Kerrie Ann Brown: Ending the 'conspiracy of silence'

Stories about unsolved murders usually appear in the media on significant anniversaries. Last year was the 25th anniversary of the savage slaying of 15-year-old Kerrie Ann Brown, which remains Thompson's oldest unsolved murder case.

Former R.D. Parker Collegiate principal John Donovan, now Northern regional director of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba here in Thompson, perhaps summed it up best on Sept. 28, 2011 when he wrote: "I remember how Kerrie's death shook our school and the community ... obviously someone or more know what happened the conspiracy of silence must end."

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Brown was slain sometime after attending a party at a residence on Trout Avenue in Westwood on Thursday night Oct. 16, 1986. Two days after the party, two women 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. Her body was found on Saturday, Oct. 18, 1986, around 2 p.m. Brown 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.

A vehicle got stuck in the mud there and a blue and red air mattress and a black rubber floor mat were used to try and gain traction and extricate the vehicle, RCMP said publicly in 1996. Two eyewitnesses had spotted a white van and an older model mid-60s green sedan-type car at the scene just hours after Brown, who had been wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey jacket earlier in the evening, disappeared from the party. Crime scene DNA samples gathered in 1986 came from at least two different men RCMP told the Thompson Citizen in 1996, adding they have always believed more than person was involved in the killing.

Shortly after Kerrie's murder, a 22-year-old Thompson man was charged with first-degree murder in connection with her killing in a case that was largely circumstantial. He was freed four months later after being discharged by provincial court Judge Charles Newcombe without being committed to trial after a three-day preliminary hearing ended Feb. 20, 1987. Newcombe ruled there wasn't admissible evidence upon which a reasonable jury properly instructed could return a verdict of guilty,

The quarter century anniversary of Brown's murder in 2011 generated a number of stories in print and on radio. While that's a good thing, we believe Brown's cold case killing should be revisited on its 26th anniversary every bit as much as it was on the 25th.

As well, there have been some developments since we last wrote about the case a year ago that are worth mentioning. There have been at least six other unsolved murders in Thompson in the last 26 years since Kerrie's killing: Jason Nunn, Jacob Stokman, Lissa Chaboyer, Bernie Carlson and Christopher Ponask. The good news is the list has shrunk by one from seven last year with an arrest last February in the previously unsolved 2005 murder of 16-year-old Chantelle Rikheim in the old Burntwood Trailer Court.

Also, the RCMP this year began conducting a full review of Kerrie Ann Brown's murder investigation. They have rehired a retired homicide investigator, Sgt. Bert Clarke, who retired in 2009 as the commander-in-charge of the RCMP's homicide unit in Manitoba, to assist in the review of the investigation, along with a second rehired former homicide investigator.

The two retired homicide investigators did not work on the Brown murder originally, although they were aware of it, but are assisting the historical case unit, which is the official RCMP name for Manitoba's cold case squad, by bringing their expertise to the complex case by taking a fresh look at it. It's a daunting task given there more than 2,000 subjects recorded and documented in the file.

Active duty investigators, including Bobby Baker, the current lead investigator, and Janna Coade, also continue to work on the Brown case. All of the forensic evidence is being reviewed for DNA submission or re-submission and people continue to be polygraph examined in the case. New DNA samples searching for matches have been taken, most voluntarily, some pursuant to court orders, from more than 100 people across Canada in the decades since the crime.

Administrative personnel have been assigned to the case to "digitize" the investigation for present and future purposes.

The Brown cold case is the largest unsolved homicide investigation (nearly three dozen banker boxes of investigative file material) that the RCMP have in Manitoba.

Anyone who has information on the murder of Kerrie Ann Brown can contact Thompson RCMP detachment at (204) 677-6909, or, if you wish to remain anonymous, Manitoba Crime Stoppers at Crime Stoppers, which can be reached toll-free at (800) 222-8477 (TIPS) or to submit a secure tip online go to www.manitobacrimestoppers.com and text "TIPMAN" plus your message to CRIMES (274637).

There has been no justice - at least not yet - for Kerrie Ann Brown. Donovan was right. The conspiracy of silence must end. There is every reason to believe someone knows who killed Kerrie Ann Brown.

© Copyright Thompson Citizen

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