From 2013 to 2014 two violent sexual assaults occurred in Mississauga and Richmond Hill. When DNA linked both crimes to the same unknown offender, a joint taskforce was formed between police agencies in York and Peel. York police currently have one of the largest cold case sexual assault units in Canada.
It was a particularly warm day on July 16th in North Vancouver, British Columbia. It was 1976 and Rhona Margaret Duncan, 16 years of age at the time, was excited to be off for the summer holidays to enjoy time with her friends.
That evening Rhona attended a house party with several of her friends on East Queens Avenue in North Vancouver, B.C. The party was an opportunity for Rhona and her larger circle of friends to get together. The house was full that evening, with 60 teenagers in attendance.
At 1:00am Rhona and her boyfriend, Shawn Mapoles, decided to leave and walk home. They were accompanied by Rhona’s best friend, Marion Bogues and her boyfriend – Owen Parry. The four teens walked together down the dark avenue, all headed home for the evening. They split into pairs when the two boys reached their homes first. Rhona and Marion continued together.
They would reach Marion’s home first, where the best friends embraced and parted ways, leaving Rhona to continue the rest of her walk home alone. She still had five blocks to walk until she arrived there. It was now 2:45am.
At 3:00am a neighbor, who lived three doors down from the Duncan family, heard a commotion outside. It was the loud, audible sounds of a male and female arguing. She was concerned enough that she woke up her husband.
The husband decided to inquire further. Once he was outside, the neighbor detected the argument was emanating from the back of a residence a few doors down. He could still hear the male and female arguing.
“What’s going on here?”
The neighbor yelled from his backyard towards the source of the loud argument. He didn’t get a reply and it quickly became quiet. He waited for a while in his yard, listening to see if the arguing would continue. The arguing had ceased, so the neighbor retreated to his residence.
9:00am the next morning the body of Rhona Margaret Duncan was discovered. Her partially clad body was found in some tall brush close to a neighbor’s garage. Rhona had been murdered. Police were immediately called, and the crime scene was taped off around this normally quiet, serene neighborhood.
A forensic post-mortem examination was conducted. The results concluded the cause of death had been manual strangulation. Duncan had also been sexually assaulted by this unknown perpetrator.
Police worked veraciously to investigate this tragic murder in North Vancouver that shocked this quiet community. Several interviews were conducted with all of Duncan’s close friends and outer social circle, along with several polygraph tests – yet, the case remained unsolved. The file grew colder as the years passed by.
Fast forward to 1998 – twenty-two years after Rhona Margaret Duncan’s murder. Although the case remained cold and unsolved, advancements in science and forensic examination had advanced significantly.
The original R.C.M.P investigators were able to recover DNA evidence from the crime scene, investigative due diligence that would pay off, some twenty years later. There was no way to test for DNA evidence back in the 1970’s. The technology just wasn’t available back then.
When investigators tested the DNA evidence in the 1990’s, they received a break in the cold case. A DNA profile was established – DNA that was linked to Duncan’s unknown attacker, and killer.
During the initial investigation R.C.M.P investigators had an exhaustive list of 172 males, comprised of Duncan’s friends, some acquaintances, persons of interest and suspects. Now that a DNA profile had been identified, police obtained DNA samples from all these males in the hopes one would match with the DNA left behind by Duncan’s killer. None of the samples matched.
Police were able to remove several ‘higher-priority’ subjects from their initial persons of interest list – confident none of them were responsible for the heinous murder. Some of the other subjects have either died or police were unable to locate them.
File # 1976-18404. The Duncan homicide is an open, cold case.
For additional information about this crime and other unsolved cases, please visit the R.C.M.P webpage:
If you have information or a tip about the unsolved homicide of Rhona Margaret DUNCAN, contact Sgt. Gary Webb of the North Vancouver Detachment – Serious Crime Section at 604-983-7417.
If you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Stephen G. Metelsky, M.A. is a professor and writer with over 20 years experience as a police (ret.) sergeant. Stephen is a cold case columnist with Canada’s Blue Line magazine and has covered true & organized crime stories for various newspapers affiliated with Metroland Media Group & Postmedia Network Inc.
