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Author Topic: Katherine Mary Brown | Missing | Vancouver | Late 1970's  (Read 1335 times)


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Katherine Mary Brown | Missing | Vancouver | Late 1970's
« on: March 12, 2011, 11:57:08 AM »
b]Neighbours knew of abuse, recall missing woman as a 'good mom'[/b]

They referred to them back then as the Rupert Street Projects, a cluster of low-income townhouses in Vancouver’s eastside where they slept, played and dreamed of better lives.

For most kids living there in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, waking up was a constant reminder that life was much harsher than what they may have read in a storybook.

There was, of course, some fun — found together when they played — but this was tempered by the poverty, violence and, in many cases, direct abuse that lingered over their heads.

For the six Sturcz kids living in unit 4842, the abuse was allegedly some of the worst. The other kids knew this, but what were they supposed to do? They had their own problems.

“A lot of people had dysfunctional families — ours included,” remembers Mardell Demish, 42, who grew up in the projects. “But everyone tried to stay out of everyone’s business.”

Demish’s admission goes a long way in explaining how the disappearance of Katherine Mary Brown from the Rupert Street Projects went unreported for close to 30 years.

Brown, who lived in unit 4842 with her six kids and husband, Aladar Sturcz, went missing in the late ‘70s. Her husband told everyone she had left the country and wasn’t coming back.

It’s a story, however implausible it may have been, that stood until Wednesday when one of Brown’s sons, Robert Sturcz, 37, told the media he’d seen his dad kill his mom as a child.

Sturcz said his dad strangled his mom then buried her in the basement. Just five years old at the time, Sturcz, a recovering drug addict, said his dad forced him to write a confession note in crayon, saying the murder was his fault.

Vancouver police and archeologists from SFU began an intensive search of the unit Wednesday and remained on scene Thursday.

All police would say, however, was that they were looking into the disappearance of a woman last seen in 1977. They are expected to remain on scene for at least a full week.

Aladar Sturcz passed away in 1987 following a stroke, apparently right before he was supposed to face charges for sexually assaulting at least one of his thee daughters, according to Robert Sturcz.

“We knew about the abuse . . . . I don’t think as kids we felt like there was anything we could do,” says Demish, who was friends with one of the Sturcz girls. “I think somebody should have done something. But I think somebody should have done something for a lot of the stuff that was happening in the projects.”

Decades later, Demish says her mom has told her the adults living in the complex believed Sturcz’s story about his wife leaving. Given the abuse going on in the house, they didn’t blame her.

That’s why, she explains, the adults never called the police.

In an eerie twist, Demish says her aunt lived in unit 4842 for a long time after the Sturczs, now no longer with their mother, moved into a bigger unit in the same complex.

Following Wednesday’s astonishing admission from Sturcz, Demish said her aunt told her there she remembers seeing an uneven spot on the basement floor that looks like it had been redone at one point.

While police remained tight-lipped about what they might find, Julie Broad, who also grew up in the projects and was friends with the eldest Sturcz girl, Kathy, doesn’t have any doubts.

Broad says Kathy told her of the physical and sexual abuse that went on at the home before Kathy ran away when she was just 14. She described it as devastating.

She remembers Aladar Sturcz as a mean, aggressive person, who wasn’t afraid to hit his kids in public. When adults would challenge him on it, Sturcz would tell them to mind their own business, she says.

In contrast, she remembers Katherine Brown as an attractive woman who was also a loving mother.

Broad remembers asking Kathy once if her mother was ever going to come back. Her friend responded that she wasn’t. That was the last time, Broad says, that they spoke about it.

“In my heart, I know she (Katherine Brown) is there (in the basement) and it breaks my heart,” says Broad. “I’m so sad that nobody ever looked into anything. She was such a good mom.”



Robert Sturcz says he was just five years old when he watched his father kill his mother and bury her in a crude grave dug in the basement of their East Vancouver home.

Man says he saw father kill and bury mother in Vancouver home
Police, archeologists excavating basement in search for missing woman's remains
By Lora Grindlay, The Province March 9, 2011 Comments (19)

Now, more than 30 years later, Vancouver police and a team of archeologists are excavating the basement of a subsidized housing unit on Rupert Street in a bid to find the body of a missing woman.

