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Jaime Wheeler murder

Police weigh new evidence claim in Wheeler murder

Jaime Wheeler City police have assigned aninvestigator to look into claims of new evidence in the six-year-old killing of Jaime Wheeler, but that does not mean the case is reopened, Staff Sgt. Kelly Cook said Tuesday.

"We have received some information pertaining to the Wheeler murder and we are in the process of determining its relevance. We are not convinced it is credible," said Cook, who heads up the major crime unit for the Saskatoon Police Service.

Wheeler, 20, was found by a roommate in a basement suite on March 12, 2000. She had been stabbed 56 times.

Dominic McCullock

Dominic McCullock, 23, was convicted in 2004 of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 15 years. He has maintained his innocence and is appealing his conviction. The trial heard that DNA found in blood on Wheeler's jacket and apartment door handles matched McCullock's, and a pubic hair stuck in dried blood on Wheeler's arm matched McCullock's.

Earlier this month a letter surfaced suggesting new evidence exists. The letter was given to The StarPhoenix and other media outlets, as well as the police, by an anonymous source.

In it, McCullock's lawyer Mark Brayford writes he has obtained a new, unidentified, object that may have the victim's and the killer's DNA on it. He implores Crown prosecutor Dan Dahl to send the item for DNA testing or forward it to a private lab for DNA tests.

"Neither of us ever wished to be in a David Milgaard type situation," Brayford writes to Dahl.

Brayford further writes that he submitted the item to the police service on June 23, 2004, and was disappointed no action had been taken on the potential evidence. When contacted by The StarPhoenix earlier this month, Brayford refused comment.

Dahl has referred calls to Justice Department spokesperson Andrew Dinsmore, who said the department could not comment on McCullock's case while it was still before the courts.

Angela Geworsky and Richard Klassen are hoping the evidence will help exonerate a man they have been helping defend who faces a first-degree murder charge in another case. Wilf Hathway is set to go to trial for the 1998 stabbing death of his landlord, Denver Bruce Crawford murder, 84.

Although separate, perhaps the two killings may be related, Geworsky and Klassen have suggested. The two helped launch a website to bring attention to alleged miscarriages of justice.

The deaths happened in the same Broadway neighbourhood -- Wheeler's at 521 10th St. East and Crawford's at 323 Ninth St. East. In fact, between 1998 and 2000, there were a number of similar attacks in the city, including two others within blocks of Wheeler's home.

Cook says the latest information being scrutinized is "specific to the Wheeler case.

"They (Geworsky and Klassen) are entitled to their opinions but we're not about to comment on that (any apparent link to Hathway)," he said, adding "nothing right here is going to change the Hathway trial from proceeding."


Letter alleges new evidence in Wheeler murder

A letter suggesting new evidence has surfaced in the five-year-old murder of a 20-year-old woman is opening old wounds for the victim's mother.

"It's a like a nightmare all over again," said Roberta Wheeler, whose daughter Jaime died in a brutal stabbing in 2000. "It never ends."

In 2004, Dominic McCullock, 23, was convicted of second-degree murder in Wheeler's death.

In a Dec. 13, 2005, letter given to The StarPhoenix by an anonymous source, McCullock's lawyer Mark Brayford writes he has obtained a new, unidentified, object that may have the victim's and the killer's DNA on it.

In the letter, Brayford implores Crown prosecutor Dan Dahl to send the item for DNA testing or forward it to a private lab for DNA tests at the family's expense. Brayford said the Crown can have access to the results, even if they incriminate McCullock.

Brayford says in the letter he submitted the item to the Saskatoon Police Service on June 23, and was disappointed no action had been taken on the potential evidence by the end of August.

McCullock, who was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 15 years, says he is innocent and has appealed his second-degree murder conviction.

"While it was apparent that you are sincere in your belief as to the correctness of the conviction, we know that the Crown counsel in (the case of wrongfully convicted David) Milgaard had the same genuinely held belief and we discussed that neither of us ever wished to be in a David Milgaard-type situation," Brayford wrote in the letter.

Brayford wouldn't comment on the letter when contacted Wednesday.

