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Douglas Richardson
Forensic Science
27 March 2017

Steven Truscott Case Findings

Steven Truscott was born in Vancouver on January 18, 1945 and was the son of a non-

commissioned officer of the Canadian Air Force. The Steven Truscott case is infamous for 14

year old Steven Truscott allegedly raping and murdering, 12 year old Lynne Harper who is his

friend. On the evening of June 9th, 1959, several witnesses saw Steven Truscott cycling with

Lynne Harper through the countryside with Truscott carrying her on the handlebars of his

bicycle. Two days later, the girl’s remains were found just off a tractor trail in a lightly wooded

area known as Lawson's Bush, on the outskirts of Clinton, Ontario .

With a population of just 3,500, Clinton, located near Lake Huron about 120 miles west

of Toronto; was a community divided evenly between long-time local residents and military

families who worked at a nearby radar-training base Canadian Air Force Base located near

Clinton. Both the Truscott and Harper families belonged to the military community. The

Truscott’s arrived in Clinton in 1956 just one year prior to when the Harper family was

transferred there.

Truscott became a prime suspect and when the police found him they asked him if he

raped and kill Lynne Harper. He said that he was just giving her a ride to an intersection on

County Highway 8, which was approximately one-sixth of mile down the road.

The abduction and murder damaged the Clinton Community to a point where Truscott

was denied bail because his crime was heinous and The Crown decided to try his case in an adult

court. This would guarantee that Truscott could be sentenced to either life detainment or

execution. Truscott went to a 15 day trail a couple of days after his arrest. The prosecutor

depended on an attestation that Harper was a mindful young lady who asked for a ride and

charged that Truscott sexually ambushed Harper, choked her with her pullover, and used a couple

tree limbs to cover her remaining parts. The prosecution highlighted a series of seemingly

inconsistent statements that Truscott had made in his interview to the police, as well as the

existence of a mysterious abrasion on his penis. They also questioned why Truscott did not

reveal until at least a day after Harper disappeared that he had seen her get into a Chevrolet at the

spot where he left her on Highway 8. Finally, they cited evidence that fresh bicycle tire tracks

were found leading along the tractor path to the body site.

Mr. Truscott’s defense lawyer, Frank Donnelly, maintained that the victim dismounted

from Mr. Truscott’s handlebars hundreds of miles past the entrance to the tractor trail where her

body had been found, making it most unlikely that he had taken her all the way back to the

tractor trail site in order to kill her. Pathologist John Penistan came to the stand and testified that

her half-digested stomach contents revealed that Lynne had died between 7:15 p.m. –7:45 p.m.

This narrow window of opportunity provided damning evidence against Truscott, since it was

certain that he had been with her during that time. This brief window of opportunity would allow

Truscott to murder and rape Harper and still be able to make it home on time. The trial featured

a good deal of testimony from children who had been playing under the bridge that evening and

saw Truscott with Harper. Both the Crown and Defense used the children's accounts to bolster

their own contentions about the timing of events.

The Defense lost the case and on September 30, 1959, Truscott was convicted of

murdering Lynne Harper and he was given the death penalty. Steven Truscott would be the

youngest person put to death in Canadian history. After serving a year in prison Truscott made an

appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and was denied.


In the 1966 a book called The Trial of Steven Truscott, Isabel LeBourdais talked about

how a young man was “railroaded” by Canadian Police who acted negligent with the law. Not

only did that deprive the effort that this case required, but it was also an unfair trail. LeBourdais

also talked about how the pathologist had apparent holes in his concluding research. She not

only found holes with in the pathologist research they also found discrepancies with in the police

work. She was also critical of the manner in which statements from underage witnesses were

obtained and used by the Crown.

A special reference to the Supreme Court of Canada led to the case being re-examined in

1966, however, the Supreme Court ruled that his case had been justly decided. Truscott was

officially released on parole in 1969 and went under the radar under the alias of Steven Bowers.

His identity was only known be few he lived in Guelph, Ontario for 30 years of his life. As is

customary in the Canadian supreme court , Truscott could apply to have his conviction reviewed

and potentially referred for a retrial. First, however, the Department of Justice had to be satisfied

that fresh evidence in the case could affect the outcome of his trial.

