Thunder Bay police revealed more details Monday about their investigation into the murder of city couple, Anne Chuchmuch and Wilfred Pott in late December, citing the assistance the force received from the Centre for Forensic Sciences (C.F.S.) in Toronto, and the Ontario Fire Marshall's Office.
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DNA analysis was required to identify 50-year-old Chuchmuch, whose body was recovered after a fire tore through the pair's home on December 27, 2015 at about 10:25 p.m. said police chief J.P. Levesque.
When the C.F.S. lab sent confirmation of her identity on Friday January 15, 2016, police proceeded with charges against 40-year-old Benjamin Ronald Marki, who had been renting a room at the couple's home on Brant Street in Thunder Bay, he said.
"We believe that Mr. Marki's relationship with Will and Anne had become strained, which lead to their unfortunate deaths," Levesque said, although police could not elaborate further on the motive for the crime.
Marki, who remains in custody, was charged with two counts of second degree murder, arson endangering life, and causing indignity to a body. Police said he had been arrested, without incident, at their headquarters on Friday.
The children and families of Chuchmuch and Pott were told early in the investigation that "there was more to this investigation than meets the eye and they would be the first to know. And once we made the arrest, they were the first phone calls I made," said Det. Dave Tinnes, one of the lead investigators.
'Unlike dramatic television series' process takes time
And although foul play was suspected in the couple's death, the grounds for arrest require the results of post mortems and forensic examination of scene evidence, explained chief Levesque.
"Unlike dramatic television series, this process takes time," said Levesque, adding that the C.F.S. was very helpful in this case.
"The deputy chief actually made a phone call and let them know what the circumstances were - we have an individual under surveillance and if you could put as much of a rush, as you can, on this, so they were very helpful," said Levesque.
'Roommate' and 'friend'
He explained that Marki was under 24-hour covert surveillance, while the police waited for the results of that forensic testing.
"We had to protect the integrity of the investigation, as well there was a public safety interest too," said Levesque. "Frankly, we were concerned that if we made too big a statement about what was going on the individual may flee."
These people were trying to make our community healthier, and that's a real loss,"
- Thunder Bay police chief J.P. Levesque
Marki was described as a "roommate" and "friend" of the couple by Det. Tinnes, who also said the accused has a "significant criminal background from outside the city [Thunder Bay]", particularly in the Toronto area.
Tinnes also explained that although Pott was taken from the scene of the fire to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, officers are still waiting for further pathology test results to confirm the exact nature of his injuries.
"These two individuals had turned their lives around, and were attempting to help others do the same, so that is a loss for their families, friends, the community. These people were trying to make our community healthier, and that's a real loss," said Levesque.