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Former Toronto police officer who raped and killed 2 women in 1970 denied parole

Parole board of Canada during a hearing in Bath, Ont., on Wednesday, Oct., 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

A former Toronto police officer serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of two women has been denied parole.

Ronald West pleaded guilty in 2001 to sexually assaulting and killing Doreen Moorby, 34, and Helen Ferguson, 37, in May 1970 in the Toronto area while he was off-duty.

He had waived his right to parole hearings since 2009, the Parole Board of Canada said, but one was held recently after legislative changes made reviews mandatory. West did not participate, according to the board, which denied him full parole.

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“It is the board’s opinion that you will present an undue risk to society if released and that your release will not contribute to the protection of society by facilitating your reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen,” the board said in its decision dated Feb. 14.

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West, now 74, targeted the women, both nurses, at random 13 days apart.

Moorby’s husband found her at their home in Caledon, Ont., on May 6, 1970. West raped her then shot her in the back of the head and in the back. The couple’s toddler was found pinned underneath her.

West raped then shot Ferguson in a similar fashion. Her 8-year-old son, off sick from school, heard the gunshots and saw the killer leave.

Their deaths sparked a massive investigation and manhunt across the province, with more than 3,000 interviews conducted.

But the case went cold.

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Police first caught up with West in 1995 when they arrested him for a string of brutally violent armed robberies in the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., area. He responded to items advertised for sale, tied up his victims and beat them before robbing them.

While serving eight years behind bars for those crimes, police reopened the Moorby and Ferguson homicides, which police at the time believed were committed by the same person.

Don MacNeil was part of the initial task force into their murders in the 1970s as an Ontario Provincial Police officer and was tasked in the late 1990s to probe the cold cases.

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Shortly after West went to prison for the armed robberies, his family sold their home in Blind River, Ont. The new owners found an envelope in the wall during renovations that had gun permits in West’s name from 1969 and 1970 that matched the gun used in the women’s murders.

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MacNeil investigated but found the bullets from the murders were too damaged to make a definitive match. So he turned to relatively nascent DNA matching technology with the help of the province’s Centre of Forensic Sciences.

Police had preserved the evidence from the scene and 30 years later linked the semen found with West’s DNA, which police had found on a letter sent by West from prison to his family.

West pleaded guilty and has been behind bars since.

West worked with the Toronto police force from 1966 to 1972, but left to pursue work elsewhere.

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Late last year, West underwent a psychological risk assessment, which rated him as a moderate-to-high risk to re-offend with violent crimes and average risk to re-offend for sexual crimes, the board noted.

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The clinician did not support parole, but suggested the next step would be a move to minimum security from medium security, where he currently lives, the decision said. West has made no indication he’d like to move to minimum security, the board said.

Correctional Service Canada also recommended against full parole.

“They indicate that you remain unable to fully verbalize your reasons for offending, or to demonstrate full victim empathy and recognition of the harm you inflicted,” the board said of the correctional service’s recommendation.

He remains in an unnamed medium security institution.

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