Eccentric Man Murdered

Courtroom sketch by Alex Tavshunksky for the Toronto Star
Courtroom sketch by Alex Tavshunksky for the Toronto Star

July 7, 1999 was seventy-two-year-old Hugh Sinclair’s last day alive. Sinclair was murdered in his 42nd-storey apartment at 44 Charles Street West in the Manulife Centre. His murderer would be convicted before his body was found.

Black and white photo of murder victim Hugh Sinclair
Murder victim Hugh Sinclair

Sinclair was a retired Sun Life insurance company employee and an avid antiques collector. He met Timothy Culham, 29, five years previously and shared with him a love of art and antiques.

Sinclair was described as eccentric and an “antique hoarder.” He was known for wearing a Panama hat with tank top and shorts regardless of the season, and for keeping a regimented daily routines. It was the break in these routines that caught people’s attention.

Sinclair was a talkative man who was known to sit in a lawn chair beside a nearby parking kiosk and talk incessantly for hours with attendant Rod McEwan. After almost daily visits for five years, McEwan became so concerned with Sinclair’s sudden absence, he convinced the Manulife Centre security guard to come with him to perform a safety check. On July 12, the guard and McEwan entered Sinclair’s apartment but found nothing amiss. McEwan telephoned the apartment daily and filed a missing person report with police.

A few days after it is believed Sinclair died, neighbour Douglas Rutter, who had once worked in a cemetery as a youth, passed by the apartment that he thought smelled badly. “I told [partner Lawrence Schafer] it smells like something died; I recognized that smell,” he said at trial. However, the smell eventually vanished.

Eleven days after Sinclair’s death, Culham was spotted by the same neighbours moving out furniture. On July 18, he told Schafer and Rutter that he was Sinclair’s nephew and that Sinclair had asked him to do a favour to move some items out, and paint the apartment. Culham had gained access to the apartment “by using a forged note.”

Parking attendant McEwan continued to check for Sinclair and was eventually told by the building’s front desk personnel that Sinclair was away on holiday for 10 days. The next time he called, McEwan was told the police were involved.

Fortunately for police, Culham did not paint the apartment. However, he was arrested under suspicion of theft after police discovered he had sold many of Sinclair’s antiques to Toronto dealers. He was arrested as he slept on a park bench, and police found an electronic key to Sinclair’s apartment in his pocket. Culham had tens of thousands of dollars in cheques from local antique dealers in his pockets.

Murderer Timothy Culham
Murderer Timothy Culham

Sinclair’s blood was found smeared on the stove, kitchen floor and inside the front closet. Police matched the blood to DNA taken from Sinclair’s electric razor.

Culham rented a 1987 blue Chevrolet Cavalier five days after the murder and, police believed, transported Sinclair’s body to an area outside Toronto. Culham was known to frequent Casino Rama, in Orillia, and it was one of the areas, along with Nottawa, that police would focus their search on. The Crown argued Culham had a gambling addiction, and had killed Sinclair to steal his antiques and sell them. Police estimated the value of recovered items was about $300,000.

When arrested, Culham denied knowing Sinclair.

Police did not find Sinclair’s body, nor a murder weapon, before Culham’s trial, but based on other evidence, charged Culham with first-degree murder. Police asked that hikers and hunters keep an eye out for the body, saying it was likely within 50 metres of a road, would likely be burned, and a gas can would probably be nearby. Eventually police found the gas can and hacksaw with an associate of Culham’s whom he told he would not need the items anymore.

The defence suggested that Sinclair may have committed suicide, and questioned Dr. Erik Kotzer, Sinclair’s physician, if he had concerns that Sinclair killed himself. Dr. Kotzer said he was treating Sinclair for a variety of ailments including a 30-year addiction to Vallium, but had not heard anything regarding suicidal thoughts. Culham did not speak during the trial.

On June 14, 2001, with just two days of deliberation, the jury found Culham guilty of first-degree murder. Culham was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Just before Christmas, 2002, some of Sinclair’s remains were found near a highway by a land surveyor. His skull and other body parts were discovered in Utica, off Highway 12 between Toronto and Orillia. Dental records were used to confirm Sinclair’s identity but due to the deterioration of the remains, forensic examiners were not able to determine a cause of death.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Hugh Sinclair
Age: 72
Gender: Male
Date of Death: July 7, 1999
Manner of Death: unknown
Location: 44 Charles St. West
Suspect Name: Timothy Culham
Conviction & Sentence: First-degree murder, life in prison with eligibility for parole after 25 years

Manslaughter and Five

200 Wellesley St East by City of Toronto
200 Wellesley St East, photo by City of Toronto

Fifty-six-year-old Anthony Charles Dowding, a Guyanese-born Canadian, was found dead in his apartment at 200 Wellesley Street East by police after they received an anonymous phone call.

Dowding was a gay man who lived alone. He was murdered May 24, 1999 after a “brutal flurry of blows.”

Black and white photo of murder victim Anthony Dowding
Murder victim Anthony Dowding

A trail of blood leading away from the apartment led police to believe the attacker may have been injured during his attack. Dowding died of blunt force trauma, which was 20 blows to the head.

On June 3, police announced they had arrested thirty-year-old David Ali Sageri and charged him with second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Anthony Charles Dowding
Age: 56
Gender: Male
Date of Death: May 24, 1999
Manner of Death: Blunt Force Trauma
Location: 200 Wellesley St. East
Suspect Name: David Ali Sageri
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 5 years

Bathtub Murder

Black and white image of crime scene of Gracie Detzler
280 Dundas Street East

Fifty-four-year-old Gracie (James Edward) Detzler, described in news reports as a “would-be transsexual”, was drowned in a bathtub at 280 Dundas Street East, on May 28, 1997, probably between 10pm and 10:30pm. Her killer, Steven Todd Craig, 26, contacted a lawyer who then advised police of the murder. On June 1, four days later, police found Detzler’s body in a bathtub.

Detzler and Craig met while both people were serving long term penitentiary sentences. Detzler was described as a repeat offender when she was sentenced on November 28, 1990, for stabbing a man who refused to have sex with her.

Craig was originally charged with first-degree murder in Detzler’s death, however, Justice Harry Keenan of the Ontario Court’s General Division directed an acquittal on that charge, and the jury accepted Craig’s plea of guilty to manslaughter. Justice Keenan had been advised that Craig had spent his entire adult life in prison or on parole. He had been out of prison just three weeks before murdering Detzler. Keenan declared Craig was “a danger to society,” but reduced the charges. He was sentenced to 10 years.

The Justice did not allow the jury to hear a police statement that Craig admitted Detzler was handcuffed at the time of the attack. However, the jury did hear of Craig’s previous violent attack, nearly fatal, on a male lover.

On December 23, at the end of Craig’s trial, he shouted “You’re next, you @%#$$# pig!” to Detective Sergeant Michael David, the arresting homicide officer. He continued yelling expletives at other officials and struggled with guards as he was escorted from the courtroom.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Gracie (James Edward) Detzler
Age: 54
Gender: Female
Date of Death: May 28, 1997
Manner of Death: Drowned
Location: 280 Dundas Street East
Suspect Name: Steven Todd Craig
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 10 years

Dumped and Burned

150 McLevin Avenue where murder victim Paul Armstrong was found
150 McLevin Avenue where murder victim Paul Armstrong was found

Instead of celebrating a shared birthday with her twin brother, Mary Perra spent her 38th birthday burying him. Paul Armstrong’s charred body was found December 16, 1996, in the garbage behind an industrial complex.

He was last seen by his roommate in their Leverhume Crescent home on Saturday morning, who said Armstrong left their house at about 11 a.m. Police believe he got into someone’s car, leaving his own behind. Armstrong did not have an active social life, and his departure was out of character.

Black and white photo of murder victim Paul Armstrong
Murder victim Paul Armstrong

Armstrong had been expected back that evening for a small party, and failed to show. Four days later, after his body was found but before he was identified, the roommate called Armstrong’s family, who live in Trenton Ontario, to say he was missing.

Police were able to identify Armstrong through dental records. Although treated as suspicious, Armstrong’s death was not initially considered a murder because the autopsy could not conclude the cause of death.

Police now consider Armstrong’s death to be murder, however, it remains unsolved.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Paul Armstrong
Age: 37
Gender: Male
Date of Death: December 16, 1996
Manner of Death: undetermined
Location: 150 McLeven Avenue
Suspect Name: none

Spree Killer’s Last Victim

Wilkinson murder - laneway photo by Moira Welsh
Police investigation in laneway, photo by Moira Welsh

Thirty-one-year-old Deanna (Thomas) Wilkinson was the last victim of spree killer Marcello Palma, who killed three prostitutes within just a few hours on Victoria Day weekend, May 20, 1996.

Wilkinson was also a songstress who had performed at various venues, and was a poetess and short story writer. The Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto held a 150-person vigil in Allan Gardens on behalf of all victims.

Wilkinson was shot with a .357 Sturm Ruger owned by Palma, just minutes after he murdered 19-year-old Shawn Keegan on the same street. Palma had murdered Brenda Ludgate, 25, about two hours previously. Palma used Supreme Expanding Talon hollow point bullets, which inflict more damage than a regular bullet.

Marcello Palma -photo by AndrewStawicki. Brenda Ludgate, first victim, inset
Marcello Palma -photo by AndrewStawicki. Brenda Ludgate, first victim, inset

Palma had become enraged earlier in the day and had damaged cars and his office just hours before starting his spree. Palma legally owned six guns. His wife would later testify that he struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and that even though she called his psychiatrist out of concern, she was told Palma had “not much wrong” with him. He had been seeking psychiatric help for at least five years.

Palma had admitted to a psychiatrist that he wanted to kill street people, whom he called “scum.” He was familiar with Homewood Avenue, then a well-known strip for finding trans prostitutes referred to as “Transvestite Alley”. After killing Keegan, Palma walked up Homewood Avenue, and found Wilkinson. The combination of Victoria Day fireworks and a thunderstorm may have covered the noise of the gunshots that killed Keegan.

Wilkinson was not found until 9am the next morning, shot in the head. Palma remained in Toronto for about a week before fleeing to Halifax, where police tracked him through the use of a credit card.

Marcello Palma -photo by David Cooper
Marcello Palma -photo by David Cooper

In court, heard before a judge only, Palma’s claim of insanity was denied. On April 20, 2001, Palma was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Deanna Wilkinson (aka Thomas Wilkinson)
Age: 31
Gender: Female
Date of Death: May 20, 1996
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: Homewood Avenue
Suspect Name: Marcello Palma
Conviction & Sentence: First-degree murder, life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years

Spree Killer Victim Dead At 19

Black and white photo of murder victim Shawn Keegan at a BBQ by Peter Power
Murder victim Shawn Keegan (wearing cap) at a BBQ, photo by Peter Power

Shawn Keegan was just 19 years old when they was murdered by Toronto spree killer Marcello Palma. Keegan, described as a “transvestite prostitute”, was killed with the same gun as “female prostitute” Brenda Ludgate, 25, and “transsexual prostitute” Deanna (Thomas) Wilkinson, 31, within about three hours, on May 20, 1996.

Keegan had lived for some time with a dozen other squatters in a vacant building, but had been evicted about 2 weeks earlier.

Black and white photo of murder victim Shawn Keegan

Palma, 33, a married man with a child, was arrested in Halifax about two weeks after spree. He admitted killing all three people, but claimed he was not criminally responsible at the time.

On the day of the spree, Palma became irate, trashed his business office and took a hammer to the cars of co-workers. He also played golf with friends (but left angry) and visited his parents.

Keegan, who was dressed as a woman at the time of their death, was pushed down some stairs and shot in the head. Realizing Keegan was not dead, Palma shot again. Residents of the apartment building notified security, who found Keegan still alive. However, they died shortly thereafter.

Marcello Palma -photo by David Cooper
Marcello Palma -photo by David Cooper

Palma then went on to kill Wilkinson very shortly afterwards. Palma remained in Toronto for about a week before fleeing to Halifax, where police tracked him through the use of a credit card.

Toronto homicide Det. Sgt. Jim McDermott called Palma a “spree killer and a serial killer.” In court, heard before a judge only, Palma’s claim of insanity was denied. On April 20, 2001, Palma was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Marcello Palma's truck. photo by Paul Irish
Marcello Palma’s truck. Photo by Paul Irish

Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Shawn “Junior” Keegan
Age: 19
Gender: Male
Date of Death: May 20, 1996
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: Homewood Avenue
Suspect Name: Marcello Palma
Conviction & Sentence: First-degree murder, life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years

Double Homicide

Black and white photo of 807 College Street
photo of 807 College Street

A double homicide took the lives of John Clarke, 40 and Clayton Russell, 60 when they were stabbed in their shared 807 College St. apartment on January 29, 1996. Police believe they had both been out at about 2 a.m. Sunday morning, but were found in their bachelor apartment the next day.

“There’s no question it’s a horrific crime. It seems to lack any kind of motive,” said homicide Det. Rolf Prisor who was investigating the murders.

Black and white photo of murder victim John Clarke
John Clarke
Black and white photo of murder victim Clayton Russell
Clayton Russell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russell was the building superintendent, and lived with Clarke, who was unemployed at the time, in their first-floor apartment. Russell was separated from his wife but they continued to celebrate wedding anniversaries together. It was widely rumoured that Russell was inclined to keep large sums of money at home.

On September 5, 2001, after drinking heavily with friend Daniel MacKenzie, the killer admitted to his friend he had killed the men, but provided no additional details to him.

Exactly seven years after the murders, on January 29, 2003, Mikeal James Russell, a 40-year-old cousin of victim Clayton Russell, appeared in court charged with two murder. He faced two charges of second-degree murder.

On April 14, 2004, Mikeal Russell applied for bail. Mikeal was married and had a five-year-old son. Although he had previous convictions, including one for sexual assault, “he has been out of trouble for the last eight years.” Justice J. Dambrot released Mikeal on $50,000 bail.

During the trial, Mikeal said his uncle had sexually abused him from ages 10 to 13. On January 7 2005, Mikeal was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in jail. Judge Frank Caputo said the molestation was a mitigating factor in the sentencing.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Names and Ages: John Clarke, 40 and Clayton Russell, 60
Genders: Male
Date of Deaths: January 29, 1996
Manner of Deaths: Stabbed
Location: 807 College St.
Suspect Name: Mikeal James Russell
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 10 years

Troubled Trustee Death

Black and white photo of murder victim Dennis Colby
Murder victim Dennis Colby

Dennis Joseph Colby, 47, was murdered in his home at 185 Cosburn Avenue on September 9, 1995 but it wasn’t until September 12 that police were called to the residence.

Colby was described as an eccentric former Toronto school board trustee, a position he held for some time after his 1974 election. One Toronto newspaper described Colby as remarkably devoted to education affairs who “should be rewarded by election in the same ward.”

In 1995, Colby was found suffering from “extreme trauma to the head”, and was obviously deceased. Police believe the victim was last seen alive on Saturday, September 9 between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. He had been found under a kitchen table, and there were signs of “an altercation”.

“He was a lonely guy, apparently,” said homicide Det. John Line, and did not frequent the downtown gay community area. Line and his partner Det. Rolf Prisor described Colby as “sexually aggressive and had numerous sexual partners on a weekly basis,” media reported, who allowed “street-type people” to stay with him for periods of time.

Sketch of murder suspect "Mike"
Sketch of “Mike”, a crack junkie wanted in the death of Dennis Colby

Police thought a “crack-using drifter” might provide information into Colby’s slaying, as the man had been staying with Colby and had since disappeared. Colby had told friends his name was Michael. He was 26 years old.

On February 28, 2019, Toronto Police announced they knew who the murderer was. As part of the investigation into the murders by serial killer Bruce McArthur, police reviewed open cold cases that fit a particular profile. Det. Insp. Stacy Gallant, the head of the cold case squad, said Colby’s murder fit McArthur’s pattern.

 

Black and white photo of murder victim Dennis Colby

DNA helped police determine that the drifter identified as Michael during the initial investigation, was the killer. His DNA was on file after committing at least one violent offense for which he was caught. However, Michael died in 1995, and police are not releasing his name. They do not believe Michael committed any other murders.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Dennis Joseph Colby
Age: 47
Gender: Male
Date of Death: about September 9, 1995
Manner of Death: Blunt force trauma
Location: 185 Cosburn Avenue
Suspect Name: Mike (died in 2015 before being identified by police)

Charges Dropped In Serial Killer Case

Victims and suspected victims of Toronto serial killer Peter MacDonald
Victims and suspected victims of Toronto serial killer Peter MacDonald

Virginia Lee “Flex” Coote, 33, was a prostitute working in Parkdale when she was murdered. Police suspect she is a victim of serial killer Peter Dale MacDonald. Her body was found October 28, 1994 on Toronto’s waterfront, in Lake Ontario behind the Palais Royale. She used prostitution to feed her drug habit. Coote was a lesbian who was found in an area where she “wouldn’t likely have taken a customer to.”

Police set up an 11-person task force, called Project Breakwall, to investigate this and other seemingly related murders. In each of the three prostitute murders police believe were related, their clothes were neatly folded with shoes placed on top, and each had a foreign object placed inside her vagina. Coote was partially clothed when she was found.

Photograph of police recovering the body of Virginia Coote, by Jim Wilkes 1994

By May 1996, there were 12 unsolved murders of prostitutes in Toronto in eight years, including those police would later determine were committed by Marcello Palma.

In 1998, police released a sketch of a “possible serial killer”, but the case remained unsolved until the charges against MacDonald were laid in 2010.

Peter Dale MacDonald Toronto serial killer
Peter Dale MacDonald Toronto serial killer

MacDonald was also charged for the murders of Julieanne Middleton, 23, and Darlene MacNeill, 35, who were found dead near the same area between 1994 and 1997, and Michelle Charette who was killed in 2000. He was convicted of the crime of murder of James “Jimmy” Campbell, 63, and eventually pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter in the death of Charette.

Black and white photo of murder victim Virginia Coote
Virginia Coote

On October 28, 2010, MacDonald, then 52, was charged with the murders of Coote, MacNeil and Middleton. Police said that cross-checking DNA, comparing the modus operandi and considering other relevant information obtained only years later, is what allowed them to lay charges in Coote’s murder. DNA alone was not enough since, by the nature of their work, prostitutes would be expected to have multiple samples of DNA.

Black and white photo of murder victim Virginia Coote
Virginia Coote

On July 16, 2011, police announced they dropped the charges against MacDonald in the murders of Coote, MacNeil and Middleton. “There is no longer any reasonable prospect of conviction,” said Crown representative Brendan Crawley.

Police maintained that the evidence in the case did not change, but that the prosecutor changed. The new prosecutor decided to throw the charges out.

On February 23, 2012, MacDonald pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Charette, from Windsor. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for that murder, and was already serving time for the second-degree murder of Campbell.

Police consider the case closed.

Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Virginia Lee “Flex” Coote
Age: 33
Gender: Female
Date of Death: October 28, 1994
Manner of Death: Strangulation
Location: Palais Royale
Suspect Name: Peter Dale MacDonald
Conviction & Sentence: charges dropped

Killer Confession

Black and white photo of murder victim Larry Arnold
Murder victim Larry Arnold

On the evening of October 14, 1994, 46-year-old Larry Arnold disappeared.

Arnold was last seen at Trax V (aka Traxx), a gay bar at 529 Yonge Street in the company of a young white man, about 25-years-old, stocky at 200 lbs, about 5’8”, with long blond curly hair and blue eyes, and having a French Canadian accent. Arnold called a friend and said he would be coming over that evening.

Arnold, who lived in Chatham, a town 300 km southwest of Toronto, often came to Toronto to visit friends and go to bars and restaurants in Toronto’s gay district, Church and Wellesley Sts.

On November 19, when his badly beaten body was found in a nearby Rosedale ravine. The ravine at Roxborough Dr. and Mt. Pleasant Rd., was sometimes used by gay men at night for sexual encounters. Police had to use dental records to identify the body.

Search by investigators in 1994 for Larry Arnold's personal effects, photo by CBC
Search by investigators in 1994 for Larry Arnold’s personal effects, photo by CBC

Police believed the killer may have been a male prostitute and are rumoured to have consulted with police agencies across North America as they suspected the man may have been responsible for other murders of gay men. It was also reported that police considered whether there was a link between Arnold’s death and sexual assaults on gay men in the Church and Wellesley Sts. Area.

Search for Larry Arnold's personal effects, photo by Mike Slaughter, 1994
Search for Larry Arnold’s personal effects, photo by Mike Slaughter, 1994

It would be four long years before his killer, Paul Alan Hachey, would be caught. Hachey’s DNA was found on a cigarette butt at a 1997 crime scene in North Bay, and police used it to link Hachey to multiple sexual assaults and a North Bay murder. After his arrest, Hachey confessed to murdering Larry Arnold. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder.

Black and white photo of murderer Paul Alan Hachey
Photo of murderer Paul Alan Hachey

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital statistics

Name:  Larry Arnold
Age:  46
Gender: Male
Date of Death: October 14, 1994
Manner of Death: Blunt Force Trauma
Location: Roxborough Dr. and Mt. Pleasant Rd.
Suspect Name: Paul Alan Hachey
Conviction & Sentence: Pleaded guilty to second degree murder, sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 15 years

Bound, Gagged and Stabbed

The Selby Hotel where Ronald Isaac met his killer
The Selby Hotel where Ronald Isaac met his killer

When Harry Ronald Isaac, 50, did not show up to work at Journey’s End hotel on Lombard St., he was reported missing by friends. On September 19, 1994, one friend ventured into Isaac’s apartment at 266 Sherbourne St. and found his body. Isaac was bound and gagged and stabbed more than half-dozen times. There was no sign of robbery.

Known to frequent gay bars, he was last seen at the Selby Hotel on September 16. That is the day Isaac died. Isaac was also an AIDS care volunteer at Casey House.

Black and white photo of murder victim Ronald Isaac
Murder victim Ronald Isaac

Police said Isaac “picked up a lot of street kids” for sex and were initially considering a connection to the May 7 1994 murder of John “Bev” Wilson.

Leonard Alexander Welch, 32, and Isaac met at Boots, a local gay bar, and stopped for beer before heading back to Isaac’s home. They played cards and had sex. Welch said it would cost Isaac $60 and was given his bank card to remove the money. A bank surveillance camera showed Welch using Isaac’s bank card on September 16.

Welch claimed later in court that he tried the card three times, but there was no money. He became enraged, started drinking at a local bar, and took cocaine. Welch decided Isaac had taken advantage of him and returned to Isaac’s home to kill him. Isaac’s hands were bound with electrical tape, his feet were bound with shoelaces and a towel was used to gag him.

Ronald Isaac's murderer Leonard Welch
Ronald Isaac’s murderer Leonard Welch

Within days, police issued a warrant for Welch, of no fixed address. Welch had been spotted stalking men “in Metro’s downtown gay strip” just days after the murder, police said.

Welch was arrested on September 30, 1994 in Montreal. During the September 1996 trial, Welch advised his lawyer he was guilty. He said he was consumed with guilt and confessed to murdering a “good man” over unpaid sex. Welch’s lawyer said he had tried to kill himself 16 times.

Welch pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with no parole for 15 years.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Harry Ronald Isaac
Age: 50
Gender: Male
Date of Death: September 16, 1994
Manner of Death: Stabbed
Location: 266 Sherbourne St.
Suspect Name: Leonard Alexander Welch
Conviction & Sentence: second-degree murder with no parole for 15 years

Was Prostitute Victim Of Serial Killer?

Victims and suspected victims of Toronto serial killer Peter MacDonald
Victims and suspected victims of Toronto serial killer Peter MacDonald

Prostitute Julieanne Middleton, 23, was working the Parkdale neighbourhood when she was murdered. Police suspect she is a victim of serial killer Peter Dale MacDonald. She was found July 7, 1994 in Lake Ontario, just a few minutes’ walk from the Palais Royale at 1601 Lake Shore Blvd West, along Toronto’s western waterfront. Middleton was a lesbian drug addict who used prostitution to support her addiction.

Black and white photo of murder victim Julieanne Middleton
Murder victim Julieanne Middleton

She was found in an area popular with gay couples, and police pursued the theory that the location was specifically chosen for that reason.

Middleton washed up on shore wearing only her bra. Middleton had strangulation marks around her neck, but died of drowning.

By May 1996, there were 12 unsolved murders of prostitutes in Toronto in eight years, including those police would later determine were committed by Marcello Palma.

In 1998, police released a sketch of a “possible serial killer”, but the case remained unsolved until the charges against MacDonald were laid in 2010.

Peter Dale MacDonald Toronto serial killer
Peter Dale MacDonald Toronto serial killer

MacDonald was also charged for the murders of Virginia Coote, 33, and Darlene MacNeill, 35, who were found dead near Sunnyside Beach between 1994 and 1997, and Michelle Charette who was killed in 2000. He was convicted of the crime of murder of James “Jimmy” Campbell, 63, and eventually pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter in the death of Charette.

On October 28, 2010, MacDonald, then 52, was charged with the murders of Coote, MacNeil and Middleton. Police said that cross-checking DNA, comparing the modus operandi and other relevant information obtained only years later, is what allowed them to lay charges in the prostitute murders. DNA alone was not enough since, by the nature of their work, prostitutes would be expected to have multiple samples of DNA.

Patrick Middleton, Julieanne’s brother, said “He’s cold. He’s evil. You felt the evil off of him.” Her father visited her grave weekly for years. She left behind a 6-year-old son.

On July 16, 2011, police announced they dropped the charges against MacDonald in the murders of Coote, MacNeil and Middleton. “There is no longer any reasonable prospect of conviction,” said Crown representative Brendan Crawley.

Police consider the case closed.

Julieanne's father Sherman Middleton, photo by J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail
Julieanne’s father Sherman Middleton, photo by J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Julieanne Middleton
Age: 23
Gender: Female
Date of Death: July 7, 1994
Manner of Death: Strangulation, drowning
Location: 1601 Lake Shore Blvd West
Suspect Name: Peter Dale MacDonald
Conviction & Sentence: charges dropped

A Single Stab Wound

Bayview Playhouse Theatre
Bayview Playhouse Theatre

On May 7, 1994, John Beverly “Bev” Wilson, 60, a well-known stage manager who once worked with the National Ballet of Canada, was found dead in the laundry room of his Eglinton Avenue West and Avenue Road apartment building. He was found in a large pool of blood, dead from a single stab wound.

Wilson, who also worked at the Bayview Playhouse Theatre, was expected to join friends that evening for dinner, but failed to answer his door.

Black and white photo of murder victim John Beverly Wilson
Murder victim John Beverly Wilson

“He was part of that older generation of theatre people, the old guard,” Peter Peroff, former owner of the Bayview Playhouse, told media. Wilson was known to leave the back door unlocked to allow late-night visitors to come in without disturbing other residents.

About a year after his death, David Christopher Mellish, 33, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Wilson and Mellish, who was once a male prostitute, had a sexual relationship for about six years prior to the attack, and it included Mellish receiving pay and accommodation for sex. Wilson retired in early 1994 and told Mellish he had AIDS. Wilson continued to welcome Mellish into his home to do housecleaning for pay.

Mellish suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was found four times to be unfit to stand trial. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Court drawing of David Mellish by Alex Tavshunsky for the Toronto Star
Court drawing of David Mellish by Alex Tavshunsky for the Toronto Star

On August 23, 1999, was sentenced to one day in jail with three years’ probation. He had already spent almost four and a half years in a psychiatric institution, and altogether including time awaiting trial, had served the equivalent of a nine-year sentence.

Grave marker for John Bev Wilson, Saint Mary's Cemetery, St. Mary's, Ontario
Grave marker for John Bev Wilson, Saint Mary’s Cemetery, St. Mary’s, Ontario

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: John Beverly “Bev” Wilson
Age: 60
Gender: Male
Date of Death: May 7, 1994
Manner of Death: Stabbed
Location: Eglinton and Avenue Road
Suspect Name: David Christopher Mellish
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 1 day plus three years probation. With time served, approximately nine years total

Spat On His Victim

St. Michael's Hospital
St. Michael’s Hospital, where Kirby died

Dr. Stephen Patrick Kirby, 37, died from head injuries after being knocked to the ground and kicked in the head on February 26, 1994.

Rendell Junior Gillette, 21, was charged with second-degree murder after Kirby died at St. Mike’s Hospital on March 5, days after the assault. Randall Scott Leach, 24, of no fixed address, also faced numerous charges including being an accessory after the fact.

Reports indicated that Kirby was involved in a “minor altercation” with another man inside a Yonge Street and St. Joseph Street bar shortly before the attack at about 5:30 a.m.

Club Manatee, a now-defunct gay bar on St. Joseph Street area - by Vimeo
Club Manatee, a now-defunct gay bar on St. Joseph Street area – by Vimeo

Gillette, who said he is heterosexual, blamed Kirby for making a pass at him and grabbing his bum and then making racist comments when he was rejected. Gillette did not explain why he was in the gay bar. After attacking Kirby, Gillette spat on him.

Gillette, who has a criminal record, was arrested in an Oshawa motel on March 3.

Both prosecution and defense counsel agreed Gillette had not intended to kill Kirby, and blamed Kirby, stating in an agreed statement of fact that “by his words and conduct, [he] provoked the fight.” Kirby, a bisexual man, was known in the after-hours club as “an obnoxious drunk who often caused problems for other patrons and, on occasion, had to be asked to leave.”

On September 2, 1994, Gillette pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Dr. Stephen Patrick Kirby
Age: 37
Gender: Male
Date of Death: March 5, 1994
Manner of Death: Blunt Force Trauma
Location: Yonge and St. Joseph Street area
Suspect Name: Rendell Junior Gillette
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 5 years

Sharp-Eyed Transit Rider

Arrest of Dougal MacDonald by police - photo by Tony Costas
Arrest of Dougall MacDonald by police – photo by Tony Costas

On August 2, 1993, Jack Willard Bell, 58, left his home at midnight, drove to an area well-known for male prostitutes and returned shortly after with the man who would be his murderer.

Black and white photo of murder victim Jack Bell
Murder victim Jack Bell

Bell ran into Dougall Alexander MacDonald, a prostitute with no fixed address, and invited him back to his Collier St. home for Valium and alcohol. MacDonald beat and strangled Bell, then set fire to the first-floor hallway closet, but it went out before doing much damage. Shortly after 6:30am on August 3, police were alerted to the death by a long-time friend who found Bell on the second floor.

Police at the crime scene, 125 Collier St. Toronto, for Jack Bell's murder
Police at the crime scene, 125 Collier St. Toronto, for Jack Bell’s murder

Police and media cautioned people living in the Gay Village after the slaying of Bell because of the murder of Norman Rasky on Charles St. shortly before. Although police said Rasky’s murder “had nothing to do with his sexual orientation, it wasn’t gay bashing,” the local 519 Church St. Community Centre distributed community flyers, urging caution in the neighbourhood.

Removal of Jack Bell's body from his home, photo by Mark Rozitis, Globe and Mail
Removal of Jack Bell’s body from his home, photo by Mark Rozitis, Globe and Mail

On August 9, a sharp-eyed transit rider recognized MacDonald from media coverage and called 911. Police intercepted the bus at the corner of Eglinton Ave. and Swift Dr., and arrested MacDonald, 24, on first-degree murder charges.

During the trial, MacDonald said Bell “posed questions” that, combined with the drugs and alcohol, resulted in the attack. MacDonald’s lawyer insisted his client was not homophobic. On September 29, 1993, MacDonald pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 13 years, with no eligibility for parole until half his sentence was complete.

Jack Bell grave marker, York Cemetery Toronto
Jack Bell grave marker, York Cemetery Toronto

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Jack Willard Bell
Age: 58
Gender: Male
Date of Death: August 3, 1993
Manner of Death: Beaten and strangled
Location: 125 Collier St
Suspect Name: Dougall Alexander MacDonald
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 13 years