Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stoddard Online

Stoddard Online: Continued from part seven. . .

The days wore on. It was now more more than six weeks since anyone was recorded as having seen any of the American hunters alive in the Gaspe' region. Proof of their existence was now nothing more than several cardboard boxes containing human bones in a back room at the police station. Stark reminders, they were indeed, however, the American administration was neither impressed or satisfied. This situation must conclude immediately in an expeditious fashion. There was only one way of making a very grim situation appear better, and that would be by bringing someone to justice. These words would be echoed by Premier Maurice Duplessis through his crack investigative team that he had assembled in Gaspe'.

Captain Alphonse Matte decided to embark upon a search of the area in the woods, a search that very definitely should have been carried out before the remains were removed to Gaspe'. This is where Captain Matte and Sgt. Henri Doyon would again lock horns. Sgt. Doyon had repeatedly insisted earlier that the area should be scoured for any and all clues, however, he could see very early on that Captain Matte was on a witch hunt. He could now see that Matte had found his witch. The witch in this case was none other than Wilbert Coffin.

You will recall earlier that it was Captain Matte who had ordered the only way that Wilbert Coffin could partake of the search for the bodies would be in a police car in the accompaniment of police officers. These officers consisted of Conatable Lewis Sinnett as driver of the patrol car and Sgt. Henri Doyon as team leader. In reality, Wilbert Coffin was not actually taking part in the search in Captain Matte's mind, he was subjecting himself to a secret study of his movements.

Captain Matte was now anxious to learn about Wilbert's movements during his trip into the forest with the officers. Constable Sinnett pointed out that he felt that Wilbert kept looking more to one side of the road than the other, although Sgt. Doyon stated that Wilbert's movements were not out of the ordinary, and that his conversations and responses to questions appeared quite normal, and as well, he seemed anxious that the boys would soon be found. Sgt. Doyon would report later that he saw absolutely nothing incriminating in Wilbert Coffin's movements during the trip that could possibly implicate him as a murder suspect, nor was there anything in his conversations that would point toward involvement. This was definitely not what Captain Alphonse Matte wanted to hear.

We will later become aware of the fact that exerpts of conversations with Wilbert Coffin and the two officers during this trip would be taken out of context by Captain Matte, and used as incriminating circumstantial evidence at the upcoming murder trial. If this case were compared to the pitching of a tent, very definitely, Wilbert Coffin was the centre pole, and the pegs were now being hammered into place.

It was at this point that Captain Matte would send some of his top officers into the woods to search for, and gather evidence from around the crime scene. They were to conduct a systematic search, covering the immediate area where the bodies were recovered, as well as an exhaustive search of the surrounding area. The main problem here appears to be that none of these officers had ever been involved in a search of this magnitude. Equally disturbing is the fact that these officers knew little, if anything, of forensic crime scene testing beyond the use of a metal detector. One can ask the question here, Did Captain Matte really care? In his mind, he already had his man, so why complicate things?

Little was learned from the search in the woods. True, they did find one of the boys' wallets with five dollars in it. They found another wallet with no currencey in it. The crown would later argue at trial that this wallet had been robbed. A few canned goods were found that were somehow identified as those belonging to the hunters. Along the road leading from the crime scene, some other items were found that were identified as those of the American hunters. These items consisted of a camp stove, gas can, binocular case, and two sleeping bags. It was decided that these items were thrown from a moving vehicle, based on the fact of where they landed in the ravine adjacent to the road.

As alluded to earlier in the story, Captain Alphonse Matte's search leader, Captain Raoul Sirois found what could have been a very key piece of evidence. He stumbled upon the carcas of a bear in close proximity of where the bodies of Richard Lindsey and Fred Claar were discovered. One can only assume that Captain Sirois sensed a grave danger to his own safety from this dead bear, so he did as he was taught at police school. The rule states, when an officer senses danger, or fears that his life is threatened, he is justified in deploying deadly force to control the situation.
The application of deadly force to an already dead bear takes that rule to a whole new plateau.

