HELEN MANN: Hello I'm Helen Mann.
JEFF DOUGLAS: Good evening. I'm Jeff Douglas. This is As It Happens.
HM: Storm clouds over Thunder Bay. Just two months after charges were laid against the city's police chief, its mayor is now facing charges of his own. And those crises at the top are a crisis for the community.
JD: What he heard seemed strange. What they heard may have saved their lives. A Montreal longshoreman's stumbles across four desperate stowaways locked in a shipping container.
HM: He’s done offbeat stories but he's always been on the beat. Now David Pearlman, the 98 year old science editor for The San Francisco Chronicle is retiring after 77 years. And sharing the stories of the stories he shared.
JD: They knew he'd left them. Now they know he was taken from them too. 40 years after a Minnesota teenager ran away from home, his family learns that he was murdered by serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
HM: Sean rise, Sean set. He frequently had trouble getting his talking points out around a foot in his mouth so it's not really surprising that White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer has announced he'll be taking a permanent cofefe break from the job.
JD: And he is used to students pumping him for information. But this time they just had to pump him.
HM: How a first aid teacher diagnosed his own heart attack in front of a class, and gave them the guidance to save his life.
As It Happens, the Friday edition of radio that's glad they were able to take his lessons to heart.
Part 1: Thunder Bay Latest, David Perlman Retires, First Aid Trainer
Thunder Bay latest
Guest: Jon Thompson
JEFF DOUGLAS: In May, criminal charges were laid against the chief of police in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Today, criminal charges were laid against the city's mayor: extortion and obstruction of justice.
And those aren't the only scandals engulfing Thunder Bay. Indigenous leaders have announced that they have lost faith in the city's police force, after the bodies of seven First Nations teens in the city's waterways.
Earlier this month, Barbara Kentner died after being hit by a trailer hitch in what's been described as a racially-motivated attack.
Jon Thompson is a writer with TVOntario. And last week – before the charges pressed against Mayor Keith Hobbs – he wrote a piece called "What would it take for Thunder Bay to admit it's in crisis?"
We reached Mr. Thompson in Thunder Bay.
HELEN MANN: Jon, first of all what is known about these charges laid against the mayor today?
JON THOMPSON: Well the mayor of Thunder Bay, Keith Hobbs is alleged to have attempted to extort a lawyer named Sandy Zaitzeff into buying a house for a woman and Mary Voss. He’s also, and his wife Marisa, charged with obstruction of justice in an RCMP investigation into those charges.
HM: Now back in May there were also charges laid against the police chief. Are these related in any way?
JT: The O.P.P. is saying they are related. Police Chief J.P. Levesque was charged with obstruction for allegedly disclosing confidential information about Keith Hobbs to that same investigation.
HM: It's complicated and yet there's all these linkages.
JT: It is. So the understanding of what we have from the court documents now suggests that there was a video made in October in which the lawyer Sandy Zaitzeff is taking a shirt off and doing a lot of strange things in his basement. The mayor and Marisa Hobbs are also there. It's alleged that the mayor attempted to extort Zaitzeff around that same time. The charges against the Zaitzeff are of a sexual nature involving a woman under the age of 16 years. So Hobbs has also sued Zaitzeff for slander alleging that Zaitzeff published that video, and that there was a communication between the two in which they have said that Hobbs would “regret the day that he was born.” So the city has let the media know today that all of this is not related to any sort of city matters, but it appears that these characters are bound up and in quite a complicated legal matter.
HM: And it all comes at a time when Thunder Bay is really reeling from the deaths of these indigenous teens in the city's waterways. Lots of denial it would seem from some authorities about what's been happening there. Can you give us a sense of the context, what things are going on in that community with these charges being laid?
JT: Well and that's the real story is that this is happening against the backdrop of a civil rights moment in Thunder Bay history. Where you have institutions refusing to acknowledge or deal with their systemic racism that's inherent in two of our colonial institutions of the municipality in Canada and Ontario. There is change being demanded of those institutions. So Hobbs is the former Police Association president before he ran for office, and he's been steadfastly defending the Thunder Bay police and its board against two separate civilian investigations into systemic racism and the way that they handle these indigenous deaths. And why that's important is because the police themselves are saying that this is quote “business as usual”.
Hobbs has said that these allegations are pure bulls–t and that they're baseless. And so you have a public crying out for institutional change while you have the people who represent the public in the very highest levels wrestling in a very public way.
HM: And an outside police force is now looking into at least a few of these deaths, is that right?
JT: That's accurate. The desire big intent stuff that happened within 11 days of each other in May. Happened while the inquest into seven youth who died previously, five of which are under similar circumstances, that inquest just wrapped up earlier this year. And what's important about that inquest is that most of those cases were found to have been inconclusive, and in all cases it wasn't clear how the bodies ended up in the water. And so there was kind of this ideological fog created in the community where nobody really knows what to believe anymore. And then you have all of this out added on top of it.
HM: So what are people saying about the leadership there and where they would like to see things headed?
JT: Well it's critical to say that nobody knows what to think because these are all allegations. At the same time, even if the police and its board and the mayor and the police chief are exonerated, there's a voice in the streets that is calling for a change in those institutions.
And the way that it interacts with the indigenous population, the way it interacts with the democratic channels. And those people are calling for young people to be in office and the formalization of First Nations within our democratic institutions.
HM: You mentioned Mayor Hobbs denying these allegations. Has he spoken at all about resigning or stepping aside?
JT: Well, he's stepping aside for the time being. He's not being asked to resign. You may remember from the Rob Ford fiasco in Toronto, there's a 90 day period over which he can remain in office. And he's going to exercise that, he's going to continue to collect his salary while he's doing that.
HM: We're only right about six weeks away from school resuming. Kids will be going back to high school, there's going to be families concerned about sending their kids to Thunder Bay yet again. Is there a sense that that life in Thunder Bay is safe and stable right now?
JT: There is not a sense that it's safe and stable right now. And there is a conversation happening in the city because it has been struggling economically for quite some time that we suffer under bad news and negativity. And so a lot of this has been presented by the mayor in particular and others as outside the media making the city look bad and everything is fine and everything is safe. The public no longer believes that. People are concerned. That said, the city is doing its best according to its administration to be able to put in certain aspects of planning to ensure that those children are safe.
HM: In terms of just overall morale, when you talk to people on the streets, what are you hearing?
JT: People are saying “We need to get better. We're better than this.” People in Thunder Bay absolutely love this town. And so people are grappling with what they can do and how to change that. And there was a moment of paralysis in May after two more youths were found dead in the rivers in which no one knew what to do. But here we are, a couple of months past that, and people are starting to say “I'm going to do something. I'm going to do whatever it is”. And I'm going to make the difference in the best way I can because they really care about this place.
HM: Jon Thompson, thank you for taking us through all of this. I appreciate it.
JT: Thanks so much for having me.
JD: Jon Thompson is a writer with TVOntario. We reached him in Thunder Bay.
David Perlman retired
Guest: David Perlman
JD: David Perlman is retiring, and there is no way on this planet you could say that he has not earned his pension. He has been working for 77 years.
The 98 year old San Francisco Chronicle science editor started working at the paper in 1940. And except for a small detour to fight in the Second World War and a short stint with the International Herald Tribune, Mr. Perlman has worked at The Chronicle since 1940.
And now he has decided to retire. We reached David Perlman in San Francisco.
HM: Mr. Perlman, first of all congratulations on your retirement.
DAVID PERLMENT: Well it’s not exactly congratulation time but I guess it is after so many years.
HM: Why do you say that? Are you not ready to go?
DP: Yeah. Oh no, I'm really ready to go. It's just that looking back, on this so-called career, it's been a long long time. Yeah. No, no, it's high time. My God, I'm 98 years old. If I'm not going to quit now, when will I quit?
HM: Well you've gone for so long, I'm just wondering do you have any sense of how many stories you have covered over the years?
DP: Thousands I'm sure. It would be at least that.
HM: Right. And what is it about science journalism that that so appeals to you and that you've done so well?
DP: I guess I'd have to say that the opportunity to learn something with every story you write about. I didn't know anything about nuclear stuff. It was all a mystery to me. And I've had a lifetime of learning which is something to be grateful for I guess.
HM: Now when you look back over your time covering the science beat, are there any stories that particularly stand out for you?