When contacted Wednesday, McCullock's mother said she wasn't ready to talk about the letter.

Wheeler said the first she heard of the letter was on Tuesday night.

Prosecutor Dahl referred calls to Justice Department spokesperson Andrew Dinsmore, who said the department could not comment on McCullock's case while it was still before the courts.

Gary Verrett, case manager at the RCMP's Regina forensic lab, said police investigators and forensic experts work together at crime scenes to identify the most "probative" exhibits that could yield DNA samples based on the circumstances of the crime.

Lab staff would conduct a DNA test on any evidence found outside the crime scene or found at a later time if they feel it is critical to the investigation, Verrett said.

"In terms of the actual articles, there isn't one that's better over the other (to obtain a DNA sample)," Verrett said. "It is really the type of bodily substance that is present on the article. Substances such as blood and semen have a much higher concentration of DNA and so, therefore, they give higher yields and better results than objects that have been handled."

It takes anywhere from two weeks to a couple of months to link a DNA sample to a person in an investigation, Verrett said.

A consultant at Genetrack Biolabs, a Vancouver company that conducts DNA tests, said analysis of one forensic sample for a legal case costs $350.

Jaime Wheeler, originally from Nipawin, was a psychology student who worked part-time in a restaurant kitchen. Her suitemate found her body in their basement apartment at 521 10th St. East the morning of March 12, 2000, when he returned home from an all-night party. She had been stabbed 56 times.

DNA found in blood on Wheeler's jacket and apartment door handles matched McCullock's, a forensic biologist testified at his trial. The jury also heard a pubic hair stuck in dried blood on Wheeler's arm matched McCullock's. McCullock testified any of the blood found in the apartment could be from his chronic nose bleeding problem.


Police eye criminal profile for new leads in murder

Jaime Wheeler

Saskatoon police will release new information on the unsolved killing of Jaime Wheeler today, the second-anniversary of the University of Saskatchewan student's death.

What led to the shy, 20-year-old woman being brutally stabbed to death in her Broadway-area home has baffled major crimes investigators for two years.

Plenty of leads have been exhausted.

No charges have been laid.

"What I can say is all the significant persons of interest have been conclusively eliminated (as suspects)," said Sgt. Keith Atkinson.

Now with the help of behavioural analysis techniques, police have created a criminal profile of who could have been responsible for Wheeler's death.

Atkinson says the profile details possible characteristics of the culprit, and what actions that person may have taken before, during and afterward.

He would not release details of the profiling, noting instead they will be made public at a news conference today.

"We will be releasing new information, such as the profiling, in hopes it may jog somebody's memory as to something they may have seen that may be of interest to our investigators," he said.

Police also plan to make public new information about Wheeler's activities around the time of her death and her last day alive.

In addition to her studies at the university, she worked in a busy restaurant and enjoyed dancing with friends, including at rave parties. Friends say she had just ended a long-term relationship with another woman, and lived in a house where drugs were regularly used.

She is remembered by many friends for her love of psychology and literature, her dry sense of humour and her fondness of playing video games and watching movies.

Her roommate has said that on the night of the death, Wheeler wanted to stay home to watch television and study.

He left the basement suite and Wheeler at 11 PM, and returned at noon the next day to find her lifeless body on the floor.


Gone too soon: Two months after Jaime Wheeler's brutal murder, police are still searching for her killer

Two months later, there is still no comforting, simple explanation for the brutal murder of Jaime Lynn Wheeler.

She had no obvious enemies.

She did not pick a fight in a bar.

She did not stray into a party on the wrong side of town.

All that is known for certain is that the third-year University of Saskatchewan psychology student did not die accidentally.

Late Saturday night or in the early hours of Sunday morning on the weekend of March 12, someone broke into the basement suite that Jaime Wheeler shared with a roommate in a bungalow off Broadway Avenue and stabbed her to death.

The motive for the horrific killing of the shy 20-year-old remains elusive to this day.

The ongoing police investigation into her death is entangled in the complexities of her life. Wheeler, recently coming out of a long- term relationship with another woman, lived in a house where drugs were regularly used. A small quantity of marijuana was discovered after her death. She attended university, worked in a busy restaurant and went to dance parties.

These overlapping circles of friends and acquaintances each played a role in her life and offer different perspectives on her murder.

The investigative problems are compounded by where she lived. The Broadway area is changing from a quiet neighbourhood with trendy shops into a five-block area with bars that attract people from across the city who noisily clutter the streets until after midnight. There is also a growing transient population living on the street or renting suites in the area.

The neighbourhood is also becoming more violent. The 1998 murder of a senior who owned a rooming house blocks from where Wheeler died is unsolved, and there were three attacks on people in their homes last summer, only one of which led to charges.

Wheeler moved to Saskatoon after graduating from high school in Nipawin in 1997. She attended university full-time and supported her academic studies by working at Kelsey's Restaurant. For entertainment, she became active in the Saskatoon rave scene.

Members of the rave community are sensitive about how Wheeler's murder may be connected with the all-night dance parties at warehouses and clubs.

Raves surfaced in Saskatoon in the mid-1990s. Initially, small groups met for the parties two or three times a year and organized road trips to Regina, Calgary and Edmonton.

The scene is undergoing a shift from the underground to mainstream and coming under scrutiny for the drug use associated with the parties. Longtime participants say the parties are changing with the publicity.

The frequency of the dances is now twice a month, not twice a year, and they are more heavily promoted than in the past, advertised with flyers and posters rather by than word of mouth. The crowds are also larger and more anonymous.

"Ecstasy, acid, coke and mushrooms are the drugs. They're there if you want it," says 23-year-old Peter Tully. He met Wheeler at a rave last year through mutual friends.

Wheeler smoked marijuana casually but did not use harder drugs, her friends say. She went to raves because she liked people and she liked to dance.

"She was a shy dancer and liked the vibe at the parties," said Tully. "She liked being around people."

Wheeler began going to raves with friends in early 1998, shortly after coming to Saskatoon. While some friends dropped out over time, the dances remained her primary source of entertainment.

"We went to a lot at first and then I slowed on raves, I was going away from the scene. It just wasn't my thing," said one close friend who asked not to be named.

"But she continued. If she went out, she went out to raves."

Doug Ramage, 21, met Wheeler at a party a year ago. They became friends when she helped him get a job at Kelsey's. Ramage is troubled by the possibility that someone from a rave may be responsible for her death.

"Within any scene there's always a bunch of sketchy people. They go for the wrong reasons, for the drugs, not to listen to the music," he said.

Ramage is also concerned that Jaime may have been acquainted with her killer.

"Lots of people knew who she was, but she kept a low profile -- school, work, parties and home. And she was very smart. She never gave out her phone number or address," he said.

"I think she knew them."

News of the murder spread quickly through the rave community. Messages of mourning began appearing on a local Internet bulletin board 24 hours after the discovery of her body in the suite at 521 10th St. East.

"On Sunday a friend informed me that a girl was murdered in a basement suite just off Broadway. At the time I thought to myself, that's unfortunate, and briefly wondered if it was my friend Jaime," wrote SIYmY, the user name for a member on the Plastic Puppet Motive (PPM) Web site.

In the week following her murder, people posted some 30 reminiscences, poems and open messages on the PPM bulletin board. The Web site offers a forum for members and posts information on upcoming parties.

The communiques revealed a close-knit group struggling to deal with the loss of "a fellow sister of ours" and "a fellow member of our community."

A community also openly wondering about the perils of a rapidly changing scene.

"We have to remember the good so I'd like to remember the beautiful sun painted on her bedroom door. Whenever I look up at the sun I'll think of her," wrote Sparky.

"I would also like to mention that we all have to be careful. I thought that because Saskatoon is a small town and we have our little raver community that we are safe. But evil is everywhere and we have to be careful."

There was a rave at the Crystal Ballroom at 212 Third Ave. South on the night Wheeler died. She chose to stay at home and study after work rather than go dancing. Doing homework on a Saturday night was not uncommon, said friends at Kelsey's, who recalled her doing school work on breaks at the restaurant.

According to witnesses and sources, Wheeler finished working at Kelsey's around 5:30 that Saturday afternoon and went directly home to the 10th Street East bungalow. She shared a basement suite with a roommate, David Parent. The main floor suites in the house were also occupied.

