Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Slaying spurs review of 12 other deaths

Police seek links in unsolved cases

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THE grisly murder of missing Winnipeg teen Felicia Solomon has police looking back at other unsolved killings of high-risk young women.

City police and RCMP are aware of similarities between Solomon's case and 12 others spanning nearly two decades, but said yesterday there is no evidence suggesting a single predator.

Officers interviewed yesterday said there are geographic patterns and similarities in the ways some were killed, but the unsolved homicides are not linked by hard proof.

Solomon, 16, was identified Wednesday when DNA tests confirmed a severed arm and leg found in the Red River this summer matched her genetic fingerprint.

Police have not found the rest of her body. The case has been turned over to the homicide unit, along with a bulky file of tips that poured in while she was missing.

Like the dozen other victims since 1983, Solomon was young, susceptible and killed in a particularly brutal fashion.

At least three of the slain women -- Marie Edith Banks, Constance Lynn Cameron and Tania Marsden -- were strangled. The cause of death of some others couldn't be determined because of the state of their remains when found.

Other similarities were the location of some bodies. Both Banks and Cameron were found in a Fort Garry field near the CNR "Rivers" Mainline. The bodies of two others -- Cheryl Duck and Therena Silva -- were both found near Templeton Avenue and Ritchie Street.

Many of the 13 slain women were known street prostitutes, but several were not directly connected to the street sex trade.

Police are not saying Solomon was involved in prostitution.

She was last seen March 24 in the city's west end, but only reported missing 10 days later by her family.

Police have said she may have been associating with street gang members before she disappeared.

Solomon's family declined to speak to the media yesterday. A vigil for the teen is being planned by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs for today.

Solomon's case most closely resembles the September 1998 slaying of 18-year-old Tania Marsden.

Marsden also disappeared from the west end. Her body was found weighted down with a cement block and partially submerged in the Red River near the Perimeter Highway. She had been strangled.

News of Solomon's death has prompted organizations that work with exploited women to urge police to take a closer look at links between the unsolved cases.

"We have seen serial offenders before showing up in bad date reports. We know there are people like that out there," Jane Runner, a program manager with New Directions, said yesterday.

"It is not out of the realm of possibilities one person, or a few people, could be responsible. You just have to look at the case in B.C."

Robert Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer, has been accused of killing 15 Vancouver-area women, many of whom were linked to the sex trade.

More than 40 other women from the Downtown Eastside remain missing.

Police in Edmonton are probing a similar disturbing pattern, with some in the sex trade believing a serial killer is on the loose.

The remains of four women have already been found in Edmonton this year, and police are investigating possible links between 13 other unsolved slayings since 1983. The victims all worked as prostitutes or lived "high-risk" lives.

The situation has stoked fear in Edmonton's estimated yearly population of 400 sex trade workers, and prompted RCMP to join forces with city police to explore the possibility the killings are linked.

But just like in Winnipeg, police in Alberta say there is no hard evidence to date that any are linked.

The violent deaths of women in Canadian cities including Winnipeg and Edmonton have been detailed by police in Canada's Violent Crime Linkage Analyst System (ViCLAS), a police-only computer database that stores all violent crime with the intent of finding patterns of offence and then identifying a killer.

An RCMP officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday prostitutes, runaways and young people who hang around on the street make perfect victims for sexual predators.

"It boils down to target availability," he said.

"Many of these victims interact with strangers, and because of their lifestyle, no one misses them right away. That gives the advantage to the offender."

As to why offenders prey on these women, it could be they're acting out a twisted fantasy and need to hurt someone to achieve sexual gratification, he said.

Winnipeg is home to more than 1,000 street prostitutes, according to Runner.

She said it would be difficult to find a woman on the street who doesn't know someone who's been murdered. And while it may briefly force them to reconsider their lifestyle, most women just shrug it off.

"The violence is so built into that culture that people become desensitized to it," said Runner.

"For most of these exploited women, it's not a matter of choice. It's a matter of survival."

Similarities evident in unsolved slayings

1. Marie Edith Banks -- August 1983

Banks was last seen alive early July 26, 1983 getting into a vehicle near McDermot Avenue and Princess Street. Banks, a prostitute, was reported missing Aug. 1.

Her body was found two weeks later, on Aug. 15, in a Fort Garry field off Sparling Avenue near Manitoba Hydro's head office and the CNR "Rivers" Mainline. She had been strangled.

