Crime on the Rise

Crime escalated with the affluent rise of the seventies and early eighties. Some of the more interesting and violent crimes the Force had to contend with were:

Department photo 1970

On February 11, 1973 Police were called to a local residence over a family dispute between a 39 year-old husband, his wife and stepson. The couple had spent the evening drinking in the bar and on arriving home an argument took place. The stepson, 17, intervened on behalf of his mother. The stepfather threatened to kill him. Police persuaded the husband to leave the home for the night. He agreed to stay at a hotel and was driven there by police. He booked out a few minutes later and returned home in a taxi. He spoke to his wife who had been sleeping and she told him to go to bed. The husband said he was going to get a drink, but he went downstairs where his stepson was sleeping and brutally struck him seven times on the head and neck with a large pipe wrench, killing the boy as he slept. Ronald MacMillan was sentenced to 10 years (later lowered to six years on appeal) for killing Stuart MacMillan.

Less than two weeks later a 26-year-old father of two children phoned police saying his little boy had just died. On arrival the father told police the boy, aged two, had fallen down the stairs after he had been spanked by the father. Subsequent investigation proved the child had not fallen, but had received a severe beating which caused internal bleeding, resulting in death. The father stated he became aggravated with the child because he refused to remain in bed. The father spanked the child with a belt, leaving impressions of the belt buckle on the child’s body. He also beat him with a stick. A short while after the severe beating the child died in the home. The father was sentenced to five years.

On March 10, 1973, following a three-day drinking spree, the body of a semi-nude woman was found near a shack on the eastern edge of the city. The body showed signs of having received a severe beating prior to death. Investigation revealed that at about 10:00 p.m. the night before the woman’s common-law husband came to the shack and dragged her outside. A witness in the house heard them arguing, with the man saying he would kill her. This was the last time the woman was seen until her body was discovered the next morning.

A search of the city was made and the common-law husband could not be found. A charge of murder was laid against him and permission was granted for a Canada Wide Warrant. At 1:47 p.m. on March 10 a “Want” was entered on CPIC and at 10:30 p.m. that same day he was arrested by the Golden, B.C. RCMP after checking two hitchhikers on the Trans-Canada Highway. Robert Henry Rowe was convicted of assault causing bodily harm and sentenced to three years.

Recruit class 1975

Police received a call to attend Rud’s Shell Service on the Trans-Canada Highway on Aug.22 at 4:32 a.m. On arrival the attendant, a 17-year-old youth, was found lying in a large pool of blood behind the office counter. He had received severe skull lacerations which later resulted in his death.  It was also apparent a robbery had taken place. One hour later three persons, two males and one female from Eastern Canada, were apprehended and charged. The charge against the female was withdrawn. Both males, Richard Denommoe, 23, and Allan Parker, 20, were sentenced to life. They were returned to Ontario to face another robbery and murder charge and received a second life sentence.

An interesting case was concluded in 1977 when the supervisor of maintenance at the General Hospital plead guilty to charges of fraud and theft under $200. Investigation had proven he received payments from a local contracting firm in return for recommending the company for some hospital construction work. It was also revealed that he requisitioned electrical equipment for his private use. The Judge said it was an obnoxious affront to the standard of conduct the public expects of its servants. He sentenced the supervisor to nine months imprisonment.

To prove computers are human too, a city bank made an error in the computer and deposited $8,000 into a local cowboy’s account. This particular account had, a week prior, been standing at “nil”. The cowboy received his statement and learned of his unexpected windfall. He withdrew $5,000 from his account and left town for an enjoyable weekend in Calgary. One week later he returned home, broke. He told investigating officers, once his friends knew he had money they stopped drinking beer and started drinking whiskey. After his brush with the law, he made regular payments to the Bank.

Recruit class 1979

After being involved in a slight car accident and fearing he would be checked by police, a man fatally shot himself while parked in the hospital parking lot. It was later learned he had murdered his wife’s grandfather in Ontario, stolen his truck then driven to Medicine Hat searching for his wife who was living common-law with another man at one of the local motels. From evidence later found, there was no doubt it was his intention to find his wife and murder her and her boyfriend.

