EDITORIALS

NOT FIRST RODEO FOR MURDER SUSPECT – Previous Conviction in 1989 Killing

Winnipeg Homicide (Web Page Screenshot)
Winnipeg Homicide (Web Page Screenshot)

There was a lot of noise in the media when the RCMP recently confirmed their statistics indicate up to 70% of offenders responsible for killing Aboriginal women were Aboriginal men.

The numbers didn’t surprise me.

As an experienced investigator with continuing interest in the ultimate crime I make it my business to be aware of homicide statistics and trends.

You needn’t look further than last year.

In 2014, a total of nine (9) women were victims of homicide in the City of Winnipeg;

  • 7 of the 9 female victims of homicide were First Nations
  • 5 of the 7 cases were solved resulting in charges against 4 First Nations men and 1 First Nations woman
  • 2 cases remain unsolved (Tina Fontaine & Angela Poorman)

When you do the math, 71.42% of the perpetrators were of Aboriginal origin.

Until recently, only four (4) of those cases were solved.

On March 24th, 2015, the WPS announced the arrest of Ronald Alvin Thomas (43) for the killing of Beatrice Ann Crane (44) years of Winnipeg.

The story is tragic but not unfamiliar;

  • a domestic violence killing
  • an Aboriginal female victim
  • an Aboriginal male offender

Since releasing the statistics, the RCMP have been accused of victim blaming, stereotyping and stigmatizing Aboriginal men.

Since the Crane case was solved most of the media I’ve seen has been predominantly race centric.

The RCMP stress it’s not the ethnicity of the offender that’s relevant, rather the relationship between the victims and offenders that guides their focus with respect to prevention.

In other words, our focus should be on domestic and family violence and not the colour of the victim’s and perpetrator’s skin.

I fully agree.

When it comes to the Crane case, race and domestic violence are only part of the story.

In fact, since police announced they solved the case I’ve been waiting for an astute investigative reporter to connect the dots on an equally important part of the story.

The Revolving Doors of Justice

Ronald Alvin Thomas (43) is no stranger to the criminal justice system.

During the summer of 1997 two (2) robbery suspects, believed responsible for upwards of twenty-one (21) armed robberies, were preying on Winnipeg businesses that included hotels, video stores, drug stores, 7-11’s and grocery stores.

During several robberies, the suspects fired shots from an Uzi style firearm equipped with a banana style clip.

The public was frightened, outraged and demanding action from the Police.

The problem for the police was the suspects were all over the map.

They never hit the same place or geographical area twice and left no significant clues to assist in identifying them.  To complicate things, the tip lines were silent.

Our instincts told us these guys were habitual criminals but that was about all we could be sure of.

With few investigative options, we decided to use the “saturation” technique.  That meant we would divide the City into specific areas of responsibility and assign Detectives to patrol, monitor dispatch calls and hope to get lucky.

If you hadn’t guessed it, these are not high percentage investigations.

Fate, Luck or Divine Intervention 

I was working the case with Detective Sergeant George “Jungle” Murray, a hard-core, grizzled WPS veteran investigator.

We drew a Downtown beat that extended from Portage Ave to the Polo Park area.

After several uneventful hours we took a break to grab something to eat.  We opted for cop food, greasy cheeseburgers and french fries at George’s Burgers 904 Portage Ave.

Enter Lady Luck.

As we started scoffing down our tasty burgers our attention was drawn to two sketchy looking men hanging around a bus stop across the street on the north side of Portage Ave. One man appeared to match the description of one of our robbery suspects.

As we watched, my heart literally skipped a beat when the men put on sunglasses and entered the Vimy Park Pharmacy at 893 Portage Ave.

Google Maps - Georges Burgers > Vimy Park Pharmacy 893 Portage Ave
Google Maps – Georges Burgers > Vimy Park Pharmacy 893 Portage Ave

Were we the luckiest cops on the planet?

Did two hard-core serial robbery suspects really just walk into a pharmacy to do a hold up directly across the street from us?

It seemed the men were in the store for around thirty seconds when they nonchalantly exited giving every outward impression absolutely nothing had gone down.  After walking approximately ten feet, both suspects made their break and booked it into a residential area.

