Thursday, October 27, 2005

More Police Errors in the Ardeth Wood Case

A 76-year-old former RCMP Officer saw Ardeth Wood on the day that she disappeared. She was on the bike path and he had been cycling. He said to her that it seemed awfully hot out and she agreed. Then she continued on with her biking and the former officer, Al Dzikowski, noticed a younger man on a bike who followed Ardeth. He thought nothing of it at the time but after he read about Ardeth's disappearance, he called the police right away and left a message on their answering machine.

What did they do? They ignored him. This did not deter Dzikowski, who contacted the Wood family directly. In turn, they called the police but police still did not meet with the former RCMP man or request that he look at a lineup of suspects or mug shots.

In fact, it took the police more than two years to contact Dzikowski, who now believes that Chris Myers was the man on the trail. When the police finally did call Dzikowski in September of this year, they conscientiously took down his name, address and phone number. Only problem is that they took down the phone number incorrectly, so they never called him back! Sounds like a Monty Python skit except that it's not funny.

As if it wasn't bad enough to extradite Myers from Arnprior to North Bay without realizing that he bore a resemblance to the composite sketch, Ottawa Police have managed to compound their error by incompetently handling a tip from a man who actually spoke to Ardeth Wood on the NCC path!

What I have said previously about eyewitness testimony being unreliable notwithstanding, things are looking bad for Chris Myers. The original description of the suspect in the Wood case was a man in his mid to late twenties but Dzikowski always maintained that the person he saw looked much younger -- somewhere between 18 to 23. That would fit in with Myers' profile since Ardeth Wood was murdered in 2003 and Chris Myers is 25 right now.

Police Chief Bevan has a lot of explaining to do.

Sigrid Mac

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Chris Myers suspected in Sudbury murder

25-year-old Chris Myers of Ottawa, who was arrested the other day and charged with the murder of Ardeth Wood, is now a suspect in the death of Laurentian University student, Renee Sweeney. 23-year-old Sweeney was a history major who was stabbed to death one night on January 27, 1998 when she was working alone in a video store. The store was robbed of less than $200, the Ottawa Citizen reported, and evidence was discovered at the scene of the crime including footprints in the snow, a pair of gardening gloves, a bloodstained jacket and DNA.

But Sweeney's father is dubious about this possibility. He reminded Sudbury police that Chris Myers would only have been 16 years old at the time and he lived in Ottawa not Sudbury.

Once again, Myers is being suspected of involvement in this case based on the composite sketch. I find that to be somewhat unnerving. To begin with, when I looked at the composite sketch in the newspaper and compared it to the picture of Chris Myers, I didn't see a resemblance. Secondly, when Ardeth Wood was killed back in 2003, I clearly remember the police were looking for a suspect who was tall with sandy colored hair and had an eagle tattoo. Chris Myers has dark hair and no tattoo. He also does not appear to wear glasses whereas the composite sketch from Sudbury had a guy wearing glasses; and that man looked considerably older than 16 or 17 years of age!

I'm not saying that Myers had nothing to do with the tragic death of Renee Sweeney. I know nothing about that case except what I read today. What I am saying is that it's dangerous for people to base their reactions around a composite sketch, which may now be having a snowballing effect (e.g. Sudbury police read that North Bay police think that Myers matches the picture of the Ottawa sketch, therefore, Sudbury suspects him in their own unsolved murder).

Recently, I read that about 40% of all of the Death Row cases that have been overturned were convictions that were originally based on eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable! The only thing that might be more unreliable than eyewitness testimony is a composite sketch!@! We have to be damn careful about jumping conclusions here.

This is in no way meant to be any kind of defense of Chris Myers, who appears to be a serial rapist and may indeed be involved with the murder of Ardeth Wood. But before I reach that conclusion, I would like to see some evidence.

Sigrid Mac

Monday, October 24, 2005

Seen Me Lately?

Sex trade workers keep disappearing in droves. First Vancouver. Then Edmonton. Now Calgary. Where will it end?

A group of concerned women have started an innovative project called Seen Me Lately. They're getting the phone numbers or contact info for women on the street and making sure that each person checks in with somebody else everyday. That way, if an individual goes missing, it won't take months for other people to figure it out.

For example, on September 13, a 40-year-old woman in Edmonton disappeared off the radar. Her friends and cohorts could not find her so Seen Me Lately put out an SOS. 10 days later they discovered that she was in the hospital. What a relief! Meanwhile, the group posts details about the people that they're concerned about on their web site. They have a live chat, a group discussion forum, and lots of cool links to aboriginal women's sites, sex trade workers of Canada and sites that are devoted to missing people and children. Check them out at

Sigrid Mac

Friday, October 21, 2005

25-year-old man arrested in the Ardeth Wood case

This morning, my mother said to me, "They've got Ardeth Wood's killer!"

