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Toronto cops ID dead man as suspect in 1984 killing of Christine Jessop, 9

TORONTO — A man who died five years ago was the likely killer of a nine-year-old girl in a 1984 case that led to a notorious wrongful conviction, Toronto police said on Thursday.

At a news conference, Chief James Ramer said DNA evidence indicated Calvin Hoover, then 28, who was known to the girl’s family, had sexually assaulted Christine Jessop.

Hoover died in 2015 but Ramer said he would have been charged with Christine’s murder had he been alive, and police were looking for more information on him.

“Today’s announcement is only the first very important answer in this ongoing investigation,” Ramer said. “It has obviously generated many more questions.”

Christine, of Queensville, Ont., disappeared on Oct. 3, 1984, as she headed to a park after school to meet a friend. Her body was found on New Year’s Eve that year in a farm field about 55 kilometres away. Forensic evidence indicated she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed soon after her abduction. 

Ramer said Hoover’s DNA had been positively matched to semen found in Christine’s underwear. However, Hoover was only identified as a potential suspect through genetic genealogy tracing that was finally confirmed from an existing blood sample, police said.  

Police also put out a photograph of Hoover in hopes it might jog memories about his whereabouts at the time of the killing. They also said they were looking for information on his activities afterward. 

Officers met with the Jessop family as well as with Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongfully convicted in the case, before the announcement, Ramer said.

“There’s nothing I could say today that can reverse the tragic events of 36 years ago,” Ramer said. “There are no winners.”

In 1985, police arrested and charged Christine’s then-24-year-old neighbour, Guy Paul Morin, in her killing. Morin was acquitted at his first trial, but convicted of first-degree murder on retrial in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison.

DNA evidence finally exonerated him 1995, prompting the Ontario government to apologize for his prosecution and to pay him $1.25-million in compensation. His wrongful conviction — based in part on police and Crown tunnel vision and jailhouse informants — was subject of a judicial inquiry.

“I am not here today to revisit that historical investigation,” Ramer said. “I believe there’s no greater acknowledgement of his exoneration than the continued efforts of the Toronto Police Service to identify the person responsible for Christine’s murder,”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2020.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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