In reality, there should most definitely have been an autopsy done on the bears carcass to determine cause of death. Did it mysteriously die there at the crime scene of natural causes? Had it feasted on the human remains? Did it die from bullet wounds? Sadly, it was destroyed as a crime clue when Captain Sirois shot it with his service revolver. Again, the high level of stupidity reigned supreme.

Meanwhile, back in Gaspe', Dr. Jean Marie Roussell, the provincial pathologist had conducted his investigation of the boxes of bones at the police station. He was later taken to the spot in the woods where both had been found. He was there to conduct the site investigation that should have been done before the remains were disturbed. After completing his notes he was returned to Gaspe' and Doctor Lionel Rioux, the area coroner convened a private inquest that was slated for July 27, 1953. This would be an opportunity for Wilbert Coffin to be questioned by the coroner in the presence of the police, in order to determine if there was enough evidence to take the case to trial. The inquest was originally slated for 1:00 PM, however, Wilbert did not arrive until later in the day when the inquest was reconvened for 7:00 PM.

At the conclusion of the private inquest hearing of July 27, the findings in short form were that three human remains found in the forest near Gaspe' had been identified as those of Eugene Lindsey, Richard Lindsey, and Fred Claar, all of Hollidaysberg, Pennsylvania. It further stated that all three had met death in an unnatural way, by a person or persons unknown. Again, this would not be what Captain Alphonse Matte wanted to hear. It was very apparent that an inquest jury would not be quick to condemn anyone without a much more orchestrated plan on the part of the Quebec justice ministry.

Captain Matte, was about to set just such a plan into motion. In his mind, Wilbert Coffin was his man, and this man presented the path of least resistance. In his mind, it should be easy, because anything that he did to accomplish this feat, would fall within the graces of Premier Duplessis, because they shared a motive for quick resolution. The end result of course would be that Ottawa and the American government would be off the back of Premier Duplessis, and Captain Alphonse Matte would emerge the hero and be subject to all the perks that were sure to follow after cracking such a case that presented an international audience of this magnitude.

In reality, with the lack of a real investigation that should have been broad in nature, Captain Matte was in a quandry. Afterall, the Americans were after Ottawa, Ottawa was after Duplessis, and Duplessis was after Captain Matte. Without doubt, it would be full speed ahead to build a case against Wilbert Coffin, and woe unto anyone who got in the way. The next day, July 28, 1953 would truly be "the beginning of the end" for Wilbert Coffin.

Lew Stoddard
Posted to site August 03, 2006

The next posting will deal with the time frame leading up to and including the public inquest of August 27, 1953. The results of this inquest will showcase, perhaps one of the ugliest displays of "justice" known in the Canadian justice system. You will also read of the investigation of Wilbert Coffin, his arrest, his treatment, the treatment of Marion Petrie, right up to the trial date in Perce', Quebec. This is the part of the story where deceit, manipulation, and dirty tricks take on new meaning.
It is also the part of the story where you might want to study exactly what "democratic process" really means when the system is allowed to tailor it's own meaning, as a means of touting a hidden agenda. . .

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Stoddard Online

Stoddard Online: Continued from part six. . . .

July 23, 1953 would be a date that even the most seasoned outsdoorsman would not soon forget. It was on this date that the fate of sixteen year old Richard Lindsey, and his pal, nineteen year old Fred Claar would become obvious. It would be a day of mixed emotion for both the residents of the Gaspe' Peninsula, and the families of the boys in the United States Of America. There would be a sense of some comfort in knowing that their remains had been found, coupled with the grief, associated with the fact the boys had died in such an agressive manner.

It was a pitiful site on the forest floor according to one searcher. Eighty- eight year old Jack Legere', currently residing in Manitoba was there on that unforgetable day. Jack was working in the mining field at Murdochville, and he and several of his co-workers lent their time to support the search for the Americans. I had the opportunity of interviewing Mr. Legere' on July 15, 2006, and though not planned, it was the fifty third anniversary of the finding of Eugene Lindsey's remains on July 15, 1953.

