Episode 2: The Hammer

Hamilton police discover Sheryl Sheppard’s fiancé, Michael Lavoie, parked in a storage locker overcome by exhaust fumes. As the missing person case turns into a homicide investigation, detectives try to piece together what happened the weekend Sheryl disappeared.
Michael Lavoie and Sheryl Sheppard.
Listen to the full episode44:17

In the early morning hours of January 7, 1998, Michael Lavoie was discovered by police parked in a storage locker, overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.

Lavoie was supposed to meet with police for an interview the day before, but failed to show.

His new fiancé, Sheryl Sheppard, had been reported missing by her mother on January 5, 1998.

According to Michael Lavoie, he last saw Sheryl on January 2, when he dropped her off in an alleyway beside the Concord Hotel.

He said she was going there to work as an exotic dancer.

But Sheryl's family and friends say she had a job at Tim Hortons, and was no longer dancing.

Homicide dectectives had plenty of questions for Michael Lavoie.

But first they had to rush him to hospital, and wait for him to recover...

Storage lockers on Stone Church Road. A few days after Sheryl's disappearance, Lavoie was found in unit A14, overcome by exhaust fumes. (David Ridgen)

Hamilton, Ontario is a city of striking contradictions.

Ringed by steep hills — the same, sheer escarpment that leads to Niagara Falls — parts of the city are known for their hikes, waterfalls and views.

Meanwhile, Hamilton Harbour is lined with smoke and flare stacks, and other signs of the industry that led many to call the city Steeltown.

The steel industry has since fallen on hard times — but with art galleries, colleges and plenty of Hamiltonians who commute to Toronto every day, some residents would rather their home be known as the Ambitious City.

The downtown core is a great example of the many sides of Hamilton: empty storefronts and payday loan shops are just steps away from upscale restaurants and flashy condos.

Add to that a history of Mafia bosses and biker gangs, and you've got a city that keeps its police officers very busy.

Detective Peter Thom has carried Sheryl Sheppard's case with the Hamilton Police since 2008. (David Ridgen)

Detective Sergeant Peter Thom is in charge of the Sheryl Sheppard case.

The case sits in his office in the material form of six large bankers' boxes — filled with police notes, evidence and statements from the people surrounding the case.

Thom has also kept in touch with Odette Fisher, Sheryl Sheppard's mother, who continues to work tirelessly to learn what happened to her daughter in the early days of 1998.

Odette's determination is a big part of what keep Sheryl's case alive.

She's a reminder that Sheryl was more that just a picture in the news, more than just a sad story that has haunted the city of Hamilton for nearly two decades...

More than just six boxes of evidence that contain more questions than answers.

Boxes with material related to Sheryl Sheppard's case. (David Ridgen)

WEB EXTRA

Hamilton is a city where mob and biker bosses have lived, and has seen its share of notorious characters and infamous crimes. Here are a few of them: