made by Glen were to people — Wayne Wise, Tina Cameron, and David Carvery — who were connected to one another.
As Glen wrote:
Wayne Wise’s girlfriend Carla Jenkinson lived in same apartment building as Tina Cameron, at 92 Gaston Rd, apt. 44… Wise is friends with Tina Cameron. Wise address the same as Cameron’s… Tina Cameron [is] in cahoots with Jane Downey and Wayne Wise. They all know each other.”
Also, wrote Glen, “[David] Carvery [is] in cahoots with Jane Downey.”
Recall that on the stand Carvery had testified that “her [Brenda’s] sister [Jane Downey] was a good friend of my common-law wife.”
Also recall that in September 1996, 10 months after her sister was murdered, Jane Downey miraculously discovered a knife with the tip missing from it at the murder scene, and that seven months later, in April 1997, Tina Cameron showed up at the Dartmouth police station with Carla Jenkinson. Cameron told police investigator Dave MacDonald that she had overheard Glen saying he had killed Brenda with a knife with the tip missing.
As Glen wrote in 2000:
If you incorporate (sic) Tina Cameron’s with Jane Downey’s statement, you will find evidence of each witness being in cahoots with each other.
While Sean MacDonald did the heavy lifting in the case, AIDWYC sent its highest profile senior lawyer, James Lockyer, to speak at Glen’s release hearing in 2014.
Here’s what Lockyer told Justice James Chipman about the witnesses who testified against Glen:
We know that there’s never been physical evidence of any kind that Mr. Assoun was the man who murdered Brenda Way and left her in the parking lot of 109 Albro Lake Road. The case has always depended on a cluster of witnesses, essentially five, who began to emerge in the year after Ms. Way’s death with stories that Mr. Assoun confessed his guilt to them.
It is a matter of record from the Court of Appeal of this province that the first witness [Wayne Wise] in five called should be regarded as worthless — a point the crown acknowledged in the Court of Appeal and the court agreed with.
We know now that there is evidence of collusion and previously unsuspected links among other of the five witnesses. We know that a witness [Roberta] who was alleged to have been assaulted by Mr. Assoun now appears on the basis of a variety of items of evidence to very likely have been assaulted by a different man.
We know that there is evidence, much more than was available at trial and laid before the jury or the Court of Appeal, discrediting a witness [Carvery] who falls under the category of a jailhouse informant.
What this means is that there are many bases — not just one or two — on which the minister [of Justice] may conclude at the end of this process that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.
And taken together, that evidence forms a core not just of reasonable doubt, which would be enough to act upon on behalf of Mr. Assoun, but of potential and I’ll say likely factual innocence.
Evidently, AIDWYC’s application to the Justice Department — which resulted in Glen being released but is still sealed by court order — spells out the “evidence of collusion and previously unsuspected links” between David Carvery, Wayne Wise, Tina Cameron, and (presumably) Jane Downey.
My suspicion is that when the AIDWYC application becomes public, we’ll discover that Jane Downey organized and orchestrated a conspiracy with the other witnesses to frame Glen for murder.
2. A botched police investigation
But if Glen Assoun didn’t kill Brenda Way, who did?
That question is important in its own right: Clearly, if there are murderers on the loose, we should know who they are and bring them to justice.
But the question was also important for Glen’s defence and appeal. A good defence lawyer would have raised the issue of “third party suspects” — other people who may have committed the crime Glen was accused of — to raise significant doubt in the minds of the jurors.
The appeal Jerome Kennedy filed in 2005 addressed this issue specifically and repeatedly: Glen, representing himself, did not know that he could raise the issue of “third party suspects” as part of his defence, and even if he did, he didn’t have the skill to do so.
And there were indeed third party suspects. Lots of them.
Kennedy listed a number of the third party suspects, many of whom were listed in police investigators’ notes, and some of whom were tracked down by a private investigator Kennedy hired named Fred Fitzsimmons. 13 I found other third party suspects through my own investigation.
Before naming the suspects, let’s review what we know of Brenda’s movements the night before she was murdered:
In an affidavit filed with the court, Fitzsimmons, the private investigator, noted that the record of Brenda’s movements raises significant doubts that she could have been murdered by 4:15am, the time Robin Hartrick said she ran into Glen outside 109 Albro Lake Road. Wrote Fitzsimmons:
In his Factum, Mr. Kennedy reviews the evidence of David O’Neill [Shakey] where Mr. O’Neill states that Brenda Way left his apartment at 9 Lawrence Street, Apartment 204, in Dartmouth “sometime between ten to and quarter after “ four [am]. A little later in his testimony Mr. O’Neill testified that Brenda Way left his apartment aft 4am and “not any later than 4:20am.”
As an investigator I have the following concerns about the timing referred to by Ms. Hartrick:
- I understand from reviewing the draft Factum that Franklyn LeBlanc, a taxi driver with Bob’s Taxi, saw Brenda Way hitchhiking on Prince Albert Road “somewhere between a quarter of four and a quarter after, in that time frame.” I recently walked from 9 Lawrence Street to where Ms. Way was seen hitchhiking on Prince Albert Road. It took four minutes to do this.
- I have traveled the most likely route from 9 Lawrence Street to 109 Albro Lake Road (Lawrence Street onto Prince Albert Road to Maple Street, turned left on Thistle, drove to the corner of Thistle and Victoria, right onto Victoria, right on Albro Lake Road), and it is a distance of 3.7 kilometres. It took six minutes to drive this route at 6am with all green lights.
Having regard to the time frames referred to by Mr. O’Neill and Mr. LeBlanc, I cannot see how Brenda Way traveled from Prince Albert Road (assuming she was given a ride and didn’t walk) to Albro Lake Road and was killed by Glen Assoun prior to 4:15am, the time that Margaret Hartrick says she met Glen Assoun and he made the comment that Brenda was gone.
The file does not indicate that this issue was ever considered by the police and, in my opinion, it is an important issue that should have been properly investigated. In my opinion, the timing issue gives reason for me to question whether or not Brenda Way was killed before 4:15am.
Moreover, wrote Fitzsimmons, “On January 9, 1996, evidence came to the attention of police that Mike Rogers stated that Brenda Way was at a crackhouse at the corner of Slayter and Albro Lake Road (a blue and white house) at approximately 5am on the day she was murdered.”
