Readers may have noticed earlier this week a one-minute video re-enactment of the unsolved murder on Oct. 26, 2007 of Bernie Carlson in an early morning break-and-enter into his Yale Avenue house, narrated by Sgt. Tom Cooney, provincial co-ordinator for RCMP “D” Division Manitoba Crime Stoppers in Winnipeg.
We did that at Cooney’s Jan. 25 request to try and help in solving the almost 4½-year-old murder in which Carlson, also know affectionately as "Boom-boom” and "Bowanna" to friends and family, was shot while investigating an intruder after being awakened by a dog barking just before 1 a.m.
In a similar vein, on Sept. 26, 2008 – as the first anniversary of Carlson’s slaying approached – we sat down with Cpl. Sean Grunewald, the lead local investigator from the Thompson RCMP’s major crime unit, to talk about the case for a follow-up story, again at the request of police.
Writing about the Carlson killing, or any unsolved murder for that matter, invariably and not surprisingly provokes strong emotions. Even a victim’s family members can sometimes disagree about whether or not it is a good thing, not to mention others.
In response to an Oct. 31, 2007 story, headlined “RCMP remain tight-lipped about Carlson murder,” as well as a companion editorial “Police silence greets city in wake of death and violence,” a former CBC Radio producer here wrote a letter to the editor we published Nov. 14, 2007, saying she “wished you had taken a lesson from the RCMP and kept quiet about the deaths of … and Mr. Carlson until you had something constructive to report.”
Even three and half years after the Carlson killing, we had Lynn Sauvé, vice-chair of the Manitoba Police Commission, writing last April, in an online comment on a story on our website about the still unsolved murder of Jason Nunn, which mentioned the Carlson case, saying “I would really appreciate that when you speak of Bernie Carlson 61, that you stop saying he was an avid gun collector! What relevance does this have to do with his death!” Sauvé, who is also the director of programs for the Boys and Girls Club of Thompson, was writing in her personal capacity.
Former Thompsonite Chris Wilkie, petty officer second class, a naval communicator based in Victoria, agreed, writing, “I totally agree with you on the ‘avid gun collector’ comment. It's not required in any of these stories,” while another commenter disagreed, writing, “I really don't think Mr. Carlson would have a problem being referred to as 'An Avid Gun Collector.' Bernie was proud of his collection, it was something he loved to do, his guns were registered and used for sport only, the Citizen has never implied anything else.”
Carl Rikheim, the father of 16-year-old Chantelle Rikheim, whose Feb. 2, 2005 unsolved murder, where she was beaten to death and the trailer burned afterwards in an arson to try and conceal the cause of death in a fire so intense it took RCMP forensic investigators almost a week to positively confirm her identity through dental records, wrote Feb. 1 in response to our current story marking the seventh anniversary of the slaying: "I want to thank you all at the Thompson Citizen for keeping the ongoing publicity up in all of these unsolved cases. Just letting the public know these cases are remembered might help to jog somebody's memory or maybe even get these guilty people to come forward and show some guts."
There have been six unsolved murders in Thompson in almost 25½ years from October 1986 – Jason Nunn, Jacob Stokman, Lissa Chaboyer, Chantelle Rikheim, Kerrie Ann Brown and Bernie Carlson. Exactly one of those unsolved murders involved a gun and a gun collector, to the best of our knowledge. Five others didn’t. While we don’t know if Carlson being a gun collector was a motive or factor in his shooting, we’ve always considered and continue to consider the firearms information newsworthy.
While the details are unsettling and the reminders painful, expect us to continue writing both news stories and editorials about Thompson’s unsolved murders. As of yet there has been no justice for Jason Nunn, Jacob Stokman, Lissa Chaboyer, Chantelle Rikheim, Kerrie Ann Brown and Bernie Carlson.
Chaboyer, 35, a single mother and foster parent, worked as a part-time taxi driver in order to supplement her income, and was operating North Star Cab 302, a white taxi, when she was killed around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005 in the parking lot behind City Centre Mall, near what was then the Vantis (now Assiniboine) Credit Union ATM vestibule and rear entrance beside the south doors of the mall. She was stabbed to death and left on the ground outside of her vehicle. She had two fares, police believe, who fled the crime scene on foot toward Eastwood.
Brown, Thompson’s oldest unsolved murder case, was slain after attending a party at a Trout Avenue home in Westwood on Thursday night Oct. 16, 1986. She was 15.
Two days later, a woman from the riding stable discovered her nude body in a wooded area close to the hydro line between the horse stable and the golf course access roads.
Police believe she was killed elsewhere and her body dumped there. It was found around 2 p.m. on the Saturday. She had been sexually assaulted and severely beaten, bludgeoned repeatedly about the face and head causing massive injuries.
A large, bloodstained stick was found at the scene.