"Really?" I asked. I was excited. After 26 months, I thought that the police had finally discovered the brute that sexually assaulted and murdered 27-year-old university student, Ardeth Wood. But when I queried my mother in more detail, I realized that the police had arrested a suspect. As those of us who work in the field of wrongful convictions know, that is not the same as "finding the killer."

Chris Myers of Ottawa was arrested yesterday and appeared in court today after a North Bay detective was led to believe that Myers was involved in Wood's death. Police will not reveal the evidence against Myers except to say that he has also been charged with four other sexual assaults in Ottawa -- three of which occurred after Ardeth's death -- and another assault in Gatineau.

North Bay Detective Constable Noel Coulas recognized Myers from a composite sketch that was devised and circulated throughout the country in the aftermath of the Wood murder. Coulas encountered Myers when he investigated him in May as a suspect in a sexual assault in North Bay. Ironically, Myers was sent to North Bay by the Ottawa police, who picked him up in Arnprior, and thought that he might have been involved in the attack in North Bay.

Why didn't it occur to the Ottawa police that Myers may have been involved in Ardeth Wood's death? If Coulas noticed a resemblance between Myers and the composite sketch, why didn't the Ottawa police see that same similarity? Surely, they must have the composite sketch plastered on the walls of their offices. In addition, Myers was one of the 1700 people who were interviewed in the Wood case, and he has been charged with five or six sexual assaults in at least three locations, including Ottawa, Gatineau and North Bay.

Coulas was very modest about his role in identifying Myers in the sketch. Ottawa Police Chief Vince Bevan said that often "hard work and luck" paid off. Bevan has never recovered his reputation after bungling the Paul Bernardo case. (It took the police almost two years to analyze Bernardo's DNA; meanwhile, he was out murdering schoolgirls.)

Bevan and the Ottawa people could have been a lot more proactive here. Essentially, they found a man who was on their list of suspects -- sorry, "persons of interest" -- in the Ardeth Wood case AND they handed him over to North Bay! Moreover, this took place in May and we are now almost at the end of October. What transpired during those five months? Why did it take so long to pick Myers up? A lot of questions remain unanswered.

Chris Myers maintains his innocence. You can read more about this breaking news at

Apparently, Ardeth Wood's brutal murder and the search for her killer has been one of Ottawa's most costly investigations; so far, it has cost approximately $675,000. That is just the financial toll, which doesn't include the horrific pain and suffering of the Wood family.

Since I've been working in the field of wrongful convictions for approximately 13 years, I urge you to reserve judgment on this arrest until we hear the actual evidence. I would like to jump for joy by concluding that perhaps we have the real killer after all this time, when it had been looking so hopeless. But without a confession or a statement from the police as to the nature of the exact evidence against Myers, I will try to maintain a neutral position. All I can conclude at the moment is that it definitely sounds as though this man is a serial rapist. He rides a bike, he was seen on 24 separate occasions on the bike path that Ardeth Wood traveled on, and he left the Ottawa area several weeks after her murder. He could be our man but we'll have to wait and see.

Sigrid Mac

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Should We Legalize Prostitution?

Linda Slobodian of the Calgary Herald wrote a fantastic article on Sunday called "Taking Prostitutes off the Streets." It describes the current debate in Canada's Parliament over whether or not to legalize or decriminalize prostitution. In earlier posts, I have advocated legalizing the sex trade industry but there were certain things that I was not taking into account that Slobodian pointed out.

Firstly, other countries such as Australia, Holland and New Zealand have legalized their red light districts, but instead of making the occupation safer for women, the result was that organized crime took over. In addition, many of the brothels took a large part of the salaries of the workers.

Secondly, former policeman Ross McInnis asked what would happen to prostitutes who were underage, addicted to drugs or who had STDs. Would their work be decriminalized? Of course not. Consequently, we would continue to have a black market composed of the youngest and most vulnerable members of the sex trade while those who do massage or work at escort services are protected.

New Democratic Party MP Libby Davie believes that sex trade workers should have the right to work out of their homes. But reports from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in Australia suggest that legalization would further exploit women and encourage the sale and slavery of children.

This issue is nowhere near as simple or straightforward as I had once imagined. I can understand arguments on both sides of the debate. It will be interesting to see how Parliament resolves the dilemma. Many thanks to Slobodian for her extensive research and thought-provoking article.

Sigrid Mac

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I've got HP6!

Although it sounds like a mutant strain of the herpes virus, HP6 actually stands for Harry Potter Six, otherwise known as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I started out tonight with the intention of writing about Taylor Behl, the bright and beautiful 17-year-old who was murdered recently in Virginia. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't face the thought of talking about one more dead girl. One more wasted youth. One more senseless tragedy.

I started to think about how overwhelming the news has become. Earthquakes, hurricanes, subway terrorist threats. Millions of people evacuating their homes and images of dogs roaming in packs, desperately trying to survive the fallout from Katrina, lingered in my mind. I used to be a news junkie. I read two newspapers a day. My TV was permanently set on CNN, since I grew up in the US.

Now, I find myself watching Comedy Central and shying away from shows like CSI and Law and Order. I'm spending more time reading lighthearted books and talking to people on the phone. I need to get away from death and destruction because life is all about balance. We never read headlines that say, "Woman left home at 7:30 a.m. and arrived back at her apartment safely as usual that evening." Of course, that's the norm but it's not newsworthy. Even those who are affected by violence -- or should I say, especially those who are affected by such horrors -- need some humor in their lives. Something creative, fun, different and not terribly cerebral.

More than 25% of JK Rowling's fan base is adult. I began the Potter series in order to have something to discuss with my young nephew, but I quickly became addicted and I've read all six books. One thing about the Half-Blood Prince that impressed me is that there was a lot of media hype about one of our favorite characters dying at the end of the book. HP6 was released on July 16 and I was convinced that someone would spoil the surprise by telling me which one of my Hogwarts' favs had departed. (Yes, I can't escape death even in Harry Potter!) But I must say that no one was rude enough to ruin the book, so it came as a shock when I learned that #@#@#@#@# had magically passed on.

All of you Potter fans know the sheer joy of escaping to Diagon Alley; for those who have never traveled on their broomstick or apparated, I would highly recommend it. My only complaint about Rowling is that she tends to be quite wordy, but I'm usually content to let her ramble and sad as hell when her magnificent stories end.

Sigrid Mac

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My first Magazine Review by She Unlimited

The Review Diaries "D'Amour Road by Sigrid Macdonald", October 7, 2005
Reviewer: She Unlimited Magazine "Veronica Marie Kettler" (World Wide) - See all my reviews
The Review Diaries D'Amour Road by Sigrid Macdonald
She Unlimited Magazine Review by Veronica Marie Kettler

A Powerful book Based on a true story, taking place in Ottawa Canada. Sigrid Macdonald vividly makes us aware of this growing and ignored epidemic. Missing Persons is an epidemic ignored by many, and as this story unfolds, it is amazing how our eyes are open wide shut.

The title of the book is a masterful description which clearly depicts the pages ahead. Based on a true story, it is an astounding book on women's passage in society based in modern Ottawa. One women's life, but many are still missing. I closed the last flap of the book feeling empathy, and compassion for those unfound and the painful footprints left in those still looking.

The characters are real and the story is profound. It is original with a roller coaster ride that explores the reality of a social problem everywhere. Macdonald establishes D'Amour Road, the road of love, also a road to tragedy and unsaid mystery as the search begins for Lisa.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Still looking for Tamra Keepness

Good news. Apparently, the police are still looking for little Tamra Keepness, a five-year-old Native girl who disappeared from her home in Regina in July of 2004. I haven't read anything about Tamra for the longest time, so I'm glad to hear that she is not a "cold case file."

According to the Canadian Press, specially trained cadaver dogs from Calgary are supposed to search certain areas of Regina this weekend. Lara Rostad of the Regina police said the search is not based on any new information, but rather is a part of the ongoing investigation into Tamra's disappearance. Rostad said the Calgary team would spend "three days searching Wascana Lake, Wascana Creek and north Winnipeg Street with dogs trained to locate bodies and human remains."

There have also been comprehensive searches inside the family home and surrounding area, and air searches of the city, along with a search of an area near Echo Lake on the Pasqua First Nation. CP stated that six investigators have been assigned to the case. That's very encouraging.

I'm not hopeful about finding Tamra, although stranger things have happened. Who would have thought that Elizabeth Smart would have emerged from her kidnapping ordeal? Until proven otherwise, we must assume that Tamra may still be alive. Either way, her family deserves to know what happened to her. Let us hope that this intensified measure helps to bring some closure to a terrible situation.

Sigrid Mac

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

When Love Is Not Enough

In Missing Sarah, Maggie de Vries writes a provocative and heartbreaking story about her sister, Sarah, who was one of 69 women who went missing from the Eastside of Vancouver in the 1990s. Shockingly, Sarah's DNA was discovered on Robert Pickton's farm, yet that evidence was not sufficient for the police to charge him with her murder.

A professional writer, Maggie goes back in time to give us a detailed portrait of her sister in the earlier years. A child of mixed racial descent, Sarah was adopted into a Caucasian family; she was taunted at school and mocked for her ethnicity. Although the family adored Sarah and vice versa, this devotion was not enough to surpass the pain from the racist insults that Sarah received. She became a troubled teenager, feeling that she did not belong anywhere. Sarah began to run away, and eventually felt more comfortable in group homes and in her own low-rent apartment than she did with her family.

Maggie traces Sarah's journey into drugs and prostitution. She also analyzes different factors that have decreased the safety of sex trade work. According to Maggie, between 1960 and 1974, only one prostitute was the victim of a violent death in British Columbia. From 1975 to 1980, the number increased to a total of three women. It started rising in the 90s, resulting in 24 dead sex trade workers in B.C. before the maniacal actions of Robert Pickton.

This is an important book. Not only do we get to know Sarah de Vries as a person, rather than a faceless, drug addicted prostitute, but we also get a sense of how terribly wrong it is for our hypocritical society to push sex trade workers into the deepest and darkest corners of the city where they will inevitably be easy prey for perverts and malevolent men. Policymakers as well as the general public should take heed. Sex trade workers, who are often only teenagers, need our protection.

Missing Sarah makes a strong argument for the decriminalization of drugs since many prostitutes cannot leave the job because they need to work to feed their habit. It also advocates the legalization of sex trade because this would provide the workers with a safe physical location. That way they don't have to solicit on corners and get into cars with strangers who may beat, rob, rape or kill them.

Robert Pickton is currently behind bars but there's a dangerous serial murderer stalking prostitutes in Edmonton. What are city officials there doing about it?

Sigrid Macdonald
Book Review, posted on and

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Our Native Sisters

Over the last 10 to 15 years, hundreds of Aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada. Some sources say that the figure is close to 500 but others say that's debatable. Regardless of the exact figure, the situation is alarming. Imagine if we were talking about white women! Premiers would be declaring an epidemic. Members of Parliament would be lobbying for better law enforcement and accountability. Parent groups would be organizing to make their communities safer. But because we're talking about a group of people who are already marginalized; at a higher risk for poverty and family violence; more likely to be abused sexually and physically; and more prone to ending up in prison or working in the sex trade than their Caucasian sisters, no one is terribly upset.

As many of you may know, 69 women have gone missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Approximately 27 have been confirmed dead and notorious serial killer, Robert Pickton, the modern-day equivalent of Jack the Ripper, is behind bars. According to Wayne Leng, approximately 17 of the missing women in Vancouver were Aboriginal and two were of mixed race. Wayne runs an incredible web site entitled Missing People Net as a tribute to these women, so that they will not be remembered as simply "prostitutes." They were people and each one was unique. He has posted a picture of every woman on his site to remind us of their individuality.

Today, Wayne sent me an article that was published in the Vancouver Sun. It said that last year, the Missing Persons Unit in Vancouver received 3847 complaints. A large number of these were about runaways but 315 had to do with unsolved homicides. Apparently -- hope that you're sitting down for this one -- there is ONE person operating the Missing Persons Unit in Vancouver! Gosh, I hope that he takes large doses of vitamin C. If he were to come down with a common cold, the entire department could be crippled. Worse, this one individual is also the liaison to the coroner's office, so he can't completely devote the little time that he has to the job at hand.

Clearly, we need to restate our priorities. White women who go missing get their pictures flashed all over TV until something more exciting like a big hurricane comes along.

Little Tamra Keepness disappeared from Regina last year when she was five. She has never resurfaced but I have yet to hear updates on her story on Canada AM. And Tamra was just a cute little girl. She wasn't a sex trade worker with a heroin habit, which would make her absence even less interesting to the major media.

Right now, I'm reading the book Missing Sarah by Maggie de Vries. Sarah was one of the unfortunate souls whose DNA was found on the Pickton pig farm but for some inexplicable reason, that doesn't seem to be enough evidence to convict him of her murder. When I'm finished with this emotionally charged and illuminating book written by Sarah's author sister, I will post more about it here. Suffice to say that it is well worth reading and remembering the continuing role that color plays in our multicultural and supposedly accepting society.

Sigrid Mac