Victim Was An Assailant

(Last Updated On: January 29, 2018)

Police were stymied by the murder of 47-year-old Donald Rochester, a bartender and handyman for the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, on February 13, 1978. Rochester had worked at the Club at 44 Price Street for more than 15 years and was well-liked by his colleagues. He left behind a wife and two children.

Rochester was found at the exclusive private club by other employees arriving for work. He had been shot in the head. Police originally believed burglary was the motive, because he did not have a wallet. However, police later found the wallet with cash still inside, locked in the trunk of his car.

Rochester was wearing only an undershirt. Police speculated he may have been forced to remove his clothes to prevent him from giving chase to the thief. More than 100 people visited his Montrose Avenue home in the few days after his death, paying respects to his widow and two teenage children. His nephew, police constable Delbert Rochester, said “He was the most super guy who ever lived. I’m a nephew but he brought me over here [from Jamaica] and encouraged me to become a policeman.”

It was almost two years later that his 19-year-old murderer, 16 at the time of the shooting, would tell his father about being sexually assaulted and shooting the assailant.

The youth, Frederick Savage, and his father were turned away by a lawyer who advised they were under no obligation to talk about it. Eventually, Savage, who was described as “slow learner of borderline intelligence,” could not handle the nightmares and fears and confided in a teacher. The teacher put him in touch with another lawyer, who took Savage to the police to confess on January 22, 1980.

Justice John O’Driscoll said Rochester “may not have been perfect but that does not justify you [Savage] in depriving him of his life.”

Savage was charged with second-degree murder. Police admit that without Savage coming forward, they would never have solved the case.

On November 21, 1980, Savage pleaded guilty to manslaughter and upon listening to the facts of the case, sentenced Savage to two years less a day in reformatory.

Crown Attorney A.D. Cooper and police Sgt. Julian Fantino presented facts to the court which said Rochester was “a homosexual who was in the habit of finding young men and taking them back to the Lawn and Tennis Club for sex.”

Rochester had previously sexually assaulted Savage in 1976, which was reported to police. However, police could not locate the assailant as Savage had stated the assault took place at a health club. When Rochester tried to assault Savage again in February 1978, Rochester produced a gun to force Savage into “sexual acts.” During sex, Rochester placed the gun down and Savage grabbed it and fired a shot.

The first shot missed Rochester, but when Rochester tried to approach Savage, the youth shot him in the head, then walked up to him and shot him again twice, then sat down and cried.

Justice John O’Driscoll said Rochester “may not have been perfect but that does not justify you [Savage] in depriving him of his life.”

Savage was also placed on three years probation, ordered to take psychiatric treatment, and prohibited from possessing firearms for the rest of his life. A year later, Rochester’s wife was denied her claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

Murder Village Map


Vital Statistics

Name: Donald Rochester
Age: 47
Gender: Male
Date of Death: February 13, 1978
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: 44 Price Street
Suspect Name: Frederick Savage
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 2 years less a day

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Lee Scoboni

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