The blue and white house on the corner of Slater Street and Albro Lake Road is just across the street from 109 Albro Lake Road.
If this information was correct then Brenda Way would have been alive at the time Margaret Hartrick said she met Glen Assoun outside 109 Albro Lake Road. My review of the file does not establish that this lead was thoroughly investigated or that a statement was taken from Mike Rogers as to how he obtained his knowledge. Nor was a statement taken from Jason Sparkes who was referred to by Mr. Rogers as being at the same crackhouse. According to Inspector Bill Malcolm’s memo, Mike Rogers had provided this information to Carol Way, a sister of the deceased. Mr. Rogers indicated that he left just prior to Brenda Way’s arrival.
I’ll return to the timing of Brenda’s movements in a moment. But first let’s review the remarkably long list of people who might have murdered Brenda.
Other sex workers
The court record reveals that in the days before she was murdered, Brenda had been threatened by two other woman working the Hollis Street stroll. It’s not clear what prompted the threats, but Brenda took them so seriously that she stayed on the Dartmouth side of the harbour.
One of those women was seen near Victoria and Albro Lake Roads the night of the murder. I think it’s likely that this is the woman who, a few weeks after the murder, Glen took a knife from and gave to police.
The woman still lives in Dartmouth, and judging by her Facebook page, she appears to be happily married and has children. I’ve been unable to speak with her.
Ron Corbin, the man who adopted Brenda’s daughter, told me that in August or September of 1995, Brenda came to him and asked him to help her file a complaint against a Dartmouth cop. This made sense because Corbin was a paralegal.
“I helped Brenda and Glen write a letter to the Attorney General’s office, Corbin told me, “because of a cop in Dartmouth. Now this cop cited Brenda for jaywalking on Victoria Road, at Albro Lake. They ticketed her for jaywalking. They grabbed her, threw her in a paddy wagon, drove her way out to Waverley and made her walk back to town.
“The cop that was involved, we filed a complaint against him,” continued Corbin. “They roughed her up when they dropped her off out in Waverley. They roughed her up — there were two cops involved. These cops were always harassing her on the streets.”
“She filed a complaint about this Dartmouth cop — that was supposed to be, I believe one of the cops that was involved, he was supposed to be charged with something, and it was a couple of days before [Brenda] was supposed to go to court that she was found murdered.”
Corbin couldn’t remember the name of the cop, but he recalled that the cop had “slapped Brenda around” on other occasions.
Corbin thinks the cop may have killed Brenda to keep her from testifying against him.
I asked the Justice Department, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, and the Halifax Regional Police Department if they had any record of a complaint against a Dartmouth police officer filed by Brenda Way in 1995, and all three agencies told me that they don’t have records from that long ago.
The court record, however, includes an oblique reference to a statement Brenda had made about police, but that statement was not allowed as evidence, and so I cannot determine what Brenda had said, or if it involved a formal complaint against a cop
Ann Morse testified that a couple of months or so before Brenda was murdered — in August or September 1995 — she was visiting with Glen’s ex-wife, Margaret. (Recall that Margaret had introduced Glen to Morse, suggesting that he move in with Morse in order to dry out from alcohol.)
While at Margaret’s house, testified Morse, she overheard a phone conversation between Margaret on the one end of the phone and Cathy Valade and her daughter Rachelle on the other.
As Morse told it, sometime before the phone conversation Brenda had punched Margaret in the face. On the phone, said Morse, Margaret, Cathy, and Rachelle discussed what to do about it.
“And Cathy said that she could take — she could have Brenda taken out if she wanted her taken out. And they said that they could make it that they’d get Brenda in the back — in a back alley and do damage to her there… they meant they could have Brenda killed.”
On cross examination, crown prosecutor Dan Fetterly attacked Morse’s memory — at the time of the phone conversation, Morse was taking the prescribed drugs Lectopam and Ranitidine, both of which affect memory.
Fetterly fiercely drilled down into inconsistencies and gaps in Morse’s accounts of the overheard phone conversation, to the point that Glen objected — “He’s badgering the witness,” Glen complained to the judge.
During the cross-examination Fetterly asked Morse what Cathy Valade’s daughter, Rachelle, contributed to the conversation. “She just agreed with her mother, that her mother did know people that could have this done,” said Morse. “She had her own daughter beat up so I’m sure, yeah, she knows.”
Fetterly objected. “You can’t get into that,” said Hood. In 1998 Glen was convicted of an assault on Rachelle Valade and fined $300. Even though he was convicted of it, however, Glen maintained he was not the assailant.
A man named Ashley Herridge told police that he hired a sex worker along Albro Lake Road at about 4:30am on the day of Brenda’s murder. The woman wore a jacket that matches the description of Brenda’s jacket. Heritage said he took the woman back to his apartment until about 8:30am. If Herridge was telling the truth, there’s no way the woman he hired was Brenda because Brenda’s body was found at 7:30am, but Fitzsimmons thought the police should’ve asked more questions.
Carl Joseph Francis
Carl Joseph Francis, who had what Fitzsimmons called a “lengthy and violent criminal record,” was living in Springhill Junction near Amherst, about a two-hour drive from Dartmouth. Police had listed Francis as a suspect in Brenda’s murder, but there’s no indication why he was considered a suspect, or why he was later eliminated as a suspect.
Francis died in 1997 at the age of 29, after an ATV accident in the woods. A 16-year-old girl who was with him survived. 14
Near the end of Robin’s KGB interview is this exchange between Constable Derek Williams and Robin:
WILLIAMS: In connecting with Brenda, did you ever hear of a guy by the name of Owen?
WILLIAMS: Mowen. Mowen McGuire?
ROBIN: Owen, I heard…
WILLIAMS: No, Mowen.
ROBIN: As in M O…
WILLIAMS: W E N. Mowen. Like mowen lawn.
The transcript of the interview says that Robin’s response is inaudible, but as there were no further questions about McGuire, she appears not to have known him.
In his affidavit, Fitzsimmons didn’t mention McGuire, so presumably McGuire wasn’t mentioned in the police notes he was given. But it’s curious that police were asking about McGuire in relation to Brenda’s murder as late as January 1998, just three months before Glen was arrested for the murder.
In his 2005 appeal, Jerome Kennedy laid out the evidence related to a man named Avery Greenough:
Mr. Fitzsimmons [the private investigator Kennedy had hired], outlines the following information contained in the original police file about Avery Greenough:
On June 13, 1983 Avery Greenough received a jail sentence of 17 and 1/2 years for a number of violent rapes and indecent assaults in Calgary. The rape conviction involved a violent assault upon an escort. Mr. Greenough had been released from jail on March 3, 1995 and was required to report to the RCMP detachment in Musquodoboit Harbour;
Statements from Linda Surrette (an escort who spent a lot of time with Mr. Greenough) and Gerry Townsend, the Manager of the Dartmouth Inn, established that at the time of Brenda Way’s murder Mr. Greenough was regularly associating with prostitutes at the Dartmouth Inn;
The Dartmouth Inn is located 400-500 feet from the Lawrence Street apartment building where Brenda Way was staying [i.e., Shakey’s apartment] at the time of her death;
According to Linda Surrette, Mr. Greenough said that he knew Brenda Way. Melinda Sinsel, 15 a bartender at the Dartmouth Inn, stated in a police statement that in late November Mr. Greenough stated that the girl who was murdered was an ex-girlfriend of his;
Ms. Townsend, the Manager of the Dartmouth Inn, stated that it seemed to her that at the time of Brenda Way’s murder Avery Greenough started driving a red Blazer. Allen McMaster, the taxi driver who drove Brenda Way to Lawrence Street shortly after 2am on the day she was murdered (her body was found 5 and 1/2 hours later) testified at trial that Ms. Way got into “a red Blazer or Jimmy effect, or something like that”;
Melinda Sinsel, the bartender at the Dartmouth Inn, told the police that Avery Greenough had been in the bar at the Dartmouth Inn at 1:15–1:30am, only hours before Brenda Way was murdered. Mr. Greenough left the Dartmouth Inn approximately 1/2 hour before Brenda Way was seen getting into a red Blazer. In her statement Ms. Sinsel stated that Mr. Greenough’s speech was slurred and he was different than he normally was;
Ms. Townsend told the police on December 4, 1995 that she heard from the staff that Avery Greenough spoke of slitting girls’ throats;
Avery Greenough was described in notes made by an unidentified police officer entitled “Other Possible Suspects” as a “Good Possibility.”
Remarkably, wrote Kennedy, “Mr. Greenough appears to have been eliminated as a suspect by the police after Mr. Greenough phoned the police on December 12, 1995 and told Constable Veinot that he did not purchase the red Blazer until November 21, 1995.”
So far as Fitzsimmons could discover, the police made no effort to verify when Greenough bought the vehicle — Veinot did not pull Motor Vehicle records to check. 16
Robert George Poole
Another person police listed as a “Good Possibility” for Brenda’s murder was Robert George Poole, who had been convicted of sexual assault in 1984, and of aggravated assault in 1993. As Fitzsimmons wrote in the affidavit:
On August 30, 1995, Constable Marion Fraser of the Joint Forces Task Force issued a warning about Mr. Poole being a violent sexual offender who was currently residing in Dartmouth. Constable Fraser stated that Mr. Poole “should be kept in mind by all police members as a threat in relation to possible sex offences.” Constable Fraser referred to Mr. Poole’s long criminal record which included the use of weapons while committing sexual offences.
On November 23, 1995 Constable M.J. Fraser, in a document entitled “Information Re: Suspect for Murder, Brenda Way” stated at p. 3:
Mr. Paul Veinotte, his parole counsellor attended the Dartmouth Police Station and advised Cst. Fraser that Poole was going to be finished his parole reporting around the 22nd of September of this year. In conversation, he advised that “if you people, have a case where a woman, probably a prostitute, is badly beaten and left for dead, he will be your man. His profile indicates that he will prey again and more than likely has done so many times in the past without having been caught.” Vienotte left little doubt at that time that there would be an incident such as this where a woman would be assaulted and left for dead. He also mentioned that Poole is an opportunist who would prey on someone he would know, and may even attempt something this fall, shortly following his release from reporting to the Parole Board.
Poole, noted Fitzsimmons, lived at 9 Lawrence Street — the very building where Brenda was staying with Shakey.
In 1996, a warrant was issued for Poole’s arrest on fraud charges, but he fled the area. Seven years later, in 2003, Poole was arrested in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, for aggravated assault, forcible confinement, sexual assault with a weapon, and using an imitation firearm in the commission of an offence, for an attack on a sex worker in Edmonton. 17 Police also considered him a “person of interest” in the investigation of the murder of three sex workers whose bodies were dumped in farmers’ fields outside Edmonton, but he was never charged for those murders. 18
Fitzsimmons filed his affidavit about Ashley Herridge, Carl Joseph Francis, Avery Greenough, and Robert George Poole with the court on May 5, 2005, but evidently he kept investigating because on July 28, 2005 he filed a second affidavit with astonishing new evidence: serial killer Michael McGray knew Brenda and lived in North End Dartmouth.
McGray, who grew up in Argyle, near Yarmouth, started killing in 1985, at age 19. His first victim was a 17-year-old Halifax girl named Elizabeth Gale Tucker, who was hitchhiking through the Weymouth area on her way to her first day at a job at a fish plant in Church Point.
“McGray picked her up on a rural road, drove her to a remote area and then, after she refused to provide oral sex, stabbed her repeatedly, finally dragging her lifeless body into the woods,” reported Alison Auld of the Canadian Press. 19
Tucker’s murder would remain unsolved for 16 years. McGray moved on to Saint John, where in 1987 he robbed a cab driver and murdered his co-conspirator, Mark Gibbons. McGray fingered another man for the stabbing murder, but was himself charged and convicted for his part in the robbery. He was sentenced to five years in prison. 20
In 1991, while on a weekend pass from prison, McGray murdered Robert Assaly and Gaétan Ethier, two gay men in Montreal. Both men were stabbed. As with McGray’s earlier murders, the Montreal murders remained unsolved for many years.
McGray was released from prison in February 1995, and moved to Dartmouth.
Fitzsimmons, the private investigator, said that he scoured the North End and spoke with enough people that he was able to reconstruct McGray’s presence in the neighbourhood. As Fitzsimmons told it, after McGray was released from prison in 1995, he moved in with his girlfriend, Tammy McLean, 21 who was then working at the Future Inn on Highfield Park Drive (now the Days Inn). According to the affidavit, the couple shared an apartment across the street, at 25 Highfield Park Drive. Over the next few months, wrote Fitzsimmons, the couple lived in two other North End Dartmouth apartments — 37 Brule Street and 48 Jackson Road.
McGray’s residences are shown on the map above. Fitzsimmons could not pinpoint exactly when McGray and McLean lived in each apartment, but all three apartments are within a 10-minute walk from where Brenda was murdered, behind 109 Albro Lake Drive. Moreover, there is a path from the murder scene that leads through a vacant lot to Jackson Road, where it meets Robert Burns Drive — 48 Jackson Road is just a stone’s throw farther.
In my opinion, as a result of my investigation and the information contained in the police memo of May 19, 2005, Michael McGray is a possible suspect in the murder of Brenda Way. I base my opinion upon the following: Michael McGray is a serial killer; he lived in the immediate area of where Brenda Way’s body was found; McGray admitted to knowing Brenda Way; the method of killing involved a knife, which was apparently McGray’s weapon of choice.
Three years later, McGray murdered a 48-year-old woman named Joan Hicks by slitting her throat. McGray had met Joan Hicks through his girlfriend, at a local homeless shelter. Hicks’ 11-year-old daughter, Nena, was also killed — strangled and hung in a closet — but McGray was not charged in her death. 22
After his conviction for Hick’s murder, police around the country started looking at their unsolved cases, and McGray was charged with the 1985 murder of Tucker in Weymouth, the 1987 murder of Gibbons in Saint John, and the 1991 Montreal murders.
In prison, McGray started talking, and claimed to have had killed 11 other people across Canada and in the US:
He could lead Toronto police, he said, to the remains of an alcoholic he buried in High Park, and give them details on as many as three other killings in the city. He could offer Vancouver police information about the two prostitutes he says he stabbed there in the mid-1990s — though he is not sure whether they lived or died. He has even crossed the border, he said, and committed a couple of killings. 23
“McGray said he killed a prostitute in Halifax, but that he couldn’t remember her name or the date it happened,” reported Alison Auld. 24 Could the “prostitute in Halifax” be Brenda? We don’t know.
McGray offered to give police details of each of the killings, but had three conditions: he wanted treatment for his urge to kill, he didn’t want to be charged with any more murders as he would already live out his life in prison, and he wanted two accomplices given immunity from prosecution.
Prison and justice officials rejected the deal.
Then in 2010, for some reason McGray — a man who had been convicted of five murders, who claimed to have killed 11 other people, and who spoke of a compulsion to kill still more — was transferred from the maximum security Renous Prison in New Brunswick to the medium security Mountain Institute in British Columbia. A few weeks later, McGray murdered his cellmate, a 33-year-old Moncton man named Jeremy Phillips, who was serving a sentence on an assault charge.
I contacted McGray a few months ago, but he declined to be interviewed for this article.
Two unidentified men
By now, readers will understand just how dangerous life on the streets of Dartmouth was for Brenda. Potentially, violence could come from any number of people — cops, vindictive acquaintances, and, especially, the many men who prey on women on the streets. A man with a history of sexual violence — Poole — lived in the same apartment building Brenda had visited just before she was killed. Another man with a history of violent rapes and an assault on a sex worker — Greenough — not only said Brenda was his ex-girlfriend, but was additionally at the bar at the end of the street from the apartment building she had visited just before she was murdered. A third man — McGray, an actual serial killer with an MO of slicing women’s necks with a knife — not only knew Brenda but also lived just a stone’s throw from the murder scene.
And yet, there are still two more suspects.
The day of the murder, Stephen Angle was delivering newspapers in the North End. As he made his way up Victoria Road, he saw Brenda, and then he saw two men in a gold-coloured car following Brenda.
Angle says he went into 109 Albro Lake Road at about 5:30am to deliver papers. While on the upper floors of the building he heard a man banging on the security door at the front of the building: “Let me in!” Angle ignored the man and kept delivering papers; by the time he was done with his deliveries in that building, the man was no longer at the front door.
Angle delivered papers to two more buildings on the street, and then went out to his own car, parked on the street near 109 Albro Lake Road. As he was getting in his car, he saw the gold car, with two men in it, driving quickly out the driveway from behind 109 Albro Lake — that is, from the area where Brenda’s body was discovered at 7:30am.
Recall that the police who charged Glen and the prosecutors who convicted him believed Robin’s story that she ran into Glen at 4:15am in front of 109 Albro Lake Road, and that Glen told her Brenda was dead. Recall also that a man named Mike Rogers told police that Brenda was at a crackhouse across the street from 109 Albro Lake Road at 5am.
In my view, Robin was an unreliable witness, but police and prosecutors had their theory and they ran with it.
What about Rogers? Here was a man saying that Brenda was alive at 5am the day of the murder. Perhaps police considered Rogers an unreliable witness — we just don’t know.
But Angle strikes me as credible. He was and is a decent family man, the kind of guy who holds down two or three jobs at a time to provide for his family, and who volunteers his time with his kids’ sports leagues. He didn’t use drugs, and had no connection to the neighbourhood beyond delivering newspapers. He knew Brenda and Glen in passing, but was not involved in their lives.
Angle brings remarkable information to the story: He saw Brenda, very much alive, as much as an hour and more after Glen supposedly told Robin that Brenda was dead. Moreover, Angle saw that Brenda was being followed by two men in a car as she walked up Albro Lake Road, one of those men was trying to get into 109 Albro Lake Road, and the two men fled from behind the building — the scene of the murder — in their car.
Angle’s story completely contradicts Robin’s story.
The day of the murder, Angle finished his newspaper deliveries, went to his Eastern Passage home, ate breakfast, and went to his day job. When he got home in the evening, he turned on the television news and learned that Brenda had been murdered. He called the police, and the next day he drove to the police department and was interviewed by Constable Chris Friis.
So far as can be determined, police did nothing with Angle’s information. They had no follow-up interviews, didn’t take a written statement from him, didn’t conduct a KGB interview, and didn’t ask Angle to view a photo lineup of possible suspects. His evidence seems to have been ignored or forgotten.
Ten years later, in 2005, private investigator Fred Fitzsimmons found a reference to Angle in police notes, called him, and asked him to recount the story. Angle willingly joined Fitzsimmons for a tour of the area around the murder scene, and explained what he had seen the morning Brenda was killed.
Last month, I called Angle and he again agreed to a tour of the scene. Here’s my interview with Angle:
There are three inconsistencies between the account Angle gave Fitzsimmons and the account he gave me, and there is additionally one minor detail that doesn’t hold up, as follows:
- Angle told Fitzsimmons that the man was banging on the front door of 109 Albro Lake Road at 5:05am, and that he saw the same man 45 minutes later walking on Jackson Road. When I interviewed Angle, he couldn’t remember the exact time he saw the man banging on the door, but said he was typically delivering papers at 109 Albro Lake Road between 5:20 and 5:40am. And Angle told me he saw the man 20 minutes later, walking from the gold-coloured car to a well-known crack house on Jackson Road.
- In Fitzsimmons’ account of his interview with Angle, there is no mention that Angle saw Brenda walking along Albro Lake Road while being followed by the two men.
- Also, Fitzsimmons’ account didn’t say that Angle saw the car driving from behind 109 Albro Lake Road.
- When I interviewed Angle, he thought Brenda was murdered on a Thursday — the day newspaper subscribers left envelopes with payments for Angle. Brenda was actually murdered on a Sunday.
Should those inconsistencies cause us to disbelieve Angle? I don’t think so. It’s been over 20 years, after all; we should expect some drift in Angle’s memory. And Fitzsimmons’ account is second-hand: we don’t know if Fitzsimmons got it exactly right or left out details. Moreover, the general gist of Angle’s story has been consistent.
Angle didn’t know it, and I didn’t speak to him about it, but there’s another tiny detail that might fit in with his story. It involves Brenda’s jacket.
On the morning of the murder, a bus driver named John Lawrence was driving his bus from the Burnside transit garage for his first run of the day, which started in Sackville. He drove out of the garage, onto Highway 111, and then exited onto the ramp to Victoria Road to head north, where he ran over a jacket. He stopped and picked it up, thinking he’d donate it to charity. 25
The next day, Lawrence realized the jacket might be connected to Brenda’s murder. He called police, who picked it up. The keys to Shakey’s apartment were in the jacket pocket.
Presumably, whoever killed Brenda fled the scene with the jacket and tossed it out the window of the fleeing vehicle at the Victoria Road/ Highway 111 interchange. No fingerprints or blood were found on the jacket.
If Glen had killed Brenda, as Robin’s statements suggested and police and prosecutors theorized, then he either drove away and threw the jacket on the road and came back to the scene to speak with Robin at 4:15am, or he left the scene after speaking with Robin and then thew the jacket on the road. Either way, arguably the jacket would have been lying on the roadway by 4:30am. It would have sat there for over an hour, repeatedly run over by passing vehicles until Lawrence found it at 5:30am, in good enough condition to consider donating it to charity.
On the other hand, if the men Angle saw killed Brenda, they also would have left the scene, presumably with the jacket. Angle said he saw the gold car the men were in turn right from Albro Lake Road onto Victoria Road. Had the men continued on along Victoria Road and tossed the jacket out the car window at the Highway 111 interchange, it left just enough time for Lawrence to discover the jacket in good condition, and still plenty of time for the men to drive back to Jackson Road, where Angle saw them 20 or 45 minutes later.
Angle could not give detailed descriptions of the two men in the gold car, but he said the man banging on the door at 109 Albro Lake Road was the same man who was driving the vehicle, and that man was a black man. Angle couldn’t racially identify the other man.
That brings us to Brenda’s cousin, Karen Way. On November 25, 1995 — 13 days after Brenda was murdered — Karen was drinking at the bar of the Maranova Hotel on King Street in downtown Dartmouth. At a nearby table, two men were talking; she overheard their conversation. One man “bragged” to the other that he had killed Brenda.
Karen told me that when she heard the conversation she immediately left the bar and called 911 from the hotel lobby. She said police did not arrive until 45 minutes later, and by that time the two men had left the bar.
Karen said both men were white. She recognized one of them as a crack dealer who lived “at the foot of Victoria Road” — that is, in a well-known crackhouse at the corner of Victoria Road and Queen Street. My understanding is that Robin’s apartment on Pine Street, “behind the bowling alley,” was in the rear of the same apartment building.
Could the man who bragged about killing Brenda at the Maranova be one of the two men Angle saw in the gold car? I don’t know. But Karen Way’s story may have been one of the reasons Glen was ultimately released.
Apparently, Sean MacDonald, the lawyer who became the main investigator in AIDWYC’s examination of Glen’s case, found the police report recording Karen’s call in 1995. On January 23, 2012, Karen signed an affidavit swearing that the 1995 police report was incorrect.
However, a year and a half later, on August 15, 2013, Karen signed and swore to a second affidavit saying she had lied in the previous affidavit. The 2013 affidavit reads:
In my January 23, 2012 affidavit I denied the information that was written in a November 25, 1995 Halifax Police Department Report (thirteen days after Brenda’s murder) that said I called 911 from the Maranova Hotel after hearing one man brag to another man about slicing my cousin Brenda Way’s throat. I also denied speaking to the police officers that arrived at the Maranova on that night as a result of my phone call. This is not accurate; in fact I did hear a man brag about slicing Brenda’s throat to a second man. I did call the police and I did speak to the officers that arrived at the Hotel.
I have been shown a copy of the November 25, 1995 Police Report again, attached as Exhibit B, and can say that it is the truth. I heard a man confess to Brenda’s murder and that man was not Glen Assoun.
I was afraid that by agreeing with this Police Report (Exhibit B) that it would cause real problems with my family and I wanted to avoid the stress. Brenda’s murder has been hard on all of us and I did not want to open up an old wound by acknowledging that I heard another man other than Glen confess to her murder. However, over time I realized that it was not the right thing to do and so I contacted Glen’s lawyer and told him the truth.
I have never been approached by any member of any police department about the conversation I overheard at the Maranova Hotel since I called the police on November 25, 1995.
Release from jail
I believe that Sean Macdonald collected more affidavits from several more suspects, but I have not seen them.
With those affidavits in hand, the AIDWYC team submitted an application to the federal Justice Department for Glen’s release from prison .
Getting a wrongful conviction overturned in Canada requires going through a complex process that has its origins in English common law and the role of the crown dating back to the Middle Ages.
