Calgary cold case murder trial hears of pregnancies, 'cracks' in relationship, one-way ticket out of town

Nearly two decades after Adrienne McColl was fatally strangled and her body dumped in a ditch alongside a rural southern Alberta road, her former boyfriend's murder trial began Monday in Calgary.  

Stéphane Parent arrested 16 years after girlfriend Adrienne McColl was killed

Stéphane Parent was arrested in 2018 in Gatineau, Que. Police said he had been living in Ontario and Quebec since leaving Calgary shortly after Adrienne McColl's death. (Postmedia)

Nearly two decades after Adrienne McColl was strangled and her body dumped in a ditch alongside a rural southern Alberta road, her former boyfriend's murder trial began Monday. 

On Valentine's Day 2002, McColl was killed when she suffered a fractured skull and multiple blows to her head, according to prosecutor Shane Parker's opening address to jurors.

Hours later, the 21-year-old's boyfriend, Stéphane Parent, bought a one-way ticket to Ottawa and hopped on a plane with no checked bags.

McColl's death became a cold case until police announced Parent's arrest in Gatineau, Que., in February 2018. 

Parent, now 53 years old, was brought back to Calgary to face his second-degree murder charge.

The homicide investigation into McColl's 2002 death went cold until Parent was arrested in 2018. (CBC archives)

'Cracks in the relationship'

McColl and Parent began dating in 2000 when both worked at Studio 82, a southwest Calgary bar owned by the victim's stepdad.

Parent was about 12 years older than his girlfriend. At first, everything was fine, said Parker.

"But by the beginning of 2002, there were cracks in the relationship," said the prosecutor.

McColl eventually became pregnant, but two weeks before the due date in October 2001, the baby was stillborn. She and Parent had already named the baby Christopher.

The young woman suffered another failed pregnancy in the next few months.

Adrienne McColl's body was found in a ditch near Nanton, Alta., in February 2002. She's been strangled and was suffering a skull fracture. (RCMP)

Parent not allowed at stepdad's home

By February 2002, McColl had a new job at a downtown bistro, but those close to her were concerned she was the victim of domestic violence. 

It was around that time when McColl moved back in with her stepfather. Their relationship was close, like "father, daughter," said Shandi Bard, the victim's best friend. 

But John McGee had house rules and one of those was that Parent wasn't allowed to come over. 

On Feb. 14, 2002, Parent wasn't in good shape, according to Parker. His car had been towed, he'd lost his temporary home and his relationship was rocky.

Fingerprint, DNA evidence

At the time, McGee was in Arizona on a golf trip.

McColl was seen driving away from her stepdad's home on Valentine's Day in the early afternoon. She had a phone chat with a friend around 4:30 p.m. Those were the last times McColl was seen or heard from. 

She didn't show up for her shift at work and she didn't meet up with friends that evening as planned. 

The next day, a rancher near Nanton found McColl's body in a ditch along a rural road. 

McColl was without shoes, a coat and pants. Blue trash bags were found with her body.

According to Parker, evidence will be presented showing Parent's fingerprint was on one of the bags near the drawstring.

Crown to call 35 witnesses

At 10:06 a.m. on Feb. 15, Parent bought a one-way ticket to Ottawa at the Calgary airport. Despite that city being his hometown, he stayed at a downtown Marriott and paid cash. 

As police investigated McColl's death and Parent's disappearance, they discovered McColl's stepfather's car had been parked at the airport.

In the trunk were McColl's shoes.

Two stalls down, Parent's jeans were found with McColl's blood on the pant leg. 

The trial is set to last three weeks. Parker says the Crown will call 35 witnesses.

It's not yet known what Parent's lawyer, Gavin Wolch, will put forward as a defence.