Advancements in DNA technology and a determined joint investigation have led to charges being laid against 73-year-old Sundre, AB. man in an almost 47-year-old murder case.
Ronald James Edwards is accused of killing 16-year-old Pauline Brazeau in early January 1976. He was arrested on Nov. 7, charged with noncapital murder, and is currently remanded into custody. Edwards is scheduled to appear in the Alberta Court of Justice in Calgary on Nov. 14.
"In this particular case, we've taken advantage of technology and advances in science, and we will always do that," said Superintendent David Hall, officer in charge of the Alberta RCMP Serious Crimes Branch. "As science evolves, investigators are a dogged bunch, and if they find something that's going to give them an advantage, they're going to use it. We do need to be mindful that we do that in a way that's respectful of people's rights and privacy interests."
Brazeau was a young Metis woman and single mother who had relocated to Calgary from Saskatchewan in the fall of 1975. On January 9, 1976, she was last seen leaving Peppe’s Ristorante, a restaurant in the area of 7 St. and 17th Ave. in Calgary. A few hours later, at approximately 3 a.m., her body was discovered on Jumping Pound Forestry Rd. located approximately 35 km southwest of Cochrane in the local detachment's jurisdiction. An autopsy determined her cause of death to be a homicide.
Supt. Hall said it was among several unsolved murders in the Calgary area in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Supt. Hall said based on the evidence, they've found no link between this and other murders at the time.
Over the years, several accounts of her murder have been posted, including one by the Canadian Crimeopedia.
He said the murder continued to be investigated over the years and was aided by the formation of an RCMP task force in 1996 to reinvestigate unsolved homicides. Extensive investigation proved unsuccessful, but the police didn't give up hope.
In 2021, the Alberta RCMP’s Historical Homicide Unit (HHU) partnered with the Calgary Police Service’s Cold Case Homicide Unit in an effort to re-analyze historical homicide investigations. With the advancements in DNA technology, police now have a tool known as Investigative Genetic Genealogy to help identify leads. This is the second time the Alberta RCMP have employed this technology to solve a historical file.
In 2022, HHU sought the assistance of Othram Inc., a private lab in the United States. The CPS then worked with two dedicated genealogists from Convergence Investigative Genetic Genealogy, in an effort to move the file forward. By 2023, the team had a lead on a potential suspect.
Superintendent Ryan Ayliffe of the Calgary Police Service says criminals have no boundaries and forming partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, such as the RCMP, is crucial to solving crime.
"Pauline's case is an example of what can happen when investigators are determined to hold people accountable and get justice and closure for the victim's family," said Supt. Ayliffe "It shows that no case is ever too old to be looked at in a different way, and it's never too late for new information to emerge, especially as advancements in technology are made.
"Our homicide investigators apply the same dedication and perseverance to every case they have, regardless of whether it happened yesterday or 46 years ago. We know there are several cases, much like Pauline, that have yet to be solved, and I can't imagine what it must be like for families of those victims waiting years for answers and for justice for their loved ones.
"We want to assure families of any Calgary victim that our investigators will not give up. We will do everything we can to solve those cases and hold people accountable for their actions."
Supt. Hall says it's not always about science, and it's never too late for people to step forward with information or evidence on any unsolved homicide.
"Sometimes it's a question of solvability and availability of evidence and so, in some cases, there's more evidence available for us to look at, examine, but sometimes it comes down to when are people willing to talk to us."
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