Introducing a NEW Cold Case series from Blue Line Magazine – Blue Line Magazine is proactively profiling a cold case in each issue for our readers to share in order to spark renewed interest and hopefully generate tips and information. File #1 involves an unsolved double murder in the city of Toronto, Ontario from 1997. Link to full story: https://www.blueline.ca/out-of-the-cold-file-no-1-double-homicide-in-1997/
Victoria Avenue, also known as Regional Road #24, stretches through the epicentre of Niagara region, starting from the north shore of Lake Ontario, including through Vineland and spread among endless views of surrounding farms and fields.
An area known for its quaintness and peaceful country like tranquility, it can quickly transform into a dimly lit stretch of highway at night, amid a minimal local population.
“The investigation into the unsolved homicide of Nadine Gurczenski remains open & the Niagara Regional Police Service is committed to continuing this investigation in order to identify the person or persons responsible.”
Detective Sergeant Jackie MOORE – Niagara Police Cold Case Unit
On Saturday May 9, 1999, a woman’s body was found along this very stretch of road in Vineland, in a ditch beside Regional Road # 24, just near 8th Avenue.
“May 8th, 2019 will mark the 20th anniversary of this homicide. This composite drawing was created 20 years ago and an individuals physical descriptors change during a 20 year time span.”
It was a regular summer day on August 27, 1992, in a normally quiet, serene area of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
At 9:08am that fateful day, a friend stopped by the Perry residence, finding Frank Perry deceased in his bed. Foul play was immediately suspected. Police were called, and a criminal investigation ensued.
“The investigation into the unsolved homicide of Mr. Frank Perry remains open & the Niagara Regional Police Service is committed to continuing this investigation in order to identify the person or people responsible.”
“I just walked in and they opened fire. Bullets shattered the glass.”
It was just a regular day on April 21st, 2004. A mother of three parked her car and walked into a local sandwich shop. She would never walk again. Louise Russo, the innocent bystander, had been caught in the middle of a botched underworld hit involving the Mafia and the Hells Angels.
Story by Stephen G. Metelsky
My exclusive story and interviews with Louise Russo and the two lead detectives who worked the California Sandwiches Shooting case appeared in the December 2018 issue of Canada’s Blue Line magazine.
Stephen G. Metelsky, M.A. is a College Professor, Criminologist and Freelance Crime Writer/Journalist who has over 20 years experience as a Police (ret.) Sergeant.
Stephen is an Organized Crime Expert & Media Consultant on True & Organized Crime (CBC, the Hamilton Spectator, Canadian Press, Global News, Blue Line magazine, Global News Radio, Charles Adler Tonight, Niagara Falls Review, St Catharines Standard, AM680, 980News & 900 CHML).
Stephen is a contributing columnist with Blue Line magazine and has covered true crime stories for various newspapers affiliated with Metroland Media Group & Postmedia Network Inc.
Stephen teaches at Mohawk College in the school of Community, Justice & Liberal Studies Program & is the Chair of the Program Advisory Committee for all Justice related programs.
Originally Published: Blue Line magazine – June/July 2008 edition
Navigating a robotic mouth through a maze of dots in ‘Pac-man,’ a 1980’s video game, is a far cry from realistically decapitating someone in ‘Postal 2,’ a popular 2003 game. This violent trend continues to thrive, as do the game makers. Profits ballooned from $3.2 billion in 1995 to $7 billion in 2003. (1)
Considering the average child spends some four to eight hours a day using electronic media, (1) its safe to assume many have access to violent video games. Research on video game violence has revealed a significant relationship between exposure and aggressive behaviour in society. (2)
As violent video games have increased, so have highly publicized violent incidents involving youths with strong affiliations to them. The Columbine high school shooting in 1999, for example, involved two students obsessed with the video game ‘Doom’ – so realistic that the U.S. military licensed it to train soldiers how to shoot and kill in an effective manner. (3) The students rehearsed by playing it incessantly. Some researchers argue that this repeated exposure to depictions of graphic violence can contribute to desensitization. (3)
Compared with other media, research into video game violence is sparse, yet “many of the underlying psychological processes identified in the TV-movie literature also apply to video games.” (2) Many are concerned about how video games and mass media validate violence on a daily basis. There is vicarious agreement among scientists that media depictions of violence substantially effect children, primarily by increasing aggressive and violent behaviour. (4)
Opinions vary on the causal connection linking aggressive behaviours with exposure to violent media forums. The entertainment industry argues that there is absolutely no relationship between violent media and aggressive behaviour(s), (5) and that violence perpetuated within the media is simply a societal reflection of what occurs in everyday life. (5)
“If you cut the wires of all TV sets today, there would still be no less violence on the streets in two years,” argued Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti. (6) This is simply an unsubstantiated opinion not supported by scientific research. Scientists have presented some clear and convincing behavioural evidence supporting the causal relationship between media violence and aggressive behaviour(s).