Ultimately, the king or queen had the power to intervene in the court system in the interests of justice. That is, it didn’t matter if all the rules of court and multiple judges and juries at various levels of courts declared a conviction; if the king or queen felt that an injustice had occurred, he or she could step in and have the convicted person released from custody.
In our modern iteration of that ancient practice, intervening in the interests of justice rests with the Minister of Justice, an elected official. When Glen’s application for release was submitted, that person was Peter MacKay. After the Trudeau government was elected, Jody Wilson-Raybould became Justice Minister.
The minister, however, does not make the decision on his or her own. Rather, the minister is advised by the Criminal Conviction Review Group (CCRG), comprised of six lawyers and one “special advisor” who work for the Justice Department.
When an application is submitted to the minister, the file is handed to one of the CCRG lawyers, who conducts a cursory review of the convicted person’s case, and then writes a “Preliminary Assessment” (PA) containing his or her findings. Typically, the PA is a one- or two-page document that suggests either that there is not merit in the application and it should be dropped, or that the application has merit and the entire CCRG should conduct a more thorough investigation.
In Glen’s case, the review was conducted by a Justice Department lawyer named Mark Green. But Green did not write a one- or two-page PA; rather, Green’s PA runs 86 pages and has 131 appendices.
As with AIDWYC’s application for Glen’s release, Green’s PA is still sealed by court order. But a cover letter to Glen that was read aloud in court contains the following sentence written by Green:
I am of the view, that on the basis of all this information [i.e. included in AIDWYC’s application], including the new and significant information that has been submitted with your application, there may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in your case.
With Green’s opinion in hand, on November 24, 2014 — 19 years after Brenda Way was murdered and 15 years after Glen Assoun was found guilty — Justice James Chipman ordered that Assoun be released from prison. Glen was allowed to move to British Columbia and live with his daughter Tanya. But while Glen is out of prison, he is not a free man. He wears an electronic ankle bracelet, abides by strict conditions, including house arrest, and is in a sort of judicial limbo, awaiting his fate.
Glen hasn’t yet been fully exonerated — on the basis of Green’s PA, the full CCRG now takes up the file and conducts its own investigation. Eventually — the process can take years, but Glen’s lawyers tell me they expect a decision in the next few months — the CCRG will make a recommendation to Minister Wilson-Raybould, who will have three options:
• reject Glen’s appeal and return him to prison, or
• order a new trial, or
• send the matter back to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
If Wilson-Raybould chooses the second option, Glen will in effect be immediately exonerated, as it’s unlikely the crown would want to re-try the case. With the third option, full exoneration would have to wait perhaps a year or two more. I doubt there’s any chance the minister will completely reject Glen’s application, but if so, I guess Glen can pick up his hat again.
That Glen’s file has gotten this far speaks to the strength of AIDWYC’s application and the evidence and arguments it contains. As I’ve explained above, there are three sets of arguments in that application. I’ve discussed at length the arguments about the trial witnesses and the “new evidence” of possible third-party suspects.
What I haven’t discussed is AIDWYC’s argument about the police investigation and the conduct of the prosecutors and judge. That’s in part because while I’ve read the arguments Jerome Kennedy made in Glen’s 2005 appeal, I don’t know how those arguments evolved into the AIDWYC application. It’s also in part because these arguments can become very technical and are beyond the scope of this article.
I can, however, give my own assessment, as I’ve read the entire trial transcript and the multitude of documents connected to the case.
It’s my opinion that this likely miscarriage of justice started with a police investigation that was focused on simply getting a conviction, as opposed to getting the right person convicted. Glen was an unsympathetic defendant, and if the evidence was pushed and pulled this way and that, and if other evidence was ignored, then police could put a case together.
The “pushing” of evidence included taking seriously Jane Downey’s conversation with a psychic and subsequent discovery of a knife without a tip at the murder scene, and the far-fetched corroborating claim by Tina Cameron that she had overheard Glen admitting to the murder, with the added benefit of saying that the knife was missing its tip. An objective view of these claims would raise at the very least skepticism, but police investigator Dave MacDonald appears to have accepted them without question. Additionally, an investigator who hadn’t already made up his mind about the case might have looked at the nexus of David Carvery, Wayne Wise, Tina Cameron, and Jane Downey and suspected collusion. But not Dave MacDonald.
The “pulling” of the evidence included Robin’s muddled and incoherent ramblings. The street cops who first heard those ramblings rejected them as nonsense, but Dave MacDonald accepted them and Constable Derek Williams, the KGB interviewer, pulled her story along (by leading the witness) to get it to fit into a preconceived narrative of the crime.
Most importantly, Stephen Angle’s evidence that he saw Brenda alive more than an hour after Glen supposedly killed her was simply ignored. It was inconvenient and didn’t fit the accepted narrative.
I also think the crown knew, or at least should have known, that the case against Glen sat on the shakiest of evidence, and the case should have never been brought to trial. I can’t get in prosecutors Ron Fetterly’s and Dan MacRury’s heads, so I don’t know their motives; the simplest and perhaps most charitable read is they simply took police investigator Dave MacDonald’s case at face value.
As for Justice Suzanne Hood, my sense is that for whatever reason, she refused to call a mistrial out of a sense of decorum and an unbendable desire to keep order in her courtroom. Decorum and order in court are important — but should they trump justice?
On its website, AIDWYC has a page listing the causes of wrongful convictions. 26 I would argue that many of the listed causes apply in Glen’s case:
• Eyewitness identification error (Roberta)
• Jailhouse informant testimony (David Carvery and Wayne Wise)
• Tunnel vision — focusing on one suspect to the exclusion of all others
• Systematic discrimination (AIDWYC points at racism and sexism, but I believe in Glen’s case the discrimination was class-based.)
• Professional misconduct — how lawyers and police contribute to causing a wrongful conviction.
“I believe this will someday be a case study in how justice can be derailed,” AIDWYC lawyer Phil Campbell said when Glen was released. 27
As I discovered how police botched the Glen Assoun investigation and how the case tumbled through the courts, I began to wonder about the results of other murder investigations, and so I took a look at other court files.
What I found is as distressing and disheartening as what I discovered about the investigation of Brenda Way’s murder.