Mr. Legere' expressed to me, that though his recollections may not directly affect an outcome of this case, he wished to make the point that his intention was to encourage all who may know something about this matter to come forward. As well, he requested that I write into this story, the care and dedication of those who searched for days, with the very real intent of bringing some measure of closure to the respective families, when it was known by all, the end result would not be good, given the earlier finding of Mr. Eugene Lindsey's remains. I am indeed grateful to Mr. Legere'. Certainly, it places a very real sincerity on the part of everyday ordinary citizens for our fellow mankind.

Mr. Legere' informs me, that in his view, the search was not well conducted. Of course it was conducted by many well meaning people from far and wide, however, direction was obviously lacking from those charged with it's operation, with respect to the integrity and professionalism of the task at hand. This responsibility would have fallen squarely on the back of Captain Alphonse Matte. As has already been demonstrated several times in this story, this particular officer did not possess the qualities and skills necessary to be in charge and control of a crime of this magnitude, especially, in the wilds of rural Quebec in the 1950's. We have to consider, this was before the walkie talkie and cellular phone era as we know it today. In other words, whatever form of communication of the day, though paramount to the investigation and search, it simply had to be supplemented by coordination and skill in the absense of electronic means.

Mr. Legere' further points out, there was probably not one of those searching, who would be mentally prepared for the eventual finding. It is fair to assume that some would have families of their own at home, whether it be brothers or sisters, or their own children. Either way, the sight of what they were about to come upon, would forever etch a permanent memory of the gruesome conclusion of two young lives.

Strewn about on the ground, some of the searchers would come upon the skeletal remains of what would later be identified as that of sixteen year old Richard Lindsey. The skeleton, though not totally intact, appeared complete. It was obvious that Richard's body had, as well as that of his father's earlier, been ravaged by the bears in the area.

From documented reports of the day, the skeleton had been broken apart, presumably by the bears. It is interesting to note that the clothes had been removed from the body, and left in a pile nearby. A boot was lying nearby with leg bones protruding, which would indicate that whomever removed the clothes was able to remove them with the heavy footwear intact. It can be determined that the clothes were removed with human intervention, because, in contrast to the elder Mr. Lindsey, the clothes were all accounted for, and in the elder Lindsey's case, the clothes had mostly been consumed by the bears as was evidenced by buttons and other shreds of clothing being found in bear droppings in close proximity to the scene.

Beside where his body lay, Richard Lindsey's main items of clothing, his watch, his ring, and some other personal effects were found such as his cigarette lighter etc. His windbreaker style jacket and his binoculars were found at a hollow stump a short distance from the body.

Richard's rifle however, leaves a serious question mark that was never answered, perhaps because of a shoddy investigation, or in reality, the so called investigators not recognizing the importance or the relevancy. The rifle was found a full 300 feet away, with the muzzle being plugged with mud. This should have indicated a struggle to the investigators, or at the very least, establish the fact that someone had thrown the rifle. This theory appears shady to me, as anyone would recognize the dangers of throwing a loaded rifle, as the killer could have put his own life in jeopardy if it discharged.

The idea of a struggle appears more plausible. Being the experienced young outsdoorsman that he was, Richard Lindsey would certainly know the consequences of discharging a firearm with the muzzle being clogged with foreign material such as mud and debris, therefore, the muzzle would have been free and clear of all obstructions, hence, the theory of a violent struggle takes form which resulted in his death. Though never acted upon or investigated at the time, you will see a bit later in the story the relevance of this theory. Richard Lindsey's wallet was later found in the water, with identification, but void of currency.

Meanwhile, some 200 feet away on this same date, another equally chilling scene rounded out the day's discoveries. Another human remains was located. As with the skeleton that would be identified as that of Richard Lindsey, this remains bore the same tell tale reminders. The clothes had been removed, and personal effects, identifying the skeleton as that of Fred Claar, were found with his clothes adjacent to the skeleton. As with Richard Lindsey, the bears had ravaged the remains, leaving only bones.