Sales of violent video games have skyrocketed over the past few years. If they cause violence, why aren’t youths who have just played them committing more murders, the entertainment industry would like to argue.
“Media violence exposure is not a necessary and sufficient cause of violence…not everyone who watches violent media becomes aggressive and not everyone who is aggressive watches violent media” (5) – but there is scientific evidence indicating that violent media does have an affect on violent behaviour.
“At this time, well over 1,000 studies point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behaviour in some children,” six professional/medical organizations noted in a 2000 joint statement. (7) Two critical implications can be derived from this.
First, there is valid and reliable scientific evidence from some of the most reputable U.S. professional agencies indicating a causal relationship between viewing media violence and the onset of aggressive behaviour(s). Second, the joint statement refers to “some” children being affected, not “all,” but given the amount of violent media available, that “some” could be a resounding and significant number.
Probably the most damaging aspect of youth overexposure to violent media is that the repeated depictions of violent behaviour become engrained as learned behaviour. Learning theories predict that violent video game play can influence behaviour through reinforcement, practice and observational learning. (8) Social learning theory (9) explains violence at the individual level as aggression vicariously learned through observation. (9)
Bushman and Huesmann define observational learning as the process “through which behavioural scripts, world schemas and normative beliefs become encoded in a child’s mind simply as a consequence of the child observing others. Observational learning is a powerful extension of imitation in which logical induction and abstraction are used to encode complex representations.” (10)
Their research indicates children are susceptible to violence in both the short and long term after observing it depicted in the media. Emphasis is also placed on extra parameters to ensure protection for children against prolonged and/or repeated exposure to violent media. (10)
Consider the following factual scenario. There are hundreds of thousands of young children across the world who daily play, unsupervised, violent video games, including ‘Grand Theft Auto’,’ which encourages auto theft, car jacking, armed robbery, assault with a weapon, drug use and prostitution. Another game of choice may be ’25 to Life,’ where the user picks a weapon and then proceeds to hunt down and kill police officers.
Behavioural scientists argue that repeat exposure to violent media can lead to a process of desensitization, whereby children develop “normative beliefs that aggression is appropriate.” (10) This overexposure to observing media violence can create emotional desensitization towards violence in society. (7)
There is no doubt that children exposed to repeat images of violence in the mass media may suffer dangerous lifelong consequences. (11)
Addicted to several forms of violent media – including musical lyrics, television, movies and most prominently, video games, especially ‘Doom’ – the Columbine killers superimposed the faces of students and teachers who had wronged them in the past onto the faces of the victims depicted in the game. They played it to the point of intense obsession, constantly rehearsing shooting their victims.
Research has shown youth learn behaviours, attain knowledge and have their value systems molded via exposure to violence in the media. (12) It’s difficult to speculate the exact role violent media played in the tragic Columbine scenario, as both killers ended their lives, but it undoubtedly played a significant role.
Repeated exposure to emotionally stimulating media can significantly reduce emotional reactions to violence occurring in the real world. Furthermore, based on this desensitization process, youth can then “think about and plan proactive aggressive acts without experiencing negative affect.” (10) This is exactly what the Columbine killers set out to do, planning in a premeditated manner to shoot and kill innocent students and teachers as an outlet for their internalized aggression and frustrations towards students who didn’t make them feel a part of the school. They nonchalantly killed 13 people and wounded 24 others before killing themselves. It’s very difficult to determine if violent media played a role in this massacre.
