Calgary police lay charges in 16-year-old shooting death: ‘DNA played a huge role’
Calgary police announced Tuesday charges had been laid in the shooting death of a man 16 years ago.
Paul Hepher was found dead in the basement suite of his Mount Pleasant home, located in the 500 block of 19 Avenue N.W., on Sunday, March 4, 2001.
Police said the 50-year-old was an amateur musician who had no criminal history and led a relatively quiet life. He was last seen alive in the afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2001.
Although forensic evidence was collected from the basement suite where Hepher was found, investigators weren’t able to lay changes until last Thursday, when Terrance Lane Wardale, 61, was charged with second-degree murder.
“There’s several reasons that an investigation can take a long time,” Insp. Don Coleman said at a Tuesday news conference. “The majority of it is evidence based. [A] lack of witness information, lack of physical evidence – makes for lots of challenges in an investigation.”
WATCH: Insp. Don Coleman explains why an investigation can take such a long time to close.
Since Hepher’s death, police conducted three homicide operations in the hopes of cracking the case.
In 2014, evidence was obtained and submitted to a lab for further investigation.
“The new evidence that pushed the case forward was DNA related,” Coleman said. “There was a large suspect list of more than a dozen people … it took time to work though and confirm or eliminate those suspects.”
“Ultimately, in this case, DNA played a huge role.”
According to Coleman, the suspect’s DNA, which they allege matched forensics found at the scene, was not obtained voluntarily but instead through “investigative techniques.”
Police said although investigators knew who they were looking for, the suspect could not be found. After 22 months of searching, investigators were able to locate the suspect in Sherwood Park, Alta.
Investigators believe that the suspect and victim knew each other. They allege the victim was targeted for financial reasons.
“They were acquaintances, loose associates,” Coleman said.
When asked what the suspect had been doing in the 16 years since Hepher’s death, Coleman said he had been living a “relatively low-profile, quiet life.”
WATCH: Insp. Don Coleman says being able to provide closure to Paul Hepher’s family brings the most satisfaction to officers.
Victim’s brother said charges were ‘out of the blue’
Hepher’s brother Ian said he hadn’t heard any updates on the case for about five years and he was surprised to receive a phone call from the Calgary Police Service last week informing him someone had been arrested.
“For the first 10 years after Paul’s death, I would phone Calgary Homicide probably once a year, generally around the anniversary of his death because my dad was interested, and so was I and the rest of our family,” Ian said from his home in Lethbridge. “The last message I got probably five or six years ago was they had really followed up all the leads.
“I had no idea that they were actually working on it. So, I had sort of given up, other than wondering the odd time.”
“This truly was right out of the blue.”
Ian said he doesn’t know the suspect.
“I knew quite a few of Paul’s friends but I never heard of that name before,” he said.
He described his brother as an easy going man.
“He could be bitingly sarcastic, very funny at the same… sort of laughed at the oddities of life, was quick to point them out and make a comment about them,” Ian said.
Ian said his only regret is that his dad is not alive to have heard the update.
“My dad passed away about a year-and-a-half ago and he doesn’t get to fill in this gap in terms of his family story,” he said. “He wouldn’t have been vindictive. I was just talking to one of my sons and none of us feel vindictive.”
“It’s like, ‘OK here’s a chance to fill in this gap that we all wondered about for so long.’”
WATCH: Paul Hepher’s brother speaks about charges being laid 16 years later
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