Although living in the same house, the tenants upstairs and downstairs knew each other only in passing. They shared a common back entrance to the house, which branched to stairways leading to the upper and lower levels.

Wheeler studied into the evening while Parent relaxed; the upstairs tenants were out for the night. She telephoned a close friend in Kelowna, B.C., who had just started a new job. At around 10:30 p.m., friends called and invited Parent to attend the rave at the Crystal Ballroom. Parent left the house at about 11 p.m., with Wheeler deciding to stay home, study and watch TV.

Friends say Wheeler frequently left the door to the downstairs suite unlocked.

Parent did not return home from the rave until the next day, shortly after noon.

Walking down the basement stairs, he noted the door to the suite was open. Entering the living room area, the light dim because of the curtained windows, he observed Wheeler lying on the floor on her side in the fetal position.

Initially, he thought she was sleeping or sick. When he moved closer, he noticed how she was wedged tightly between a table and couch, and the dark pool surrounding her body and marking the walls, TV and shelf of compact discs. She was wearing a T-shirt and loose pants and her left arm was across her face.

He ran upstairs for help. The main floor tenant called 911 and then the pair went downstairs to try and revive Wheeler using CPR.

They were unsuccessful.

A small amount of marijuana was found in the house and there was no sign of forced entry.

Friends still struggle to reconcile Wheeler's violent death with their memories of their friend, who they say loved being around people.

"She had a broad interest in psychology, why people act a certain way, why people have the minds they have. Their behaviour fascinated her," said one.

They remember her dry, sarcastic sense of humour and her love of video games and movies. She wrote extensively, filling journals with prose and poetry and drawings. Although three years into a psychology program, she had not yet decided what to do with her life.

"She knew what she liked, but not what she wanted to do," said another friend.

They cannot fathom how someone who knew their friend could have killed her, and the manner of her death has left them frightened and confused.

Police are struggling with the possible connections between Wheeler's lifestyle and her death.

Although she was not directly involved in the drug element of the rave scene, people in her immediate circle did deal extensively. Her friends are aware of the relationships and wrestle with the possibility that her peripheral connections to drug dealers somehow led to her murder.

"I suspect drugs, not directly within the rave scene, but I think they're connected somehow," said Ramage.

Another area of concern is that she worked in a popular bar and met a wide group of people through the Eighth Street East venue. She started working at the restaurant in May 1998 and socialized with co- workers.

And there is the issue of her private life. Given the strong emotions in the murder -- the savagery of the attack speaks against a chance encounter with an intruder -- police are considering whether she was acquainted with her attacker.

A uniform concern expressed by those close to Wheeler is that her death is somehow connected to two earlier, unsolved murders in the city. They fear that the killer may not have known her at all and, for whatever reason, chose her as their next victim.

On May 13, 1998, 84-year-old rooming house landlord Denver Bruce Crawford was found murdered, with wounds to his neck and head, at his house at 323 Ninth St. East -- just blocks from where Wheeler died.

On July 25, 1999, someone gained entry to the west-side home of 92-year-old Anna Hein and murdered the senior. The killer attempted to flood the house after the murder.

Police still say the only connection in the cases is that they were individuals at home alone.

Staff Sgt. Glenn Thomson said Wheeler's murder "doesn't appear to be connected to the other assaults in the area from last year.

"The big thing with this one is that she was involved in a lot of different things in her life. Certainly that makes an investigation tough because you're going in one direction and then all of a sudden a whole new thing shows up, and then you've got to go check out that area."


University student 'a diamond': employer: Police seek assistance in investigation of death

Jaime Wheeler was a dedicated university student, a conscientious employee described as 'a diamond' and a happy-go-lucky young woman.

Wheeler, 20, was found dead Sunday in her Broadway-area basement suite. The major crimes unit of the Saskatoon Police Service is investigating her death.

Wheeler's roommate, David Parent, discovered her body shortly after noon, said Clint Smith, who lives in the house's main floor suite at 521 10th St. East.

Parent sought help from Smith's roommate, who called 911, Smith said.

