Report, October 21, 1994
ANOTHER CLIFFORD OLSON ON THE LOOSE?
B.C. and Alberta detectives search for links in eight cases
When investigators from Edmonton, Victoria, Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna
met two weeks ago in Kelowna to discuss a list of eight unsolved murders
and disappearances, the spectre of B.C. serial killer Clifford Olson
loomed. The eight incidents involve seven females and one boy whose
disappearances or deaths occurred in the five cities between March of
1991 and September of this year. Some victims were sexually assaulted
and killed in ways reminiscent of the Olson murders, causing concern
that a similar psychopath may be operating in B.C. and Alberta.
Less than 24 hours before the meeting began, a body subsequently
identified as that of Mindy Tran, 8, who disappeared last summer, was
unearthed near Kelowna (see story page XX). Perhaps attempting to allay
public fears, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Peter Montague initially downplayed
all speculation regarding links between the cases. But Sgt. Montague now
confirms that "there is a study going on and we are looking for
denominators between a number of crimes committed in B.C. and
Investigators, Sgt. Montague adds, are mindful of certain resemblances
between the unsolved crimes and those committed by Olson, currently
serving a life sentence in Prince Albert. More than a decade after Olson
was convicted of 11 killings, police remain haunted by the knowledge
that after committing his first murder, he was released from custody on
several charges stemming from an unrelated rape, leaving him free to
continue his deadly spree.
Sgt. Montague says police are attempting to avoid a repeat of the Olson
fiasco by using a computer belonging to the RCMP's Violent Crime
Analysis Unit, which examines 245 characteristics to ascertain any links
between different crimes. The Kelowna meeting was intended to give
police an opportunity to process information and to discuss enhancements
to the computer's programming.
Along with Mindy Tran, the grisly list of victims includes:
* Michael Dunahee, 4, abducted from a Victoria playground on March
24, 1991, while his parents were playing touch football. He has never
* Corrine (Punky) Gustavson, 6, abducted outside her Edmonton home
on September 6, 1992. Her body was located two days later in a truck
yard in southeast Edmonton. She had been sexually assaulted.
* Mandy Tremblay, 3, abducted in May of 1992 outside her Edmonton
home. Her body was found 19 hours later in a farmer's field. She had
* Sherri McLaughlin, 21, disappeared in the early hours of
September 19, 1993, while riding her bicycle in Kamloops. Her body has
never been found.
* Jennifer Cusworth, 19, found dead on October 17, 1993, in a
ditch beside a Kelowna home.
* Jamie Dawn Vanwieren, 17, disappeared last July 22 in Vernon.
Her semi-nude body was found the next day in Vernon Creek. Police
believe her drowning was a murder.
* Tina Louise Parr, 25, whose partially nude body was found
September 26 in Kelowna. She had been strangled.
Linkages are uncertain. Victims' ages vary widely and include both
sexes, and while sexual assault is suspected in most cases, it has not
been confirmed in some. In at least two cases vans were reported near
the abduction sites, but their descriptions differ. However, tracing the
crime locations reveals a possible itinerary beginning in Victoria for
the first abduction, sweeping northeast to Edmonton for two murders,
moving back to B.C. for an abduction in Kamloops followed by four
murders in the Okanagan.
According to police, such cases are generally difficult to solve because
they are apparently "stranger-to-stranger" murders. Most
contrast, involve perpetrators who know their victims and whose motive
and opportunity can therefore be investigated.