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Prairie Murders: Mysteries, Crimes and Scandals

Prairie Murders: Mysteries, Crimes and Scandals

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Prairie Murders: Mysteries, Crimes and Scandals

109 pagine
4 ore
Feb 1, 2011


These eight true tales explore the dark side of 20th-century prairie history. A Saskatchewan farmhouse is burned to the ground to conceal the brutal murders of a family of seven. A German prisoner-of-war camp in Medicine Hat is the scene of savage Nazi killings. A convicted killer is given a day pass out of prison for his birthday, only to escape and kill again. From a deadly Prohibition-era shootout to a landmark case solved with DNA evidence, these are riveting stories of murderers and the people who fought to bring them to justice.

Feb 1, 2011

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Prairie Murders - Peter B. Smith



It was a shocking moment of revelation for the head of the homicide unit. His detectives had hunted this suspect for months after an old man in Calgary had disappeared and the blood-splashed interior of his house made it obvious he’d been murdered right there, then taken away and dumped. Staff Sergeant George Rocks, head of Calgary city homicide unit, told me how he’d waited for this moment when his lead detectives would caution and charge suspect Raymond Tudor with murder: When we caught him, he’s wearing the victim’s watch, he’s got blood on his cowboy boots, he’s got blood on his clothing, he’s got the victim’s car, the victim’s credit cards and keys, and the victim’s wallet. He had the victim’s guns, he had the victim’s liquor, and he had the victim’s cigarettes. The evidence was overwhelming.

Rocks recalled how he was monitoring, on close-circuit television, the vital moments in the interview as two homicide detectives, Calvin Johnson and Brent Refvik, were spelling out to Tudor that he was being charged with murder.

Tudor suddenly looked at them with a grin on his face and said, Do you know, you are wearing the ugliest ties I’ve ever seen.

Rocks couldn’t believe his ears: I sat there thinking, ‘this is insane, absolutely insane. This man’s just been told he’s being tagged with a murder and he’s more interested in joking about the detectives’ ties.’

It gave Rocks an instant insight into the man they’d been hunting. I thought, ‘this man is an animal. This guy has no emotions. This is a cold-blooded killer. He has no value for human life. None.’

As Rocks finished relating this moment, he added, By the way, Tudor had one thing right. They were really terrible ties!



Vanishing Act

It was an odd request. The Calgary Police Service Crime Stoppers Unit needed an elderly actor who could convincingly play a dead body. The police couldn’t turn to modelling agencies because they always sent handsome young men. In the end, a cop offered the unit his dad, Howard Owen. Owen made an excellent corpse, though he later said it had turned his stomach to lie on the floor exactly where an elderly man had been murdered.

Six weeks earlier, on April 29, 1994, a killer had bludgeoned to death retired railwayman Ardie Turner, 77. The murderer had left the body lying on the kitchen floor of the old man’s rented tumbledown farmhouse on Highway 797 in the prairie village of Langdon, southeast of Calgary. With the murder still unsolved after six weeks, the Calgary RCMP had opted for a TV re-enactment in the hope that television coverage would spark new information from the public. The crime scene was now bustling with a fake corpse, a fake killer, a camera operator and a film director. It looked like robbery had been the motive, because Ardie’s meagre pension was missing along with his camera. And, most importantly, his beloved old truck had been driven away by his attacker.

Ardie had been a sociable bachelor who spent his days driving his 1977 GMC El Camino to visit numerous friends in the surrounding villages of Dalemead and Carseland to the south and Beiseker to the north, where he’d always be invited in for coffee and a chat. That old truck was the only promising lead police had found. Two days after the murder, it was discovered abandoned in the parking lot of one of Calgary’s busiest shopping malls—Chinook Centre—where it had been dumped by the killer. But days of intense forensic examination failed to yield a single clue, and the murder remained unsolved. Then another elderly man disappeared.

Robert William (Bill) Vomastic, 68, was living on his own in his southwest Calgary home. He had seemed perfectly fine when his son, James, visited him on the evening of Thursday, August 24, 1995. One of his dad’s friends, Ray Tudor, arrived while James was there, and the three of them talked while Ray helped himself to old Bill’s rye and cigarettes. After a while, James set off for home, leaving the two men still chatting.

The next day, Bill didn’t show up for an appointment with his son. On Saturday, James picked up his sister, Sharon, and they both went over to see why their dad hadn’t turned up. What they found in old Bill’s home had them so worried they immediately went to the District 2 police station to report their dad missing. They already feared the worst had happened.

Some of the furniture had been moved, obviously by someone trying to hide a large bloodstain on the floor. A few things were missing, including Bill’s car, and there was a ridiculous note that read, Gone fishing in Montana. Dad. This was something their dad would never have done, and the note wasn’t even in his handwriting. If it was supposed to allay their fears and explain where he was, it produced exactly the opposite reaction. It aroused their suspicions and sent them straight to the police. Officers didn’t like what they heard from the distraught brother and sister and soon homicide detectives were at the house. Now things began to happen fast.

No sooner had the description of old Bill’s white 1991 Ford Crown Victoria car, licence pzz 399, been circulated to every officer on duty throughout the city than police spotted it being driven in the southeast section of Calgary. When police stopped the car, three people leaped out and scattered in different directions. The pursuing officers managed to chase down and catch the driver. Well, if it wasn’t Ray Tudor! And here he was driving Bill’s car, wearing Bill’s watch and carrying Bill’s wallet, with Bill nowhere to be found.

Calgary’s forensic specialists found a lot of blood in Bill’s house, and they already knew that Tudor had been alone with the victim just before he disappeared. Even if he didn’t have Vomastic’s body, the head of the homicide unit, Staff Sergeant George Rocks, was sure that old Bill had been murdered and here was the killer. Raymond (Ray) John Tudor, born August 29, 1953, of no fixed address, was charged with the second-degree murder of Robert William Vomastic.

But the anguish for Vomastic’s son and daughter was in no way eased by knowing a suspect had been charged. They desperately needed their father’s body found if they were to have any chance of closure in their lives. Tudor was saying nothing and public appeals for Calgarians to look out for the body bore no results.

Homicide detectives appealed to the public to keep their eyes open for specific items missing from Bill’s home—a set of dark green cloth curtains and a white floral- pattern bedspread. Police were convinced these items had been wrapped round Bill’s body, which was then carried to his car and later dumped somewhere.

This time their appeals were successful. A local resident who was walking near the village of Dalemead, 20 kilometres southeast of Calgary, found the bloodstained curtains. The discovery served to concentrate the search for the body in that area. On the evening of September 22, almost a month after the murder, a pheasant hunter’s dog found a shallow grave containing Bill Vomastic’s decomposed remains in a patch of heavy brush about 30 kilometres southeast of Calgary, near Carseland, Alberta.

This was especially interesting news to the RCMP investigators who still had Ardie Turner’s unsolved murder on their files. Here were two murders of old men. Both had apparently been killed in their own homes, and in each case the killer had stolen valuables from inside the house, then driven off in the victim’s vehicle. Ardie Turner’s home was on the prairies southeast of Calgary, and now Vomastic’s body had been found dumped in the same area. What’s more, Bill Vomastic had known Ray Tudor, his suspected killer, for years. RCMP inquiries soon revealed that Tudor was also an acquaintance of Ardie Turner. Ardie had used him as a mechanic for work on his truck.

A bombshell breakthrough in the spring of 1996, two years after Turner’s murder, made the difference. An eyewitness came forward to say he’d dropped a man off on the night of the killing right near the victim’s house. The man he dropped off was Ray Tudor. On May 31,

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