Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Did a dishonest cop attempt to frame an innocent man of the murder of a child?

The killing of a child is a rare event in Canada however, once such a person is suspected of killing a child; his or her whereabouts at the time the child was murdered or abducted is very carefully scrutinized by the police. Of course, such scrutiny and the accompanying investigation must be done both carefully and honestly. If not, the accused can be found not guilty of the crime by the judge or by a jury. It is unfortunate that Canada (and other countries) have dishonest police officers in our police forces and for this reason, a fair number of accused persons who really were guilty of the crimes they were charged with, got to walk free out of the courtrooms. and others who were totally innocent were convicted and imprisoned.  In this article, I will describe to you such a case of a dishonest cop who wanted to frame an innocent man for the murder of an eight-year-old girl.  

Mindy Tran, an eight-year-old girl living at 385 Taylor Road in Rutland, near Kelona, British Columbia disappeared from her neighbourhood in August 1994, just after supper. She rode her bike down her quiet street and was never seen alive again. Hundreds of people searched for the girl but her body wasn't found until six weeks later when a man with a divining rod led police to a shallow grave near her parents' home. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

 The time of Mindy's disappearance was based on the statements of Jessica and Ryan Campbell. Both saw Mindy riding her bike up and down Taylor Road around 6:45 in the afternoon. Kelowna investigators never looked for two women who had been seen talking to Mindy minutes earlier. Jessica and Ryan also saw a white van driving slowly through the neighborhood. When they arrived at their friend Lisa Sterling's place, Jessica went in her house and Ryan Campbell stayed outside. Ryan testified that he saw Mindy lay down her bike between two rocks at 350 Taylor Road and walk in the direction of 360 Taylor Road around 6:50. When Ryan, Jessica, and Lisa Sterling emerged from the house Mindy, was no longer there but all three saw the white van.

The police—(Royal Canadian Mounted Police—RCMP; federal police in Canada and police in small cities and towns in British Columbia) interviewed all of Mindy's neighbors including Shannon Murrin, the Mugfords, and the people who shared their duplex, Dale Breit and Tammy Desjardins. The Mugfords and Shannon Murrin rented 360A Taylor Road. Brymer and Stephanie Mugford had an eight-year old daughter, Charmaine. Charmaine and Mindy were best friends and often played together at both girls' homes.

The police were especially interested in the duplex because Mindy's bike was found in front of 360B, Dale and Tammy's place. The Mugfords, Dale and Tammy, and Shannon were all asked to give an account of their whereabouts on the 17th and police took also took statements from all the neighbors.

Patrick Radke lived right next door to the duplex. He had seen Mindy talking to the two women and he also said that he saw a white van pull out of the driveway around 6:45.

Corporal Seversen's first interview with Shannon Murrin was conducted at 1:40 in the early morning of August 18th, 1994. In his interview Shannon gave Constable Seversen an account of his whereabouts on the evening of the 17th of August. He said that he woke up from a nap sometime between 6 and 7 in the afternoon, had a beer, walked up to McDonalds because CJ had told him to look for his stolen bike there, then went to Rob Holmes place. He told investigator Seversen that he had seen several people there. When he and Rob became aware that Mindy was missing they went out searching for Mindy on Rob's motorcycle. Shannon suggested that Seversen should check all of the people with whom he had been in contact and offered not to talk to these individuals again until the police had interviewed them. Shannon also volunteered details of his criminal record to Corporal Seversen at this time.

The police suspected that Shannon Murrin, who lived near the Trans was the killer from the start but the evidence against him was initially largely circumstantial. Now you may ask, why were their suspicions directed to Murrin? Just because someone lives next to a victim’s home is not sufficient enough to believe that such a person committed the murder. In my opinion, the suspicion was on Shannon because he had been a suspect in a double murder in Newfoundland in Newfoundland however, it was later determined that he was innocent of that double murder.

Shannon Murrin was taken into custody for questioning. Curiously, he was released for the night based on an agreement between the investigating officer, Sgt. Gary Tidsburry and Shannon that he would be brought back the following day to be charged with murder. Now that has to be the strangest decision any cop anywhere has ever made in a murder case. The reason is obvious when you consider what happened next.  