2. Constance Lynn Cameron -- August 1984

Cameron was last seen alive during the early morning hours of Aug. 3, 1984, when a friend dropped her off in the area of Higgins Avenue and Austin Street, where she worked as a prostitute.

Her body was found Aug. 6 in the same area as Banks, a Fort Garry field off Parker Avenue. She had been strangled.

3. Charlene Orsulak -- January 1987

Orsulak was last seen getting into a four-door, wine-coloured Buick at MacDonald Avenue and Argyle Street, in an area of Winnipeg commonly then known as "the track." Police say she was taken to a party and killed some time later. Her body was left in a remote area of bush three kilometres south of Matlock, near Winnipeg Beach.

4. Cheryl Duck -- December 1987

The body of 15-year-old Cheryl Duck was found face-down in a barren field close to Ritchie Street, near the outskirts of the city. She had multiple scrapes and abrasions to her face and body and her front teeth were broken. She had died of hypothermia.

It's believed Duck was last seen in the Main Street strip area. There was some speculation that she worked as a prostitute, but this was never confirmed by police.

5. Susan Janine Holens -- April 1989

Holens' body was found in a drainage ditch on Loudoun Road, southwest of city limits. She disappeared after she was picked up April 12 at Higgins Avenue and Main Street.

6. Glenda Morrisseau -- August 1991

Morrisseau was last seen alive early July 17, 1991 on Logan Avenue hitching-hiking a ride downtown from the Stock Exchange Hotel. She was reported missing by her sister several days later.

Her partially naked and battered body was discovered Aug. 7, 1991 in a St. Boniface industrial area near the end of Youville Street close to the Seine River. She had been beaten to death with a large blunt object. Although there were suggestions that Morrisseau was a prostitute, that was never confirmed by police.

7. Jamie McGuire -- March 1994

McGuire's frozen body was found in a drainage ditch west of St. Francois Xavier. She died of a massive blow to the head. She was thought to have arrived in Winnipeg around Jan. 21, frequenting the Main Street strip, and was last in contact with her family in Thunder Bay on Jan. 28.

8. Evelyn Stewart -- March 1998

Stewart's body was found early March 20, 1998 in the parking lot of Gateway Industries, 2 Point Douglas Ave. She was still alive when she was discovered, but suffering from massive trauma to the head. She was pronounced dead 45 minutes later at the St. Boniface General Hospital. She worked in the area as a prostitute and was last seen alive at 3 a.m. that day in the area of the Mount Royal Hotel, only a few blocks from Gateway Industries. It is believed Stewart was killed by a client.

9. Tania Marsden -- September 1998

Marsden was last seen alive Sept. 9 1998, the night of her 18th birthday. She was with friends at the Gordon Downtowner Motor Hotel at 330 Kennedy St. Her body, weighted down with a cement block, was found Sept. 29 partially submerged in the Assiniboine River near the Perimeter Highway. She had been strangled. She was a prostitute who worked in the west end.

10. Noreen Taylor -- August 2001

Taylor's body was found early Aug. 15, 2001 on Ham Street between Cordite and Grassie roads, just off Lagimodiere Boulevard. She was clothed only in a shirt and was naked from the waist down. Her pants, underwear and shoes were never recovered. The cause of death was massive head and internal injuries. The nature of the injuries led police to believe she had been pushed from, jumped out of, or fell from a fast-moving vehicle.

She worked as a prostitute in the Logan Avenue and Martha Street area, and it is believed that she was killed by one of her clients.

11. Therena Silva -- December 2002

Silva's skeletal remains were found near Templeton Avenue and Ritchie Street, near the spot where Duck had been found in 1987. Police believe Silva's body had been there for several months.

She was last in contact with police April 11, when she was arrested at the corner of Toronto Street and Ellice Avenue while trying to solicit sex from an undercover police officer. It's not known how the mother of two was killed.

12. Moira Erb -- September 2003

Erb was last seen alive by her family Aug. 2 in the city. Her decomposed body was found between a set of railway tracks in the northwest corner of the city, on Klimpke Road south of Inkster Boulevard. She died after being hit by a train. It's not known how Erb -- who police believe worked as a prostitute -- ended up in the remote area.

Felicia Solomon -- October 2003

DNA tests verified what police had suspected since late June -- that an arm and a leg found in the Red River belonged to the teenager missing since March 24. She was last seen in the vicinity of Sargent Avenue and Toronto Street. Police have no information to indicate she was involved in prostitution.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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