EDMONTON – After a record-setting number of homicides in 2011, Edmonton’s homicide rate dropped back in line with recent averages in 2012, a year marked by some highly public and disturbing slayings that made headlines around the country.
The biggest incident of 2012 was the triple slaying of armoured car guards Michelle Shegelski, 26, Brian Ilesic, 35, and Eddie Rejano, 39, who were shot to death while delivering cash to bank machines on the University of Alberta campus on June 15. After a two-day manhunt, their co-worker, Travis Baumgartner, was arrested. He remains charged with three counts of first-degree murder and the attempted murder of Matthew Schuman, a fourth guard who was also shot but survived.
Baumgartner is slated to go to trial in September.
Other high-profile incidents included the July death of teenager Tonesha Desjarlais Walker, who was killed in her bed during a break-in, and the slaying of Dale Maloney, 33, who was shot in front of several onlookers after a brief altercation with strangers behind a Jasper Avenue restaurant on an August afternoon.
In total, there were 29 homicides in Edmonton in 2012, taking into account the fatal shooting of an alleged bank robber by police on Dec. 11. The number marks a significant decrease from 2011, when there were 48 homicides in the city, including two police-involved fatal shootings.
The Dec. 31, 2011, death of 60-year-old Rukhmani Prasad remains an anomaly in EPS homicide statistics for 2011-2012, as the death was not declared a homicide until March 2012. Though the usual EPS practice has been to count a homicide in the year in which it is declared, police officials have counted Prasad’s death as a 2011 homicide, though it will still be reported as a 2012 homicide to Statistics Canada.
The city’s record-breaking homicide year in 2011 has been described by police as a “blip” in the statistics, and one year later, that appears to have been the case. The 2012 rate is back on par with the city’s homicide rate in 2009 and 2010, both of which recorded 27 homicides. The rate is substantially lower than the period from 2005 to 2008, which recorded between 33 and 39 homicides each year.
The first homicide of 2012 was the Feb. 19 death of Welid Sahle Meskel, 22, who was found injured on the ground in a north Edmonton alley. The last of the year was the fatal beating of John “Jonny” Hollar on an LRT train on the afternoon of Dec. 28. Hollar died of his injuries in hospital two days later.
Five of the year’s homicide victims were women.
Of the cases where the cause of death has been made public, nine cases were stabbings, eight were shootings, four were beatings, and one involved a strangulation.
To date, charges have been laid in 15 of the 28 alleged criminal homicides – with three of those attributed to a single suspect, Travis Baumgartner.
Speaking to the Journal recently, city police Chief Rod Knecht said about 25 per cent of the homicides in 2012 were domestic-related, but that there are no other strong trends emerging from the cases.
“There’s no single factor that’s contributing to the homicides again,” Knecht said.
The youngest homicide victim of 2012 was 16-year-old Tonesha Desjarlais Walker. The High Prairie teen had been visiting the city with her father, and was sleeping at a relative’s home when she was slain during what police described as a random break and enter. A 16-year-old boy has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
The eldest victims were Douglas Gladue and Chi Lik Wong, both 50, who were killed just one day apart. Gladue died in hospital on Sept. 8 after he and a woman were found in a downtown parking lot suffering numerous stab wounds. Wong, a successful businessman and restaurant owner, was shot to death in front of his Crestwood home on the night of Sept. 9.
No one has been charged in either of those cases.
It is possible that at least one more death from 2012 may be declared a homicide in the months to come.
A child identified as Baby M was found in cardiac arrest with a severe head injury in her family’s Edmonton home in May, and died after being removed from life support in September.
Police have said the baby and her twin sister were severely underweight when they were found in the home, and her parents are already facing charges of aggravated assault, criminal negligence and failing to provide the necessities of life. Under provincial legislation, the baby and her parents cannot be named because the other children are now in provincial care.
The baby’s death remains under consideration by the medical examiner.
One of the most gruesome discoveries of the year – a man’s severed head found in a city alleyway in October – is not an Edmonton homicide case, as the victim is believed to have been slain outside the city.
Robert John (Bob) Roth’s body was found in a ditch near the town of Ranfurly, 120 kilometres east of Edmonton, four days before his head was found. Four people are facing charges in that case, which is under investigation by RCMP.
Homicide 2012: The Cases
1. Welid Sahle Meskel
The 22-year-old was found in a north Edmonton alleyway near 101st Street and 134th Avenue on Feb. 19, shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday. Police said the killing was not random, but wouldn’t say if it was drug- or gang-related.
