Irene Pearson cold case: New re-enactment video released of 1979 killing of real estate agent

Winnipeg police have released a video they hope jogs the memory of Winnipeggers and leads to tips in the nearly four-decade-old homicide of real estate agent Irene Pearson.

Pearson, 31, was found dead in basement of vacant home in Tyndall Park area

Real estate saleswoman Irene Pearson, 31, was found dead in a vacant home in the Tyndall Park area of Winnipeg on Nov. 16, 1979. (CBC)

Winnipeg police have released a video they hope jogs the memory of Winnipeggers and leads to tips in the nearly four-decade-old homicide of real estate agent Irene Pearson.

"It's fresh in our minds as a police agency, but we want it to be fresh in the minds of Winnipeggers," Const. Jason Michalyshen said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"Perhaps somebody out there saw something, maybe they [were] scared but enough time has passed that they've now changed their mind, they want to come forward and say something," said Det.-Sgt. Roger Penner.

"That's why we're here. We're trying another avenue to generate talk and discussion and to move us towards a conclusion for this homicide."

Pearson, 31, was found dead in the basement of a vacant home in the Tyndall Park area on Nov. 16, 1979.

She had been hit in the head several times with a blunt object and stabbed repeatedly in the chest, police have said. The cause of death was massive brain damage and injuries to her heart and lungs.

It's a strong possibility that Pearson was showing the home to someone she believed to be a potential client at the time of her death, police said.

A new piece of information released Tuesday is that police believe one of the last people to be in the house with Pearson drove a red or blue newer-model Plymouth Volare or Dodge Aspen.

"This horrific incident in November 1979 shocked the citizens of Winnipeg. It continues to be a priority for the Winnipeg Police Service, over 36 years later," stated a news release from the Winnipeg Police Service.

The Pearson case went cold until 2007, when new information was gleaned from DNA samples gathered at the scene of the crime. The DNA, however, did not provide enough evidence to identify a suspect.

Investigators say there have been numerous persons of interest over the years, but many have been ruled out.

Pearson was last seen around 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 15, 1979, by a witness who said Pearson and a man were in a show home on Cropo Bay, according to police.

A short time later, Pearson and the man left the home and walked a short distance to another show home on Kinver Avenue, where Pearson was lured to the basement and attacked, police said.

Her body was found the following day.

Bill Murray, who was 14 or 15 at the time of Pearson's murder, lived near the murder scene. He believes he and a neighbourhood friend were among the last people to see Pearson alive.

He remembers seeing Pearson walking with a man who was wearing a trench coat and hat. Murray said he only saw her companion from behind.

"I never [saw] his face ... I remember seeing him walking up the street with her and they were pretty close," said Murray.

"I still remember the trench coat and the hat, that's what we told the police."

Winnipeg police won't confirm whether Murray was among the witnesses interviewed at the time, as is their standard practice.

Suspect in 20s, average height, brown hair

The suspect is described as 22-30 years old with an average height and build, medium-length brown hair and possibly a moustache.

An inexpensive silver cross and chain with a broken clasp was found near Pearson's body. Police determined they did not belong to Pearson and suggested they might have been pulled off the killer in a struggle.

Since Pearson's death, there have been significant advances in DNA technology. Investigators now want to hear from anyone that may have worked on the construction of the home located on Kinver Avenue in order to assist with the investigation.

As well, anyone with further information regarding the investigation — no matter how significant it might seem — is asked to contact the WPS Historical Homicide Unit at 204-986-3819 or CrimeStoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).

"Anything that they have to say, we'll listen to it and we'll evaluate it," said Penner.

"Perhaps it means something, perhaps it doesn't. But I'd rather talk to somebody and rule it out that it was nonsense or it wasn't important than not to hear at all. I'd like to make that determination."