DP: Oh absolutely. I have to go way, way back. But in 1964, I talked my way into joining an expedition sponsored by the University of California to the Galapagos Islands. And I spent, I think it was six weeks or two months down there in a total wilderness. Because there weren't any tourists at all. The best story I wrote was about two scientists who were taking the rectal temperature of a marine iguana. And I think I may even have a picture of that somewhere. I don't know. Because I did have a camera, a crummy little camera. That was really fun. They were enchanted islands. And that was… I'd been there three times now, each time producing stories.
And now, you know Puerto Ayora, which is that little town where people were doing laundry in puddles of brackish water. Now there are Jeeps and cars and tourist stuff. It's not the same thing and that's why I recall it was such fun.
HM: I understand you were one of the first journalists, if not the first journalist to report on AIDS. Tell us what it was like for you tracking that story from the beginning?
DP: I remember it was 1981, and there was a brief report from the Federal Health Agency that five young men in Los Angeles had contracted a disease called new Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. I even remember the diagnosis. And I thought that was very strange. And I called up our own health department. And sure enough, a doctor named Selma Dritz, a very passionate health officer, said she was tracking a few people and young men in San Francisco with the same diagnosis.
And I did a little story, a brief story probably ran about 12 or 14 inches, didn't even think it was important enough to stick my name on it but I was curious, and I did carry that story in The Chronicle. And that was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. And pretty soon everybody was covering it of course. And I learned a great deal about that disease and followed it until they identified the virus.
And nowadays, young people, young men of all races have the advantage of being able to use the anti-retroviral drugs that are keeping them alive and keeping them relatively healthy which is a remarkable achievement.
HM: You seem like someone who has a steel trap memory. Is that always been true?
DP: Oh boy, I wish I did. No, I don't at all. Memory is a very strange thing. I know that because some things I remember very clearly. I can name a couple of scientists from that Galapagos expedition and yet I can't remember the name of somebody I may have interviewed a week ago. It's crazy.
HM: Did you always want to be a reporter?
DP: Yes. From the time I was 12 years old. I knew that's what I wanted to do. And I wandered around junior high school and high school with a fake press card in a room of my snap brim fedora had and I pretended I was a reporter.
HM: Do you remember your first professional story once you actually got hired?
DP: I was 18 years old. I was a sophomore at Columbia and I had a summer job on a newspaper in Synecdoche, New York. And the first hot story I covered was the release of a prostitute from the local county jail. And if you want to know the story, it was terrible today I couldn't possibly write that today. Pretty Kitty Kelly sobbed in her cell at Synecdoche county jail yesterday. That's almost word for word this story. No seriously. That's a terrible story. Why do I remember it? Just because to me, newspapering was so romantic in those days.
HM: Why are you retiring now?
DP: Because I'm so old. I’m 98 years old. It’s time to quit.
HM: What are your plans?
DP: The Chronicle is letting me keep my office and keep my computer connections and all the stuff that I have at the Chronicle. And maybe I'll write my memoirs. Who the heck knows? I may not have this stick-to-it-ness to try to do that.
HM: How hard is it going to be for you to resist the urge to rush in if there's some major science breakthrough. Because I am reading that you were often the first reporter in the newsroom even if it was sort of the early morning hours.
DP: Well yes I suppose it'll be very hard to resist the temptation when I wake up in the middle of the night and the bed is rocking a little bit, and I jump up and say oh my god that must have been an earthquake. It will be hard to say “Hey I better get to the office. But I probably will call in anyway to see if, you know, by now I've covered so many of those that I have a bunch of seismology experts to call, it'll be hard to resist the temptation to jump in. But I probably can go back to sleep. Why not?
HM: Mr. Perlman, I hope you do write those memoirs. I think it's an awful lot of people would love to read them.
DP: I may or may not ever get around to it. I'll try.
HM: OK. Look thank you for talking to us. I really appreciate it. It's been a pleasure.
DP: OK it was fun doing it. Thanks a lot for calling. Bye-bye.
JD: We reached David Perlman in San Francisco. He has announced that he is retiring as science editor at The San Francisco Chronicle where he began working in 1940. And for more on David Perlman's just extraordinary career on to our website cbc.ca/aih.
First aid trainer
Guest: David Knowles
He has spent over 40 years teaching others how to save lives and that provided valuable experience when he needed his students to help save his. David Knowles was teaching a first aid course at his church when he started to feel dizzy and weak. Immediately, he recognized that he was having a heart attack. And before he passed out, he instructed his trainees on what to do to keep him alive. We reached David Knowles in Exeter, England.
