When Avis Ottey looks back at pictures of her teenage daughters, she immediately remembers when and where each photograph was taken.
They represent moments frozen in time, memories forever etched in her mind.
Marsha, 19, and Tamara, 16, never had a chance at a future.
These pictures, and other mementoes, are all Avis has to hold on to.
You can watch the full ‘Crime Beat’ episode of ‘If Anything Happens to Me’ on GlobalTV.com.
“Marsha literally ran at seven months — ran. And that should have been a sign to me that she wanted to be an athlete or she could be an athlete,” Avis said about her eldest daughter.
“Tami, what a bubbly girl, just full of life,” she said about her younger daughter.
And then the tears begin.
“She was so full of life. She loved Marsh,” she added.
Both girls were natural-born athletes, with running in their blood.
Their cousin, Merlene Ottey, is a track and field star and nine-time Olympic medallist.
Marsha may have been following that path.
“That was her dream, too, to run track, and she did receive a scholarship at Arkansas State University, and she was just days to pursuing that,” Avis said.
She recalled how excited Marsha had been as she packed her bags.
Avis also remembered thinking it would be good for Marsha to be away from her ex-boyfriend.
“One day, Marsha was packing … I was at her room door and I just looked in … and she looked at me, right eye to eye, and she said, ‘If anything should happen to me, it’s Rohan,'” Avis recalled.
“And the only time I remembered what she had said to me was when I saw her in my basement dead.”
Marsha and Tamara Ottey were murdered in the basement of their mother’s home on Aug. 16, 1995 — two days before Marsha was set to leave for Arkansas State University.
Marsha was stabbed 19 times in the chest and throat.
Tamara was stabbed in the chest, and her throat was slashed.
It was Avis who discovered her daughters dead after returning home from work.
“I can see my house … as I got closer, the door was slightly ajar … So I walked straight in to look what was happening, and my furniture in my living room was all moved around, things in disarray … I ran into my bedroom, and my underwear drawers pulled out, underwear thrown on top,” Avis said.
“And first thing, I began thinking someone tried to rob me,” she recalled, adding: “I must have chuckled because I thought, ‘I’m so poor, you know, mother with two daughters. You know, one salary.. what are they going to steal from me?'”
Then, on her way back downstairs, she could see Marsha.
“I felt like I was totally not me. I just felt weird. I say out of body; I felt so uncomfortable,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks.
From where she stood, Avis could see Marsha was in her underwear.
She bolted to the living room to call 911 but there was no dial tone, so she ran over to her neighbours’ house.
“As I saw Marsha, the first thing that came to me was: ‘If anything should happen to me, it’s Rohan.’ That’s all that came in my head.”
It wasn’t until later she learned Tamara had been down there also.
“I don’t want to tell what they did to Marsha that day. But they really overkilled … maybe one of those wounds would have killed her. But instead, they did hundreds,” she said. “They were wicked.”
Marsha had met Rohan Ranger when they were around 14 years old.
First, they were friends, but Avis said the relationship eventually matured into “something more dangerous.”
“Once Marsha met Rohan, she was dead,” said Avis. “I believe that she could not escape for whatever reason. He latched on to her. She could not escape. And in all fairness, I believe she loved him, too.”
Although Avis suspected Ranger in the murders, police needed evidence to charge him.
“That was probably the highest-profile case in the city of Toronto. So even though I wasn’t part of that investigative team initially, it was a case that we were all following closely,” former homicide detective Dave Perry said.
“They’d both been brutally murdered, stabbed multiple times. And it was one of those scenes that is so horrific. And there was a lot of overkill that indicated to the investigators that this was a crime of passion and likely the person or persons responsible were closely connected to one or both of the girls.”
Perry remembered Ranger came up as a suspect on Day 1.
“He was that jilted ex-boyfriend. Jealous. Was known to carry a firearm, was known to carry a machete, had threatened friends of hers at school. Any boy that he perceived getting too close to her (Marsha) would come under his leer,” recalled Perry.
Days passed, and still no arrest was made.
It would be months before a break in the case.
On Oct. 23, 1995, another high-profile murder took place.
Dimitrija “Jimmy” Trajceski, 54, was a married father of two and a 22-year transit veteran.
He generally worked at Chester station, but on that night, he filled in for a colleague at Victoria Park station.
His daughter Marianna had spent part of the day with him.
“I went to sign out books at the library … so he drove me, and we were driving back together, and I’m thinking, sometimes he’s just so quiet; he’s either cracking jokes or he’s really, really quiet,” she recalled.
Marianna remembered how much her father loved working for the TTC.
“He felt so blessed and fortunate, like he came here to work hard and to make a good life for his wife and his children,” she said.
Marianna remembers vividly the moment her mother and brother came to tell her that her father had been killed.
“He went to work and he was fine. How could he be gone? … I ran to the washroom and I threw up,” she said.
Jimmy’s killing marked the first murder of an on-duty TTC employee.
The investigation to find his killer progressed quickly.
“There was a bus driver pulling in for his last run of the night, and he heard the alarm going off and he was able to give us an immediate description of the suspect,” recalled Perry.
“Two members of the sexual assault squad showed up on scene.. and they described the fact that they were looking for a male suspect who happened to match the description of our suspect, who was wanted for two sexual assaults.”
There was a composite sketch, and soon after, a DNA profile was developed.
A sweatshirt belonging to the suspect was also found in piles of garbage following a massive search at an apartment complex near the subway station.
“So we knew that the person wearing that clothing had killed Mr. Trajceski and that he had raped those two women,” said Perry.
“And on January 16th, I got a call from Ron Whitefield … the lead on the Ottey case … I asked him how his case was going. And he told me. And he asked me how my case was going. And I told him.
“And then I said to him, ‘What does Rohan Ranger look like? What’s this description?’ And he said, ‘Well, he’s male, Black. He’s from Jamaica. He’s about five-foot-seven, five-foot-eight, 145-150 pounds, with a shaved head and a goatee,'” recalled Perry.
He remembered saying to him the description of his unknown suspect in the TTC murder was the same.
“So we have all of these crimes come crashing together from one sweat top,” he said.
Meanwhile, Avis was at home, well aware of this murder, and she received a call from Toronto police homicide Det. Mark Mendelsohn.
“I can remember vividly when Mark Mendelsohn called me and told me that they had a DNA match for my case. And then shortly after finding out that the reason they got this match or they were able to find out this person, they were comparing DNA … And Marsha had his DNA under her fingernails,” she said.
By that point, the team working Jimmy’s case was certain the suspect in the TTC murder was a man named Adrian Kinkead, Ranger’s first cousin.
“We’d left Toronto on the heels of a press conference saying this is the largest manhunt in the history of the Toronto Police Service, that we’re hunting for Canada’s most wanted suspect,” said Perry, remembering his trip to Miami, Fla., where it was believed Kinkead had been hiding out.
Kinkead was found in Miami, arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Marsha and Tamara Ottey and Jimmy Trajceski, plus a number of sexual assault and weapons charges.
During the police interrogation, Kinkead described in detail the day the Ottey sisters were killed.
“He talked about how Rohan Ranger had gone there with him … and how they gained control of Tamara when she left that morning to go to work. And they brought her back,” said Perry.
According to Kinkead’s account, while Ranger was attacking Marsha, Tamara tried to flee, but Kinkead grabbed her and together with Ranger, they murdered her at the same time.
Tamara had Kinkead’s DNA under her fingernails because she had been trying to defend her sister and herself.
“From a DNA perspective.. it really ultimately was what solved the case,” added Perry.
The arrest came as a relief for Jimmy’s family.
“I immediately thought about Avis Ottey and her daughters,” said Marianna. “He was a dangerous offender. He should not be walking the streets … He needed to be caught,” she said.
For Avis, Kinkead’s arrest meant she could finally sleep.
“Trauma like that disturbs your sleep, disturb your state of mind,” she said.
A news conference was soon called, and it was announced Ranger was wanted for murder.
He was hiding out in Jamaica but surrendered soon after he was discovered and was charged with the murders of Marsha and Tamara Ottey.
Sadly, the legal saga was just beginning for Avis.
“It was such a long, drawn-out process. Dear God, it was long,” recalled Avis, adding that “for most of the trial, they giggled. And I thought, ‘Oh, how evil.'”
In 1998, Ranger was convicted of first-degree murder and manslaughter for the killings of Marsha and Tamara and sentenced to life in prison.
Kinkead was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder by a separate jury and given a life sentence.
Both men appealed the convictions, but only Ranger was granted a new trial due to errors made by the trial judge.
Following a retrial, Ranger was once again found guilty.
He tried to appeal another time, but it was dismissed.
“People do not realize the girls were killed in ’95. I was in court until 2011 with all Rangers’ appeals and dance and song,” said Avis.
Both Kinkead and Ranger will be eligible for parole in 2021.
Avis went on to work for the Toronto Police Service because she said she felt compelled to help others.
Her proudest work is with the Employee and Family Assistance Program.
She also wrote a book, called It May Hurt for Awhile: Supporting Those in Grief.
Marianna finished her studies and became a teacher.
She is also the mother of a four-year-old boy.
“You try to remember the good times … we would tell jokes about the things he did. But you just know that he should have been here. He should have met his grandson,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Avis will never be a grandmother.
She reflects on a flag football game she attended to support Tamara.
“I think it was a final game. And I worked near to where she was playing. And I went to my boss, Max, for time off and I went to surprise her. I love sports. She’s only about 14 or 15 then,” recalled Avis. “Tammy saw me from the opposite side of the field and said with a wiggle, ‘Hey grandma, who invited you?'”
Avis giggled but also became emotional.
“You know, it was only yesterday, profoundly as it is, I said: ‘Tammy, you called me grandma. I’ll never be a grandma.'”