December in Murder City – Time for Joy & Plenty of Sorrow

Wanted: Santa ClausMost people think of December as a magical month.

Not necessarily so for those who work or have worked in law enforcement.

Since 1987, a December hasn’t passed that I haven’t thought of the brutal murders of Anges Kirk-Kirton, her daughter Sara (5) and her infant son Evan (18 months).

It was Christmas eve, I was a rookie cop with only a couple months experience assigned to work the chauffeur’s office at the Public Safety Building.  The chauffeur’s primary function was to drive the Chief of Police to appointments or special events.

It was a boring assignment for a rookie cop thirsting for a taste of action on the mean streets of Winnipeg.

That night, the Public Safety Building was abuzz as graphic information from the crime scene slowly trickled into the police station.

A mother and two small children brutally murdered execution style by two thugs looking to collect a drug debt.  Larry Fisher and John Waluk were looking for the woman’s husband Terry Kirton, who managed to escape through a window when the executioners came to call.

Not to be denied, the killers turned their vengeance on the innocents.

The scene was bloody and disturbing.

The woman and children mercilessly shot multiple times at close range.

As I watched the clock ticking towards the end of my shift I received a call from the desk Sergeant informing me I was to drive Police Chief Herb Stephen and his wife to a Christmas Eve service at a local church.

Police Chief Herb Stephen
Chief Herb Stephen

Although I suspected it was a prank call, it turned out to be no prank at all.

The ride was a quiet one, the Chief in deep thought, his face etched with anxiety and concern.  Stephens had deep roots in the Crime Division and had seen much during his career.

On June 26th, 1970, Stephen was working the night when Detective Ronald Houston was killed in the line of duty.  At one point, Stephens took custody of Houston’s killer Thomas Mason Shand (30) years.

(Houston has the distinction of being the last WPS Officer to be killed in the line of duty.)

As Chief, Stephen would offer tremendous support to the Crime Division Detectives assigned to solve one of the most horrific homicides in WPS history.

It wasn’t long before the suspects were identified and the manhunt began.

I’ll never forget the intense expressions on the faces of the Homicide Detectives as they poured out of the Public Safety Building with Kevlar vests and shotguns in hand.

Those guys meant business.

It wasn’t long before both suspects were in police custody.

Veteran WPS homicide investigator William “Billy” Vandergraaf interrogated Larry Fisher for over ten (10) hours and later told crime reporter Mike McIntyre;

William “Billy” Vandergraaf (CBC)

“When you have a man accused repeatedly in various fashions, that he is a woman and baby killer, and he remains completely silent and emotionless for that length of time, you know he’s cold-blooded.”

Most people are aware December can be a tough month for people.  Suicides often spike during the festive season as the crush of loneliness and financial stress pushes them to the edge.

The pain of losing a loved one to homicide is an entirely different thing.

In early January, 2003, twenty-year old TJ Wiebe was senselessly murdered by a group of drug abusing miscreants hell-bent on executing a murderous plot inspired by jealousy and greed.

“After TJ was killed we couldn’t spend the first two Christmases at home so we went to a different Country just to get away,” TJ’s father Floyd Wiebe said.

Wiebe indicates many other surviving family members experience similar emotions and a sense of emptiness during the holiday season.

In his work to support families who’ve suffered the ultimate loss, Floyd has shared many painful experiences and offered a few memorable quotes he’s heard over the years.

  • “The Christmas table had an empty chair.”
  • “I didn’t have to buy her anything for Christmas, and that destroyed me.”
  • “I’m now caring for my son’s children.  While Christmas is very special with them, I wish my son was still here to be their dad.”

Now that the magical month is upon us I’m reminded to count my blessings and to think of those who’ve been profoundly affected by life’s cruel circumstances.

Let’s hope for a peaceful month.


December can also be a busy month for Homicide investigators.

Historical Murders in the month of December

  • 2013 – 1
  • 2012 – 2
  • 2011 – 5  (Record 41 homicides)
  • 2010 – 0
  • 2009 – 3
  • 2008 – 3
  • 2007 – 1
  • 2006 – 2
  • 2005 – 2
  • 2004 – 3 (Previous record 34 homicides – 100% solved)

As of December 1st, 2014, the City of Winnipeg recorded twenty-two (22) homicides..

As of December 1st, 2013, the City of Winnipeg recorded twenty-four (24) homicides.


On December 1, 2014, Stats Canada released their 2013 report on Homicide in Canada.

The report indicates the Province of Manitoba continues to lead the Nation in homicide at 3.87 killings per 100,000 population.

The City of Winnipeg lost the murder capital of Canada title to Regina @ 3.84 per 100,000 but held on to second place by a wide margin @ 3.24 per 100,000 over third place Thunder Bay @ 2.46 per 100,000.

Homicide In Canada (2013) – Stats Canada Report

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  1. James G Jewell



  2. “Houston has the distinction of being the last WPS Officer to be killed in the line of duty.”

    Long may that distinction stand.

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