Thursday, September 22, 2005

Alberta Justice

We Canadians talk a lot about Texas Justice, which gives us the opportunity to feel superior to the Americans, but our own justice system is in pretty sad shape. Not only do we have wrongful convictions but oftentimes, guilty parties go free.

Holly Desimone knows all too well about the failings of the Alberta justice system. Back in 1990, when she was 29 years old, Holly went over to her friend's house one night for dinner. She met her friend's brother, Ali Rasai, a seemingly nice guy who was a newcomer to Canada. She thought nothing about inviting him back to her apartment since she had no idea that he had fled a rape charge in Australia. Rasai sexually assaulted Holly, who feared for her life.

It took her more than three months to report the rape due to the emotional trauma and fear of not being believed. When she finally came forth, she discovered that Rasai had been charged with sexually molesting two other women in Alberta -- one in Red Deer and one in Edmonton. After he was charged, he was granted bail and his victims were never notified.

Worse, Rossi skipped town. He left the country and it took years for him to be located. Holly launched a tireless campaign to find him, similar in many respects to Joyce Milgaard's one-woman "gumshoe" campaign for justice. She worked in tandem with Rasai's other rape victim from Red Deer, and made the painful decision to go public in order to find this man. Most rape victims are covered by rape shield laws and do not have to disclose their identity to the press but Holly decided to give up her anonymity.

She appeared on America's Most Wanted and has been written up in Reader's Digest. After struggling for years, finding dead ends and dealing with bureaucratic red tape that allowed Rasai to stay in countries like Norway, Holly finally found some measure of justice when Rasai was apprehended. Nearly six years after the rape, he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. Too little, too late, but at least he's behind bars now after having slipped out of police custody so easily here in Canada to live abroad.

You can read more about Holly's courageous story on my link entitled Holly's Fight for Justice. She has a large web site with extensive links and resources for crime victims. Check it out! Then come back here and post your comments.

Sigrid Mac
crossposted to D'Amour Road and my Milgaard Inquiry blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Teague investigation begins

Police have received approximately 400 tips regarding the murder of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague. She was discovered in a marshy swamp off Moodie Drive. Jennifer had been walking home late at night from her job at Wendy's and was on a National Capital Commission walking path.

Two years ago in August of 2003, graduate student Ardeth Wood was on an NCC biking path when she was murdered. The Ottawa Sun asked if we have one serial killer on the loose or two separate killers -- two equally undesirable situations.

Aside from both young women being strong, independent and athletic, and both of them traveling on NCC paths, their deaths seem to have little in common. Ardeth was abducted during the day whereas Jennifer was last seen around 1 a.m. She finished her shift at Wendy's at 12:30 a.m. and called her mother to ask her to lay out her pajamas on the chair. Then she hung out with her friends for a while and began walking home around one o'clock. The suburban streets were dark and deserted but the area was well populated with homes. In fact, Jennifer's job was on the same street that my doctor's office is on! It's not an area where anyone would feel threatened.

According to reporter Lisa Lisle, Jennifer was a "spunky" teenager who was a terrific goalie. She had an interest in the environment and worked so hard and well on a particular project that she and her team won a David Suzuki award. Apparently, Jennifer had a web site where she listed her favorite things. Instead of going on about music or clothes, she cited her six best friends as her favorite things.

It's hard to know what responsibility Wendy's has in this matter. Is it right for them to employ young girls on the night shift and then to lock the doors of the restaurant before these girls have been picked up? Do they have a moral or ethical responsibility to their young staff? Wendy's has said that they are going to look into their policy about having young people working the night shift. That's good but it's a little late for Jennifer Teague.

I'm not blaming Wendy's. And I certainly wouldn't blame Jennifer for walking home alone at that hour, although in retrospect, it's easy to see that wasn't such a clever thing to do. The real fault lies with her killer and it's a big concern as to whether or not he will be found since Ardeth Wood's murderer is still at large.

Andrew Seymour of the Ottawa Sun quoted a U.S. Department of Justice study that claimed that about two thirds of all female victims of violence know their attackers. Aside from the men in Jennifer's life from school, I wonder if one of her customers was watching her. It sounds as though someone knew her hours; maybe someone had been checking her out and was aware that she walked home alone in a desolate area late at night.

Will see if those tips to the police pan out. The least that we can do for the Teague family now is to find the perpetrator.

Sigrid Mac

P. S. I'm updating this on September 22 and police have received close to 800 tips now. Please add your comments and thoughts to this post. I welcome discussion and discourse.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Betty Ann Adam Rocks!

I'm very excited!

I wrote to Betty Ann Adam of the Star Phoenix last week to tell her about my novel, D'Amour Road. D'Amour Road is loosely based around the disappearance and tragic death of Louise Ellis, a member of my Milgaard group. As many of you know, I was the former co-coordinator of the David Milgaard Support Group here in Ottawa.

Louise was a freelance journalist who was interested in writing a book about David. Consequently, she attended the Supreme Court hearings to get more information about his case. It was there that she had her fateful meeting with Brett Morgan, a jailhouse informant, who testified that Larry Fisher had confided in him when they were cellmates; apparently, Fisher had boasted that he had once killed someone but someone else was doing the time for it. Louise admired Brett for coming forth with this information, which was dangerous for a convict.

No one likes a tattletale and I'm sure that it didn't make him very popular in prison. She struck up a correspondence with Morgan and traveled back and forth to see him at the penitentiary. Louise took money out of her own pocket to hire lawyers to get Morgan out of prison early. He was in for manslaughter -- should have been murder -- because he had killed a woman by the name of Gwen Telford in Edmonton (In many newspaper articles, Telford is only referred to as "a prostitute" which really pisses me off!)

Louise and Brett fell in love. She took him into her house when he got out of jail. He got a job and about nine months later, Louise went missing. I was part of the search team that went looking for her. Since Brett was actively involved in the search and vehemently proclaiming his innocence, it was awkward for all of us who were looking for her.

I met with Brett once in person and spoke to him several times on the phone. If I hadn't known that he had killed one woman and that his girlfriend was missing, I would've thought that he was charming. He was earnest and personable and appeared to be perfectly normal.

Brett led a private detective directly to Louise's body about three months into the investigation. He was charged with first-degree murder and was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence. He died of Hep C in prison; can't say that I shed too many tears over that. I was profoundly affected by the death of my cohort, Louise Ellis.

My novel is not biographical. I did not trace the exact relationship of Brett and Louise; instead, I asked myself what the situation would have been like if Louise and I had been best friends. How would I have felt then? What would I have done differently? How hard is it to balance the presumption of innocence with the realization that I don't want to be an idiot and overlook the fact that male partners are often involved in female disappearances; ex cons are even more suspicious!

In my book, I tried to make the male character a cross between Scott Peterson and Brett Morgan. The book is told mainly from the perspective of the best friend of the woman who disappears. It takes place in Ottawa and I examine issues like the presumption of innocence, the ever present possibility of a wrongful conviction, violence against women, midlife issues and unrequited love. You can read a preview of the book at or find it directly on Amazon.

Keep your fingers crossed that Betty Ann Adam likes it and that the Star Phoenix will review it. She has been writing about Milgaard for years and was not aware of this spinoff from the case. In fact, she told me that the inquiry only heard about Morgan on Monday when one of the ex-cops suggested that it would be nice to have Morgan testify (from Six Feet Under?)

David Asper also has a copy of my book and is trying to get it reviewed for me in between his scrapes with the Blue Bombers. LOL.

Sigrid Mac

Crossposted to my D'Amour Road and Milgaard Inquiry blogs.


Police have confirmed that a body that was discovered yesterday on Moodie Drive is that of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague, who had been missing for 11 days. This is the news that we dreaded to hear and residents of the suburban community of Barrhaven were shocked and saddened. (I live in Nepean, Ontario and technically, Barrhaven is part of Nepean.)

That was all the information that I could glean from the evening news -- nothing about cause of death or any possible suspects yet.

Carol Ann Meehan of CJOH TV asked a store owner in nearby Stittsville if kids are required to be home by a certain hour under the curfew law. He didn't know but that hardly seems relevant to me. 18 years old is not a kid -- it's a young adult. And she wasn't out loitering; she was walking home from her late night shift at work! I don't see how a curfew could've been helpful or even appropriate in this instance, however, CJOH did show some interesting martial arts clips to instruct people, especially women, about what to do if they were apprehended.

Jennifer, you should have had five or six more decades. Your life was only beginning. My heart breaks. RIP

Sigrid Mac

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Jennifer Teague -- missing for 10 days

An 18-year-old by the name of Jennifer Teague went missing here in Ottawa about 10 days ago. She lives in Barrhaven and was coming home from her job at Wendy's at about 12:30 a.m. -- 1 a.m. in the morning.

In a front-page article in the Ottawa Citizen today, journalist Ian MacLeod asked why the police would presume foul play (My response -- DUH!!!) He suggested all kinds of scenarios that might explain Jennifer's absence and said that the best case scenario would be that she had run away.

Of course, I know that not all women who disappear are harmed. But here's a girl who was on her way home from work late at night. Really, if you're going to stage your own disappearance, why not go somewhere at two in the afternoon when you have a decent amount of energy? According to her parents, nothing unusual was going on in her life and she had plans to do stuff like take her cat to the vet, and play in a big soccer game.

Sounds a lot like the situation with Alicia Ross in Markham except that Alicia's been missing since late August. Alicia had just been promoted at a job that she really loved. She was excited and looking forward to going to work the day that she disappeared. I think the police suspected some admirer or former boyfriend but I lost track of that case.

Here in Ottawa, we still have the unsolved murder of Ardeth Wood, which occurred several years ago. Ardeth was a beautiful and brilliant doctoral student who came home to visit her parents one day to take a break from her studies in Waterloo. She went off on a bike ride on the Aviation Parkway and never returned. Her killer is still at large. MacLeod wondered if perhaps that man had resurfaced.

What could have happened to Jennifer Teague? She could have voluntarily left town, she could've taken off with someone that she knew, she could've been apprehended by a stranger, she could be held somewhere now against her will. Or God forbid, she could have been irreparably harmed.

The police have been conducting a massive search by ground and air but have called it off in order to focus on more than 300 leads. Fingers crossed that some information about this missing girl surfaces ASAP. My heart goes out to her family and I pray that they are not left in limbo.

Sigrid Mac

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