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Strowbridge died February 27, 2013 of natural causes

Gordon Strowbridge

Another "Mr. Big" sting

Stings rarely serve the public interest

The type of sting used to get Gordon Strowbridge to confess to killing Marie Dupe in a Big Ben convenience store in Cape Breton would not be allowed in the U.S. Australia cops are studying it. Al Haslett has been promoting it, claiming that using the Mr. Big or some other scenario, the cops can get anyone to confess.

“Using stings, cops can get anyone to confess”
--Al Haslett

Around the same time I was looking into these stings last fall, I happened to catch a segment on A&E's Cold Case files about a sting in Ontario. The RCMP claimed to have linked Gordon Strowbridge to the murder through DNA extracted from a cigarette butt found in the spring after the snow had melted. They traced Strowbridge to Ontario and then spent THREE MONTHS enticing him into a criminal organization.

They lured him with promises of huge sums of money, some of which he was allowed to count. They bought him new clothes, flattered him and showed him the extravagent life he could expect if he was allowed into their ranks. To accomplish this he must pass some tests. He has to have committed a murder, an initiation requirement for this organization which is so cool they do not even speak its top dog's name.

They then arranged for him to meet the Mr. Big.

The scene in a luxurious Toronto hotel where Strowbridge finally meets the OPP officer posing as the crime boss is the only scene shown on the segment. Bill Curtis' voice-over tells us he confessed. The OPP, like the Mounties have once again got their man.

Often, we will hear that a culprit has confessed and that this confession is valid because he "revealed details of the crime that only the perpetrator would know."

So they say. What they do not say, and what we know is that in the three or six or however many months leading up to the actual "sting" the cops have been operating in complete secrecy and that they cleverly feed details of the crime to the target. The target is usually broke and often in a vulnerable mental state.

This is clearly the case with Gordon Strowbridge.

The Supreme Court has told us that it is legal for police to lie, or use "ruses" as long as they do not commit actions which "offend community standards." Corruptible officers have taken this as a green light to do anything they please. This includes lying to "suspects," lying to the media -- and lying to the court.

If they have evidence, there is no reason to sting someone for a confession. If they do not, then they are running amok, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on elaborate stings which may or may not be catching criminals. They have won the right to lie and lost their credibility.

The successful convictions they claim to have made with scenario stings are successes for them. For us, they are a crapshoot. Flip a coin.

Mr. Officer, now when were you telling a lie and when were you telling the truth?

--Sheila Steele, March 20, 2005

How much did the RCMP spend to "sting" Gordon Strowbridge?

Gordon Strowbridge

From A&E

Case #2: THE "MR. BIG" STING
Marie Lorraine Dupe's first night shift working at the local Big Ben convenience store turns out to be her last. She is found inside the shop bleeding and barely alive the night of March 21, 1992. Outside one of Cape Breton's fiercest blizzards blows.

Police battle the snow and respond to the scene, but Dupe dies within the hour. Witnesses tell detectives about a suspicious young man seen in the store, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Cigarette butts in the store's ashtray are taken into evidence. But with DNA still in its infancy and no other solid leads, the case goes cold.

In 2001, police enter a DNA profile extracted from the cigarettes into Canada's DNA database and get a hit: Ernest Gordon Strowbridge. While the cigarettes place him at the scene in the store, it does not prove murder. To prove that police plan an elaborate sting operation that gets the killer talking about a snowy night of murder.

From CBC

In 1992, Marie Dupe was brutally stabbed to death while working an all-night shift at a Big Ben convenience store in Sydney, N.S. Despite an intensive investigation involving 1100 interviews and 230 suspects, the case stayed cold for 10 years. But advances in DNA technology later matched a cigarette butt found at the crime scene to the stranger drinking coffee at a table in the store the night of the murder.

It took an undercover operation in Ontario and a police interrogation to close the case. The show features tapes of the sting and the confession by Ernest Gordon Strowbridge, who was 17 years old when he stabbed Dupe 40 times. It features an exclusive interview with Strowbridge, now serving seven years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and interviews with the detective and undercover policeman who succeeded in getting a confession from Strowbridge. (orig. aired on The Docket Mar. 11)

The Cold Case Files Scene Re-enactors

I'm somewhat addicted to the various FBI and crime-solving/forensic science shows that are frequently aired by A&E and The Discovery Channel. (To be clear, the crime "dramas" like CSI do NOT count.

I only watch the real that makes it any less trashy.) The Cold Case Files, hosted by former Chicago-based news anchor, Bill Kurtis, is filled with all the murder, suspense and mustachioed police from Florida's backwoods swampland that one can hope for.

In order for the audience to grasp the true barbarity of the crimes in question, A&E conveniently recreates the events that shape each murder. The casting agents for A&E have to hire actors that resemble the psychotic hillbilly serial killers, their victims, the friends and family members and/or the police investigators involved in each case.

These actors never get any lines and there are usually three scenarios: the murder, the reaction and the paper shuffling. The killer's role usually calls for him to simulate a bludgeoning with a hammer or a slow-motion throat throttling. Meanwhile, the wife/husband/child/jogger must react in an appropriately horrified manner when they find the body sprawled on the bed, dumped by the highway or under a loose pile of leaves in the park.

The police actors sit at desks, point at chalkboards and practice looking stern while interrogating the suspect. Sometimes they play with their mustaches.

Casting agent: What kind of past experience do you have that would make me want to hire you?

Actor: Well, I played the murderer Ernest Gordon Strowbridge in "The "Mr. Big" Sting" episode.

Casting agent: And what did that entail?

Actor: I smoked the cigarettes that allowed police to trace his DNA back to the crime scene.

Casting agent: As you know, the role we're offering today involves a rigorous reenactment of multiple stab wounds to the chest with a hunting knife. How do you feel about that?

Actor: I feel great about it.

Casting agent: Good. I've got a feeling about you...don't let me down.

Actor: Don't worry. All those years at Julliard won't disappoint.