Calgary homicide detective writes true crime book with focus on life lessons

There is one case that he just can’t get out of his mind, and it inspired a true crime book that in turn led to an episode of CBC’s The Detectives.

'I was appalled and shocked at the brutality of the crime,' Det. Dave Sweet says of 2010 stomping death

Det. Dave Sweet of the Calgary Police Service was called to investigate the death of Mark Mariani, who was found stomped to death in an alley near North Hill Centre about eight years ago. (David Bell/CBC)

There is one case that he just can't get out of his mind, and it inspired a true crime book that in turn led to an episode of CBC's The Detectives.

Calgary Police Service Det. Dave Sweet was called to investigate the case of Mark Mariani, who was found stomped to death in an alleyway near North Hill Centre about eight years ago. Eventually two neo-Nazis were sentenced to life in prison for the random slaying.

Sweet shared that story and his inspiration for co-writing Skeletons in my Closet: Life Lessons from a Homicide Detective with CBC Calgary News at Six.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. You can watch the complete interview here.

Det. Dave Sweet on his true crime book

4 years ago
Duration 7:26
Det. Dave Sweet on his true crime book

Q: You say that's a case you will never forget. Why is that?

A: It was October 3, 2010. I got phoned at 9 a.m. that morning.

I had only been in the homicide unit at that time for about a year. It was a new investigation but would become very complex in nature.

That's why I will always remember that case. I was appalled and shocked at the brutality of the crime. I had a feeling it was going to be difficult to solve.

Q: You had already been on the force for about 10 years so you must have seen some things already, and you were still shocked?

A: I had but not to the same extent or same exposure you get while you are a member with our homicide unit.

That was something that was shocking to me. Up until that point, I don't know that I had seen such a brutal crime.

Q: What's it like to see the telling of that story in a true-crime television segment?

A: It's very interesting. It's been a fantastic opportunity to be part of it. I think it showcases well the efforts put into trying to solve these types of cases.

Q: There can be a disconnect between what people see on TV and how crime solving actually happens in real life. Is it nice to be able to show people how it actually works?

A: I think the show does a good job in the spirit of trying to pull together what an investigation looks like.

The show's focus is on the actions of one detective but there is a whole team of people that are working alongside that person through the course of an investigation.

Q: What was it like seeing an actor playing you?

A: It was interesting to see who they chose. I thought he did a fantastic job. He was certainly more handsome.

Q: You describe the book as true crime meets Chicken Soup for the Soul. What does that mean?

A: The book profiles some of my experiences with the Calgary Police Service over the last 20 years, but I have tried to find the silver linings in the sometimes awful things we investigate, and that's the chicken soup part of it.

The book is not intended to be a tell-all of the gruesomeness or horrific acts people commit against each other but more to set the tone for lessons I can share with the community.

Q: So it's based on real life, not on fiction?

A: I changed some details in the book to protect certain cases or people, but for the most part the book is absolutely true.

Q: Why did you write it?

A: It started as a project to myself and it evolved into a bigger-scale project.

I wanted to write it for my children, to share with them things I had learned in my career and give them some lessons and take-homes they could use in their own lives.

It was written as "lessons from dad."

With files from CBC Calgary News at Six.


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