As it turns out, one of my predecessors at the Herald, legendary crime reporter (and now crime novelist) Rick Mofina, wrote a few stories that identified the POI. I worked at the Sun in 1998, and their crime reporter at the time, Pete Smith -- something of a mentor to me -- also knew POI's identity. However, the Infomart database I have access to doesn't archive the Sun that far back, so I can't say for sure whether they published the name or not....
Double-murder probe centres on car, gun
Sun Apr 12 1998
Rick Mofina, Calgary Herald
The gunshots fired in the murders of veteran Fort Macleod Mountie Sgt. Peter Sopow, 52, and his girlfriend, Lorraine McNab, 47, a Pincher Creek kindergarten teacher, echo in the hearts and minds of investigators trying to solve the five-month-old case.
Mounties feel they are close but aren't ready to arrest anyone.
``I can't elaborate further,'' said RCMP Sgt. Perry Kuzma of the Calgary-based major-crimes south section.
But Kuzma, who heads the investigation, will confirm that RCMP are investigating a mysterious car and the disappearance of a 22.-calibre rifle as part of an exhaustive probe into one of the most sensational multiple homicides in Alberta's history -- a case Mounties are convinced is solvable.
The bodies of Sopow and McNab were found Dec. 15, locked in a horse trailer on McNab's secluded property on a majestic site in the Rocky Mountain foothills overlooking the town of Pincher Creek, about 200 kilometres southwest of Calgary.
At about 10:30 p.m. Saturday Dec. 13, the couple returned to McNab's property after having dinner with her family.
But they made it only as far as the driveway of McNab's small mobile home when someone with a .22-calibre gun shot and killed the Mountie of 32 years with the force and McNab.
``They never even made it inside,'' Kuzma said.
He would not discuss how many shots were fired or how many shell casings were recovered.
There was no break-in, no thefts from Sopow's wallet, no sexual assault. The murder weapon has not been found.
The bodies of Sopow and McNab were dragged into a nearby horse trailer. Then the trailer's gate was locked.
On Monday, the tragedy was discovered and the hunt began as 30 Mounties from across Alberta assembled to chase leads, including one that remains crucial.
At about 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12, the night before the shootings, according to a witness, a car similar to a red or maroon 1973 Mercury Cougar was seen parked near McNab's property.
It was driven by a man with a slight build, grey hair and wearing a light brown coat with a smooth finish, according to the witness.
A public appeal by Mounties generated tips leading them to check 50 to 60 vehicles registered in Alberta and similar to the one reported by the witness. Two such vehicles are from the Pincher Creek area.
One, which turned out to be a Mustang, was cleared. The other, a red 1972 Mercury Cougar, has not been cleared, Kuzma said.
The registered owner lives in the tiny community of Cowley, 15 kilometres west of Pincher Creek. His description, according to investigators, ``is general but not inconsistent'' with the witness's description.
``The owner of that particular vehicle has not co-operated with us,'' Kuzma said.
``But we're keeping an open mind. . . . Hey, there may still be another person who occupied that vehicle that night, and maybe we haven't spoken to that person.''
Another key element is the unrecovered murder weapon.
At the outset of the case, Mounties followed the routine procedure of clearing every .22-calibre gun reported missing, lost or stolen in the area, which has involved about a dozen files. All but one have been cleared.
A .22-caliber rifle is missing from Cowley. Mounties will not confirm if the rifle and car belong to the same person, but the gun's owner was questioned on how the gun vanished.
One of the strangest twists in the case came two days after the murders were discovered. On Dec. 17, RCMP arrested and questioned -- without laying charges -- Wally Sparks, a local elementary schoolteacher who, according to his neighbors in Cowley, knew McNab.
The next day, Sparks was detained under the Alberta Mental Health Act and transferred to the psychiatric unit at Lethbridge Regional Hospital for assessment. He was released in February and lives in Cowley.
The Herald tried to interview Sparks, but he said ``I'm not interested in talking to you. I don't want to talk.''
The Herald has learned he owns, or owned, a red 1972 Mercury Cougar.
These factors are among others being studied by the investigators working in the crammed second-floor room of the Pincher Creek RCMP detachment, where the case is being co-ordinated.
Charts of data, news clippings and photos of Sopow and McNab, stare from the walls as Mounties pore over 850 files related to the case.
At least eight work exclusively on the murders.
``The toughest part is being away from home, living in a hotel all this time,'' said Const. Derwyn Lowe of the Calgary-based RCMP major-crimes south section.
Squad member Cpl. Barry Leith of the Pincher Creek detachment reached into a stuffed filing cabinet. He opens a folder as thick as the Calgary white pages.
It stems from one lead. ``It's a grinding process and all of our sympathy goes to the families. We'd like to see this come to a conclusion.''
The biggest frustration for investigators is that they have not been able to charge someone.
``Unfortunately, sometimes these investigations take time.''
But like those on his team, Kuzma believes the case can be closed.
``We do not believe this was random. We believe the murderer(s) knew the victims.''