Op-Ed: Remembering the Toopes 14 Years Later
The Toopes were a couple in their seventies who were bludgeoned to death by three drugged up psychopathic teenagers in Montreal's West Island. Combined, their killers' sentences came out to less than 15 years.
It was way too difficult to locate information on the subject. When I was asked to source my ‘claim’ that a horrible murder that occurred in my neighborhood a while ago, I had a very hard time proving it had. Our beautiful piece of absurd legislation, the Young Offenders Act everyday protects the names of three provably unrepentant killers’ names from reaching the ears of concerned Canadian citizens. Nearly everyone I know still talks about the Toopes, and how easy their teenaged killers got off. Even the youngest has long since come of age, so why the secrecy today? Two of them were arrested again in 2000 this time “in connection” with an armed robbery of a bar in Vaudreuil. The cops pulled their vehicle over in Toronto, where they realized the truck was a GMC Jimmy that had been boosted from la belle Province. Inside the cops discovered machetes, bandanas and balaclavas (ski masks). Not only that but the two were arrested with a third person, a 16 year old who the two had obviously recruited during the two short years of their release.
Ralph Brookes who was in charge of the investigation, told CBC news they told police about their criminal record with "bravado" and calls the case "disconcerting." Perhaps it was because these maniacs had graduated from steel baseball bats to machetes and the mature plan of protecting their identities. Why bother when their names appear nowhere and their nature of their crimes remains hidden by loony government policy? Government policy that freed the two minors after serving three years at a juvenile detention facility for the bludgeoning murders of Frank and Jocelyn Toope. Part of “the deal”: the two were supposed to remain in the province as part of a two-year conditional supervision sentence that followed their three-year closed custody term.
The story really starts on a nightmarish evening almost fifteen years ago when three teens broke into a house on St.Charles boulevard, a house passed by thousands of commuters on their way to the highway, or Beaconsfield train station. The youngest two would go on to have “possibly connected themselves” to the Vaudreuil robbery. It was the middle of the three, 14 years old in 1995 that had targeted the house. They were elderly couple, 75 year old Rev. Frank Toope and his 70-year-old wife Jocelyn, who despite the universal description of being kind and gentle old folk were alleged to have been stingy with regards to tipping the paperboy. At least that is what the paperboy testified to at trial – he was the middle thug. “They were cheap people” was the exact phrase he used. His accomplice, the oldest of the three killers added the Toopes would find it difficult to defend themselves or to call the police because of their age.
Here is a quote from an article composed during the trial, explaining the defense’s case:
Defence lawyer Hans Gervais argued last week that the Crown had failed to prove the boys intended to commit murder. At most, he said, his client could be found guilty of manslaughter, and then only if the judge decides that the boy could have foreseen that the robbery would lead to the killings. But Miville-Deschênes pressed for a finding of first-degree murder - which, under the Young Offenders Act, carries a maximum sentence of three years in detention. At one point on that April night, he told the judge, the boys' robbery plan changed and "three young men decided to kill people."
(Maclean's December 25, 1995).
One issue that bugs me is how long it took to go to trial. It was so cut and dry. The killers had consumed alcohol, weed and possibly acid, and broke into a house to rob it. They found the couple – in their seventies – sleeping and began bludgeoning them to death with bottles and a steel bat. Neither one was alive or recognizable after the attack. There was blood spattered on the walls. Then they robbed the house and left. The sickest part of the whole story is the manner in which they were apprehended. All three attended local high schools and all three went to class the next day. The youngest, aged 13 amazingly began to boast of the crime he had so recently executed. Originally, the evidence against them was for the most part the ridicules confessions willingly made to members of his hockey team – including some adult coaching staff. But this was stricken from consideration! Judge Lucie Rondeau was forced by the restrictions of the aforementioned Young Offenders Act to regard these statements as inadmissible, even the ones volunteered to the officers at the station. As a result, prosecutor Louis Miville-Deschênes was forced to bring a case entirely composed of forensic evidence and testimony of the other two killers. This travesty of justice made possible by our system gave a combined sentence of less than fifteen years to the murdering trio. It always sounds like a fallacy to compare our system was that practiced below the border; but in America the two oldest would be on Court TV weeping and pleading the state shouldn’t seek the death penalty, and the youngest would have spent no less that fifteen years behind real bars.
Their crime was committed in April 1995, and it took until well into December for the case to see trial. This strategy of prolonging the time before trial begins – beyond the limits of reasonable necessity – helps the defense in many obvious ways. It will be the same with those two teenaged thugs who beat that poor old Vietnamese lady to death while mugging her outside Henri-Bourassa metro station. The attention of the public is fickle, and people can keep their interest on a story only for so long. After a while emotions simmer down and everybody gradually forgets about the abomination that was inflicted on helpless Canadian citizens. This way, we are ultimately lulled into accepting with a sigh the lack of justice being granted to the victims of violent crime. One of these is the son of the Frank and Jocelyn Toope; Stephen Toope is the chair of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.