As mentioned previously in the story, this crime scene commanded an investigation of unparalleled importance. Never in the history of Quebec, had such a grotesque crime scene been so evident. This crime scene warranted days of study before the skeletal remains should have been removed. It was worthy of forensic pathology to the extreme. It was far beyond what the Quebec Provincial Police could ever offer. Did they solicit outside help? Absolutely not. Alphonse Matte was touted as Quebec's top cop, so he would simply do it his way, because, as you will soon see in the story, Mr. Matte had already determined in his mind, the guilty party in this affair.

Later in the same afternoon, the remains and effects of both young men were loaded in a truck and transported to Gaspe'.

At this point in the story, I have a question for those of you who are perhaps over the age of 60 years. The question is simply this, do you remember what you were doing in the early evening hours of July 23, 1953? The answer would most probably be that you do not. Lani Mitchell, currently residing in Vancouver knows exactly where she was, and what she was doing on this date.

Lani Mitchell is the former Lani Baker of Gaspe'. Lani is the daughter of John and Enid Baker who co-owned the Ash Inn during this time in Gaspe'. Lani has very vivid memories of coming out of the Ash Inn and looking a few feet across the road and seeing the truck arrive, and the men unloading the boxes containing the remains of Richard Lindsey and Fred Claar. At this time Lani was approximately 9 years old, but this event created a memory that she will never forget. Lani and I made contact by e-mail as a result of her placing a comment online for this story. As a result, we have had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the story at length.

I feel particularly fortunate with Lani coming onboard in this project. Lani, with a determined effort to get to the bottom of this case, has availed herself in any way that she can to get to the truth, and set the matter straight. Lani encourages all others out there who may be able to shed some light on the situation to come forward, as it was as a result of this story, that she made her decision. I was pleased to learn yesterday that Lani has personally been in contact with Marie Stewart (Coffin) and offered her full support.

Lew Stoddard

Posted to site July 18, 2006

Watch for a new posting July 21, 2006 detailing "evidence", search, and inquests.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Stoddard Online

Stoddard Online: Again, I find it necessary to beg your forgiveness for the delay in presenting the next posting of this story. Rest assured, the delay has not been caused by loss of interest. More appropriately, the delay was necessary to clarify a couple of things, and in doing so, it created a much deeper interest.

I have been searching and digging for months, in every nook and cranny of this country, attempting to persuade and encourage folks who may have knowledge of this case to come forward. I am so pleased to inform you that the results have been overwhelming. The fruits of my labor are still being harvested. I was particularly interested to learn if there may be someone who was on the search party back in 1953 who is still with us, and be willing to share a moment with me regarding those tragic days. Thanks to a respondent to my plea for assistance, I managed to find that someone. Through his son and daughter-in-law, I was able to communicate with an elderly gentleman from Brandon, Manitoba, who was living in the Gaspe' region at the time and took part in the search. In "tomorrows" posting, I shall communicate to you, the substance of my interview with this gentleman.

In addition, although I cannot say too much at this point for reasons that will become obvious, I have received a very startling revelation from another source that could possibly have a tremendous influence on this case. Again, this was as a result of constant probing, and perhaps in some ways, making a general nuisance of myself, but, as I always say, If you don't ask the question, you rarely find the answer.

If there is a point in any story where it becomes difficult to write, the next posting signifies that time has arrived. If you choose not to read it, I understand. As I mentioned at the onset of the story, there would be parts that would appear cruel and disgusting. I pondered as to whether I should write about it, however, it formed a large part of the crown's circumstantial evidence at the upcoming trial, and as well, had the defense placed much more focus on this part, I am confident that the trial result would have been much different.

Though the army of searchers in the woods looking for the remaining two hunters were a dedicated lot, none were prepared for the eventual finding. From written accounts of the day, it is fairly obvious the image would be forever etched in their minds.

Again, please forgive me for a very necessary delay. I invite you to join me tomorrow, as I present to you, the next posting of the Wilbert Coffin saga.

Lew Stoddard
Posted July 14, 2006