So Sgt. Gary Tidsbury, the lead RCMP investigator in the Tran murder case put the word out to some local tough guys that Murrin was the man who killed Mindy.  Since they faced charges themselves, it was an offer they could not refuse. He put Murrin’s life at risk when he passed that false information to the two thugs. He even stated to the press that Shannon was a suspect so that the thugs would really believe that Shannon had really  killed the little girl., He was beaten by two thugs on the pretext of attempting to obtain a confession by two thugs.  Even if he had confessed to the two thugs, his confession would never be accepted by a court.

The beating was severe so Shannon was sent to the hospital. Subsequently, his hospitalization had kept Shannon from being presented in a line up where as many as twenty witnesses were waiting to identify whom they believed was the murderer of the little girl. If Shannon hadn’t been beaten and had appeared at the lineup, none of the witnesses would have recognized him as the murderer.  A photo lineup was delayed for an even longer time. These were links to the original news reports of the main events of the murder investigation as it unfolded. The lead investigator was involved in many unusual and suspicious activities during the course of this particular investigation. Tidsburry admitted that when Shannon became a suspect , at the trial he said he was aware that Seversen had eliminated Shannon as a suspect.

Nevertheless, Shannon was charged with the little girl’s murder. Supposedly, Shannon’s DNA was found on the little girl’s panties.  At his trial, the physical DNA evidence was available to confirm the killer's identity. Unfortunately, the conclusive Nuclear DNA evidence was suspiciously washed from the victims clothing by the RCMP before any samples could be taken. What was left of the DNA evidence by the time it was presented in court was of little use to be used to implicate Shannon. .

A curiously flawed prosecution strategy was exposed during the trial. Why the Crown (prosecutor) would structure this case using Thomas Sophonow's case as a basis is telling. Sophonow had been wrongfully convicted. The same informant used to falsely implicate Sophonow was again being used as a witness against Shannon Murrin. The implications to a jury were blatantly obvious.  A great deal of information was obtained by comparing Thomas Sophonow's wrongful conviction case with Murrin's case. A pattern began to emerge with the players showing themselves up as attempting to frame another innocent man.

After the highly controversial trial, Shannon Murrin was acquitted, successfully claiming that he was being wrongfully prosecuted and that he had been framed. He returned to Newfoundland where he took up residence with a female juror from his trial. The juror, Kathy MacDonald, is the daughter of a former RCMP member. She wrote an account of the RCMP investigation in an attempt to prove Murrin's innocence and justify her relationship with him. As a result, MacDonald inadvertently published additional evidence which has helped to confirm the identity of Mindy Tran's killer. Among other things, she has provided confirmation that the RCMP are in possession of, and have been concealing, witness reports of an undisclosed suspicious vehicle from the night of the abduction, just as the new witness has been claiming. Murrin has been using these reports to allege that the driver of this undisclosed vehicle could be the killer. 

Sgt. Gary Tidsbury was a veritable expert on wrongful convictions by the time of the Tran investigation. He had been involved in re-interviewing informant/witnesses for the David Milgaard wrongful conviction case from 1990- 1994, and had worked together with the investigator of Terry Arnold, the prime suspect in the murder for which Thomas Sophonow had been wrongfully convicted. If anyone knew how to structure a case to bring on a wrongful conviction case it was this investigator.

Because of the Police obstruction and evidence destruction that was  discovered in the Mindy Tran case, Shannon was locked up in prison for five years waiting for his trial. After he was acquitted he subsequently sued Sgt. Tidsburry and the RCMP.  Later he  was on the verge of becoming a very rich man  after being paid off by the police for their actions including those of Sgt. Tidsburry in the Mindy Tran case. 
 A witness claimed that Murrin was an RCMP confidential informant and that the police deliberately blew the case against him and has covertly arranged to pay him off by making sure he isn’t convicted of any murders he was suspected of committing. Quite frankly, I find that hard to believe. I could accept the possibility of that happening on one case but considering the fact that he was a suspect in seven other murders of women across Canada, it raises my eyebrows. Is he really a serial killer? So far, there is no concrete evidence that he is. If he is, it is really ironic that the RCMP in Kelowna paid this man off for the alleged wrongdoing they supposedly did to him when in fact, they might have done him a favour by purposely bungling the case against him so that he would be acquitted. This is the stuff of movies however in fact, I don’t really know what arrangements if any took place between the police and  Shannon Murrin.

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