Category Archives: crime

Child killer found dead in prison cell

A convicted child killer has been found dead from a possible suicide in his New Brunswick prison cell. The man was serving a life sentence for the second-degree murder of Shannon Morrissette, 5, seventeen years ago.
Gleason Bennett Williams died on Thursday as Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick. An investigation has been ordered dealing with the circumstances surrounding his death.

In 1992 the Prince Edward Island native slit the throat of Shannon Dawn Morrissette after strangling her. Shannon was hearing-impaired and unable to speak.

Williams, 54, had been denied day passes by the National Parole Board just two weeks ago. The board has decided that Williams showed little insight concerning his behavior and posed a risk to reoffend.

The family of Shannon is said to be relieved that Williams is no longer a threat. Janet Morrissette was at the prison two weeks ago when Williams was up for the parole hearing. She spoke on her daughter’s behalf on why the man should not be allowed outside of the prison’s walls.

Ms. Morrissette told the National Post her feelings about hearing that Williams was dead.

“My heart started racing. I started thinking, ‘Oh no, he’s appealing [the denied day parole] and I’d have to go back there. All those emotions, in the 30 seconds of answering the phone,” Ms. Morrissette said from her Regina home.

“Then, when they said, ‘We’re victim services. He’s dead,’ I was so relieved.”

Williams was found in his cell during a routine cell check.

CBC quotes Dorchester Institute’s assistant warden Brenda Hastie:

“We found Mr. Williams unresponsive in his cell. Action was taken to, you know, do CPR, take care of him, [but] he was pronounced dead.”


Update To Pastor Jones and The San Diego Code Rules

Last week it was reported that Pastor David Jones was told that his weekly Bible study on Tuesday nights was not legal. The home study would be requiring a conditional use permit that could cost thousands. The media came out in force.
The Pastor was told last week by a code enforcer that his Bible study required a conditional use permit after being questioned about the Bible study. The official had asked Jones if at the weekly meeting members prayed, said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord”. When the answers were positive the official stated that they were a religious assembly and required the permit.

The permit is no longer being required for Pastor Jones and his wife’s Tuesday night Bible studies but the case is not closed yet.

There are still open issues about the land use to be haggled through.

Digital Journal talked to James Griffiths of the The Western Center for Law & Policy (WCLP) on Monday about the case.

While the county has reversed the order to have a conditional use permit for the Pastor they have not as of yet apologized for the overzealous code official’s writing of the order, according to Griffiths.

The original complaint came as a result of a car door ding from a visitor to the neighbourhood. Griffith said that all of the neighbours on the street had no concerns over the weekly Bible study. In fact they are standing behind Pastor Jones.

As for the car ding Pastor Jones paid out of his own pocket for the repairs without even knowing for sure where the damage came from, says Griffiths. The minor damage cost the pastor about $220.

Pastor Jones is the pastor of South Bay Christian Fellowship in San Diego. He and Griffith hope that the Bible study will continue to grow as large as it can. Space is an issue but there could be a chance for additional Bible studies to take place. Regardless they are hopeful that they can reach more people.

As to what comes next Griffiths says that depends on the county.

“So far we have only sent the demand letter to San Diego County. No motion has been filled yet. We are concerned about the land permit issue. We are hoping not to have to fill a motion in the end.”

The WCLP is doing all of the work for Pastor Jones pro bono.

According to spokesman Luis Monteagudo County Supervisor Greg Cox has received 240 emails and 33 voicemail messages concerning this case as of May 29.

San Diego County chief administrative officer Walt Ekard issued the following statement about the case reports the Washington Post.

“No one respects the right to free religious expression more than I do and no one would find the infringement of such rights more abhorrent. The Bible studies will continue in Pastor David Jones’ home as we work to find a solution that works for everyone involved in this matter. Should I find that County staff at any level acted in a heavy-handed way; did anything inappropriate under the circumstances; or that a change or revision to our processes and procedures is warranted, I will take appropriate action immediately.”

Both sides will meet on June 9 to discuss additional issues about the case. Until that meeting the Bible study will continue.


A Profile of Michael Rafferty, the Suspect in the Stafford Case

Michael Rafferty has been named as a suspect in the Tori Stafford murder in Ontario. He was named after a fellow suspect reportedly heard that he was dating other women. Learn more about the man in the centre of this case.
It’s known that Michael Rafferty was a ladies man. He is accused of cheating on his girlfriends, Tara McDonald, the mother of Tori Stafford, told police.

Rafferty has a son. It’s been said that as a father he wasn’t in contact with his son.

Rafferty was also a party guy. The Toronto Star reports that in Toronto, where he lived ten years ago, he was a regular at a bar on Peter Street.

In Woodstock he spent time at Good Times Charlie’s.