Lawyers from the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted dug into his case and

found 3,000 pages of material not previously disclosed to the defense. The group drafted a 700-

page brief that raised multiple instances of evidence that, according to AIDWYC, hadn't been

adequately investigated or had been improperly suppressed. At the same time, AIDWYC lawyers

worked with the CBC program, The Fifth Estate to stoke public interest in the long-ago case. A

producer at the program, Julian Sher, also wrote the book, Until You Are Dead, arguing for

Truscott’s innocence. The thrust of the fresh evidence was that the Crown had suppressed

information from children that could have been used by the defense to confirm Truscott’s claim

that he rode across the bridge and left Harper at Highway 8. The defense had also obtained


evidence from a previously undisclosed police report showing that the bicycle tire tracks on the

tractor trail were likely to have been left there at least a week before Harper was killed, rendering

them meaningless as evidence.

Perhaps the most significant new evidence was the discovery of a letter Dr. Penistan had

written in 1966 to the lead police investigator in the case, Harold Graham. Sent on the night of

the 1966 Supreme Court of Canada appeal, Penistan admitted in the letter that he had made an

“agonizing reappraisal” of his testimony at the Truscott trial and concluded that he should not

have supplied such a narrow window-of-time opportunity. This letter had never been disclosed to

the court. There was also one more item of evidence there was an elderly couple who at the time

spotted a young girl close to the location of were Truscott allegedly drop of Harper.

Truscott’s lawyers put forward an alternative suspect in the murder — a one-time air

force sergeant named Alexander Kalichuk, who had been transferred away from Clinton two

years before the Harper murder but had maintained links with the community. Kalichuk had been

arrested in St. Thomas, Ontario, three weeks prior to the Harper murder, for attempting to lure a

young girl into his car. The failure to disclose evidence that was potentially favorable to Truscott

was not illegal under rules and conventions existing at the time. However, much had changed in

the years since then. The Supreme Court of Canada, in a landmark 1991 case known as R v

Stinchcombe, had ruled that there was a constitutional obligation on the part of the state to

disclose potentially relevant evidence to a defendant.

In 2002, the federal government appointed retired Québec Court of Appeal Justice Fred

Kaufman to review Truscott’s case review. Kaufman, who had earlier presided over an inquiry

into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin, recommended that the Ontario Court of Appeal

reopen the Truscott case to permit a full appeal. The federal minister of justice agreed. A special


five-judge panel of the Court of Appeal began hearing the fresh evidence in mid-2006. A year

later, it acquitted Truscott outright, in part because it said a fair retrial would be impossible so

many years after the fact. In media interviews, Truscott recalled waking up every morning of his

initial period behind bars wondering if he would be executed before the day was out. He also

said that he had been drugged with LSD and truth serum during his incarceration by authorities

in the hope that it would induce him to confess. “I’m not bitter,” Truscott told journalists. “You

can’t live day after day being bitter . . . I’ve moved on with my life. My wife and I raised a

family. I was always taught to look at things positively.” Meanwhile, Lynne Harper's father

maintained that he and other close family members were skeptical of Truscott's innocence.

Around the same time of the court appeal forensic entomologists found evidence possibly

proving innocence to Truscott.

Forensic entomology is related to the case by Attorney James Lockyer of Toronto argued

passionately before the Ontario Court of Appeals on behalf of Truscott, who has proclaimed his

innocence over all these years, and in the end, the court agreed with those claims, at least partly.

Last month the court quashed the conviction, labeling it a "miscarriage of justice." The ruling

wasn't a surprise to entomologist Richard Merritt of Michigan State University one of a dozen

certified forensic entomologists in the United States -- whose testimony in the trial was "critical,"

according to Lockyer. The proof, Merritt argued during a rigorous seven hours testifying, was

provided by the flies that would have landed on the young girl's body within minutes of her

death. "I was brain dead at the end," said Merritt, who has become somewhat passionate in his

defense of Truscott. "It was a horrific crime," he said in an interview. "I could never imagine how

this kid who went to school with this girl and was a friend of hers could have done this."