HM: Mr. Knowles, what were you doing when you suddenly realized that you were having a heart attack?
DAVID KNOWLES: Well I’d just started preparing the students for the day was going to hold, and my pulse began to race. It was the most applicable really because it was the first day or so I was running. And so I sat down to take my pulse. And at that point one of the senior students came up to me and asked if this was a scenario I was setting up because I often work with scenarios, and I said, “No, no scenario. This is for real.” I was feeling quite unwell.
HM: And besides the pulse, did you have other symptoms?
DK: I was feeling faint, I’d pain at all, and I was beginning to feel rather hot.
HM: Now after the woman asked you whether this was part of the scenario and you said no, what happened what did the rest of the group do?
DK: Well they were just not quite sure what was going on at that point. So I asked the girl that had come over to ask me what was wrong to help me down onto the floor and put my legs up on a chair which she did.
HM: And the group suddenly realized that something really was wrong and they were really shocked into relative immobility. They just didn't know what to do. The lecturer doesn't normally sort of fall with what he's going to talk you about.
DK: No I guess not. And of course they didn't know what to do. But you certainly did.
HM: How much were you able to tell them all this was going on and you were lying there with your feet elevated?
DK: I asked the girl that was helping, Karol to take my pulse. I stayed quite calm because I was feeling calm. The group itself, one or two of them were praying, which was great. Another one had gone downstairs to direct the ambulance crew when they arrived. And another one was helping Karol. It was he who took my teeth out. I reminded them I had some false teeth and then they had to come out so that they didn't have to do it I actually lost consciousness. So I asked Karol to check my pulses and phone up for the ambulance. I asked her also to give my wife a ring. She’d just gone off into town and reminded her to tell my wife Nova that she mustn't run back because she'd had a gallbladder out the week before and she mustn't do any running whatsoever.
HM: You really kept your wits about you through this whole thing. You were like a perfect example of how to handle a crisis.
DK: It was most peculiar. Well as a nurse and teaching studies of patients and also involved with something like first aid, if you put your mind to it, you get to know your own body and your own feelings. I told Karol, carefully just observe me, check my pulses now and again, and when I actually lose consciousness, don't do any CPR until you find I'm not breathing.
HM: And is it true that they had you on the phone with the ambulance at one point?
DK: That is true. I remember taking the phone from them but I don't remember giving the message. But according to my group, I gave a very detailed breakdown as to how I was feeling at that moment in time. And I do remember warning the ambulance director that we needed help pretty soon because I felt that in the next few minutes I was going to arrest.
HM: Had you lost consciousness by the time the ambulance arrived?
DK: Yes. By the time the ambulance arrived, I’d lost consciousness and CPR was in progress. I wasn't to know anything again for two and a half weeks.
HM: Did any of the students that you were working with participate in the CPR or by that point had the paramedics come?
DK: Karol took part in the actual CPR, which she did for several minutes before the ambulance crew arrived. It must have been about 10 minutes I'd say.
HM: Had you instructed her how to do that or did she already know?
DK: I talked her up to the point where I lost consciousness. She already knew. She'd been a student of mine for the last two training events in first aid.
HM: Now I'm just wondering how you feel in knowing that these students actually saved your life?
DK: It's very difficult to put into words really. The students themselves were giving Karol support. It was Karol they actually did the CPR. Nobody else was capable of doing it at all at that moment in time. They hadn’t been trained. And this whole thing was horrific. It took them completely by surprise. I feel quite humbled by it all really.
Karol herself, as we’re both Christians, she’s obviously spiritually speaking a sister of mine. So I'm already quite close to her and this has drawn us a little closer together as well.
HM: We know statistically so few people survive cardiac arrest and yet you have. I mean you must feel fortunate, you must think about that.
DK: I feel very fortunate indeed. Cardiac arrest, if it's in a hospital you stand a better chance than if it's out of hospital. And of course as I've just said, it was an out of hospital arrest. So I was very fortunate indeed. And I arrested twice more when I was admitted to the Royal Devon, into their intensive care unit.
HM: What did they do? Did you end up having to have a bypass or anything?
DK: No what I did was having three stents in my heart to improve its circulation. And then I had a defibrillator implant in my chest wall.
