Criminals & Outlaws

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Dark Ambition

Dark Ambition

The Twisted Pact of Serial Killers Dellen Millard & Mark Smich
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also available: Hardcover Paperback
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Florence Kinrade

Florence Kinrade

Lizzie Borden of the North
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

Do You Think I Did It? The Florence Kinrade case has been on my mind for a long time. Since January, 1987, in fact, when I picked up the phone to call her nephew, Ken Kinrade, who was wintering in Clearwater, Florida. Ken Kinrade? “Yeh, that’s me,” came back a harsh, raspy voice. I half-expected Kinrade, then in his 70s, to rebuff me. People, I’ve found, are generally not eager to discuss a murder in the family, even a long-ago one. But the voice was deceptive. Kinrade, I found when I met him on his return to Hamilton, Ontario in the spring, was a kindly, even timid man, happy to share what he knew about that shocking 1909 crime that had made the family’s name notorious in this steel city at the western end of Lake Ontario. And now it’s been 30 years since I made that phone call. Ken is long dead, as are several of the people who helped me reconstruct the lives of Florence, her sister, Ethel, and their well-to-do parents. The Rev. Graham Cotter, a Kinrade relative and long-retired Anglican clergyman whose letter to me led me to the most important revelations of all, has been unfailingly patient as he waited for the story to be finally told. My manuscript languished on a shelf at the University of Toronto Press for several years. And then, like so many neglected projects, it simply languished. But the 1909 murder of Ethel Kinrade that snowy day in Hamilton, an Ontario steel town on the western end of Lake Ontario, deserves our attention because it uncovers a rich vein of North American social history. It tells us a lot about the obstacles an ambitious young singer from a middle-class family faced in seeking a career in – horrors! – vaudeville. It tells us about a forgotten underclass – the thousands of tramps who rode the continental rails in that era and who were often the first to be suspected when a crime occurred. It tells too of the sometimes odd practices of the psychiatric profession in that pre-Freudian time. And it also the story of a formidable woman who was as resilient as she was devious, who led a mysterious double life in Virginia and who was, quite simply, another Lizzie Borden. The parallels with the notorious 1892 Fall River, Massachusetts, case in which Lizzie was suspected of the axe murder of her father and stepmother, are uncanny. In giving her testimony at the inquest into the death of her parents Lizzie has been described as, ‘circling, evading, contradicting, revising her story as she went along, scorning the badgering of District Attorney Hosea Knowlton.’ The description could just as easily have applied to Florence who, from the first hours after she ran into the street crying that Ethel had been shot – six times – told different and contradictory versions of the murder of her sister. Ultimately the newspaper reading public followed with fascination her epic duel with one of the great counsel of the day, George T. Blackstock, at an inquest which was described by the coroner, Dr. James Anderson, as, ‘unparalleled in the history of Canada, not only for the interest it has aroused throughout the whole country, but by reason of the legal points raised.’ Dr. C.K. Clarke ‘the father of Canadian psychiatry,’ who watched Florence throughout and interviewed her several times, said of her testimony, ‘a more startling and complex psychological study has rarely been offered.’

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The Golden Boy of Crime

The Almost Certainly True Story of Norman "Red" Ryan
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Wasted Time
Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Younger Years

Regent Park, Canada’s first social welfare housing project, is located in the city of Toronto, in the province of Ontario. The neighbourhood sits one mile east of the city’s downtown core, just north of the shore of Lake Ontario. It covers an area four city blocks by four city blocks. Since its inception in the 1950s, low-income families have been provided “affordable” housing there. Based on the number of family members, they were either placed in row houses or an apartment in one of the many three- and six-storey rust-coloured buildings. Five high-rise buildings also provided domiciles within the project. The infrastructure of brick and concrete left no illusion that this “neighbourhood” was anything but a project. From the onset, Regent Park was regarded as a “high-crime” area — the highest, most every year, in the city. Notorious for violence, renowned for drugs, Regent Park made knowledgeable people regard its borders with great trepidation.

In the summer of 1956, my family took up residence in one of the many row houses. I spent the first sixteen years of my life as a resident of South Regent Park.

 

Considering the hardship each family in Regent Park endured, people were generally friendly to each other, but aloof. Those more familiar, whether by proximity or social ties, would converse. People respected each other’s privacy, unless action dictated otherwise. Child endangerment definitely prompted intervention. Interloping, otherwise, was regarded with disdain. Men, fathers, were rarely seen. They worked long hours, were dead, or divorced of their families residing in Regent. The project housed two elementary schools, with another on its border. The children attended class together, and played together. The women busied themselves maintaining households, while nurturing their young. Like that of my mother, who bore eleven children, their lives were strenuous. For us children, ignorant of the outside world or its responsibilities, life was good.

I recall the sky being unusually grey. Not blue at all, for a midsummer morning. I had toddled out of the family backyard to sit with a neighbour, a girl my age, on the curb of the parking lot that lay out back of our row houses. She was sad. We began to look at all the debris that the wind had blown into the trench our feet now rested upon. Beer bottle caps, empty cigarette packages, bubble gum wrappers. At four years old, we imagined these as treasure.

A loud bang pierced the air, accompanied by a woman’s screams. We looked over our shoulders to see the girl’s mother racing frantically along the side of the row houses. Another bang followed. We looked over our other shoulders to see the girl’s father standing outside his backyard. Before the third bang had a chance to reverberate, I was airborne. Flying high up in the air, I landed on my mother’s hip. Where had she come from?

“You, too,” she snapped, as she yanked the little girl off the curb. She took off running, a child on each hip, back to the safety of our house. She locked the back door and peered out through a window.

I never heard the last bang, but I heard the story of an unfaithful wife who had escaped death, and a distraught husband who, after failing to hit his target, sat in his chair and ended his own life. The remaining family moved soon after. I felt sad for the little girl, and I would miss her company.

 

My own family was no stranger to domestic violence. My alcoholic father had struggled against the burden of raising eleven children on a paltry wage and his need to be “the man” amongst his friends at the local taverns. After administering several physical beatings upon my mother and eldest siblings, he was, I am told, convinced to leave the family abode at the insistence of a loaded shotgun. I was five years old. Growing up in Regent Park, I found domestic violence to be a prevalent factor in the lives of many families. Of course, it was sheltered “in-house” as much as possible. The Children’s Aid Society was regarded in the neighbourhood as “home wreckers” and “child stealers,” and the police were always the enemy of the people.

My best friend as a child was my next door neighbour, Wayne. He was the middle brother of three, who all suffered the affliction of muscular dystrophy, wheelchair-bound, with no muscle control. I would talk and watch TV with them daily. We played board games, such as checkers or chess, but I would have to move the men for them. Once I was big enough to push Wayne in his wheelchair, we’d go around the neighbourhood, to the corner stores, the restaurant. As I got older, around nine, he had me push him to salvage yards and the dockyard beside the lake. Wayne seemed to know everyone, and all the men would give him coinage. We would be rich when we returned, upwards of three dollars apiece.

One morning, he talked me into pushing him down to the CNE grounds. The Exhibition had just opened, and we wanted to see the midway and go on some of the rides. So we set out. We got lost. With night having fallen, and rain coming down, I pushed Wayne into a corner store in the city’s northwest end. The woman took one look at us, Wayne in his wheelchair, and called the police. We both knew our addresses, so the police drove us home. Both our mothers thanked the police profusely. Wayne’s mother was kissing his head. My mother was tanning my ass. They still let us hang around together. Wayne would pass away at an early age because of his disease. His two brothers suffered the same fate.

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