I'm going to put up Linda Shaw's case, I remember it well. Even tho a DNA match came back, years after Linda's murder, Alan Craig MacDonald was one of the killer's, he committed suicide. A man's blue duffel coat was also found partially burned and neatly folded beside a tree, size 42. Which would be too small for the piece of crap who killed Linda. So there is another person who is also involved, and this case is still open due to the discrepancy with the coat.
Getting away with murder
By: W Five
Date: Sat. Feb. 11 2006 7:13 PM ET
Dana Bookman — On Easter Sunday, April 15th, 1990: Lynda Shaw was driving back to the University of Western Ontario after a holiday weekend with her family near Brampton, Ontario. She was just 21 years old, and a promising third year engineering student on a scholarship.
Shortly after midnight Lynda stopped at a service center along Highway 401 to grab a quick burger.
But this ordinary, everyday stop suddenly turned sinister. While Lynda was buying her food at this Burger King, outside someone tampered with the air valve on her front tire.
Unaware she was being targeted, Lynda got back onto the highway. But just 12 kilometers up the road she pulled over with a flat.
According to Lynda's mother Carol, "She must have noticed too right after she got into the car there was something different because she didn't eat that hamburger, nor did she eat the fries."
The next day, Lynda's Dodge Shadow was found abandoned on the side of the highway, the food untouched, Lynda's gym bag still in the back seat, the rear window smashed out, and Lynda missing.
Her brother Graham raised the alarm. "It's right off the wall for my sister to just up and disappear that's never happened before."
The Ontario Provincial Police immediately launched a ground search, while Lynda's family and friends prayed for a miracle. But that hope died six days after Lynda had vanished. Her battered body was discovered in the bush just a few kilometers from where her car had been abandoned.
OPP Constable Gary Aspden was one of the first officers on the scene. At the time of the murder, Aspden had been a cop for 15 years. Now, he joined a dozen experienced investigators assigned to the massive manhunt for Shaw's killer. But, police could find no link between the murderer and his victim. And so began a daunting task. Every lead, every piece of information, no matter how insignificant, had to be checked out, looking for that one clue that would help them catch a violent sexual predator.
Clues Left Behind
But there were clues left behind. Lynda had been raped, and her attacker left semen and hair at the scene. At the time the police had no idea how significant those clues would turn out to be.
Instead they focused on another tantalizing clue -- a parka found at the scene. Police believed that coat would lead them to the killer
"There was a dark blue duffel coat with a hood that was folded beside a tree, only a few feet from her body," says Constable Aspden. " That duffle coat was partially burned. We spent hours tracking down people that owned that coat and interviewing them as well."
There was also a mysterious car that eyewitnesses -- motorists driving down the dark highway that Easter Sunday say they'd spotted parked behind Lynda's Dodge Shadow.
"One witness in particular was adamant that he was a car buff and he even brought a picture of the vehicle he thought he saw that night," says Aspden. "It was a mid 70's Chrysler Newport, a big boat of a car with noisy mufflers."
As police appealed to the public for help, the tips poured in.
"I don't think I've ever seen a case where the public has tried to help us so much," says Aspden. "In the beginning we received hundreds of tips a day."
Lynda's mother, Carol, says it was a situation that struck home to many families. "That's an area where children from farming communities similar to Lynda have their licence, they're out on the roads … And I think they were feeling since it was such an innocent situation that my, this could have been one of ours."
The OPP were sure they would get the big break they needed from the public. They released an anonymous letter claiming a body builder was the killer. But no one recognized the handwriting. Then there were three different composite drawings of possible suspects. Again, nothing. And the weeks turned into months and into years. The case grew cold.
By 2003, when OPP Detective Sgt. Ray Collins took over the Lynda Shaw case, the engineering student had been dead for more than a dozen years, and police were still no closer to finding her killer.
Collins had inherited an enormous file. Banker boxes and filing cabinets full of police interviews, suspect information, eyewitnesses accounts, and tips from the public.
"A massive amount of information was gathered by investigators in 1990," says Collins. "It must have been really difficult going through all this information. Just thousands and thousands of tips."
When Lynda was murdered, an old computer was all the police had to help sort and analyze the pieces of the puzzle. But now investigators had new tools -- sophisticated software to analyze that mountain of evidence. The details of the Shaw case were gradually punched into the system and cross- referenced, looking for that needle in the haystack that would crack the case. But even more important, the science of crime solving had evolved too.
Evolving DNA technology
The crime lab had been involved in the Shaw murder from the very beginning. According to Jonathan Newman, head of the biology section at Ontario's Centre for Forensic Science, there were many tests of the evidence at the scene. And repeat tests because the technology was actually evolving over the years.
In 1990, using DNA as a tool for solving crime was in its infancy. By the mid nineties, that technology had advanced enough that police had a DNA profile of the killer from the semen left on Lynda's body.
But where to find the match? The OPP began collecting blood and saliva samples from hundreds of possible suspects.
"Approximately 300 DNA samples were sent to the Centre for Forensic Science for testing," says Detective Collins.
Still nothing. The list of dead ends grew longer. But homicide investigators have a saying the murderer is somewhere in the box. And in late 2004 the cold case team made a decision to go back to the box once again to re-examine some old evidence. It was the turning point.
"We came up with the idea of re-submitting some hairs for DNA," says Collins."
