The New Brunswick RCMP have ordered an independent review into the slaying of university professor John McKendy, after the province's top Mountie admitted the force erred in discussions of e-mail threats made by the accused killer.
The body of McKendy, a sociology professor at St. Thomas University, was found in his home just outside Fredericton on Oct. 31. His son-in-law, Nicholas Wade Baker, 27, was charged with first-degree murder, but was found dead on Saturday in the parking lot of a Moncton hotel. Police ruled out foul play in Baker's death.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Darrell LaFosse told reporters on Thursday that a statement by the police earlier in the week saying they did not know about threatening e-mails from Baker was not true.
LaFosse said the RCMP investigation on Baker only dealt with credit-card theft, a stolen vehicle and fraud. However, a family member had in fact spoken with a Mountie on Oct. 27 about the e-mails.
The RCMP confirmed on Thursday that the family did raise concerns to the police for the possible safety of one family member. That statement, LaFosse said, was not immediately put into the RCMP file.
And when asked by the CBC earlier this week, a RCMP spokesperson said the police were aware of e-mails but nothing that insinuated physical threats.
"For this, the RCMP apologizes to the McKendy family for any perception the family did not bring forward concerns to the police," Lafosse told reporters.
"Although no specific threats were made, and all involved believed Mr. Baker was in the United States, a member of the McKendy family did make the RCMP aware that there were concerns about one family member's safety."
Sylvia Hale, a sociology professor at St. Thomas University, was a colleague of McKendy's and she was the first person to publicly discuss how the family passed along the e-mails to the Mounties.
Hale said the family was told by the RCMP that the wording in the e-mails didn't constitute a death threat.
"Yes they owe a big apology and it's more than, 'Gee, we had gap between our communication,' Hale said. "They were not handling this case appropriately."
LaFosse is ordering an independent review into the files surrounding Baker and the McKendy family. The investigation is aimed at finding out whether the police took appropriate action and the RCMP have indicated it will be made public.
The P.E.I. RCMP will oversee the investigation.
Outsourcing the investigation to another police agency is not sitting well with Michael Boudreau, an associate professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at St. Thomas University.
"For me, the police investigating the police is highly problematic and in my mind that is not independent. This needs to be passed on to the minister of public safety or independent legal counsel," Boudreau said.
Boudreau said he isn't calling into question the credibility of any officer hired to do this study but he believes it would offer the family closure to this tragedy if the investigation would be handled by an outside party.
Boudreau said the RCMP apology should have come sooner and he is also questioning whether this mea culpa would have been made in the absence of public pressure.
This latest embarrassment for the national police force could further harm their reputation with the public, Boudreau said.
"I think it should give people pause and to ask, 'Are they doing everything in their powers, especially around issues of domestic violence," Boudreau said. "It may not tarnish their image, but it may undermine public confidence."