- The photo of the hat above shows Glen put the year 1998 on it. In fact, while he was arrested and imprisoned in 1998, he was not convicted until 1999. ↩
- Glen made two hats. MacDonald told me that when Glen was transferred to Halifax for the hearing in which he would be released from custody, guards at Dorchester only allowed him to take one hat with him. “We’ll keep this here for you,” said a guard, speaking of the hat, “for when you come back.” Glen gave the hat he brought to Halifax with him to MacDonald. “I have it here in my office,” said MacDonald. “It’s a beautiful thing.” The second hat is still at Dorchester. ↩
- Below, I’ll explain how a convicted person gets released after all appeals have been exhausted. ↩
- Forensic evidence showed that Dalton’s wife, Brenda Dalton, had choked on her breakfast cereal. Dalton is now a public face for AIDWYC. He travelled to Halifax for the hearing that resulted in Glen’s release. I sat next to Dalton in the courtroom and found him an immensely personable and likeable man. During a break in the court proceedings, I asked him why he had come to Halifax. “To give Glen moral support,” he said. ↩
- Kennedy represented Dalton, Randy Drunken, and Greg Parsons at the Lamar Inquiry, which looked into why the three men had been wrongly charged and in Parsons’ and Dalton’s case wrongfully convicted. ↩
- Prosecutor Dana Giovannetti represented the Crown. ↩
- Kennedy was elected to the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly, and was appointed that province’s Minister of Justice. He has since returned to his law practice. ↩
- I’d add Glen’s own hubris to the list, but of course that would be a lousy legal argument. ↩
- Eyewitness testimony has proven at times to be extremely unreliable. ↩
- A man named Fabian Picco (it’s spelled both Picco and Pico in court documents) pleaded guilty to murdering Dixon. Picco’s girlfriend had left him for Dixon. McGraw barely knew Picco, and Nelson didn’t know PIcco at all, but later that evening Picco, Nelson, and McGraw somehow ended up carjacking Dixon’s car, with Dixon in it. McGraw was driving; Picco was in the passenger side front seat, and Nelson and Dixon were in the back. According to Nelson’s testimony, Picco reached back and punched Dixon, and then produced a knife. Nelson said she took the knife from Picco, but Dixon saw her with the knife and so pulled out his own knife to, he thought, pre-emptively fend off an attack. Picco grabbed the knife back from Nelson and went at Dixon.
McGraw drove around the north end of Halifax while a knife battle continued in the car. A medical examiner testified that Dixon and Picco were the “gushers” responsible for most of the blood, but so much blood was flying around the car that Nelson and McGraw were also covered with blood. Dixon was killed, and the three others dumped his body behind the Fabricville store on Joseph Howe Road, where McGraw rifled Dixon’s clothes for money while Picco stole the car stereo.
The attackers abandoned the car on Romans Avenue. They then threw some of their bloody clothes in the harbour, and McGraw tried (unsuccessfully, it turned out) to wash his blood-soaked shoes in Albro Lake.
Carvery testified that early in the evening, before the car jacking, Picco showed up at the Halifax Neighbourhood Society —a homeless shelter under the Macdonald Bridge; Carvery was the night manager — and got something from a man named Walter Kehoe. The crown argued that the object Kehoe passed to Picco was the knife Picco later used to attack Dixon. Carvery additionally testified that Picco came back later in the evening: “He came back, he was full of blood, so he asked can he get in and wash up and change, and I said yes, and then… I noticed he brought a black leather vest in when he came.” Carvery went on to say he recognized the vest as belonging to McGraw, and the vest also had blood on it. Carvery continued: “I seen the blood on his [Picco’s] shirt and shorts, and his hand was cut, I had to bandage his hand up and everything.”
Picco had refused to testify against Nelson and McGraw. Three times Picco was called to the stand by the crown, and three times he said “I do not wish to answer any questions.” The first two times, the crown got a delay in the trial in order to try to force Picco to testify, but there was nothing they could do — PIcco was already in prison, and seemed indifferent to his fate. The third time, Glube refused any further delays.
So while Carvery was a witness for the crown’s case against McGraw and Nelson, his testimony mostly implicated Picco, who had already pleaded guilty for the murder. To be sure, Carvery’s testimony established a connection between McGraw’s vest and a bloody Picco, but nothing in Carvery’s testimony implicated Nelson.
The crown had hoped to convict Nelson and McGraw on second-degree murder, but the jury convicted them on the lesser charge of manslaughter. Justice Constance Glube sentenced each to nine years in prison. ↩
- I only found out about Carvery’s 1987 testimony recently, and it took several weeks to get the court file out storage — it’s impossible for me to say with certainty, but I don’t believe anyone has looked at the file since it was closed in 1988. ↩
- In the years since he testified against Glen, Carvery portrayed himself as a reformed con. He started the Africville Lakers basketball team in 2000 to help poor black youth find a safe and healthy outlet in life.
By all reports, the Africville Lakers were a successful enterprise, playing in provincial tournaments and doing well.
“My coach in bantam and midget was David Carvery with the Africville Lakers,” said Christian Upshaw, who went on to become a star basketball player at St. Francis Xavier University and to play as a pro with the Halifax Rainmen and most recently the Calgary Crush. “He was a no-nonsense coach: no matter who you were or how good you were, he said what needed to be said whether you wanted to hear it or not. He really helped me to be disciplined.” See https://www.sportnovascotia.ca/Portals/0/docs/pubs/sportq/December_2011.pdf
“A lot of our inner-city kids are not able to pay the registration to play so we formed the first team with kids unable to play,” Carvery told reporter Tony Seed (see See https://amateursport.wordpress.com/2002/03/15/introducing-the-africville-lakers/). “They come into the program knowing up-front that everyone has to participate in fund-raising, and that everyone plays.”
“In fact,” noted Seed, “this coach benched his own son three games for slacking off from fund-raising.”
“The entire program is financed by non-stop fund-raising,” continued Seed.
“From Day One all we do is fund raise, fund raise,” Carvery. told Seed. “We cannot cover everything on our own, and so we are appealing to the community for financial contributions.”
The team does not now exist.
“The Africville Lakers were members of Basketball Nova Scotia when they were an active club/team,” says David Wagg, Executive Director of Basketball Nova Scotia, via email. “They are not currently an active club/team and we are not aware of the reasons that lead to their end.”