HM: How are you feeling now?
DK: I'm feeling very well actually. If I didn't have these remembrances, it would be very difficult to put my finger on anything.
I get a bit tired especially if I go upstairs too fast or come up the hill too fast. But apart from that, I can't say that I feel particularly different than before. Except there's an inclination now to do that more exercise. Walk to places instead of always using the car, which I can’t use at the moment anyway.
HM: Will you go back to teaching first aid?
DK: Yes. I've already given the church the time. It was a church group I was with like I said. And in November, I think we'll have the next one. The interesting thing will be will it be the same people?
HM: Yeah. They've had to wait a long time for you. I hope the St. John's Ambulance people appreciate you.
DK: Yes they did a very good job.
HM: Well Mr. Knowles I'm very happy to hear you're doing so well and that you can tell us the story. Thank you.
DK: Yes, you’re very welcome. Very welcome indeed.
HM: Take care.
DK: And you. God bless, darling.
DK: That was David Knowles, a St. John's Ambulance first aid instructor. We reached him in Exeter, England. We are more on that story on our website, cbc.ca/aih.Back To Top »
Part 2: Montreal Stowaways, Best of Spicer, Gacy Victim ID
Guest: Albert Batten
JD: Tonight, four stowaways are receiving medical attention in Montreal. Only because they managed to get someone's attention in the first place.
The men were in desperate shape when they were discovered yesterday, inside a shipping container at the Port of Montreal. The container had come by ship from Germany, and the men are believed to have been locked inside since before it was loaded.
Albert Batten says the stowaways have one man to thank for finding them alive. Mr. Batten is a Vice President of the International Longshoreman's Union. We reached him in Montreal.
HM: Mr. Batten, what was this longshoremen doing when he found the stowaways?
ALBERT BATTEN: What the checker was doing was he was loading rail, boxes going either to U.S. or Western Canada or Toronto et cetera. Instead of going by truck, they go onto rail. And he was verifying the piles. He goes into the container pile and he makes sure the right numbers are coinciding with what he needs to load on his track.
AB: And at that point yesterday morning, when he was doing that, he heard a noise and he looked up and he saw a hat, he saw a hand, and the hand duck stuck a stick out, a branch with a white rag on it. So he knew there was, he notified the officer right away that there was people in that container. There was at least one person in that container definitely. So he notified at that point someone, walking boss, they called him. He came over and he got the box down and they opened the container and they discovered four people in the container that were close to death.
HM: Oh my goodness. Now what did he say about the four people he found? What did they look like?
AB: He said they weren't moving at all. They were they had no energy. They were totally dehydrated. They were, like I said, they were close to death. They were very very, they're on death's doorstep. And is this individual, if he wasn't doing his job properly, or if he was in on that job, they were dead.
HM: Did he try to communicate with them?
AB: They were out of it. They were out of it. They were rushed to hospital right into emergency and right into critical. They were in critical care, critical condition I should say.
HM: Can you tell us what the conditions were like inside that container?
AB: Well from what I was told like I wasn't there, but from what I was told, it was an awful awful stench. There was an awful stench and the, and you could just imagine people three weeks in a container coming across the water. And four of them. So you know it was just very very fortunate. And this this young man that found them, he’s a very conscientious worker like most like all of the people I represent. Not most but all of them.
But this guy is really exceptional.
He's a good family, a young man with a sturdy young family. And I look at him today as a hero. He's a hero. He saved these four people because they were dead without him. And he doesn't see himself that way though. He's so low key and he doesn't take any accolade.
HM: Was he shaken by the experience of finding these people?
AB: No he was just happy that they’re alive today. He's happy they're alive and that he was able to find them at this time because he said, he told me, he said, “Albert, these people would have been dead a few hours later if that box would have been buried somewhere”. And you know by the time they got around to it, these guys would have been dead.
HM: What have you learned now about where these stowaways came from?
AB: What I've learned is that they came across from Europe and someone was saying Georgia but I'm not sure, I don't have a definite answer for you. But you know, risking your life to leave somewhere, I don't know what's going on, where they came from or what the history is. But it's something that definitely the authorities will be looking into without question.
HM: Can you can you tell us anything about what else was in the container with these men?
AB: It was a vehicle, there was a vehicle in the container. There was a vehicle in the container so probably the declaration was a vehicle. There definitely wasn't any declaration of human beings being the container for sure, as you as you're well aware. But it was a vehicle inside of it. And you know these containers… through Montreal we get 1.5 million containers a year. So you know, precautions, you know they have scanners. And it wasn't a scanner yesterday that discovered this, and it wasn't a customs agent, and it wasn't a transport Canada person. It was a checker doing his job.
HM: Do you know how they had been living in there? How they were surviving?
AB: No. But you know, years passed, I’ve seen different people come in through by containers. And actually there's people that are truck drivers right now that came in in containers into the country, that I that I know of. And those people, like they just they have garbage bags, and you know, they do their business in garbage bags and they have food and water and hopefully they make it through, you know, because not everybody does.
HM: Do you have a sense of how hot it might have been in there?
AB: Well you take our heat and then you put yourself in a metal box and that heat radiates from that metal box. It's like being in it being in an oven.
HM: And have you had an update on how they're doing at all?
AB: Yeah they're supposed to be in stable condition now, from critical care yesterday, they're in stable today. From what I was told earlier.
HM: Well it's nice to have a good result at the end of a work day then. Thank you so much Mr. Batten, I appreciate it.
AB: You're welcome. Thank you.
HM: OK. Bye-bye.
JD: Albert Batten is the Vice President of the International Longshoreman's Union. We reached him in Montreal.
JD: As the representative of a White House that's dismissed the press as "fake news", and the "enemy of the American people", Sean Spicer's job was never going to be an easy one. And he didn't make it look easy, either.
Today, Mr. Spicer resigned as U.S President Donald Trump's press secretary. It came as no surprise. Watching him stand in front of a combative press core, forced to defend the President's latest late-night tweets, you could tell Mr. Spicer was not having fun.
Well, we'd like to say, thanks for the memories, Mr. Spicer. Here's our collection of his greatest hits.
[Music: emotional piano and synth swells]
SEAN SPICER: Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way to minimize the enormous support that it gathered on the National Mall. This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period.
SS: He talked about wiretapping, he meant surveillance. [Sound: Reporters protesting] serious conclusion for a guy that has zero intelligence uh… class [Sound: crowd laughter]
SS: Yesterday the president said had a terribly productive set of meetings and discussions with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada.
SS: You've got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection.
REPORTER: Do you think people should be concerned that the president posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night.
REPORTER: Why did it stay up so long after… is no one watching it?
SS: I think the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant. Blake [Sound: Crowd uproar]. Blake. Blake.
REPORTER: What is covfefe?
SS: First I think your headlines are bad. I'm to rewrite them. I’d be glad to if you guys are looking for some help.
REPORTER: Are you looking for a job?
SS: That is unacceptable. Someone who is as despicable is Hitler, who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons.
REPORTER: Are those photos of fences or walls?
SS: That is called a bollard wall. That is called a levee wall. No no no. There are various types of walls that can be built. That is called the levee wall on the left. That is called a bollard wall.
REPORTER: So that's not a wall it's a levee wall?
SS: That's what it's actually called. That's the name of it. The president said he was going to build a wall and he's doing it and he's using the best technology. That's what I'm telling you.
SS: Hold on. It seems like you're hell-bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays, because at the end of the day, let me answer. [Sound: reporters speaking] OK. But you're asking me a question and I'm going to answer it. Which is the president – I'm sorry –please stop shaking your head again.
JD: Those were just some of Sean Spicer's most memorable moments during his tenure as White House press secretary, which ended today.
It has been reported that Mr. Spicer resigned after he learned that Donald Trump's friend Anthony Scaramucci was being appointed as President Trump's new communications director. Mr. Scaramucci appeared in front of the press today. Here is a little pearl of wisdom from that briefing.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I like the team. Let me let me rephrase that, I love the team. And so I'm an incrementalist. Most entrepreneurs will find our incrementalist to say something overly bold or overly dramatic is unfair. What good entrepreneurs do is they start the day. And they go through the process. The Navy seals will tell you that if you want to eat an elephant, you've got to eat it one bite at a time. And Sarah and I are going to do that together.
JD: That was the new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, talking to the press today.
Gacy victim identified
Guest: Lorie Sisterman
JD: Over 40 years ago, James Byron Haakenson ran away from home. The sixteen-year old never came back.
