CANADA

A twisted case

Police investigate a series of brutal crimes

BRIAN BERGMAN July 27 1992
CANADA

A twisted case

Police investigate a series of brutal crimes

BRIAN BERGMAN July 27 1992

A twisted case

Police investigate a series of brutal crimes

The two tragic cases are linked by geography—and enduring mystery. In October, Caroline Case, a 47-year-old Toronto merchant and mother of three, vanished shortly after a telephone conversation with her youngest daughter. The next day, police found Case’s blood-splattered 1990 Mercedes-Benz station wagon overturned in a ditch near the Devil’s Pulpit golf club, close to the scenic town of Caledon, 45 km northwest of Toronto. There has been no trace of the missing woman, and police say that she was almost certainly the victim of foul play. Then, in early April, the bodies of two other Torontonians,

Ian and Nancy Blackburn, were discovered by a family member in the trunk of their blue Chevrolet outside their home in a prosperous north Toronto neighborhood. The following day, police found a Cadillac belonging to the couple abandoned on a side road near where Case’s car was discovered. Last week, the search for evidence in those two cases led members of the Ontario Provincial Police and the Metro Toronto police to Vancouver to question David Alexander Snow, a 37-year-old native of Orangeville, Ont., near Caledon.

The RCMP earlier arrested Snow in North Vancouver following a dramatic weekend-long manhunt in a forested mountain park. They charged him with 30 criminal counts, including attempted murder, kidnapping and sexual assault, relating to a series of violent attacks on Vancouver-area women that began on June 29. The Ontario police, meanwhile, wanted to speak to Snow about the two Caledonarea cases. The also had a warrant for Snow’s arrest in connection with the March 18 abduction of an elderly Toronto couple and wanted to question him about another incident on March 29, in which two couples were threatened by a gunman at a cottage less than 16 km from the one-storey farmhouse that the slain Blackburns had used as a weekend retreat.

The barefoot, unshaven and handcuffed man who walked into the North Vancouver court last week resembled the earlier Ontario police description of a tall, thin man with strong body odor, rotting teeth and foul breath. According to police, Snow deserted his Orangeville home earlier this year and lived in abandoned buildings in Caledon and as far afield as Peterbor-

ough, 150 km to the east. Police also said that Snow was armed and potentially suicidal, a description that some of Snow’s neighbors and acquaintances in Orangeville find difficult to accept. Said Klaas Storteboom, for one, who operates a greenhouse across the road from Snow’s one-storey brick home: “I still have a hard time believing it. I used to cut the lawn for

him sometimes. We were good neighbors.” Initially, police treated the disappearance of Case, who owned a Far East import gift shop, as a kidnapping. But the absence of any ransom demand caused them to abandon that theory. Meanwhile, an autopsy revealed that Nancy Blackburn, a 49-year-old public health nurse, had been strangled to death while her 54-yearold husband, a partner in a real estate brokerage, had died of asphyxiation.

Snow’s North Vancouver arrest followed a tense two-day manhunt involving more than 40 police officers equipped with infrared scanners, helicopters and search dogs. The search began after a man abducted a 19-yearold woman on July 11. Later that day, police found her and another young woman who had disappeared nine days earlier tied up in Mount Seymour Park. The search ended about four a.m. the next day after a man forced a woman into a restaurant, triggering a silent alarm.

Police said that Snow had arrived in Vancouver in mid-April and had been living under bridges and in the dense bushes of Mount Seymour Park. After three court hearings last week, B.C. provincial court Judge D. R. Campbell ordered a preliminary hearing on the charges against Snow to begin on Aug. 24. The court also imposed a publication ban on information disclosed during court proceedings and on any information that might lead to the identification of the Vancouver-area victims. And while the visiting Ontario police officers, who were granted only a brief interview with Snow last week, continued their investigations, residents in Snow’s home town of Orangeville remained stunned by the recent turn of events. Those who know him say that balding, bespectacled Snow has always been a quiet, polite man who kept to himself. Unmarried, he lived alone in the family home where he grew up with his two brothers and a sister. Displaying a long-held passion for antiques and other collectibles, Snow spent much of his spare time scouring auction sales and flea markets. He also ran a local shop, Simply Timeless Antiques, that went out of business last year. More recently, he found work reshingling the roof on Orangeville’s train station.

Little of what Orangeville residents know of Snow squares with the stark allegations that he now faces. But some of them are clearly hoping that his arrest will mark a breakthrough in the investigation into the area’s grisly series of recent crimes. Said florist Storteboom: “A lot of people here didn’t feel safe—with some cause, I guess.”

BRIAN BERGMAN with HAL QUINN in Vancouver

BRIAN BERGMAN

HAL QUINN