An affidavit filed with the court in 2006 claimed that serial killer Michael McGray knew murder victim Brenda Way and lived just blocks away from Way’s apartment, where her body was discovered.
In 1999, Glen Assoun was convicted of Way’s murder. Assoun has always maintained his innocence, and a justice department lawyer recently wrote that there “may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred” in the conviction of Assoun.
Assoun’s lawyer at appeal was Jerome Kennedy, a Newfoundland lawyer who works with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. In 2006, Kennedy asked the court to consider “new evidence.” Part of that new evidence came in the form of an affidavit signed by Fred Fritzsimmons, a former RCMP officer who lives in Wellington and who worked as a private detective for Kennedy.
“In my opinion,” wrote Fitzsimmons in the affidavit, “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.”
The court file is voluminous, and I have not yet been able to locate the police memo.
Fitzsimmons relied in part on communications from an unnamed source, and so the appeals court rejected his affidavit as hearsay evidence.
But Fitzsimmons’ affidavit claims that in 1995 McGray had been released from prison and took up residence with his girlfriend, 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 his girlfriend lived in which apartment, but all three apartments are within a 10-minute walk from Way’s apartment at 109 Albro Lake Drive. Way’s body was discovered behind the apartment building on the morning of November 12, 1995.
Additionally, Fitzsimmons claimed that McGray knew Way.
In the affidavit, Fitzsimmons expresses frustration with the Halifax Regional Police. With his new-found knowledge of McGray’s residences, on February 3, 2005 Fitzsimmons met for two hours with Sgt. Wayne McNeil, Sgt. Mike Worrell, and Sgt. Mike Spur. At the meeting, Fitzsimmons “reviewed the case in detail” and suggested that both McGray and another man could be suspects in Way’s murder. (More on the other man in a future post.)
“I was not provided with any answers to any of my questions,” wrote Fitzsimmon. “I was attempting to convince the HRP to review the case but I was told that the right man had been convicted and the case would remain closed.”
In fact, in the affidavit Fitzsimmons wrote that the investigation into McGray’s murderous spree was interfering with his own investigation trying to link McGray to Way’s murder.
“I attempted to obtain information by telephone from Mr. McGray’s parole officer,” wrote McGray. “I was trying to confirm information from a source as to when Mr. McGray had worked at various establishments in the Halifax and Dartmouth area. However, I was told by parole services that if Mr. McGray’s name was entered into the computer this would immediately result in inquiries as to why someone was looking for information on McGray. Therefore, the parole officer could offer me no assistance.”
Fitzsimmons continued: “As a result of the ongoing police investigation into Michael McGray I have not been able to access information that is highly sensitive and which could assist me in establishing either McGray’s involvement in Brenda Way’s murder or eliminating him as a suspect. To the best of my knowledge the police have not taken such steps.”
Since the court rejected Fitzsimmons’ affidavit, there must be some new revelation that caused the Justice Department lawyer to suggest that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in Assoun’s conviction.
Elsewhere in the court documents, police acknowledge that McGray was living in the area—they placed him in a south end Halifax apartment some time before Way’s murder, and after McGray was charged with other murders the Halifax Police Department was the lead agency on a 1985 Digby murder involving McGray (again, more on this in a future post).
It’s a remarkable coincidence that McGray was living near Way when she was murdered. But can we conclusively say that he murdered Way? In a word, no. Assoun, after all, has been convicted for Way’s murder.
We know that in return for increased counselling and other demands, McGray has offered to give information about what he claims is a total of 16 murders he committed. As for Assoun, the court record reveals a violent man who had in the past assaulted Way and other women, as well as children. Is it possible that the two men are, at a distance from each other, playing the system against itself?
The court proceedings over the next few months should be quite interesting.