It’s been 34 years since his 15-year-old sister Kerrie Ann Brown disappeared after a house party and was found dead a little north of Thompson a few days later, but Trevor Brown remains optimistic that her killer or killers will be identified.
“I think we’re close,” Trevor Brown told the Thompson Citizen in an Oct. 15 interview, the day before the anniversary of Kerrie’s disappearance on Oct. 16, 1986 after going to a party with a friend in the Westwood area. “My intuition tells me that we’re close to people being arrested.”
The CBC podcast Someone Knows Something, which examined the case of Kerrie Ann Brown in its fifth season in 2018, released an update episode about the case on Oct. 16, in which Trevor Brown and host David Ridgen try to determine if there is any connection between events believed to have occurred around the time Kerrie’s disappearance and continue their investigation into a phone call that a Thompson RCMP dispatcher received the morning after Kerrie went missing from a man who said he had killed someone, two days before her body was found.
One of these events was an incident a woman recalled with a white van being driven by people she believed were members of a martial arts club and the other an incident in which a man says he saw Patrick Sumner, who was initially charged with the crime but had charges dismissed due to lack of evidence, in the Westwood area the night Kerrie went missing. That incident was determined to have likely taken place years later, as a young woman seen with Sumner did not know him at the time of Brown’s disappearance.
“Part of the process of Someone Knows Something is to look at tips, tips that are viable but also to look at rumours and things like that to dispel them so there’s a little bit of that going on as well,” said Ridgen Oct. 13.
The podcast episode includes Trevor Brown and Ridgen taking a road trip to Norway House to try to determine which officer the caller who said he’d killed someone was looking for when his after-hours call was rerouted to Thompson, which used to the the dispatch centre for Northern Manitoba RCMP operations before being consolidated with southern Manitoba in a Winnipeg call centre in the 1990s. They learn that there may have been an officer there named Mike Labrasseur at the time, which matches dispatcher Marnie Schaefer’s memory of the person asking for an officer with a French-sounding name. An attempt to track down a list of all the RCMP members who have served at the Norway House detachment proves fruitless however.
After writing a letter to RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki, who used to be stationed in Thompson, Brown receives a reply from Manitoba RCMP commanding officer Asst. Commissioner Jane MacLatchy saying that RCMP investigated the call, that the identity of the caller is known and that he has been cleared as a suspect in Kerrie’s murder.
“If they say they found the caller, how did they find the caller if they have nothing to compare the caller to?” said Trevor Brown. “You want to make this claim, prove it.”
Since the last update episode of Someone Knows Something season five aired in March 2019, Trevor Brown and his father Jim have won a court battle to receive a copy of Kerrie’s autopsy report, which Trevor had before but lost while moving between Thompson and Winnipeg. A court order prevents them from discussing details of the autopsy, but Trevor Brown says he believes it may be important to the investigation.
“They’ve gleaned a lot of information from that autopsy about this crime and so have I,” says Trevor Brown. “There’s something there that they feel, if it gets out publicly, it compromises the integrity of the investigation.”
Ridgen hopes the latest podcast episode will reach new ears who haven’t heard it before and possibly lead to more tips coming that may help identify who killed Kerrie Ann Brown. Although he has been successful in previous seasons in actually finding the alleged perpetrator of other crimes, that isn’t the only goal of his podcast investigations.
“Many family members will tell you they don’t care if it gets in the courtroom they just want to know where their loved one is or they just want to know what happened that day,” he says. “It gets to the point where they’re so fed up or desperate that it’s not about the courtroom. When you get into the courtroom, yeah, you see the guy go to jail, well what happens after that? You still have to live with the loss and those are the kinds of reconciliation and the kind of ways forward that I’m interested in helping with as well.”
Trevor Brown says he believes being involved in Ridgen’s investigation has helped him.
“It’s been therapeutic I would say,” he says. “I’m in a better headspace today than I was even five years ago … because of the amount of work, the energy I’ve invested in trying to find the answers that we’re all looking for. I’m in a better mindset today than I can remembering being in in quite a long time. Definitely just being involved in the process has been very beneficial for me.”