Over the years, his family held out hope that he would return. It was only this this week that they found out exactly what happened to him.
Mr. Haakenson was one of the victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing 33 young men in the 1970s. He was executed for his crimes in 1994. The revelation of what became of Mr. Haakenson is the latest development in a years-long effort by police to identify eight remaining victims who were killed by Gacy.
Lorie Sisterman is James Byron Haakenson's sister. We reached her in North St. Paul, Minnesota.
HM: Ms. Sisterman, How are you and your family feeling now that you know what happened to your brother?
LORIE SISTERMAN: Well, we're trying to cope. It's pretty shocking. The revelation of it all is so immense and him missing for 40 years and then all of a sudden he's found. And found is good, you know, we've been waiting. But then to have it be this awful person that he murdered our brother.
We've found Jimmie. It's so wonderful, we're so happy, but, in the meantime, we're devastated he was one of the victims.
HM: Your brother actually ran away more than 40 years ago. You had to have been wondering for a very long time what had happened to him. When did you and your family suspect he might have actually been a victim of John Wayne Gacy?
LS: We wondered, I should say, when two years had passed. He called us in August 5th of '76. And then he never came home, he never came home, he never came home, so my mom filed a missing person report. And then, if you fast forward two years, in December of '78 is when they arrested John Gacy. So then, all of a sudden, it's like, "Wow, could it be? He's in Chicago." The boys are in a crawlspace in Chicago, the victims. So we decided we should get a hold of the police in St. Paul and send a letter to Illinois. And they sent a copy of the missing persons report that my mom filed in ’76 in the hopes of, could our brother, her son be a victim. But with it being 1978, we had no dental records and no DNA. It just, nothing happened.
HM: And you had known that he was last in Chicago when your mom heard from him.
LS: Right. Right. Yeah Yes. He was born in Chicago. I was born in Chicago. And my brother was born. So I'm the first born and my brother Donald. And then Jimmie. You know, we’re like five years apart. So he was he was pretty little. So I don't know what his thoughts were about you know taking off like whatever. My dad was a journeyman plumber. There you know.
HM: Right. So you don't really. There was never an explanation as to why he ran away is the term people are using.
LS: He turned 16 on June 10 of 1976. And so he was 16 and then he called my mom like a month and a half later on August 5th. So we don't know. My mom is gone, so I can't ask her. And I don't remember, it's been so long, as to what day it was that he left. It's hard to remember. It's been 40 years.
HM: You mentioned your mother has since died, obviously without knowing what happened to your brothers. Is that hard for you?
LS: Yeah it's very hard. Like I said it to somebody else, I said I'm so glad that my mom is not alive to see what happened to her son. But at the same time, she died without knowing what happened. It's bittersweet. And my mom would have been so overcome to the point of falling down maybe, if she was alive. You know, it would have been that joyous of knowing where Jimmie was if we found him. But such a heartache to know what happened to him.
HM: Your nephew is the one who is partly responsible for this. He was always curious about his uncle as I understand it. He went online to see what he could find out. What did he discover?
LS: Well he started his search last August. But before that, what happened to Jimmie? How could somebody disappear after 40 years. And there's just no trace. He did a lot of searching online. He talked to past relatives — some relatives that I haven't talked to in years — found a website in Chicago for the John Gacy cold case and talked to detective Jason Moran, who cracked the case. He talked to him and he wasn't too interested, but then he goes “Well wait a minute. What age was Jimmie?” Turns out he was right at that age that Gacy was trolling for the kids. You know like 16, 17, 18. And then it went farther. They knew my brother in 2011 and they get DNA. And so then it was to the point where my brother gave DNA, and markers match. So then I got a phone call that said we need to get your DNA. So a police officer, a local police officer from North St. Paul where I live did the DNA test and within five weeks they gave us a call.
HM: And what did they say when they called you?
LS: They said “I'd like to meet all of you in person. I'd like to have a meeting. I have some information” and they wouldn't say what it was. And so we talked to Jeff's nephew. And so he flew up from Texas. My brother came from Sioux Falls South Dakota with his wife and then my family here, I live here in North St. Paul. We all gathered here. And then the detective and his partner came and they broke the news on Monday night.
HM: Can you tell us what it was like in that room when they told you this?