Truscott was the last person seen with Harper, late in the afternoon of June 9, 1958. She

was a passenger on his bike on the outskirts of their Canadian village. Her body was found two

days later near the place where the two had been seen. Lynn had been raped and strangled with

her own blouse. Timing became key in the trial and subsequent appeals of the case. "The time of

her death has been the subject of intense controversy from the outset," the court observed in

rendering last month's verdict. Numerous witnesses testified that they saw the two youngsters

riding on the bike at around 7 p.m., and Truscott has seen alone at about 8 p.m. So if Truscott did

it, the murder had to occur during that narrow window between 7 p.m. and about 8 p.m. The

pathologist who conducted the autopsy put the time of death at precisely between 7:15 and 7:45

p.m. John Penistan based that conclusion primarily on the examination of the food contents in

her stomach, which he testified had been in Harper's body less than two hours at the time of her

death. During the appellate court appeal, several experts testified that stomach contents are

subject to many variables, including temperature and the nature of the food and many others, and

thus could not be a reliable way of determining the precise time of death. Merritt is blunter in his

assessment. "It was crap," he said. Sadly, in a handwritten memorandum that Penistan himself

called an "agonizing reappraisal," he admitted that he spoke with too much confidence during

Truscott's trial, and his own evidence did not rule out the possibility that the murder could have

occurred several hours later when Truscott was at home. That memo, which only surfaced

recently, was written seven years after the conviction, while Truscott was still in prison serving a

life sentence. Tragically, the issue might have been resolved quickly in a court today. DNA

evidence could have ruled Truscott out as a suspect, but no DNA evidence remained from the

death scene. Some other evidence still at the crime scene was the insects that they found and


blood all evidence was found near or on the body and all evidence was secured. So Lockyer

turned to the relatively new science of forensic entomology.

Merritt and Sherah VanLaerhoven, a forensic entomologist for the province of Ontario,

were able to show to the court's satisfaction that their evidence indicated the death occurred

much later, probably the following day, at a time when Truscott was known to be somewhere

else. The two scientists were fortunate in that the court record contained several photographs and

precise measurements of insects that "colonized" the body moments after death. Chief among

them has blown flies that laid hundreds of eggs, beginning soon after they found the body. The

life cycle of the blow fly is well known, so it was possible for the scientists to work backward

from the time that the body was discovered to the time when the flies first colonized the body.

That would give them a fairly good fix on the time of death. "We were able to determine how

long it had been since colonization had taken place," Merritt said. They did that by measuring the

size of the larvae, or maggots, in the early photographs. They found that the maggots were not

nearly as large as they would have been if they had been present on the body since the early

evening of June 9. Several years later Steven Truscott received $65 million dollars for his case

according to the Canadian news it was well deserved the news also said that no amount of money

could ever compensate for what Truscott had gone through. Truscott and his wife called the

compensation a "final and long-awaited step in recognizing Steve's innocence." Still, the couple

said the money is bittersweet.

Both enologist’s testified that Lynn was most likely killed the next morning, not during

the narrow window the night before when it was possible that Truscott could have been the killer.


Since the time of death weighed so heavily on the minds of jurors nearly half a century ago, the

appellate court ruled that the conviction had to be set aside. Lockyer and his fellow attorneys

argued that simply reversing the conviction wasn't enough. They wanted the court to go one step

further and declare Truscott innocent. But the court said it had no way under Canadian law to

declare someone innocent. The best it could do is to toss out the conviction. The court also said it

was not possible to retry the case in a lower court because so many of the witnesses are now

dead. The result would most likely be an acquittal, which is where the matter stands now. All

these years later, Truscott, who doesn't talk much any more about his ordeal, is free and not

guilty, but still has not been declared innocent of a murder that science said he could not have


My thoughts on this case are that Steven Truscott is innocent because first of all the

evidence at first showed that he was guilty and the jury believed him and to no fault of his own

was sentenced to death by a jury of his peers. However I now and still believe that Truscott is

innocent due to the evidence found with forensic entomology. I also believe that Truscott should

be marked an innocent man and they should drop the charges instead of giving him acquittal.


Work Cited

"CBC News In Depth: Steven Truscott." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 2013. Web. 29 Nov.


Makin, Kirk. "Steven Truscott Case." The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., 04 Jan. 2016. Web. 29

Nov. 2016.

Dye, Lee. "48 Years Later, Bugs Clear Convicted Murderer." ABC News. ABC News Network, 24

May 2007. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

News, CBC. "Steven Truscott to Get $6.5M for Wrongful Conviction." CBCnews. CBC/Radio

Canada, 07 July 2008. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.