There could be no doubt…

It was game time.

After spotting the men slip between houses I jumped out of the cruiser car and pursued them on foot while Jungle stayed in the unit to give updates to other units and coordinate the takedown.

As I cautiously entered the back lane I observed both men engaged in what appeared to be a heated conversation.  That meant I had the drop on them and was able to take full advantage of the element of surprise.

With my handgun trained on the fleeing felons I challenged them in a loud, authoritative voice, “Police, don’t move, get down, get down on the ground.”

Much to my dismay, one suspect made like a jack-rabbit and jetted while the other turned his back and reached into his waistband.  My mind immediately went to the Uzi with the banana clip, an intimidating, deadly weapon.

I suspected this wasn’t going to end well for one of us.

In fact, I made the conscious decision to open fire if the guy so much as turned towards me.

The suspect ignored my orders and continued to reach into his waistband.

I didn’t hesitate.

A quick kick to the back of his legs put him on his knees with only one hand supporting the full weight of his entire upper body.  A hard stomp between the shoulder blades managed to bounce the suspect’s thick skull off the concrete and brought an immediate end to the drama.

When I rolled the dazed miscreant over I was startled to see a 13 ½ inch butcher knife on the pavement beneath him.

(I would find out later he lost the Uzi at a booze can after passing out drunk just a few days before he did the Vimy Park Pharmacy robbery.)

The second suspect was arrested a few blocks away.

My new friend on the ground was identified as none other than Ronald Alvin Thomas.

A hardcore criminal with a lengthy pedigree that included convictions for multiple robbery offences and a notable conviction for a 1989 Manslaughter case for which he was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison.

That’s correct, 4 1/2 years for killing another human being.

At the time of his arrest Thomas was wanted on a Canada wide warrant for parole violations connected to a five (5) year sentence he caught for doing seven (7) armed robberies.

Thomas was eventually sentenced to six (6) years in custody for a number of robbery offences that included the score he did at the Vimy Park Pharmacy.

As I reflect on the case a few things stand out for me;

  • The incredible luck, fate or coincidence involved in taking him down.
  • The incredulous six-year sentence he received for his crime spree, especially give the fact he was an offender with multiple robbery convictions and a conviction for manslaughter.
  • The candid remark he made post arrest indicating he had every intention of stabbing me had he been able to retrieve the butcher knife from his waist band.

I had no reason to doubt what he said.

Now this.

A forty-four (44) year old woman brutally stabbed to death.

It seems Ronald Alvin Thomas has done everything in his power to prove he should be locked up for the rest of his miserable life.

Unfortunately, we know that’s not likely going to happen.

At only forty-three (43) years of age Thomas will undoubtedly get the opportunity to join the elite list of Canadian killers who have committed the ultimate crime not once, not twice but three times in unrelated senseless killings.

If you didn’t know it, that list is frighteningly long.

The tragic killing of Beatrice Crane may not have seemed all that complex to those charged with reporting her murder.

If viewed with a narrow focus I guess it isn’t.

Violence against women, domestic violence, Aboriginal men killing Aboriginal women and the revolving doors of justice offer little in the way of compelling theatre for main stream media.

The story becomes more significant when all of these elements are combined into one tragic case.

Sadly, Beatrice Ann Crane somehow became the invisible woman in all of this.

2 Comments

  1. Barb…

    I was embracing my inner pessimist…

    As a convicted killer, who stands charged with a 2nd killing….I’m suggesting that if he is convicted, soft Canadian justice will ensure he is out at a young enough age to kill again.

    He only received 4 1/2 years for his first Manslaughter so even if he gets 10 years for his second conviction he’ll only be 53 years of age when he gets out of prison…

    That would give him plenty of time to kill for a 3rd time…..

    Unfortunately, this is not an unprecedented scenario in our Country…

  2. “At only forty-three (43) years of age Thomas will undoubtedly get the opportunity to join the elite list of Canadian killers who have committed the ultimate crime not once, not twice but three times in unrelated senseless killings.” I count two here, was there a third?

    And thanks for bringing all that background to light.

Share your thoughts - we value your opinion!