LS: It was it was pretty awful. It was stunning. It was “Oh my goodness”, crying. It's our brother. Our brother’s been found. What it really did is it shocked me. And then it really hit me is when the detective showed a picture of our brother grave because apparently, back in the 80s, 9s funeral home decided on their own to bury the nine victims that are not identified. And they buried my brother in a grave.
HM: Does that comfort you, knowing that?
LS: Oh yeah, I was overcome. When that picture came out, I pretty much lost it, because that really is true. My brother is dead. He's not coming home. And he's in a grave. It was pretty traumatic. As a young woman, and now I'm older now. I often thought he was going to walk in the door and say “Hi sis, sorry I was gone so long but now I'm back.”
But life happens. You know, I didn't dwell on that so much. In my mind, thought of occasionally.
HM: Does your family have any plans now that you know what happened to him. You say he had a proper burial and a proper service. Are you doing something yourselves?
LS: Yes. Before my DNA was given, I knew Donald gave some. And we talked and I literally said to my daughter, her name is Heather. I said “Heather, if this really goes forward, I mean if Donald’s DNA has got some markers in there that are matching. And if they ask for my DNA, and if it actually goes all the way to the point where it is my brother, I need to go to that grave site.”
So what the plan is, we haven't talked to the funeral home yet but we're going to do that to do that through the detective, and we're going to see how we can get the stone. It's said on there “We remembered”, and it has the date that they put him in there. You know we're going to change that to say James Byron Haakenson. And we're going to put his birth date, and then the last day of his stay on Earth, August 5th, 1979.
HM: Well I am very sorry for your loss and that it's come back to you again. Thank you very much for telling us about it.
LS: Oh you're welcome.
HM: You take care.
LS: Yes, bye-bye.
JD: That was Lorie Sisterman. We reached her in North St. Paul, Minnesota
From Our Archives: Red West Obituary
JD: Elvis Presley's ducktail and long sideburns weren't cool at his high school in Memphis. And when some guys tried to cut off Elvis's hair in the bathroom, his buddy Red West stepped in and stopped it.
Red West would go on protecting his friend as he rose to fame, becoming a core member of Elvis's entourage, the so-called "Memphis Mafia".
This week, Red West died at the age of 81.
Mr. West appeared alongside Elvis in several of his movies, and co-wrote some his songs. But he also took on his own gigs – winning critical acclaim for his performance in the independent film Goodbye Solo.
As Elvis's career went on, Red West and his cousin, Sonny West – another member of the Memphis Mafia – were fired by the singer's father. They had started speaking out about Elvis's drug problems, eventually publishing a book about it called Elvis, What happened? It came out a few weeks before Elvis died in August 1977.
A day after Mr. Presley's death, Red West's cousin Sonny spoke to As It Happens. From our archives, here's some of what Sonny West told summer host Jeff Carruthers at the time.
JEFF CARRUTHERS: Sonny, are you sorry you wrote the book?
SONNY WEST: Those were facts. We are not sorry for the book. The book is the truth. The people that put it down before they read it, then they’re wrong, Jeff. We thought that he had the truth, and he had seen it and written about him by people that he knew what he was like, that he would look at it, reflect on his life and think “I gotta get it together. I can't believe that I could put these things out of my mind that I’ve done over my lifetime, and that I have let drugs, or whatever you want to say, get to me. And I’ve led my life this way.” Now he knows I am telling the truth.
We loved that man, Jeff. We really did. And I tell you no one… excuse me.
JC: Go ahead.
SW: No one was more affected by his loss. I didn’t even [unintelligible] yesterday because he knew Elvis Presley five years ago. He was born while we were living with Elvis. And he knew who he was and he’s lost [unintelligible] and he knows what’s going to happen. I didn’t want to tell him. I did not want to face my son. And I couldn’t have. So I had friends take him and keep him overnight. And just people judge us before they know what… but we didn’t go after him, if they read it. It wasn’t that we went after him in a [unintelligible] way. It wasn’t a [unintelligible] job. It was us. But we are not disappointed in that book and we are not un-proud of what we did. The man knows that it was the truth and he knows it now.
JD: From our archives, that was Sonny West, one of Elvis Presley's bodyguards, speaking on As It Happens, the day after the king died. Sonny West died in May this year – and his cousin, Red West, died this week.
CBC would like to acknowledge the support of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund.