May 19, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
The 23-year-old mystery surrounding the disappearance of Patrick Lawrence Rosner came to a sad end this week with the confirmation of his death.
Now police want to know how the 20-year-old man died and why.
The RCMP said investigators confirmed in July that human remains found in 1990 near Ashern -- which were once believed to be those of a woman -- were actually those of the young Winnipeg man who disappeared on June 23, 1989.
"Somebody knows something out there," RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said during a Friday morning news conference at RCMP headquarters on Portage Avenue. "If you have any information, it's time to come forward.
"The family deserves to have answers."
Karpish would not say if police know the cause of death, but it is now being treated as suspicious.
Karpish credited evolving DNA technology and the determination of the RCMP historical cases unit with pushing the unsolved case forward.
Rosner had disappeared following a Friday shift at Bristol Aerospace. No one saw him after he cashed his cheque. His car was found by his family two days later, abandoned two blocks away from the Bristol plant. His bank account was never touched.
Winnipeg police at the time believed Rosner had run away, most likely joined a travelling carnival troupe, and was alive and well in the southern United States.
In February of 1990, Winnipeg police said they believed Rosner was living in Florida. The head of the missing persons unit at the time said a Winnipeg woman had seen a man who looked like Rosner in October of 1989 and police had subsequently tracked him to Florida.
But Karpish said Friday Rosner's family always believed something terrible had happened to him.
The following August, more than a year after Rosner had disappeared, a human skull was found in a hay field near Faulkner. A search uncovered more bones.
Karpish said a forensic examination done at the time pegged the remains to be those of a woman, aged 25 to 40 years of age, and investigators tried to find a match with known missing persons.
Subsequent analysis narrowed the "unknown woman's" age at 25 to 30 years, Karpish said, but investigators still could not match the remains with any known missing persons cases. The remains were buried in Ashern.
Karpish said the RCMP's historical cases team took another run at the case in September 2011. She said when investigators were unable to find a match of the bones to any known missing women, it was decided they should be exhumed and subjected to new DNA testing.
"All of the attempts at identifying who we believed to be a female were going nowhere," Karpish said. "We had to go back to the beginning."
She said it's not surprising a re-examination of the skeletal remains turned the case 180 degrees; huge advances have been made in DNA analysis over the intervening 20 years. Instead of a woman, they were now looking for a missing man.
Once the remains were determined to be male, Karpish said, investigators went back over the missing persons files from the time, singled out Rosner as the likely match, and then got a fresh DNA sample from family members. The match was confirmed in July.
A spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Police Service said because it is now an active investigation, WPS would not comment on how Rosner's disappearance was handled 20 years ago or any other facets of the case.
Karpish said the Winnipeg police investigation into Rosner's disappearance at the time found no evidence that can help police today: there was no reason for him to be in the Ashern area, and in fact, Rosner had a dinner date with his girlfriend the next night; he had no criminal links; there were no known activities that would place his life in jeopardy.
The family "always believed that something happened to him," Karpish said. "We consider it a suspicious death. We cannot account for how he ended up where he was.
"This is a 20-year-old who had family who cared for him, he had a girlfriend at the time, plans for the weekend, and all of sudden everything comes to a stop."
Karpish said police are appealing to anyone with knowledge about Rosner's disappearance and death to come forward: anyone living in the Falkner area at the time, or his friends and co-workers in Winnipeg.
"Please come forward. No matter how big or small, we want to hear from you."
Karpish said the remains were given to Rosner's family, which will allow them to conduct a proper burial.
The Rosner family has requested privacy, Karpish said, and could not be reached for comment.
Court records show Edward and Esther Rosner had Patrick declared dead in 1997.
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Patrick Lawrence Rosner is asked to contact the RCMP historical cases unit at 204-984-6447.
Anonymous calls can be made to Manitoba Crime Stoppers, 1-800-222-8477, or online at: www.manitobacrimestoppers.com .
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 11, 2012 A4