And that's when they got the big hit. Out of the blue, in July 2005, 15 years after Lynda Shaw was murdered, the Ontario provincial police finally get the call they've been waiting for:
"This is Jonathan Newman from the Centre for Forensic Science," the phone message said. "I'm trying to get a message to Detective Ray Collins we have some important information for you."
For fifteen years who killed Lynda Shaw was a mystery police in Ontario had been trying to solve. And finally amid the mountain of evidence they'd collected they found the one clue to break the case.
Re-Examining The Evidence
Biologist Margaret Henry, with Ontario's Center for Forensic Science, is about the same age as Lynda Shaw would have been today, had she not been murdered. Growing up in southwestern Ontario Henry feels a personal connection to the case.
"I was also in university at the time and I remember the case very well," says Henry. "I remember that she was driving along the 401 and they found her car and from that point on I know certainly for me and many other young women, we were much more cautious about driving alone along the highway."
But Henry never dreamed that she would be instrumental in solving the sensational murder that had stymied investigators for all those years. Her assignment: analyze 40 different hair samples for a possible match to the killer's DNA. Hair from convicted criminals who'd been in the area at the time of Lynda's murder. Samples they'd given voluntarily.
Detective Inspector Randy Rosiak had just taken over the cold case team. He says it was a stroke of luck that police even had those samples. Back in 1990 it was not routine to take hair samples from suspected sex offenders and murderers. "However," says Rosiak, "We had hair from Lynda's body and (because police had that evidence) that would have been collected."
At the time of Shaw's murder, the crime lab wasn't even testing for DNA. The hair from those suspects was only collected for comparison with the evidence from the crime scene. Trying for a DNA match after 15 years was a long-shot.
Detective Ray Collins remembers, "My Inspector Randy Rosiak called me at home and said you won't believe it. They just got a match on our DNA."
After years of dead ends, eliminating more than 900 possible suspects, police finally had the killer. His name, Alan Craig Macdonald.
"And it hit me," says Collins, "Oh my God. I've dealt with this guy before."
Another bizarre twist in a cold case that was turning out to be stranger than fiction. Back in 1994, just four years after Lynda disappeared and long before he became a homicide investigator, Collins was a uniformed constable in Woodstock Ontario. Involved in a high speed car chase with that same Alan Craig Macdonald
Collins arrested Macdonald at gunpoint. "He was a big man too," says Collins. "He was very large. Over six feet, well over 250 pounds, very intimidating. And I remember his eyes. Nothing there, no emotion."
MacDonald turned out to be a convicted double killer. In 1975, he had murdered a police officer in Dartmouth Nova Scotia along with a taxi driver who just happened to witness the crime.
MacDonald was sentenced to life in prison for the murders. But after 12 years he was released on parole. Just a few months before Lynda was abducted, MacDonald had moved into a rooming house in Brantford Ontario, just an hour from the crime scene.
But Detective Collins was the last police officer to deal with MacDonald. The next day, facing charges for dangerous driving and stolen property MacDonald, who by then was out on bail, took a shotgun into a phone booth and killed himself. And with him went his most horrible secret: that he had stalked, abducted, raped and murdered Lynda Shaw.
Ironically, police had questioned him shortly after the killing in 1990. But at that time there was no evidence to link him to Lynda's case. He didn't have a record for sexual assault. Although he was on parole for two murders. The cold-blooded killer even gave police a hair sample, when they asked for one, to avert suspicion. But if MacDonald hadn't yanked his hair out by the roots?:
Margaret Henry says, "It would have been one of the ones that didn't generate a DNA profile."
The secret that Alan Craig MacDonald had taken to his grave revealed at last. In the summer of 2005 the Ontario provincial police were finally able to tell the public who killed Lynda Shaw.
A bittersweet ending because there would be no justice for Lynda…no arrest, no charges, no one to go to jail. The long trail had turned up a dead man. In some ways a relief for Lynda's mother Carol. "In a way it's wonderful that he wasn't able to do anything else to anyone in our society."
But for Lynda's family – happy that the killer had been found – pointed questions to the parole system that let a convicted murderer roam the streets to kill yet again.
"That was so disappointing, says Carol. "You feel like you're completely let down."
Lynda's family can't understand how a violent criminal who already killed two people including a police officer was let out after just 12 years in prison.
Inspector Rosiak says, "This individual should not have been on the streets. The original two murders that Alan Craig MacDonald committed were cold blooded. Lynda's murder was cold blooded."
But Rosiak says despite MacDonald's previous convictions there was no evidence in 1990 or in 1994 to link him in any way to Lynda's case.
Lynda Shaw's murder was solved by science. Inspector Rosiak says he believes if this murder happened now it would have been solved within a year. But the police never gave up despite the many wrong turns and dead ends:
The anonymous letter, police now say, had no connection to MacDonald. The composite drawings look nothing like the real killer. The phantom Chrysler Newport eyewitnesses were so sure about, Macdonald never drove one.
As for the parka found at the scene?
"It was about a size 42," says Inspector Rosiak. "We know that Alan Craig MacDonald who was considerably larger than that. So another piece of evidence that took us off in directions that in the end did not assist the investigation."
So whose coat was it? Police have always been convinced Lynda's killer had an accomplice who helped dispose of the body, an accomplice who for all these years has remained silent. The case is still open.
In Carol Taylor's backyard there's a magnificent evergreen. She planted it as a tiny seedling, right after Lynda's funeral. A living reminder of the senseless death of a beloved daughter, and the lost years. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060210/wfive_murder_060211/20060211?hub=WFive