Although some have called the man odd, no one would have connected him to the murder of a child.

Rafferty is said to be on a suicide watch at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ontario.

The Calgary Herald
reports:

“From what I am told, and I don’t know if it stands true or not, but the only reason that she confessed was that she found out he had found another girlfriend out here and that was pretty much her way of getting back,” Tara McDonald said.

Const. Laurie-Anne Maitland told this Digital Journalist she “…can’t give out any other information than on the media releases”.

Good Time Charlie’s in Woodstock refused to comment about Rafferty.

“We’re not going to comment on that case.”

Rafferty has remained silent about the case. His lawyer is quoted by CBC about the Crown having separate trials.

Mattson said, “They have — or might be — negotiating a deal with the other side.”

“I mean, they [prosecutors] may be trying to avoid what in another case that is a little more famous — or was more famous — where there was a lot of criticism of the attorney general’s office. And maybe that’s why they’ve got two separate prosecutors. But that’s just speculation,” Mattson told reporters gathered outside the courthouse in Woodstock.

This Digital Journalist contacted one of the law offices assisting with the Rafferty case in Kitchener. The receptionist said that they are not commenting at all about this case.

Terri-Lynne McClintic has also just been charged with first-degree murder. She was arrested May 19 in Woodstock, Ont., and later appeared in court to face charges of abducting the eight-year-old schoolgirl, as well as assisting Rafferty, 28, to escape the area and being an accessory to murder after the fact.

Also, police continue to search for Tori Stafford’s body. OPP Det.-Insp. William Renton told media:

The investigative team is working hard and is utilizing all available resources to help locate the body of Victoria Stafford.


The Challenges of Crime Reporting

On May 26 the Canadian Journalism Foundation hosted The Media and Wrongful Conviction with criminal lawyer James Lockyer. The evening focused on murder cases where an innocent person served time.
The role of the journalist in these type of wrongful conviction cases is very important.

First let’s examine the judicial system.

As Toronto lawyer James Lockyer stated at the beginning of his lecture:

“All human processes are human and prone to error. A criminal trial is a human process.”

When dealing with the court a journalist has to examine the fallacies as they present their story. Those fallacies are plentiful for the court room is filled with humans.

But you’re already ahead in the game so let’s go back to the crime scene. While journalists aren’t always allowed at the scene of the crime they can ask important questions. The early clues are vital for a fair hearing.

At the beginning we as journalists and the public want the same thing as the police, an answer. That answer takes time. Unless witnesses are at the scene and the crime is filmed it’s difficult to get down to brass tacks, the suspect. There is often a rush to judgment, the easiest answer is the suspect. In many wrongful conviction cases that was the case. The innocent knew the victim, often they were in a relationship, were a relative or a neighbour.

That rush to judgment is not just due to the police, the public and the media is often on the bandwagon. In the recent case of Tori Stafford her mother was a very early suspect.

In this rush to judgment the journalist needs to be ready to look at the evidence presented and start asking vital questions. Are the witnesses reliable? Are the police and the witnesses telling the truth? Do the findings make sense? What types of forensics are being used as a means of pinpointing a suspect? Are those tests junk science?

Once the case makes it to the courtroom the journalist has a much more difficult task. They have to examine all the findings and observe them with a slightly jaundiced eye. Wide eyed innocence in the court room is not a practical way to cover a trial that may result in a person being sent away for life. A journalist now has a different set of questions to add to the first set, which should still be in play.

Is the Crown disclosing the information to the court? Is the defense council reliable? Can the jury grasp the information being present to them?

Mr. Lockyer observed that is should not surprise anyone that wrongful convictions can easily take place.

“What I would like to see is reporters covering cases with a jaundiced eye.”

It’s not difficult that the media can be a key element in murder cases. That element can be both positive and negative. The media can ask questions, find witnesses and examine findings with a new eye that police can use. On the other hand the media can put pressure on the police to help a suspect that results in a rush to judgment before the evidence supports that finding.

After the trial the journalist has not lost their importance. This is the time when a journalist may have to take on the establishment. To raise questions about if an innocent has been convicted of a crime. The journalist may be the only voice a wrongly convicted person has to have a voice.

Sadly there isn’t enough of this type of reporting going on. Once the case has closed it’s time for the next story. Often though it’s just the beginning of the story. These stories are not easy nor do they have a pre-set wrap up time. They take long hours of research, interviews and aren’t always that popular. They are when the journalist is most needed though. That in itself, makes it an issue that journalists must strive to improve on.

An innocent person’s life may just depend on it.


Mother Accused Of Killing Son, Two Children Forced Off Bridge

An Oregon mother is accused of tossing her daughter and son off of Sellwood Bridge over the Willamette River. Local residents heard the children’s screams and rushed to the water to attempt a rescue.
The children were found almost an hour just after 2 a.m. Saturday after their first screams were heard by a resident in a boat. KGW quotes the man:

“It must have been horrifying. The water is so cold, it was dark, and so for two little kids, I can only imagine how horrifying that must have been,” he said.