Legally, the Africville Lakers ceased to exist as an organization on March 2, 2006, when it defaulted on its registration fees with the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. But defaulting on such fees is not unusual for small community groups and non-profit societies.
Wagg thinks the organization the organization folded around 2010, but in April 2012 the Chronicle Herald box scores listed a Lakers’ girls team as having won the Bantam Girls Division 1 in the Basketball Nova Scotia tournament. I’ve been unable to find any subsequent reference to the Africville Lakers.
“They have folded their operations,” confirms the Black Basketball League in an unsigned email.
But while the basketball team no longer exists, the fund-raising continues. “David comes by every year and asks for a donation,” one North End Halifax business owner told me. “I’m happy to help.”
Since April 2010, the business owner has contributed a total of $900 to the team, including three contributions totalling $575 since the last documented time the team played in April 2012. The latest fundraising request came in November 2015. See a copy of the letter at https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/LAKER-LETTER.pdf ↩
- Fitzsimmons is a retired RCMP investigator who started his own PI firm. He still lives in the Halifax area, but declined to be interviewed for this article. ↩
- Reported the Daily News: “An Eskasoni man died of exposure in the woods after his all-terrain-vehicle got stuck in the mud early Thursday evening. Carl Joseph Francis, 29, and a 16-year-old female friend were riding through the woods on the Cape Breton reserve when the ATV got stuck. The girl walked out around midnight, after wandering the woods for several hours. Francis was reported missing on Friday. Police found his body on a trail near the ATV.” See “Man dies in woods,” Daily News, April 27, 1997. ↩
- Sinsel did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this article. ↩
- Five months after Brenda’s murder, Greenough was the subject of a police search for violating the conditions of parole. “RCMP have a national parole violation warrant for 44-year-old Avery Greenough for what they termed a ‘minor infraction,’” reported the Daily News. “Greenough, from the West Petpeswick area, Halifax Co., is six-feet-one and 190 pounds. He is not believed to be dangerous to the public, said RCMP in a news release.” See “Police seeking man,” Daily News, April 1, 1996. I’ve been unable to find any more recent references to him. ↩
- “The injured woman says she fled her assailant after he threatened her with a fake gun,” reported She jumped through a window, almost severing her arm on the glass. The frantic prostitute ran down the street in broad daylight, bloodied and naked, and was ignored by numerous motorists when she tried to wave down help on a busy thoroughfare. A woman in a pickup truck, Melissa McKone, finally offered assistance and called 911 on her cellular phone. Police dispatched a tactical unit and followed the trail of blood to the house, but it was empty when they arrived.” See: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/extremely-dangerous-fugitive-nabbed-in-the-sault-90397 ↩
- “RCMP spokeswoman Roxanne Beaubien said that after interviewing Poole, police determined there was no evidence to link him to the deaths of the women.” See “Man not suspect,” Red Deer Advocate, Thursday, July 24, 2003. ↩
- An accomplice has never been identified or charged. See “McGray pleads guilty to killing N.S. hitchhiker,” St. John’s Telegram, May 30, 2001. ↩
- “McGray was inextricably linked to the killing from the beginning,” reported The Fredericton Daily Gleaner:
“Hours before Gibbons was killed on Nov. 14, 1987, he and McGray and Norman Frederick Warren robbed and stabbed a Saint John taxi driver.
“At the time, McGray, then 22 years old, told police it was Warren who stabbed Gibbons to death in a parking lot after they fled the robbery. He said his two robbery accomplices argued about how to divide the $85. Based on that information, Warren was tried for the murder.
“Despite McGray’s testimony, the jury acquitted Warren.
“Part of the problem was that McGray did not implicate Warren in his first statement to police. Only after he was offered protective custody did he point the finger. For his part in the robbery, McGray was sentenced to five years in prison.”
See, “Man faces more charges,” The Fredericton Daily Gleaner, January 28, 2000. ↩
- In 2000, Globe & Mail reporter Erin Anderssen related that McGray was prepared to lead police to more of his murder victims under several conditions: “he wants two alleged accessories to be given immunity from prosecution — one of them, though he won’t identify her, is apparently his girlfriend of the past five years.” See “’I got very good at it,’ killer says,” Globe & Mail, March 24, 2000: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/i-got-very-good-at-it-killer-says/article4162061/ ↩
- “It happened, [McGray] said, after a night of heavy cocaine use. He said he and another man had gone looking for a victim,” reported Anderssen:
‘We couldn’t find anybody who we could grab on the street.
So they ended up at the basement apartment where Ms. Hicks lived with her 11-year-old daughter, Nena. Before daybreak, both were dead: the mother left bloody on the bedroom floor, Nena strangled and hung in a closet.
Mr. McGray pleaded guilty on Monday to the murder of Ms. Hicks, but a second charge in Nena’s death was stayed. Mr. McGray denies killing Nena — and he pushes this point in the interview.
“I’ve killed a lot of people,” he said, “but I never hurt a child.” (The other man, who was with him that night, tipped police to Mr. McGray. He has not been charged.) ↩
- http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/i-got-very-good-at-it-killer-says/article4162061/ ↩
- “Murderer Michael McGray claims responsibility for more killings,” The Canadian Press, March 23, 2000. ↩
- Lawrence testified: “When I turned onto the Victoria Street extension, I ran over a coat that was sitting right in the middle of the driveway. Why I stopped and picked it up is because [radio station] Q104 was having a big deal on about donate a coat to a kid. So I thought I’d stop and pick it up and have it washed and cleaned up and donate it. I picked it up and threw it behind the seat of the bus. It was there all day. When I got off work I threw it in my car, took it home. It sat in my car overnight. The next day, I went out and got it and brought it inside, going to wash it. And for some reason, I — it smelled of smoke and me and my wife don’t smoke. So we put it in a garbage bag and I threw it on the deck. The next day, I emptied the contents out, I think. And from there I went to work and told the wife to wash it. And when I got to work, I started thinking. And I heard about this so-called murder. And I thought maybe it might be that. So I phoned the wife and told her not to do anything to the coat. Then we — I called the Dartmouth PD and they came out and talked to me and they took the coat… What stuck out to me it was an ISPO ski jacket, and it was a fairly nice coat.” ↩
- https://www.aidwyc.org/education/causes-of-wrongful-convictions/ ↩
- https://www.aidwyc.org/assoun-bail/ ↩