London News & Search
Sharin Morningstar Keenan. Allison Parrot. Holly Jones.
When a child is murdered, the cut slashes deep into a city’s soul. It does not heal. Not ever.
One-thousand gangbangers could go down in a hail of bullets and as long as the innocent are unscathed, it’s pretty much: “Pass the jam, will ya honey?”
But the murder of a child is so unspeakably despicable we cannot wrap our heads around that sewer.
Like many big North American cities, something was changing in Toronto by the mid-1970s. Rougher. Sleazier. Deadlier.
Places like New York, Philly and Detroit seemed like they were in an inevitable death spiral, transformed into places to die or waste away in the body and soul.
Yonge St., too, had become a seedy cesspool of rub and tugs, low-rent hookers and the luckless and loveless.
Into this milieu entered Emanuel Jaques, 12.
The bright-eyed boy had recently immigrated from the Azores and was finding his way in the new world.
And he was loved, by his family and everyone who knew him in his Regent Park neighbourhood.
“He was a happy-go-lucky kid,” a family friend told the Toronto Sun’s Michele Mandel in 2002. “He used to take all the kids all the time and watch them. And he loved looking after the vegetables in their yard. He was just a beautiful kid who didn’t know a lot about life.”
Small, with stunning brown eyes and a beaming smile, he would have been like a lamb to the circling chicken hawks.
And 40 years ago — on July 28, 1977 — they struck.
The young shoeshine boy was lured to an apartment above the dingy Charlie’s Angels body rub joint at 245 Yonge St. with the promise of a $35 payday to help move some photo equipment.
The evil trio of sleazebags ensured that Emanuel’s last hours on this earth were horrific. For 12 hours, he was raped before finally being strangled and drowned.
“We couldn’t let him go,” said Robert Wayne “Stretcher” Kribs, 41.
Three days later, one of the killers tipped off a gay activist and told him where the boy’s body could be found.
His small body was discovered three days later.
Three of the suspects were pulled off the cross-Canada Super Continental train in lonely Sioux Lookout: Kribs, Joseph Woods, 26, and ringleader Saul David Betesh, 29. A fourth man was later found not guilty.
As the sickening details slowly emerged about the murder, the city entered the realm of despair.
There were calls for a Yonge St. clean-up, the religiously inclined shuddered at the decline in morals.
And a 12-year-old boy lay dead in a funeral home, a searing image of our failures. Around his neck, the bruises inflicted by Betesh were still visible.
The killers were sentenced to life in prison, and this time, the judiciary actually meant it. Woods died in jail and Betesh and Kribs remain rotting behind bars.
Oldtimers say the murder of Emanuel Jaques changed the city, the town lost its innocence.
But that was only until the next child lands alone in the morgue, toe-tagged long before their time. Long before their passing would be considered remotely fair.
Less than six years after the Jaques murder, Toronto had its heart ripped to a million tiny pieces again.
In a rooming house on Brunswick Ave., cops found the body of Sharin Morningstar Keenan. She was nine. There would be dead children to come.
And we died a bit more. We will always die when a child is murdered.
God have mercy on us if we didn’t.
UNSOLVED CHILD MURDERS
NAME: SHARMINI ANANDAVEL
WHEN: June 12, 1999
CIRCUMSTANCES: Sharmini left her family’s Don Mills Rd. apartment saying she had a new job. Her body was found four months later. Her killer hasn’t been found.
NAME: NICOLE MORIN
WHEN: July 30, 1985
CIRCUMSTANCES: walked out of her mom’s West Mall apartment to meet a friend for a swim. She was never seen again.
NAME: CHRISTINE JESSOP
WHEN: Oct. 3, 1984
CIRCUMSTANCES: Vanished from her Queensville home. Her body was found three months later on Dec. 31, 1984. Her rape and murder have not been solved.
NAME: SHARIN’ MORNINGSTAR KEENAN
WHEN: Jan. 23, 1983
CIRCUMSTANCES: Kidnapped near her Dupont St. home on. Her body was found nine days later in Dennis Melvyn Howe’s roominghouse fridge. She had been raped and strangled. Howe has not been found.
NAME: LIZZIE TOMLINSON
WHEN: May 24, 1980
CIRCUMSTANCES: Last seen walking home from a park hand in hand with a bearded man. Her nude body was found impaled on a stick. The murder remains unsolved.
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