What they may find along with the remains of Katherine Mary Brown, Sturcz said, is a confession note, written in crayon, that he was forced to write after seeing his own mother choked to death.

“[The note] said that it was my fault that my mom was dead,” Sturcz, now 37, told The Province. “I wrote what [my dad] wanted me to write.”

Vancouver police Const. Jana McGuinness was mum about the investigation, only saying that a missing persons investigation was launched last fall after police received “credible” information into the disappearance of a woman last seen in 1977.

Sturcz has told his story many times, to his probation officer, doctor and social worker.

“I even told the cops on the corner of the street,” he said. “I would stop a cop and tell them.”

No one believed him.

“I was a junkie crackhead,” he said.

Sturcz now lives in Maple Ridge and receives disability income assistance. He said he never told his siblings about his mother’s death, though they have since been contacted by police regarding the investigation.

It wasn’t until Sturcz told Dave Dickson his story last fall that police began to believe him.

Dickson is a veteran of the Downtown Eastside, having spent 28 years as a police officer and two years as a community resource worker at the Lookout Society.

“When he sat down and came out with it, I said, ‘Holy cow.’ I took it to the police right away. I believed it 100 per cent,” he said Wednesday. “I didn’t think he was making it up.”

Sturcz speaks with alarming clarity about the day his mother died.

“I remember [my dad] calling me down to the basement,” he said. “I was the only one home. I came down, he’s choking her out and then I seen her collapse and he says, ‘Watch her, make sure she doesn’t move,’”

“He had his fat fingers around her neck and squished it. That’s what I saw.”

Sturcz recalls another grey-haired man helping his father dig through the concrete on the basement floor.

For the month that followed, his father demanded that he keep his three sisters and two brothers from going into the basement.

The kids were told not to talk about their mom’s disappearance and Sturcz is not sure anyone ever reported her missing.

“We were getting beat up all the time by our dad,” he said, adding there was “big-time arguing” between his parents over his mother seeing other men.

Sturcz’s father, Aladar Sturcz, died in 1987 following a stroke, he said, not long before the man was to face criminal charges for sexually assaulting at least one of his three daughters.

The elder Sturcz was a survivor of a concentration camp in Hungary and immigrated to Canada.

As a teenager, Sturcz turned to drugs and spent years on the Downtown Eastside addicted to cocaine and getting in trouble with the law.

“I was medicating myself with drugs for many years but now I don’t medicate myself no more,” he said.

Sturcz said he is two years clean of cocaine.

Dickson, the community resource worker, said he is proud of Sturcz for making “huge efforts” to repair his life and he’s waiting to hear that his mother’s body has been recovered.

“I really want to say to Rob, ‘Your mom didn’t leave you. She didn’t abandon you.’ It’s a bit of closure for him,” Dickson said.

Describing what it will mean if his mother’s body is found, Sturcz said, “It will mean that my mom is buried and when I go to heaven I will see her. It will mean the house won’t be haunted.”

“I used to cry all the time. Now I got no more tears in my tear ducts,” he said.

Police and archeologists from Simon Fraser University will continue to search the home at 4842 Rupert Street, one of 41 units in a complex of subsidized housing run by BC Housing.



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Re: Katherine Mary Brown | Missing | Vancouver | Late 1970's
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2011, 03:54:21 PM »
Mr Sturz, I hope they find your mom. I respect the courage that it took for you to come forward repeatedly and try to get justice for her. I hope that now at least you and your family can get some answers and some peace.
I regret that you weren't listened to beforehand.


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Re: Katherine Mary Brown | Missing | Vancouver | Late 1970's
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2011, 11:56:43 AM »
I read about this in the news.
The husband was obviously guilty if he did not even report her missing!!!
Even if the relationship was rocky and they were on the outs, any normal person would not just leave their kids and never to be heard from!
I want to know the details of digging up the basement.  How did they confirm it was the correct one since the article mentioned they had moved within the complex thruout the years and that the aunt had lived in one as well.. I would get all the addresses thruout the years and look at all the basements for uneven grounds.


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A casefile of events and story related to the 1975 murder of Kathryn Mary Herbert (Sutton).

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