The boy, 4, died from the ordeal. His sister, 7, is recovering in hospital. She is in serious condition.

The boy has been identified as Eldon Jay Rebhan Smith. Drowning has been listed as the cause of death.

The children’s father reported them missing on Friday night to Tualatin police. . He and their mother had joint custody of the youngsters.

It is not clear how the children were forced off of the bridge.

Amanda Jo Stott-Smith, 31, was arrested in a downtown Portland parking garage by Portland police.

Portland police said during a press conference on Saturday evening that Stott-Smith has been charged with the aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder of her children.


Tara McDonald wants daugther’s killers to die

Tara McDonald, mother of the 8-year-old Tori Stafford who went missing, is speaking out about the arrests of two people in connection to her daughter’s abduction and murder. She says the police were too focused on her and not enough on the real culprits.
In an interview with The London Free Press newspaper, McDonald said, “My daughter’s not coming home. I want the killers dead. I know there are sick and twisted people in the world but I had no idea. I don’t want to sound selfish and I wish this on no one, but I sometimes think, why did it have to be my daughter?

“To think someone took my daughter and then … I can’t even think about it,” she said.

McDonald is angry about the treatment she says she and her son, 11, received from the police. At one point in the investigation, she said she was informed she was the prime suspect. She states that Daryn, her son, was interviewed without a parent or family member present.

McDonald’s ‘cool’ behaviour during the ordeal leading up to the arrests this week had critics pointing fingers at her. Local media and police questioned if the mother was the one behind Tori’s disappearance.

She faced the news cameras dry eyed, begging for her daughter’s return. The public wanted to see her tears. She fought them off until behind closed doors.

As she hoped for the safe return of her daughter, McDonald had to battle the public about everything from looking like the police composite to being in a biker gang. Both of those were false.

She also recently admitted she’s using methadone to fight her addiction to Oxycontin.

The Edmonton Sun reports:

“People have asked many times, ‘Why aren’t you crying, why aren’t you showing emotion?’ ” she said to counter the oft-mentioned criticism. “I don’t do it out here. I do it in there with my friends and family, with people who can console me.”

McDonald said she knew the mother of Terry-Lynne McClintic, 18, because of dog breeding. She had visited Carol McClintic at her home three times to discuss the subject. McDonald said she was high on drugs the one time that Terry-Lynne was in the apartment.

After two people were arrested in connection with young Tori’s disappearance, questions are now emerging about two previous attempted abductions in the Fergus, ON area. The two people arrested in connection with Tori’s disappearance were found in this area.

School children in Fergus were sent home with a note warning parents about a dark-coloured van after the two attempts.


Girl,5, shot in latest Toronto gun violence

Yesterday a little five-year-old girl in Toronto became the latest victim of gun violence. A gunman sprayed bullets on Bellevue Crescent with at least one traveling through the girl’s door and into her back exiting out of her chest.
The little girl was playing inside her family’s townhouse near near Lawrence and Weston Rd. when one man fired at a group of people sitting on an apartment patio early Thursday evening.

The child was rushed to Humber Regional Hospital by her parents. She was then transported by ambulance to Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital. Doctors have removed the bullet that struck her lung. She is now listed in stable condition at the children’s hospital.

Her pregnant mother, Sharlene Reynolds was escorted to Sick Kids Hospital by the police after 9:45 p.m. last night.

The police are looking for witnesses to the attack. They believe that two others were wounded in the attack and ask for those victims to come forward.

One person has been taken into custody as a person of interest. Police are looking for the gunman. Two firearms were used in the attack.

CBC reports:

“We’re going to leave no stone unturned until we find who has done this,” said Staff Sgt. Karen Smythe. “This is horrific.”

Constable Wendy Drummond of the Toronto Police told Digital Journal that the person of interest was released last night. At this time there have been no arrests or additional victims.

The area is becoming known for violence. Saron Ghebressellassie, 22, is quoted about the neighbourhood by the National Post:

“For every woman who has to walk home at night, it’s disgusting, an utter catastrophe. I fear for my life.

“It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to hear that it was a child. It’s become a social norm to come home and have, like, 10 police cruisers outside. I’m shaking right now. There’s a crisis in the neighbourhood. That could have been my brother and my sister. It’s devastating.”

In recent months there have been nine murders and many incidents where gunfire was involved. Neighbours blame gang wars for the gun violence, pleading for the police to end the blood being spilled.

Suzanne Gold, spokesperson from Sick Kids told Digital Journal that at this time they are unable to release any information about the little girl’s status.