Steven Truscott

Two of the hardest types of cases for me to research are those from other countries with different "justice" rules and even phrases, and cases that are multiple decades old.  This case has both.  It began in Canada in 1959.

Cases in that era were generally open and shut with quick justice.  This happened in a time in which I believe there were likely many people who were innocent of their crime were executed.  We have people today who have been on death row in their state for decades, and yet with the advancement of DNA testing some are spending that much time and being found to be innocent.  So, I have no doubts that in a time in which the time between a crime, an arrest, a trial, a conviction and an execution are carried out within months that there were not innocent people executed.  The only thing that I believe that saved Steven Truscott was his age. 

On June 9, 1959 twelve year old Cheryl "Lynne" Harper went out to the local playground after dinner.  One article in my research indicated that she had been angry with her parents when she left but I am not so certain that information is correct, nor do I feel like in that era it would have mattered much even if she was.  When she did not come home late that night her parent contacted authorities.  The following day the police were at the school and they were talking to students.  Fourteen year old Steven Truscott, who was in Lynne's bi-grade classroom openly told authorities he had seen her at the playground the evening before and that she had ridden on the handlebars of his bike til he dropped her off at an intersection.  Steven stated that he looked back as he rode away and that he saw that a car had pulled up and Lynne was in the process of getting in.  He described the car as a "late model Chevrolet. 

On June 11th Lynne's body was found in a wooded area not far from the intersection that Steven had claimed to have dropped her off.  She had been raped and strangled by her shirt.  On June 12th authorities arrested Steven for Lynne's murder and the following day they officially charged him with murder. By the end of the month the Crown had decided to try the fourteen year old as an adult and while his attorney's appealed this decision it was affirmed.

Steven's trial started on September 16, 1959, just three months after the crime was committed.  By the end of the month the jury had convicted Steven but recommended "mercy" when it came to sentencing.  The judge disagreed and sentenced Steven to death, which at that time was hanging.  The following January Steven's appeal was dismissed but, his sentence was commuted to life. Although it seems that much of the discussions with the cabinet that was involved in the appeals decision was kept sealed for many years it was revealed that even the Prime Minister had stated he was not going to be responsible for the death of a child at the hands of his country.  

On October 21, 1969 Steven was released on parole.  A few years later he changed his name and he would go on to marry and have three children.  In 1974 Steven was officially released from his parole requirements.

Steven seemed to go on with a rather quiet existence until the early 2000's when the case was looked at and researched for a television show.  It ended up jump starting an investigation to determine if Steven, who had maintained his story all these years, was in fact innocent or guilty of the crime.  Science had obviously evolved in ways that were only dreamed about in 1959.

In 2006 Lynne's body was exhumed to see if any DNA testing could be done but nothing could be recovered that was usable.  But, it appears as if an investigator or medical examiner in the case in 1959 was a budding scientist themselves. They had collected blow flies and maggots from the scene and noted it in a report, which at the time meant nothing.  The Crown had insisted in Steven's trial in 1959 that Steven had murdered Lynne and that she had died within the short window in which they thought Steven could not be accounted for.  The medical examiner had even placed her time of death within that short time frame.  However, in more modern times the issue of blow flies and maggots and the condition in which they were reported now told us that Lynne could have died much later than originally believed.  She could have even died the day after she went missing.  But, to be fair, and those examining the case in 2006 admitted so, this is not information that realistically the people working on this case in 1959 would have known.  

Most of the people who had been involved in the investigating of the case had long since died but there was one man who had assisted the lead investigator. He was asked if the idea of sexual predators were considered and if really anyone else was looked at, or for.  He admitted that no, only Steven, because he was the last known person to see her was ever considered a suspect. 

On August 28, 2007 after extensive hearings and meeting and in essence a trial of sorts Steven was officially acquitted of the charges.  The new information had found that the Crown had "dismissed" any presumption of innocence at his trial in 1959 and nothing was allowed that may have allowed his guilt to be questioned.  

Lynne Harper's brother was quoted in the media as saying the family firmly still believed in Steven's guilt and that he had no plans to tell his still living father the outcome because it would only do harm to him.

Steven Truscott would later be given $6.5M in compensation and an apology from the government.  For the record Canada had officially abolished the death penalty in 1976 and apparently that is still the case.

In an interesting side note when I was doing my research it stated to also look at Alexander Kalichuk.  Kalichuk had been a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II and in the area in which this crime apparently happened in 1959.  Sometime in that era or around that time he had been arrested and charged with attempting to lure three young girls in his car.  Those charges were later dismissed due to the lack of evidence.  At some point he had been convicted on two counts of indecent exposure but I am uncertain when that was.  Officially he was never a suspect in Lynne's case and part of that is likely due to as the investigator in 2006 stated, no one was looked at aside from Steven but it was said that there was a cloud of suspicion with him about this case.  Kalichuk died in 1975 of alcoholism and the fact that no usable DNA was found on Lynne's body shows that not only would it never prove, or disprove, his involvement, the case will never be solved.

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