How do researchers account for youth exposed to similar forms of violent media who are non-aggressive? Research indicates computer games can contribute to violent behaviour at certain times, as they may “trigger aggression in certain people already predisposed to violence.” (13)
“There are a lot of kids that are angrier than they were 10 or 15 years ago,” notes Dr. Robert Butterworth, a trauma psychologist in an Arts & Entertainment documentary. “Stress of the family, a lot more broken homes, kids that don’t know any other reaction when they are frustrated than to strike out in a violent way. They don’t have anything else in their arsenal of responses. Add that to these violent images that will grow and fester to the point where you may have a full blown fantasy mixed in with violence and we’ve seen the tragic results.” (14)
Ironically this documentary aired two months prior to the Columbine shooting. The essence of the statement serves as a template for what transpired – youth who become engaged in criminality have to accept the consequences of their violent actions and take the full brunt of responsibility, in lieu of deflecting blame elsewhere.
Researchers must continue exploring the behavioural evidence linking exposure to media violence with real world violence. Violent media did not essentially create the violence at Columbine high school but it definitely contributed to the events. As Butterworth suggests: “you take a youngster who has the predisposition. You put them in an environment where the media shows these things (violence) and its like a triggering effect. The media doesn’t create, it triggers these people with the disposition.”
Joireman et al. (2003) and Anderson and Bushman (2002; 2001) define aggression as “a behaviour intended to cause immediate harm to another individual when it is understood that the target is motivated to avoid such harm.” (15)
It would be difficult to understand the innate behaviours of both Columbine killers, but it’s safe to assume they were both extremely frustrated with different facets of their life, including relationships with peers and teachers, school performance, etc. They were also addicted to violence depicted in various media forums. Based on the behavioural evidence, it would appear that the combination of high levels of frustration and an aggressive predisposition created a ticking time bomb waiting to be triggered. According to the Frustration-Aggression hypothesis, Dollard et al. (1939) proposed: “people who are frustrated, thwarted, annoyed or threatened will behave aggressively, since aggression is a natural, almost automatic response to frustrating circumstances. Moreover, people who exhibit aggressive behaviour are frustrated, thwarted, annoyed or threatened.” (16)
This psychosocial approach details the inverse relationship between frustration and aggression and is a relevant theory to explain the killers’ violent behaviours in terms of the motivating precursors to the shooting.
A second relevant psychosocial theory is ‘Displaced Aggression.’ Denson et al. (2006) theorize that this process occurs when a person is somehow provoked but unwilling (or unable) to act against the person who initiated the provocation. (17) The Columbine victims were not the source of the initial provocations of their killers. The retaliation involved innocent bystanders who had absolutely no involvement or previous conflicts with them and hence was an act of displaced aggression. (17)
A specific aspect of this psychosocial theory details how these frustrated people will intently focus on their anger and set out to plan a retaliatory attack. (17) This sub-theme specifically outlines the sequence of events that unfolded from the onset of the original sources of provocation to the aftermath, which involved extreme aggression displaced amongst victims with no connection to the initial sources of conflict(s).
Art sometimes imitates life in inappropriate ways. A few years following Columbine, the video game ‘Super Columbine Massacre’ was developed. (18) The user could assume the role of the ‘shooter’ and role play through different scenarios, using various weapons to kill teachers and students. Glorified violence (contained within various forums of media) clearly perpetuates and/or encourages copycat crime(s).
Consider this statement from Lieberman on the A&E documentary. “Each generation has been exposed to more and more media, so in a sense each new generation is more vulnerable to the psychological impact of media and to engaging in copycat crime.” There were several documented copycat incidents resulting from Columbine, including the 2006 Dawson College shooting by a crazed gunman obsessed with violent video games, including ‘Super Columbine Massacre’ and ‘Postal 2.’
The young Montreal gunman strolled into a local college equipped with an assault weapon and long dark trench coat (similar to the Columbine shooters) and, like them, killed himself. The aftermath of this tragedy revealed his dark obsession with death and violence. He had created an online profile on the vampires.com website which provided a detailed insight into his demented mind.
The killer indicated that he hated jocks, preppies and all people in authority. “Work sucks, school sucks, life sucks, what else can I say? Life is a video game, you’ve got to die sometime,” Kimveer Gill stated. (19) The frustration-aggression hypothesis again applies, as it is obvious that there was a high level of aggressive predispositions in his behavioural repertoire. These pent up frustrations eventually surfaced in a violent and aggressive response. (16)
The killers frustration levels ae captured in other online postings, made under the username ‘fatality666,’ including this one: “I am not a people person. I have met a handful of people in my life who are decent but I find the majority to be worthless. It’s not only the bullies fault, but the principal’s fault for turning a blind eye. It’s also the fault of the police. Anger and hatred simmers within me.” (20)
Gill’s words echo the sentiments highlighted in the theory of displaced aggression. He experienced a life of frustration resulting from various sources of provocation. Adhering to the psychosocial theory, he was intently focused on his anger and planned to seek retaliation. (17) His victims were not connected to him or his original sources of frustration. Furthermore, he never attended Dawson College, nor did he have any other affiliations with the school, a hallmark trait of displaced aggression.
Finally, it is difficult again to pinpoint the exact role violent video games played in this tragedy, but the research has shown that repeated exposure to depictions of graphic violence can contribute to desensitization. (3)
The video games containing the most violence have subsequently been given an ‘M’ rating for mature. Less violent games are rated ‘T’ for teen. The M rated games contain blood and profanity and depict severe injuries and death to human and non-human characters. (21) They are not to be sold to minors, yet consumers are overwhelmingly youth under the legal age of purchase, which varies by region.
In May, 2003, Washington became the first U.S. state to officially ban the sale of realistic ‘cop-killer’ video games to children under 17. (13) The idea of allocating specific ratings to prohibit minors from buying these games is only one way to control how youth access violent media. Parents must proactively play a role, and this is not emphasized enough.
It is one thing to put societal restraints on violent media content labels and warnings, but parents have the ultimate control in limiting or eliminating violent content in their children’s viewing habits. As Bushman and Huesmann suggest, they need to be aware of the consequences of viewing media with repeated violence and protect their children from it. (10)
Health care professionals, primarily child and adolescent psychiatrists, are now being encouraged to include a ‘media history’ in medical evaluations of children, incorporating it as a possible risk factor in a clinical diagnosis. (12) The starting point still revolves around the home environment.
“The more that you are exposed to parents who are loving and affectionate and who will spend a lot of time with you (attention),” Lieberman suggests, “the more you can fight against these ideas and images you see on the screen.”
Limiting children’s exposure to violent media, combined with positive family exposure, can be a preventative measure against negative media influences.
The behavioural research has clearly shown that there is a causal relationship between media depictions of violence and an increase in aggressive behaviour(s) in youths. Given the recent emergence of more sophisticated violent video games, including the recent release of the latest Grand Theft Auto game, it is vital that researchers add to the minimal research and continue exploring the dynamic relationship between video games and violence.
Recent tragic events have supported the hypothesis that violent video games are desensitizing and causing youths to become increasingly more violent.
Written by: Stephen Metelsky (Pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)
CRIME FLASHBACK Column – Niagara This Week, 2012
The sociopath has no regard for the adverse consequences of their own behaviour. The narcissistic sociopath has a unique ability to blend in seamlessly amongst their family, friends and co-workers. They can assimilate themselves in different types of social settings, typically without raising any suspicions about their true inner identity.
The sociopath has an innate ability to separate their secret criminal tendencies from the normative images they project during the course of their public social lives, truly reminiscent of the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ persona. This was excruciatingly evident with Colonel Russell Williams, the commander of CFB Trenton, Canada’s largest air force base. During the day, Williams projected the aura of legitimacy as the high ranking commander in charge of 3,000 people. In 2005 Williams even piloted a plane that carried Queen Elizabeth II. However, when Williams was not commanding the base, he was prowling by night, searching for his next potential victim.
