Most wanted fugitives
Murder victim Sharin' Morningstar Keenan
In the quiet corners of in his mind, Brian Lawrie still waits. Now and then, reviewing the testimony of a very bad day he's saved, in detail, for a quarter of a century.
The former policeman struggled with the fact that he, and fellow officers, weren't in time to save a young girl. Now, so long after, he wonders whether he'll ever get the chance to give his first-hand account, which could send her suspected killer, Dennis Melvyn Howe, to prison.
It was 25 years ago today that a Toronto murder, and the manhunt that followed, captivated a nation. And like any true bogeyman, Howe - alive or now dead - has managed to stay out of the light ever since.
The Jan. 23, 1983, abduction, and killing, of Sharin' Morningstar Keenan, is still recalled as one of the city's most notorious slayings.
Sharin', a pretty nine-year-old, was last seen playing in Toronto's Jean Sibelius Park. More than a week later, Lawrie - once a seasoned police officer in the U.K. and then in Canada - would pry open a fridge in Howe's former low-rent flat. A garbage bag with a shirt sticking out could be seen.
"Who keeps clothes in the fridge," he wondered.
Then, after another tug to free the jammed door, and Sharin's remains would spill out. Her nightmare was over. But for many, who lived hoping she'd be found alive, the torture and torment were just beginning.
Const. Lawrie's close friend and partner that day, Det. Mike Pedley - a sensitive cop, Lawrie recalls - would later commit suicide.
Who knows why any man chooses that as a solution, Lawrie says, when asked how much the grim discovery of Sharin' had to do with a good cop taking his own life. But Lawrie recalls the moment the weight of the discovery began to crush him - or, at least, his future plans as a police officer. It wasn't at the moment he noticed the fridge, with its racks removed. Or even when it opened wide, and Sharin's hair tumbling out of the bag.
"I said, 'Mike, she's in the fridge,' " he now recalls, having to rush up to Pedley, who was in the flat's doorway. At first, Pedley didn't hear - or couldn't comprehend - what he was being told.
"The last thing you imagine (during a massive search) is finding the person.
"But that doesn't stop you from looking at all the details."
It was Pedley - as he and Lawrie were armed with a vague composite - who put the pieces together, to find the room where Sharin' was found.
That was after investigators - including detectives Wayne Oldham and David Boothby, who later became Toronto's chief of police - decided to do a second sweep of homes around Sharin's residence.
For hours after their discovery of the body, tipped off by a landlady who hadn't seen one of her roomers for days, Lawrie and Pedley were pushed forward by the momentum of training and adrenaline. Even by the urgent need to find a phone, since they didn't have radios.
"A lot of deep breaths," he recalls.
But the next morning, as he sat eating toast and drinking coffee, Lawrie says the clash between that routine pleasure and having found a dead child hours before began a rush to question his future. The fact he would be called to an unrelated suicide the day after Sharin's discovery simply set things in concrete.
He told Pedley: "I don't know if I want to do this anymore."
Hardest for the pair, he recalls, was the frustration over not being there in time to save Sharin'. Pedley would often mention the day afterward. For awhile, Lawrie would have flashbacks to Sharin's hair falling down. He would think of her when he would see a little girl looking back at him from a car window.
"What would she be now … a 34-year-old woman?" he considers. "Until you called, I didn't think it was a quarter of a century.
"I don't dwell on it as much as I did, but I do think of it … every time I hear of a child going missing or assaulted or of a pedophile on the loose."
The search for Howe - an early note in his police file says it would only be a short while before he was caught - has been a frustrating marathon.
He was tracked to Winnipeg, then nothing.
It's led to hundreds of sightings across North America, the exhumation of a body in Sudbury - which turned out not to be him - and a dentist figuring he had the suspect in his chair.
The man had teeth that were almost as bad as Howe's. And like Howe, he was, by his bad luck, also wanted by the police.
"A ghost … that's a good way to put it," says Det. Sgt. Reg Pitts, of the Toronto police homicide squad.
He believes there's a good chance Howe couldn't have stayed out of trouble for 25 years, and that he may well be dead.
"We still get ten to 12 calls a year," Pitts says of the notorious case. "No one has ever completely forgotten it."
Legendary crime writer Max Haines - who's retired from Sun Media, and has taken up a consulting position with the Toronto force - says Howe's legend was born from the vision of a child in a refrigerator, and the fact he's remained out there, somewhere. Haines, for years, kept Howe's picture in his wallet. He took it out, only because he thought the exhumed body was arguably Canada's most wanted man.
"It would be a happy day to see the headline that he's been found," says Haines.
For Lawrie - who went on to establish POINTTS, a successful traffic court representation firm - he routinely goes over the details, preparing testimony he may never give.
"I go over all the evidence … what I would have to say," he explains.
That, he finally adds, would be a very good day. One too long in coming.
If you have information on Howe, please phone Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or Toronto Police Homicide Squad at 416-808-7400.vanrijngo says;
Well my friends, and readers of my blog, you all know it has been just like it is said,... "yes that guy is a bit all over the place but then again his suspicions are not impossible". That is correct my friends, they are not impossible, in fact they are factual and about the absolute truth whether you believe what I say or not. I've seen myself in these videos made about this crime thing that other will not see. I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears exactly what may have went down an quite possibly who exactly these bounty hunters talked about may have been in watching these videos.
I think it was said in my original post about two gentlemen who very much intrigued me about there appearance and the happenings of what had occurred at the front of my art Gallery in Boise, Idaho and who they might very well have been at the time. Like I say, if my own eyes and mind are not deceiving me, these two guys themselves pretty much have expose themselves to me and maybe others in their own actions and lack of eye contact when discussing important things about Howe's disappearance and the way he has been able to evade capture by the authorities for all these years.
At the very starting of this video Sharons mother starts off as saying, "a long time ago someone had told her the bounty hunters had killed him." In her second breath she says she can't understand why someone would want to kill him when they could turn him in for the 50 thousand dollar reward. She also said after thinking about it if they did kill him, they wern't doing her any favor.
Chorley8; Yes that guy is a bit all over the place but then again his suspicions are not impossible. Tommy Ross is certainly the kind of simple name he liked to adopt so that fits though it is hardly proof. I do not know if it is here or in another blog that he mentions a RUMOR that the police threw Howe out of a plane personally I seriously doubt that but there are similar rumours around and Lynda Keenan refers to one RUMOUR in the very opening scene of the CBC film when she talks about the bounty hunters killing him and she quite rightly I think dismisses it.
vanrijngo; You had better well believe it my friend that I'm all over the place. That was my idea then of being all over the place from the beginning of making myself well known before opening my own mouth about something I have known from the very start to be an absolute truth. You say Tommy Ross is the kind of simple name he liked to adopt, well how about this. Have you ever seen the movie "Bullet" starring Steve McQueen? Wasn't it a actor by the name Tommy Ross who had a look alike double take his place. Do you suppose Dennis may have seen this movie before taking that name. He never had a drivers license I don't believe with that name or any of his previous names he used and maybe not even had a social security number. That is why he couldn't find a regular job so he could make better money would be my guess. Of her quite rightly dismissing talk about bounty hunters, you already know my opinion on that.
Chorley8; The Crawley mentioned took over the case after the fact in Toronto and supposedly became obsessed with it, carrying materials on it around in a briefcase even after retirement from police. He died last year I believe when his horse kicked in him in a stall it made the papers and the Sharin case was mentioned.
vanrijngo; Well I feel sorry for that officer for he was one of the true detective wanting to solve this case and bring Howe to justice no matter how heinous the crime was.
Chorley8; I notice many people connected with that case seem ravaged by it.
vanrijngo; I personally believe these two ex-cops who may have turned Bounty hunter wanted Howe so bad themselves, having been ravaged by the crime, and was possess with capturing this guy for the reward. I'd guess myself the reward and the heinousness of the crime made it easy for them getting rid of him and off the face of this earth. If not the reward would have gone to myself for turning him in the authorities. I heard at one time it had grown to over 150+ K's dollars for the 15 years that he had evaded his capture.
Chorley8; This guy of course see conspiracy when they police don't check the stuff he left and just because AMW took the case down from their website he is implying that it is over and done with because they know Howe is dead.
vanrijngo; Now you tell me Chorley8 what the F-ING hell would you think if you were the one who talked directly on the phone to an FBI agent, not the police and him saying he was aware of this capture at the homeless shelter and he would pick up his things at his convenience at the art gallery in the next couple of days or so. After two days of no contact from anyone, not from the FBI nor the lady at 1-800 Crime T.V. who said she would get back to me, the one who thanked me for helping get this guy off the street that she knew by my description of him it was him. I decided then to go to the homeless shelter to inquiring where Tommy Ross was at. I told them that I had helped him move into there establishment a couple of week before. The gal there at there counter told me if I was not a family member she could not tell me anything. After speaking with her superior she told me that I had better leave their establishment immediately or she would call the authorities who ever they were to have me removed.
Chorley8; But as you note with your links he is still wanted I believe very wanted for a long time he was the most wanted man in Canada on the RCMP site.
vanrijngo; Well, maybe you good people out there would have felt better yourself After calling 1-800 Crime T.V. , say if you were me and talk with the same lady as I did the first time. The same exact lady I had called and gave his full description to and without ever seeing their computer file on him myself. After having giving her his description she tell me she was positive it was him and that she would get in contact with the ones that was after him to pick him up and that she would get back to me soon. When calling her back myself two days later after no response from her she proceeded to tell me they just had a report that Dennis Melvin Howe was reported being seen somewhere in the mid west and she had to get off the line now and answer an emergency call.
Chorley8; Late 90s there was a false alarm they though they knew where he was buried up north but it was a false alarm.
vanrijngo; The alarm wasn't false my friend, for this alarm is as true as they get. He was being buried alright, out of sight and out of mind. They just needed to get all the stories to coincide as well as possible, and the best way of doing that is the good old fashion way of remaining silent on the truths and keep people looking and guessing about where this guy could really be!
Chorley8; Speaking of sightings of Howe: I met at the Sticky Wicket a pub in the Toronto Annex (near where Howe lived) in February 1983 someone who I thought for a dogs age had to be Howe. Sharin's body had just been discovered. Spitting image of the composite but that wasn't released yet but I stopped in my tracks when I saw the composite in the Sun a while later. Yes I reported this same day I had some handwriting of his an address and I remember the police were very interested in that later I realized because they had a sample of Howe's writing from the Spadina near Cecil shop where he had written down colours like "gypsy jade" "malted milk" "oriental rose" "whipped cream".
Chorley8; He spoke of a man upstairs and downstairs one (I guess the good guy in the story) just wanted to have sex with the girl but they guy on the other floor wanted to kill her. If you see the film you would see why this would resonate. He said insulting things about the family.
Chorley8; I thought I saw the guy I spoke to in Hamilton in 2007 repeatedly at a Tim Hortons by the YMCA once by a school in Westdale (I told the police at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto) and once unnervingly behind my house in a park. So Dotr your comments about Hamilton are right on possibly as somewhere to keep an eye out but if alive he could be out of the country too who knows.
Chorley8; The guy I spoke to said he "had to get out of the country" I believe that is not impossible - and not just the US.
Chorley8; So we have three possible Howe sightings recently mentioned on this site right now possibly all of them wrong - but who knows.