Although she died on Dec. 31, 2011, Prasad’s death was not ruled a homicide until March 6, 2012. Investigators said the 60-year-old’s death was caused by her husband, Suendra Prasad, who used gasoline to set fire to their upstairs bedroom at 14716 32nd St. Suendra Prasad died from severe burns on Feb. 2, but investigators said his death was accidental.
2. Billy Canh Ho
Police remained tight-lipped about the death of Ho, 25, who was attacked and stabbed at about 2:30 a.m. on March 6 in the McDonald’s parking lot at 51st Avenue and Calgary Trail.
3. Chad Swanson
Two pedestrians noticed a black Chevy Tahoe parked irregularly on a cul-de-sac near 113th Street and 167A Avenue in the evening of March 29, a bullet hole through the windshield. Swanson, 26, sat dead in the driver’s seat, just a few blocks from where he had played with his eight-year-old son earlier that day.
4. Dennis Moyah
Moyah, 34, died April 29 from injuries received during an early morning fight near the Strathearn Apartments, near 95th Avenue and 87th Street. Brian Sawatzky, 26, was later charged with manslaughter.
5. Savannah Morin
Police said alcohol was a factor in the death of the 20-year-old, who died in hospital after she was found stabbed in a 15th-floor suite of the Wimbledon Apartments, 10140 113th St., early on the morning of May 3. Dale Swampy, 23, was charged with second-degree murder. The victim’s family at Canoe Lake, a reserve north of Saskatoon, said Swampy was the boyfriend of one of her friends.
6. Yehia Hassan Al-Bekai
Dozens of witnesses – some snapping photos and videos – watched as Al-Bekai, 32, was shot outside Diesel Ultra Lounge at 11845 Wayne Gretzky Dr. early on the morning of May 6. Friends drove the victim to a nearby hospital, where he died from his wounds. The bar closed permanently shortly after the killing.
7. Philipp Jochen Woehrle
After extinguishing a house fire near 129th Street and 117th Avenue on May 8, firefighters discovered a body in the basement with no identification. The medical examiner later ruled the death of Woehrle, 28, a homicide, but would not say how he died.
8. Daniel Barata
On May 23, police found the 41-year-old critically injured on a curb near 129th Avenue and 64th Street. He had been stabbed. Three men were charged with his second-degree murder: Eddie Binning, 21, Byron Crane, 28, and Kevin Witchekan, 29.
Emaciated and suffering from a head injury, Baby M was in cardiac arrest on May 25 when paramedics responded to a call to her parents’ home in Edmonton. The two-year-old weighed 13 pounds, and her twin sister only 16 pounds, on the day they were found. Baby M died after being taken off life support at the Stollery Children’s Hospital on Sept. 21, hours after a panel of three Supreme Court justices dismissed an application for a stay of a court order to remove her from life support. Her parents, Algerian immigrants, were charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life.
9. Gabriel Gregg
Gregg, a 31-year-old Nanaimo, B.C. man who had recently moved to the city, was found on the ground near Jasper Avenue and 107th Street in the early morning of June 3 after a night out with his new rugby team. Although police charged a 36-year-old man with manslaughter, Crown prosecutors later stayed the charge due to the unlikelihood of conviction.
10-12. Michelle Shegelski, Brian Ilesic, Eddie Rejano
Shortly after midnight on June 15, five employees of the G4S security company arrived at HUB Mall, a shopping and residential complex at the University of Alberta, to deliver cash to bank machines. Minutes later, four guards were shot and the fifth was missing with anywhere between $600,000 and $1.9 million. Shegelski, Ilesic and Rejano died of gunshot wounds, while a fourth guard was critically injured. One day later, 21-year-old Travis Baumgartner was captured at a U.S. border crossing with $330,000. The guard was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and four counts of robbery with a firearm.
13. Wesley Bunker
A 47-year-old homeless man known on the streets as “Ghost,” Bunker was found face-down outside the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 106A Avenue and 96th Street on June 19. Courtney Alex McDonald, 29, was charged with manslaughter.
14. 16-year-old girl
A resident of High Prairie, the teen was spending the night at a relative’s home at 12725 125th St., when she woke to find a stranger in her bedroom before 5 a.m. on July 2. A 16-year-old boy was arrested three blocks away and charged with second-degree murder. He had been at a Canada Day party next door before he broke in and stole several items, police said. The victim cannot be named.