Smith was not home at the time of the discovery, but returned around 12:30 p.m. to find police at the house. Smith said his roommate had blood on her knees from kneeling beside the body.

Blood was found on the back door, which had been left open, Smith said.

Police have not released the cause of death. They have asked the public to report any information they may have about Wheeler's activities Saturday night or Sunday.

Wheeler was born and raised in Nipawin and was the middle child in a family of three children, her father, Derwin Wheeler, said Tuesday.

She was in the third year of university, where she was working toward a degree in psychology.

One of Wheeler's closest friends, Curtis Boyd, who worked with her at Kelsey's Restaurant, said she was dedicated to her studies. When she worked split shifts at the restaurant, she would read a textbook in the back room instead of taking a break at one of the restaurant tables, as others did.

"She'd even miss parties to write essays," Boyd said.

Wheeler told her boss, manager Jim Armstrong, that she wanted to work with troubled people when she graduated from university.

When Armstrong hired Wheeler in May 1998, he asked her if she was sure she would be able to handle the heavy lifting that dishwashers are required to do.

Though she was 5-foot-4 and slim, the 18-year-old didn't bat an eye.

"If the guys can do it, I can do it," she said.

Wheeler turned out to be "a quiet leader" whose cheerful yet competent manner soon earned her promotions within the kitchen staff. At the time of her death, Wheeler was the "line pivot," whose job was to control the flow of work being done in the kitchen.

"Jamie was quiet, yet assertive. Pressure didn't bother her. That's why she ran the show back there," Armstrong said.

Staff turnover is low at Kelsey's and Jamie was among a tight- knit group of staff who had worked together for more than two years, Armstrong said.

He often used Jamie as an example to other staff to show how hard work could lead to better jobs.

"Our job (as managers) is to try to find the diamonds in the rough. I'd describe her as a diamond.

"She was pretty special," Armstrong said.

Wheeler usually worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, but about once a month, Armstrong schedules a Saturday night off for his staff. Last weekend was Jamie's Saturday night off. She told Armstrong she intended to work on an essay.

She worked 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and was scheduled to work the Sunday evening shift.

Boyd spoke to Wheeler for the last time just before she left work Saturday.

He first met her the day he replaced her as dishwasher, when she was promoted to line cook. The two hit it off immediately.

"She was carefree. Not an enemy in the world. She always had a smile on her face and everybody was her friend. She was wonderful," Boyd said.

"She took me out and introduced me to lots of people. She taught me how to dance," Boyd said.

He remembers Wheeler at dances, where she would watch the action from the sidelines and then, "when the timing was right, she'd join in and have an even better time," he said.

Boyd, who will be a pallbearer at Wheeler's funeral Friday in Nipawin, is making a memorial poster about her.

He has a notebook of writings and drawings that bears an inscription from Wheeler.

"Don't buy Nike crap. Sweatshops are bad."

It was signed JME.


Unsolved Mysteries: Murder investigations stymie city police

The scenario has become familiar in at least a half-dozen crime dispatches from Saskatoon in the past 22 months: A person, home alone, is viciously attacked.

The latest: Jaime Wheeler, a 20-year-old university student, died mysteriously last weekend in her basement suite at 521 10th St. East. Wheeler was found lying on her own floor in a pool of blood.

Since 1998, in attacks that appear similar to Wheeler's case, two elderly people have been found dead in their homes, while another was discovered seriously injured.

Three other violent assaults took place in homes in the Broadway area, within blocks of Wheeler's home. In those cases, each victim survived. In only one case was an arrest made.

Though the crimes sound like variations on one or two themes, police insist there is no connection among any of the half-dozen attacks. They won't say how they know.

"The similarity between them all is they are individuals who are at home by themselves. From there, each of them go in different directions," said Staff Sgt. Glenn Thomson of the Saskatoon city police.

"There's nothing there that would cause concern that anyone is going around trying to kill people."

The streak began May 13, 1998, when Denver Bruce Crawford, an 84- year-old rooming house landlord, was found murdered, with wounds to his neck and head.

Crawford, who rented out the second and third floor of his home at 323 Ninth St. East, had one rule in his house: no drinking or drugs allowed. No arrests have been made.

On July 25, 1999, a west-side neighbourhood was shocked by the discovery of the body of 92-year-old Anna Hein. Blood and water mingled on the floor of her home from an apparent attempt by her attacker to flood the house at 320 Ave. G South. No one has been arrested for her death.

New clues have slowed to a trickle in the case.

"I wouldn't say we're out of fresh leads," Thomson said. "We get new information every once in a while on it and we follow it through."

Thomson said police are still in the crucial early part of the week-old investigation into the death of Jaime Wheeler.

Wheeler, the 20-year-old university student who was found dead in her Broadway-area suite Sunday, still doesn't fall into the whodunit category. Tips are pouring in from friends and acquaintances, assisting police to recreate her final hours.

Still, it's among the type of crime that is most difficult to solve -- murders where people with no history of criminal involvement and no obvious enemies are at home alone and are attacked for unknown reasons by an unknown assailant.

"The first few days after a murder are the key days. That's when it's fresh in the public's mind, that's when they're calling CrimeStoppers. As time goes on, it gets harder and harder in these investigations," he said.

"That's why we want everyone with even the smallest piece of information to call us."

Among the string of bloody, fatal mysteries is a bright spot: Antonia Kinar, an 88-year-old woman, survived an attack at her home at 414 22nd St. West.

On Oct. 14 Kinar's nephew found her unconscious and beaten in her bedroom. She recovered, but she is unable remember much about her attack. Like the other cases, no arrests have been made.

"She hasn't been able to give us an awful lot. When an elderly person is beaten, it can have an effect. There are a combination of factors that can make it difficult for them to remember," Thomson said.

Although the elderly victims -- Kinar, Hein and Crawford -- were similar in age and Kinar and Hein were attacked six blocks apart, Thomson said there is no evident connection between the cases.

Neither are police using location to link the Broadway-area attacks: the deaths of Crawford and Wheeler and three non-fatal attacks in the trendy area last summer, even though they were all committed upon victims at home within a few blocks of each other by unknown assailants.

Again, Thomson couldn't say how police know they are not linked. He wouldn't say if any of the victims were sexually assaulted; he wouldn't say what weapon, if any, was used in the attacks.

"We don't release an awful lot of information on some of these crimes. If we put out details of a crime, everyone will talk about it. If we don't put out a lot of detail and someone is talking about it, there is a reason for it," Thomson said.

However, Hein's July death came in the middle of the series of violent attacks in the Broadway area, where homes were broken into and assaults on the lone woman there took place.

Randall Patrick Linklater was charged with one break-in and aggravated assault at a suite in the 1700 block of the Broadway Avenue. That assault occurred the same day police believe Hein died.

In the Linklater case, the female victim suffered serious injuries when she was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver. Linklater will be sentenced next month in provincial court. Last fall police said they were investigating a possible link between him and other attacks.

Thomson said in some crimes police have a good idea who is responsible, but they just may not have enough evidence to go to court. He wouldn't say which of the current cases, if any, fall into that category.

"Sometimes in very serious, violent crimes we may have suspects, but not enough to charge them. Sometime down the road the little piece may come in that gives us enough to finish off the case. Then boom, in it goes," he said.

He maintained that these kinds of crimes are rare in Saskatoon, where most murders are related to drugs or alcohol and are the result of disputes between people who know each other.

Today, Antonia Kinar lives in a seniors' residence. The nephew who found her after the attack says she doesn't remember much about the attack.

"She's OK, but she can't remember much. She talks for a little while, then she changes the story," he said.

"I think the police are doing a good job. They're doing their best: You don't get cases like this very often."

Meanwhile, the investigations into the murders of Hein, Crawford and Wheeler continue, along with the attacks on at least two other Broadway-area residents.

"Unsolved murders are never closed. We're still pursuing the murder of Alexandra Wiwcharuk," said Thomson, referring to a nurse whose body was found near the CP Rail bridge in 1962.

Jaime Wheeler: Found murdered in her basement suite March 12, 2000

Denver Crawford: Found murdered in his home May 13, 1998

Anna Hein: Found murdered in her home July 25, 1999