Williams did not become a killer overnight. His progression to killing entailed a methodical escalation initially involving various acts of voyeurism. Once these acts became mundane, William’s deviant behaviour escalated to the point where he was breaking into the homes of women he had been covertly stalking. Most of these break-ins occurred overnight, sometimes with the victims inside their homes. Initially, William’s intent was to break in to steal women’s clothing and take photographs in order to satisfy a twisted and escalating sexual obsession. This obsession spiraled out of control as William’s began committing riskier crimes to curtail his insatiable and demented obsession.
The deviant escalation of a predator’s method of operation, is quite common amongst serial offenders. Serial predators initially commit petty crimes that are minor in nature, such as mischief or voyeurism. The tedium of committing particular offences eventually involves an escalation to riskier more violent crimes. The boredom propels the offender
to take more risks as their levels of deviance and confidence thrive. Another commonality amongst these serial predators is the acquisition of a trophy. A trophy represents a tangible item the predator takes from a particular victim so they can relive the crime incessantly until the urge to strike again surfaces. The serial predator will photograph or videotape their crimes. This profile fit the modus operandi of Colonel Williams. It is almost a carbon copy of what transpired with killer Paul Bernardo. Ironically, Williams and Bernardo have been linked to the University of Toronto where both had studied economics during the mid-1980’s at the Scarborough campus. However, there is no evidence to suggest a criminal linkage between them.
After breaking into the homes of various women and assaulting them, William’s violent behaviour escalated to murder. He committed the most heinous act on two separate occasions. One of the victims was a corporal from the CFB Trenton air force base where Williams reigned supreme. The split diabolic persona of Williams enabled a segue from his midnight murderous ways to his daytime responsibilities as a husband and commander without raising suspicion. However, his secretive world was to become unraveled through forensic evidence collected at one of the murder scenes.
In February 2010, police began an intense investigation after the murder of Jessica Lloyd. Early on during the investigation police located and retrieved a valuable piece of forensic evidence from the murder scene. A distinct set of tire tread marks was detected by crime scene investigators. The tread marks were measured, photographed and catalogued as evidence. On February 4, 2010 police had set up a proactive roadside checkpoint, patiently and methodically checking vehicles as they strolled down the snow covered roads. Williams came to a complete stop in his SUV, unfazed this would represent the catalyst to his unraveling murderous double life. Police were immediately intrigued by the tread patterns on the tires of Williams’ SUV, again a very distinct set of treads that left an even more distinct impression on the surface it traveled on.
The tread pattern appeared to be very similar to the pattern located at the scene of the Lloyd homicide. The roadside query led to the identity of Williams. The Ontario Provincial Police arranged for Williams to be interviewed a few days later.
Most predators eventually slip up and leave valuable forensic evidence behind at a particular crime scene. When Williams showed up for his interview with the Ontario Provincial Police on Feb. 7, 2010 he brazenly wore the same rugged pair of boots that had left distinct footwear impressions at the Lloyd homicide scene. The footwear impressions were detected entering and leaving the crime scene ending where the distinct tire tread impressions began. Williams appeared confident as he vehemently and casually denied any association to the two homicide victims. During the interview he even consented to a comparison of his boots with the footwear impressions located at the Lloyd crime scene. They were an exact match. When Williams was confronted with
the damning forensic evidence his legitimate world imploded as the dark secrets of his double life spilled outward. Williams requested a map to pinpoint where he had concealed one of his victims, initializing a startling confession.
Williams was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault and forcible confinement and 82 break-ins. In October of 2010 Williams pled guilty to all charges. His punishment: an automatic life sentence in prison with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years.
UPDATE: The “Killer Colonel” was initially imprisoned in Kingston, Ontario. Williams has been transferred and is now incarcerated in a maximum security prison in Quebec, Canada.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Stephen G. Metelsky, M.A. is a freelance crime writer/journalist, criminologist, organized crime expert (CBC, Hamilton Spectator, Niagara Falls Review, St. Catharines Standard, Global News, AM 680, 980 News, 900 CHML, Newstalk 1010 & Blue Line magazine) & college professor, with over 20 years as a police (ret.) sergeant.
Stephen is a contributing columnist with Blue Line magazine and has covered true crime stories for various newspapers affiliated with Metroland Media Group & Postmedia Network Inc.