15. Alexandra Noble
A 27-year-old man walked into the west division police station on July 25 to tell officers about an incident in a first-floor suite in the Oasis Apartments, 10155 153rd St. Police found Noble, 25, strangled and unresponsive. Trevor Toews was charged with second-degree murder.
16. Catlin Houle
Police were called just after midnight on Aug. 3 to 109A Avenue and 98th Street. Houle, 25, was found on the ground, where he was pronounced dead. No other details, including cause of death, have been released.
17. Michael Motiuk
On the morning of Aug. 6, several knives, including a brass-handled sabre, were scattered outside a townhouse complex on Mill Woods Road East near 16A Avenue. Motiuk, 22, was stabbed there at around 4:30 a.m. when a fight broke out, and died in hospital soon after. Five men, all between the ages of 18 and 22, were charged with second-degree murder.
18. Dale Maloney
At least a dozen people watched as Maloney, 33, was shot in a daylight shooting behind the busy Joey Jasper restaurant at 113th Street at about 4 p.m. on Aug. 13. Maloney had a violent argument with some men at the restaurant, but police said the Newfoundland man didn’t know his suspected killers, who fled in a Range Rover. Christian Iyamuremye, 23, and Bicco Saidi, 23 were later charged with second-degree murder.
19. Bogdan Pamfil
Pamfil, 25, a Romanian-born computer repairman, was found shot to death on Sept. 4 in the mechanical room of his condo building at Whyte Avenue and 97th Street. His dog was also killed. Three men in their 20s were seen driving off in a late-model silver sedan, police said.
20. Douglas Gladue
A 50-year-old homeless man, Gladue died after being stabbed in a fight in a parking lot near 95th Street and 102nd Avenue on Sept. 8. A 33-year-old woman was also stabbed, but later recovered. Police used a DNA match to arrest Gregory Campbell, 51, who was charged with second-degree murder.
21. Chi Like Wong
A popular restaurateur who owned the Dynasty Century Palace in Chinatown, Wong, 50, was found shot to death in his driveway near 145th Street and 97th Avenue on Sept. 9. Although a black van was seen speeding away from the scene, police have yet to lay any charges.
22. Tye Kaye
Kaye, a 27-year-old apprentice mechanic, was found stabbed to death in his Blue Quill apartment suite on Sept. 23. Amanda Kaye, 26, was charged with second-degree murder.
23. Pascal Garcon
The 17-year-old Sudanese-Canadian was found dead in his family’s townhouse near 132nd Avenue and 47th Street on Sept. 28, a gun on the floor nearby, his friends said. Police refused to release specifics about the case but issued a plea for witnesses.
24. Charisma Kozakewich
Shortly after midnight on Oct. 4, Edward Fountain went to the Sherwood Park RCMP station to report an injury at Kozakewich’s Summerside-neighbourhood duplex. Police found the body of Kozakewich, a 39-year-old mother of two girls. Fountain, 42, was charged with second-degree murder.
25. Cameron Thomas
Police responding to a “trouble not known” call early on the morning of Nov. 11 found Thomas, 26, dead in a parking lot beside the Boneyard Ale House, near 34th Avenue and 92nd Street. An autopsy determined he had died from gunshot wounds. Police issued a plea for witnesses.
26. Aden Ahmed
On Nov. 19, only days before he was to appear in court on charges related to drug trafficking, Ahmed, 23, was stabbed at a home in north Edmonton near 113th Avenue and 94th Street. He died in hospital.
27. Temesgen Ashfa
Police officers found Ashfa, 43, lying on the sidewalk in front of a financial institution at 103rd Street and 107th Avenue early in the morning on Nov. 24. Ahmed Farah, 38, was charged with second-degree murder and possession of an offensive weapon.
28. Mike Grisch
The father of a young daughter, Grisch, 24, was shot by police on Dec. 11 as he allegedly attempted to use a handgun to rob the Canadian Western Bank at 2142 99th St. in South Edmonton Common. Taken to hospital in critical condition, he died the next day just after 8 a.m. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is investigating.
29. Jonny Hollar
Beaten until he was unconscious aboard a city LRT train on the afternoon of Dec. 28, Hollar died late in the day on Dec. 30 after he was taken off life support. A charge of second-degree murder is pending against Jeremy Newborn, 29, who was originally charged with aggravated assault.