Tuesday, March 29, 2005 Updated at 8:56 PM EST
Victoria — A man who was the prime suspect in the 1981 slaying of a doughnut shop waitress in Winnipeg denied killing anyone in a suicide note he left before he took his own life, police said Tuesday.
Sgt. Clark Russell of Victoria police said Terry Arnold, who was 42, wasn't specific about claims of innocence in the note, which police determined was written by him based on fingerprints taken from it.
“He denied killing anyone,” Sgt. Russell told a news conference. “Anyone.”
Sgt. Russell said the three-page note, which police did not release, wasn't addressed to anyone.
“Without going into details, it was a note sort of outlining why he decided to take his life,” he added.
“Are you asking did he confess in his suicide note? No. He did not.”
In the note, Mr. Arnold complained about being harassed by the media.
“Did he think he was being picked on? Yes,” Sgt. Russell added. “And who did he identify. He identified the media without actually being specific.”
Relatives of Barbara Stoppel — along with the man wrongfully convicted in her death — have said they fear they will never have closure now that Mr. Arnold has committed suicide.
Mr. Arnold's body was found in his Victoria apartment Saturday after police entered it through a balcony when friends became concerned about him. Sgt. Russell said the convicted sex offender appears to have died from overdosing on a combination of alcohol and drugs.
Sgt. Russell said Mr. Arnold probably died Friday.
“These things are very subjective,” he said. “I think he had been last heard from early Friday morning.”
An autopsy was not planned on Mr. Arnold, said Sgt. Russell, but the coroner's office had scheduled toxicology tests. A number of prescription drugs were removed from the apartment by police.
Thomas Sophonow was originally found guilty in the murder of Ms. Stoppel, who was 16 when she was strangled and left for dead in a washroom in a doughnut shop Dec. 23, 1981.
Mr. Sophonow, who protested his innocence for 20 years, was tried three times and spent four years in jail before he was finally exonerated and awarded $2.6-million in compensation.
Mr. Arnold, who bore a striking physical resemblance to Mr. Sophonow, was a potential suspect in Ms. Stoppel's death from almost the start of the police investigation into the murder.
Mr. Arnold pleaded guilty in February to violating the conditions of his bail and spent 12 days in jail after police observed him at a children's play area, Sgt. Russell said.
He was facing charges related to the possession of child pornography and was also being investigated in the 1987 slaying of a 17-year-old Calgary girl.
Sgt. Russell said there was nothing in the suicide letter that shed any light on any investigations involving Mr. Arnold.
“It'd be nice if he'd admitted to something we suspect him of, but he didn't do that,” he said.
A judicial inquiry into Mr. Sophonow's wrongful conviction heard that Ms. Stoppel knew Mr. Arnold when both worked for Conklin Shows at the Red River Exhibition.
Mr. Arnold had a crush on her and did not have an alibi for the time of her death, but the inquiry concluded police had tunnel vision in focusing on Mr. Sophonow.
Mr. Arnold met with police several times after Ms. Stoppel's death to talk to them about possible suspects and sent the Stoppel family a letter of condolence. He also visited her in hospital when she was on life support.
Mr. Arnold had been released from the Victoria Remand Centre in March 2002 after the Crown determined it could not successfully retry him for the 1991 beating death of B.C. teenager Christine Browne.
Mr. Arnold was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Ms. Browne, partly on the basis of evidence gathered in 1997 while he was still serving an eight-year sentence for sexually assaulting several Newfoundland children.
But the conviction was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered
after he argued some documents available to the Crown had not been made
available to him.