Edmonton's missing and slain women
Last Updated May 28, 2008
Thomas George Svekla, now 40, leaves the courthouse in Fort Saskatchewan in May 2006. (Canadian Press)
Thomas Svekla, a 40-year-old auto mechanic, went on trial Feb. 18, 2007, charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of Theresa Innes, 36, and Rachel Quinney, 19.
In June 2008, an Edmonton judge found Svekla guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Innes. Her remains were found in May 2006, stuffed in a hockey bag discovered in a home in Fort Saskatchewan, just northeast of Edmonton. Svekla was also convicted of offering an indignity to a human body in the Innes case.
According to court documents released after Svekla's preliminary hearing, he told RCMP he did not kill the young woman, but was transporting her body from High Level, in northern Alberta, to Edmonton to give her a decent burial.
Judge Sterling Sanderman found Svekla not guilty on charges of second-degree murder in Quinney's death. He was also acquitted on an indignity to a human body charge in connection with her death.
Quinney's body was found in a wooded area east of Sherwood Park, an Edmonton suburb, in June 2004. Svekla told investigators he stumbled upon the gruesome discovery and then reported it to police.
Svekla was charged with the Quinney killing eight months after he was first arrested in the Innes case.
Project Kare, a joint task force between the RCMP and Edmonton police formed in 2003, is investigating the cases of more than 20 Edmonton women who have been killed or are missing since 1983.
All were either prostitutes, or involved with drugs and living what police call "high-risk lifestyles." The charges against Svekla are the only ones the team has laid.
Records of police interrogations released by the court show Svekla was told he was a suspect in a handful of other cases, but he has not been charged with any of the other deaths or disappearances.
"We have maintained right from the beginning that we have reason to believe that more than one person is responsible for more than one death," RCMP Cpl. Wayne Oakes told a news conference in January 2007.
The situation has stoked the growing fear in the city's estimated yearly population of more than 400 sex-trade workers.
The RCMP's Behavioural Science Branch released a criminal profile of the killer of one or more of the women. The profile suggests he:
- Drives a reliable, high-mileage truck, van or sport utility vehicle, and is comfortable driving in rural areas.
- Likes to hunt, fish, camp or participate in other outdoor activities.
- Has a past or present connection to the area south of Edmonton, including Leduc, Camrose and New Sarepta.
- May clean his vehicle at odd times of the day.
Here is a list of women who have been found under similar circumstances since 1983:
May 19, 2006
RCMP in Alberta identify the body of Bonnie Lynn Jack, also known as Bonnie Lynn Loyie. She was found in a rural area east of Edmonton near Sherwood Park. Police said she lived a "high-risk lifestyle, including activities in the sex trade."
Theresa Innes's body was found stuffed in a hockey bag in a Fort Saskatchewan home in May 2006. (RCMP)
Oct. 20, 2005
Edmonton police announce they suspect Delores Brower, who had been reported missing five months earlier, may have been a victim of foul play. She was last seen along 118th Avenue, an area known for sex-trade activity, on May 13, 2005.
May 6, 2005
The body of sex-trade worker Ellie May Meyer, 33, is found near Sherwood Park.
April 22, 2005Police put out a missing person alert for Maggie Burke, a 21-year-old believed to have worked in the sex-trade industry. She was last seen on Dec. 9, 2004 and police suspect foul play in her disappearance.
April 18, 2005
RCMP in Alberta identify the body of Charlene Gauld, 20, whose burned remains were found near Camrose.
Jan. 25, 2005
The body of 19-year-old Samantha Tayleen Berg is discovered under snow in a parking lot on Edmonton's North Side. The teenager worked in the sex trade.
Police found Rachel Quinney's body in a wooded area east of Edmonton in June 2004. (RCMP)
Jan. 20, 2005
Police add Corrie Ottenbreit, 27, to their list of missing and murdered women, more than eight months after she was last seen on May 9, 2004. Ottenbreit was believed to have worked in the sex-trade industry in the 118th Avenue area.
July 7, 2003
The body of 40-year-old Katie Sylvia Ballentyne, who worked in the sex trade, is found in Leduc County, about 20 km south of Edmonton. She is the fourth female found outside Edmonton in 2003, the fifth in 10 months. Her body was located in a field near Range Road 235, just north of Township Road 500.
April 12, 2003
The skull and remains of 29-year-old Debbie Lake, a former prostitute, are found near Highway 623 near Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, approximately 70 km southeast of Edmonton.
Jan. 12, 2003
20-year-old Melissa Munch is found dead in a stand of trees on a farmer's field west of Range Road 220 and south of Highway 16 in Strathcona County. The discovery is made four days after the body of Monique Pitre was found less than 10 kilometres away.
Jan. 8, 2003
The frozen body of Monique Pitre, 30, is found in a field south of Fort Saskatchewan (Range Road 222 and Township Rd). There is trauma to her entire body.
Sept. 23, 2002
The burned body of 28-year-old Edna Bernard is found in a field east of Leduc, near Range Road 245, north of Highway 623.
Jan. 27, 2001
24-year-old Kelly Dawn Reilly is found dead behind a gravel operation in the area of Range Road 264 and secondary highway 633, near Villeneuve.
Sept. 1, 1997
22-year-old Cara King is found in a canola field in Sherwood Park (Highway 214 and Hwy. 16), east of Edmonton.
June 14, 1997
The body of 24-year-old Jessica Cardinal is found in an alley behind a commercial building at 9325-111th Avenue. Her body is discovered behind a discarded shelving unit. Edmonton police have no suspect in her death.
Oct. 19, 1997
The body of Joyce Hewitt is found in Sherwood Park, near 17th Street and 89th Avenue. RCMP spokesperson Roxanne Beaubien says Hewitt had a "high-risk lifestyle." The circumstances of her death were not available.
Dec. 25, 1996
24-year-old Joanne Ghostkeeper is found strangled in her Edmonton apartment at 11925-34th Street East. Police have no suspect in her death.
Feb. 11, 1993
The partially decomposed body of 25-year-old Elaine Ross is found stuffed under a bed in a motel room on 183rd Street near Stony Plain Road, Edmonton. Autopsy results were inconclusive and a cause of death is unknown, but police are treating it as a homicide.
Dec. 21, 1990
Lorraine Wray, a 46-year-old masseuse and mother of one, is found strangled in the bathroom of her Edmonton business, West End Studio, at 15526 Stony Plain Road. According to Edmonton police spokesperson Dean Parthenis, several autopsies were performed, leading investigators to determine "manual strangulation" as the cause of death.
Oct. 25, 1990
29-year-old Mavis Mason is found stabbed to death on a rural road west of Edmonton.
Oct. 25, 1989
Bernadette Ahenakew, a 22-year-old mother of three, is found dead in a ditch alongside a rural road near Sherwood Park.
Sept. 13, 1988
The body of 20-year-old Georgette Flint is found in Elk Island National Park. An exact cause of death is not determined.
Sept. 21, 1986
The body of 21-year-old Melodie Joy Riegel is found on a hotel-room bed. She was last seen entering the hotel with a client.
The skeletal remains of 21-year-old Gail Cardinal are found 10 kilometres south of Fort Saskatchewan. RCMP spokesperson Roxanne Beaubien says Cardinal had a "high-risk lifestyle." No cause was determined in her death.
Sources: Edmonton Police Service; RCMP; Prostitution Awareness and Action Foundation of Edmonton; Canadian Press
- The National's Judy Piercey looks at how police, street workers and families are dealing with the murders of Edmonton women. Sept. 1, 2003.
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