Why some murder cases become personal for detectives
‘I really wanted to solve it for her,’ detective recalls about mother of victim
When investigating a murder case, detectives often try to keep their emotional reactions separate from the victims and their families. It's necessary for their own survival on the job, but that detachment is also key to assessing a case: Surviving loved ones might be grieving family members, but they could also be potential suspects.
Occasionally those boundaries dissolve, and the detective on the case develops personal bonds and friendships with the victim's family. And for those rare cases, those relationships can become instrumental in how the murder cases get solved.
Detective Don Forgan and Eugene Clark
The connection that Detective Don Forgan made to one victim's family member was more tragic and heartbreaking than usual. Eugene Clark was three years old when he was found wandering the streets of Hamilton, Ont., leading to the discovery of the brutal deaths of his mother, Charlisa Clark and her boyfriend Pasquale Del Sordo.
I've always had a barrier that kept my emotions in check. Eugene broke through that barrier.
Forgan, who had children of his own, was already heartbroken that Eugene would grow up without his mother. But when evidence revealed that Eugene might have been in the house with the bodies for hours after their deaths, Forgan broke down. "I've always had a barrier that kept my emotions in check," says Forgan in "Father's Day," an episode from the first season of The Detectives. "Eugene broke through that barrier."
That's why he made the promise to try to "catch the bad man" to the young boy. And it was a promise he got to fulfill. At the young boy's next birthday party, which Forgan attended, he was able to tell Eugene that the perpetrator had been caught. It was an outcome that, for this grieving boy, was "the best birthday present ever."
Detective Sergeant Greg Brown and the Teague family
When 18-year-old Jennifer Teague went missing in Barrhaven, Ont., it was Detective Greg Brown who was assigned to the case. When six days passed with no leads or evidence to follow, he was forced to confront the family with the possibility that she may not be found alive.
But being aware of the possibility didn't make the discovery of her body any less devastating to Detective Brown, who had to deliver the painful news to her mother, Jean Teague. For Brown, this case had an additional, personal impact: At the time of the murder, his wife was pregnant, and he was about to bring a new daughter into the world right as the Teagues were losing theirs.
"I really wanted to solve it for her," Brown said in the episode "The Walk Home" from Season 2 of The Detectives.
He also became close to her father Ed Teague and his wife Sylvie, with whom he prayed when he visited with news from the investigation. Even after the case was solved, he maintained a close relationship with the family and still visits Jennifer's grave.
Detective Dave Sweet and the Mariani family
Detective Dave Sweet met the Mariani family as they were reeling from the ferocious beating death of their son/brother Mark Mariani, who had been on a short trip to a video store when he was attacked by strangers. Despite their pain and shock, the family struck him as kind, warm, and supportive.
Sweet pieced together a complex puzzle of crime scene clues — including red spray paint and boot prints — to identify the killers. But this detective's search for justice for the Mariani family became an engrossing 10-month investigation, and one that had a profound effect on his private life: As he got closer to convicting the killers, his marriage began to dissolve.
Even after the case, Sweet stayed friends with the Mariani family and he had their support when he released his book, Skeletons In My Closet, which follows his career and experiences as a police officer.
"The Mariani family will be lifelong friends for me and I think they feel the same way," says Sweet in the episode "Hatred" in Season 2 of The Detectives.
RCMP Inspector Gerry Belliveau and Larry Mills
When Inspector Gerry Belliveau was put onto the case of the violent murders of Mary Lou Barnes and her young son Larry Mills Jr., Larry Mills Sr. was one of his first suspects. The child's father had an attitude that rubbed Belliveau the wrong way, but once he had been cleared as a suspect, the relationship between the two men changed.
At the time, Belliveau also had a young son, about the same age as Larry Jr., making the case deeply personal for him. Even after the case was solved, Belliveau needed to visit Barnes' grave to reach some closure.
"I was here that day you passed away," Belliveau recalls saying at Barnes' grave in "Mother and Son," an episode in Season 3 of The Detectives. "I worked for you and I worked for your ex and I worked for Junior, and I want you to know that we worked hard on your behalf and you can rest in peace."
He remains friends with Larry Sr. to this day and considers him to be the only individual in 36 years of police work who he has allowed into his personal life.
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