Killer Crime Spree

80 Charles St East Toronto
80 Charles St East

Just before midnight on July 30, 1993, a trail of blood led tenants of an 80 Charles St. East apartment building to the viciously beaten body of Norman Bernard Rasky, 62, a retired dentist. Residents followed the blood trail from the lobby of one building to the underground locker room of another, adjoining building. He had been shoved into a basement locker. He was strangled, bludgeoned and stabbed more than 30 times.

Rasky was previously married, and had three daughters.

 Black and white photo of murder victim Normal Rasky
Murder victim Normal Rasky

Police did not originally suspect robbery, but in less than a week, they had identified suspects. On August 3, police issued warrants for “two men, both white [who] are armed and considered dangerous.”

Terrence Allan Fitzsimmons, 29, and Donald Dara Hebert, 30, of 80 Charles St. East, were also wanted in connection with a two armed bank robberies at the same branch of Canada Trust on Bloor St. West, on July 27 and 29. Hebert worked at Sunquest Vacations for the previous three years.

Black and white photo of murderer Donald Hebert
Black and white photo of murderer Donald Hebert

Fitzsimmons had been released from Kingston Penitentiary before the murder, on December 31, 1992, after serving the mandatory minimum. He served six years of a nine-year manslaughter sentence for stabbing an inmate to death.

Fitzsimmons was under the supervision of a parole officer after being released. He was re-arrested in April, 1993 for violating the no-drinking provision of his release order and was released May 27. He left the Kingston area, and a warrant for his arrest was issued July 13.

Black and white photo of murderer Terrence Fitzsimmons
Black and white photo of murderer Terrence Fitzsimmons

Police believe the three men met in a local gay bar, and were quick to assure media and the community they did not believe Rasky’s slaying was linked to that of Jack Bell, who was found before police released the names of Rasky’s murder suspects, beaten to death in his home.

Community members provided tips to police regarding the names of the suspects. Police said both Fitzsimmons and Hebert were also gay.

They believed Rasky met and began staying with Hebert in apartment 103, 80 Charles St. East, where Hebert had been living for about a year. Rasky had recently been locked out of his own apartment for allowing homeless men to live with him. .

On August 4, Hebert was found beaten and stabbed to death in a derelict and boarded-up Red Barn restaurant on Bank Street in downtown Ottawa, which was rumoured to be full of transients and squatters. Fitzsimmons had murdered his accomplice.

Black and white photo of Pat Hebert (OPP) holding photo of brother Donald Hebert by Mike Slaughter
Black and white photo of Pat Hebert (OPP) holding photo of brother Donald Hebert by Mike Slaughter

A day later, Fitzsimmons walked into a police station in Ottawa and turned himself in for both the murder of Rasky and of his best friend Hebert, as well as the bank robberies. Fitzsimmons said, “It’s got to stop. I’m tired of killing people.”

Montreal police also wanted to question Fitzsimmons on the weekend robbery and murder of a cab driver, Fernand Talbot.

It appeared Hebert and Fitzsimmons robbed a bank twice, killed Rasky, and robbed and killed the Montreal cab driver, before Fitzsimmons killed Hebert, all between July 27 and August 4, 1993.

In June, 1994, Fitzsimmons pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing Norman Rasky and, a week later, pleaded guilty to killing Hebert. Both were life sentences. He pleaded guilty in July in Montreal to the killing of Talbot.

On March 30, 1995, Terrence Fitzsimmons was found dead, hanging in his cell at the Kingston Penitentiary.

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Norman Bernard Rasky
Age: 62
Gender: Male
Date of Death: July 30, 1993
Manner of Death: Stabbing, strangulation, blunt force trauma
Location: 80 Charles St. East
Suspect Name: Terrence Allan Fitzsimmons, Donald Dara Hebert
Conviction & Sentence: Fitzsimmons was convicted of second-degree murder and received life in prison. Hebert was murdered by Fitzsimmons prior to arrest

Dominating In Death

Police search for Grayce Baxter's body by Dale Brazao, 1993
Police search for Grayce Baxter’s body, photo by Dale Brazao, 1993

On December 8, 1992, Grayce Baxter went missing. It was weeks before her friends reported her missing. Baxter was a transsexual high-priced call-girl who, according to her friend “Mary”, was also a former crack-cocaine addict.

Baxter was very cautious. She always valet-parked her car when she arrived at her condo and secured her alarm when she got inside. She carried a stun gun and a can of mace to all her calls. Baxter stood 6-foot tall and weighed 160 pounds, and her clientele was mostly submissive wealthy married businessmen.

Black and white photo of murder victim Grayce Baxter
Murder victim Grayce Baxter

Baxter, (26 or 28 years of age) disappeared with her 1989 black BMW. The car was found two days later in the parking lot of Gerrard Square, a shopping mall at Gerrard St. and Pape Avenue. Police say she was last seen by a friend in Mississauga, where she got a 3am call from an escort agency she worked for. She drove off in her BMW.

When advised their daughter was missing, Baxter’s parents flew to Toronto to aid in her search.

Black and white photo of murder victim Grayce Baxter
Murder victim Grayce Baxter

By the end of the year, police had her client list, rumoured to be a very large list of names, and were requesting through the press that her former clients voluntarily contact police to avoid embarrassment. “If they don’t come to us, we’ll have to seek them out and that could be embarrassing in some cases,” Detective Jim McDermott said. By December 31, police suspected foul play.

Baxter lived a wealthy lifestyle with a waterfront condominium at 10 Yonge St., and was known to host lavish parties. Grayce, born with the name Grant, also went by the street name Candice. She charged $350-$400 an hour and worked at two agencies. Normally, a client would go through the agency where they can be vetted. This did not appear to be the case on December 8.

Police got a break in the case through a cellular telephone record linking the killer directly to Baxter. On January 7, 1993, police approached Patrick Daniel Johnson, 23, of 55 Wynford Heights Crescent with the telephone record.

Black and white photo of Murderer Patrick Johnson
Murderer Patrick Johnson

When police went to the home of the suspect to give him a lie-detector test and they found him with self-inflicted wounds, but he was still alive.

On January 9, police announced they had arrested Johnson for first-degree murder. Her body was not found at the time of the arrest. Johnson was a former client of Baxter’s, and a part-time prison guard at the Don Jail in Toronto, although police did not know that until the time of his arrest. During his trial, it was reported that he told police, “You might as well take me right now. You know I did it. It’s been a living hell for a month… It was an accident. It just went too far.”

He had called her to his apartment after agreeing to pay her $200 for 45 minutes of sex. A fight ensued because Johnson was having difficulty coming to orgasm but his time was up. He strangled her. He cut up her body, dumped her in the garbage dumpster, and, 11 days later, pawned a diamond ring and Rolex watch.

Police search for Grayce Baxter's body by Dale Brazao, 1993
Police search for Grayce Baxter’s body photo by Dale Brazao, 1993

A man had told detectives his friend had information about the killing and had sent a letter to the Toronto Sun newspaper. A handwritten, six page letter arrived in the newsroom on January 11, 1993, mailed before but received after, the murderer’s arrest.

Contained in the envelope was a Ministry of Corrections identification card bearing a man’s photo and signed “Dan Johnson”. In the letter, the killer said he never knew Baxter was a transsexual, and he would go on to boast about having sex with his girlfriend 14 times over three days.

Ten days later, police began the gruesome task of using bulldozers and garden hoes to dig through a Pickering garbage dump for Baxter’s body. They estimated it could take a month to find her, as they believed her body had been dumped into a garbage bin. On March 17, 1993, police announced they called off the search for Baxter’s dismembered body. They had sifted through millions of kilograms of garbage in their fruitless search.

On April 18, 1994, almost a year and a half after Grayce Baxter went missing, Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder just before his trial started. He was sentenced to life in jail with no eligibility for parole for 10 years.

Grayce Baxter has never been found.

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Grayce Baxter
Age: 26-28
Gender: Female
Date of Death: December 8, 1992
Manner of Death: Strangled
Location: 55 Wynford Heights Crescent
Suspect Name: Patrick Daniel Johnson
Conviction & Sentence: Life with no eligibility for parole for 10 years

Like Slamming Home Runs

Black and white photo of 3465 Lakeshore Blvd

On July 23, 1992, John Patrick Somerton, 42, was found beaten to death in his own apartment above a store at 3465 Lakeshore Boulevard. He died from 11 blows to the head with a metal bat made while he was sleeping.

Just days later, a 14-year-old boy was arrested. There was evidence of a “sexual transaction” between the youth – identified later in court as Michael K – and the victim. He told police the murder was brought on by the victim after he made sexual advances.

However, Michael K. also bragged to more than a half-dozen friends that he had killed the man from whom he had received beer and cigarettes.

Black and white photo of murder victim John Somerton

Although charged with first-degree murder, the youth pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November 1992. The court was told the youth used the bat in such a way it was like “slamming home runs.”

In January 1994, the youth, by then 16, was sentenced under the Young Offenders Act to five years less a day: three years would be in secure custody and two would be in the community under supervision. A court psychiatrist reported the youth may be a dangerous psychopath and “his prognosis is at best guarded,” said Judge Marvin Morten.

The youth was sentenced to five years without consideration of the 18 months he had already served in custody – the delay largely was a result of the Crown’s bid to have his tried as an adult.

Somerton’s sister decried the sentence. “He killed somebody. They should have taken his life too.” Canada formally abolished the death penalty in 1976.

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: John Patrick Somerton
Age: 42
Gender: Male
Date of Death: July 23, 1992
Manner of Death: Blunt Force Trauma
Location: 3465 Lakeshore Boulevard
Suspect Name: Michael K.
Conviction & Sentence: Second-degree murder, 5 years less a day

Comedian Murdered

1991 Honda motorcycle
A photo of a 1991 Honda motorcycle

On March 24, 1991, Michael Henry Vadeboncoeur, 42, was stabbed to death in his home at 7 Hilltop Road. Vadeboncoeur was a former CBC radio comic called Boncoeur. He was found with multiple stab wounds in a blood-splattered apartment. A 16-year-old youth arrested two weeks later and charged with first-degree murder in his death, and a 15-year-old was co-accused.

Both youths could not be named due to the restrictions of the Young Offenders Act. However, the 16-year-old was later tried as an adult and his name was released to the media during trial: Adam Blake Harris. The 15-year-old was not named.

Black and white photo of Michael VadeBoncouer
Murder victim Michael Vadeboncoeur

Harris was arrested at a C.M. Hinks treatment centre in Clarksburg. He was a resident at C.M. Hinks, a centre for “disturbed children,” later to become part of the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health. Like Harris, the 15-year-old was also absent without leave from the treatment centre.

Harris and Vadeboncoeur once had a sexual relationship, and the two teenagers created the plan to rob Vadeboncoeur.

Police said robbery appeared to be the motive for the slaying: Vadeboncoeur’s Honda motorcycle, which was stolen, was later found at Jarvis and Parliament Streets. Other property was taken.

Vadeboncoeur bled to death after being stabbed in the neck. Harris had turned 16 just three weeks prior to the murder.

The victim’s “most precious possession – his life – was taken from him by the accused on more or less a whim,” said Justice Nicholson McRae during the February 22, 1994 sentencing trial. The Crown prosecutor said it was a “senseless killing of a talented and caring person who is deeply missed by his family and friends.”

Paul Willis (left) and Michael VadeBoncoeur on a Queen Victoria Statue - photo by Dick Darrell, 1968
Paul Willis (left) and Michael VadeBoncoeur on a Queen Victoria Statue – photo by Dick Darrell, 1968

The defense offered no evidence, although it was brought up at trial that Harris had been receiving treatment since his adoption at the age of 3. The judge found it was Harris who did the actual stabbing.

Harris was found guilty of first-degree and sentenced to life in prison. He was ordered to serve 7 ½ years (5 years is the minimum permitted for youth tried in adult court) before being eligible for parole. Because Harris spent nearly three years in pre-trial custody, he would be able to apply for parole as early as 1999. His first two years were to be served in a provincial reformatory and then he would be sent to a federal penitentiary.

The 15-year-old was earlier found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to incarceration and probation totaling three years.

Well-known B.C. cartoonist Lynn Johnston, who had become friends with Vadeboncoeur as a teenager, named the Patterson son Michael, after Vadeboncoeur. Johnston was upset that, at the time of the murder, much of the media focused on Vadeboncoeur’s sexuality rather than his accomplishments and personality. In memory of Vadeboncoeur, Johnston had one of her cartoon strip characters, Lawrence, come out as gay. “Well, Michael, this is for you.”

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Michael Henry Vadeboncoeur
Age: 42
Gender: Male
Date of Death: March 24, 1991
Manner of Death: Stabbed
Location: 7 Hilltop Road
Suspect Name: Adam Blake Harris, and an unnamed 15-year-old male
Conviction & Sentence: Harris was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 7 ½ years. The unnamed youth found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to incarceration and probation totaling three years.

Shot In The Head

Black and white photo of murderer Ronald Arthur Cooney

Fifty-one-year-old Norman John Cardwell was last seen on February 11, 1991, in the late afternoon, near the rear of his car. Witnesses said he was alone. He had just finished a 4pm appointment with his bank manager. Cardwell, who lived at at 9 Thorncliffe Avenue, had moved there about 20 years previously, and was recently divorced. He had two children.

On February 13, 1991, police were called to Cardwell’s home, where they found him shot in the head. Family and friends had reported to police that he failed to show up for work.

Black and white photo of murder victim Norman Cardwell

Within two weeks, police released clear images of a man’s face, photographed near the Cardwell home, apparently from a bank machine camera. By March 25, police had arrested a Cleethorpes Boulevard man, 28-year-old Ronald Arthur Cooney and remanded him in custody. He was charged with first-degree murder.

Cardwell had seen Cooney’s personal ad in the back of NOW magazine seeking male companionship. Cooney went to Cardwell’s home during the evening of February 11, and for unknown reasons pulled his gun and shot Cardwell in the head multiple times before robbing him and fleeing.

Later, Cooney was drinking in a bar in Belleville when had admitted to a friend that he had killed someone. “I shot him four times.”

Cooney withdrew $300 from bank machines using Cardwell’s credit card, initially saying in court it was Darryl Marsh, a high school friend, who had killed Cardwell and given him the card. Cooney used the cash to buy everyday items including roses for his girlfriend, an exotic dancer.

Marsh died of an acetaminophen overdose two months after the murder, at the bottom of the Scarborough Bluffs.

Scarborough Bluffs photo by Alan Dunlop
Scarborough Bluffs photo by Alan Dunlop, 1985

In court, it was suggested that Cooney was bisexual and took out ads in NOW magazine specifically targeting closeted gay men. Throughout the entire trial, Cooney insisted the now-dead Marsh had committed the murder with a gun stolen from Cooney and that the NOW ad was made by him on Marsh’s behalf.

The jury took three days to find Cooney guilty of manslaughter, not first-degree murder, in the killing of Cardwell. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. In passing sentence, Madame Justice Patricia German said the manslaughter verdict was only an indication that the Crown had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Cooney had ever been to Cardwell’s home.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Norman John Cardwell
Age: 51
Gender: Male
Date of Death: February 11, 1991
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: 9 Thorncliffe Ave
Suspect Name: Ronald Arthur Cooney
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 12 years

Hairdresser Homicide

3 Gifford Drive, where DaCosta was murdered

Hairdresser Derek George Dacosta, 33, was strangled on the night of December 5, 1990 after an apparent robbery gone bad. Dacosta had told friends of plans to travel home to Trinidad to visit his parents for Christmas. Stolen from his 3 Gifford St. home were a television, VCR and audio cassette player. He was the city’s 54th homicide of the year.

Black and white photo of murder victim Derek Dacosta

A co-worker became concerned when Dacosta did not show up for work at the Yonge and Bloor hair salon. She had last seen him on December 4 at about 11 p.m. Another friend told police Dacosta had gone to a Church St. bar. Police were called to the scene.

Less than two weeks later, on December 18, police announced they had charged 24-year-old John William McLean of no fixed address, after he walked into 51 Division police station on December 15 and confessed. McLean told police he became enraged by Dacosta’s sexual advance and claimed it was self-defence.

McLean was sentenced to five years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Derek George Dacosta
Age: 33
Gender: Male
Date of Death: December 5, 1990
Manner of Death: Strangled
Location: 3 Gifford St.
Suspect Name: John William McLean
Conviction & Sentence: Second-degree murder, 5 years