This Week in Policing – July 24, 2009

There are those among us who would commit heinous acts against others.

On April 8, 2009, eight year old Tori Stafford went missing after she left her school with a then unidentified woman.  By the beginning of May, a woman and a man had been arrested and charged with the kidnapping and murder of the little girl even though Tori’s body had not been located.

Then, earlier this week, police in located the remains of a child on a rural property near Mount Forest, Ontario.  After comparing the remains to dental charts, investigators confirmed the body located was that of Tori Stafford, bringing some type of closure to her family.  I say ‘closure’, but all the identification really does is bring Tori’s family to the next stage of grief.

Now there are whispers of a plea bargain for the woman accused in the case, and even though this is a typical avenue for lawyers to travel down on the route to bringing a case to court, any reduced charge or sentence or will likely spark public outrage.  The woman’s lawyer says such talk is premature given the nature of the case, but a plea bargain is not out of the question.  Such talk brings back memories of the reduced sentence Karla Homolka received in turn for testifying against her estranged husband Paul Bernardo, who was convicted in 1995 for the kidnapping and murder of high school students Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

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On June 30, the bodies of three sisters and another female relative were found submerged in a car in the Kingston Mill Locks in Kingston, Ontario. 

19 year old Zainab Shafia was allegedly behind the wheel of the family’s Nissan Sentra with her sisters, 17 year old Sahar and 13 year old Geeti, and ‘aunt’, 50 year old Rona Mohammad as passengers.  How the car ended up in the water was a mystery, as it would have had to have crossed a section of grass and gone through a locked gate – but the grass had no tire tracks and the gate was secure.

Then, on July 22, the parents and 20 year old brother of the three girls were arrested while on their way to the airport. Each has been charged with four counts of first degree murder in connection with the deaths. Following is a time line of the circumstances surrounding the investigation.

Was the incident an honour killing?

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Forest fired have raged across BC in the last two weeks.  At one point up to 10,000 people had been evacuated from their homes in the interior, and you only have to follow the daily news to witness the incredible ability of Mother Nature to render our modern day lives to cinders and ash.

At the time of this writing, there are seven fires listed on the Wildfire Manengement Branch’s website as critical due to their visibility or threat to public safety.

But it’s not the actual fires I want to comment on, it’s the despicable acts committed by a few criminals as they took advantage of the vacant homes by breaking into and stealing the belongings of evacuees

It never ceases to amaze me at how poorly some of our society treats the rest of us.  Police agencies for the targeted areas have promised to investigate the crimes to the fullest, and several arrests have already been made.

On a side note, did you know that under the Criminal Code of Canada, a charge of a residential break and enter can be punishable with a maximum sentence of life in prison?

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As you can see from the events of the past week, criminal investigations are only one brick in the road to justice. 

The legal system is one of checks and balances.  Many would argue the rights of victims are continually violated in favour of not violating those of the accused, and there are times when I feel the same.   I’ve seen too often an accused go free based on a technical error and not on a lack of facts pointing to the person’s irrefutable guilt.  It’s incredibly frustrating.

Perhaps all the talk of child murders, plea bargains, honour killings and heartless thieves has put me into a bit of a funk, but there HAS to be justice served in these cases.  All of these families and victims deserve closure.  They did not ask for the crimes committed against them.  They did not beg to have their lives ended and their belongings stolen.

If I know policing at all, I know all the investigators in the above cases will do their utmost best to bring the cases to a successful conclusion and that the right people will be brought to justice.

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