In the early morning hours of July 25, 1978, a young Medicine Hat woman lay sleeping in an upstairs bedroom of her home. By chance, she was the only occupant of the home, her young daughter having spent the night with her grandmother. The woman was abruptly awakened by the sound of breaking glass, to which she instinctively reacted by hiding under her bed. A short time later she was able to see a man, in possession of a gun, enter her room.

Recruit class 1980

The intruder went on a rampage, yelling and uttering threats as he searched the house. The terrified woman was able to reach from beneath the bed, pull a telephone from a night table and take it under the bed. She then called the police. Members of the patrol division responded to the call, quickly surrounding the home. Two patrol members were able to position themselves in the front and rear porches of the home and within minutes of receiving the original complaint were able to break open a door and apprehend the suspect. Along with the suspect was found a sawed-off twelve gauge shotgun as well as a considerable amount of ammunition.

A very frightened but grateful young lady was found still hiding under her bed listening to words of encouragement being offered to her over the telephone by a police dispatcher. After a three-day trial the accused was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Medicine Hat Police K9 Team

On September 24, 1980 a drug addict shot a small time drug trafficker in the head while visiting the victim’s home. The victim, bleeding profusely, was placed into a vehicle and dumped in a dugout about 30 miles north of the city. A massive police hunt by land, air and water failed to locate the body. Two members training their police dogs in Montana arrived with their whole class, including dogs, to assist in the search, but to no avail. The victim was found by duck hunters three weeks after he disappeared. John Allan Glenn was later arrested and plead guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven years.  

Responding to a call at 5:17 a.m. on July 29, 1984, in the 700 block of 10th Street SE. They found a Deluxe Cab driver, Kenneth Spoonheim, age 57, had been stabbed to death. Investigators learned that a few nights previous the taxi driver had picked up a young man in the area who had been carrying a knife in a sheath attached to his belt. An effort was made to identify him and his description was broadcasted. The same day, at 5:20 p.m., information was received that a person answering the description was seen coming out of the creek bottom near IXL Industries. A 21-year-old youth from Ontario was located on #41 Highway and found to be in possession of a hunting knife in a black leather sheath. He later confessed he had been in Medicine Hat for about two weeks and admitted stabbing the taxi driver. Edward Allen Hansford, age 23, was sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole for 10 years. 

In September, 1984, three youths became involved in a verbal altercation with a local resident in the lane between Bridge and Elm Street. The resident then followed the youths to a residence on Bridge Street and struck Gregory McCulley, 18, on the head with a baseball bat. McCulley suffered a depressed skull fracture and was hospitalized until he succumbed to the injury in February, 1988. 

The case was made difficult by the involvement of a number of people who helped the assailant in his escape and by their attempted destruction of evidence. However, in May, William Gamble (a.k.a Jewell), 34, was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to 4 ½ year imprisonment. Seven other persons were charged with obstruction and aiding and abetting the aggravated assault. 

Serving the Community with Pride

In June of 1987 Daniel Gingras, a serving prisoner on a murder charge, escaped from an unarmed guard while on a day pass from Edmonton Maximum Institute. At approximately the same time Calvin Smoker, charged with a murder in the Edmonton-Ponoka area, was released on bail.  

Gingras fled to Quebec. He returned with a male companion who was later found murdered. Gingras and Smoker were subsequently charged with the offence. 

Gingras and Smoker, accompanied by two females, arrived in Medicine Hat on August 14. They began to case a number of places to rob, specifically bingo halls. However, because of the large crowds abandoned this idea. 

At about 7:30 p.m. they abducted 25-year-old Wanda Lee Woodward as she approached her vehicle at the Southview Mall. She was driven to a gravel pit, left bound and tied inside their vehicle, while they left in her vehicle and robbed the Division Avenue Safeway store. 

They returned to the gravel pit, abandoned Woodward’s vehicle, and drove south on the Black & White Trail to a point where they murdered her. Cause of death was ligature strangulation. 

An extensive investigation by Medicine Hat City Police, Edmonton City Police and RCMP resulted in the arrest and charges of robbery and murder being laid against Gingras and Smoker. Gingras has received life and at time of writing, Smoker’s case was still before the courts.