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DNA Technology Results in Arrest of Alberta Man in Death of Young Mother in 1976

RCMP have laid a murder charge against an Alberta man in the death of a young mother 47 years ago.

The charge is the result of a partnership between the RCMP historical homicide unit and the Calgary Police Service cold case homicide unit.

Pauline Brazeau, a 16-year-old single mother from Saskatchewan, who was Métis, relocated to Calgary in the fall of 1975 with her infant daughter.

Months later, in January 1976, she was seen leaving a Calgary restaurant early in the morning. Her body was found west of the city a few hours later, in a rural area under the jurisdiction of the Cochrane RCMP. 

At the time, Brazeau’s death was determined to be a homicide, and was one of many that occurred in the Calgary area during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1995, the RCMP formed a task force that reinvestigated these unsolved homicides, including Brazeau’s. Despite extensive investigative efforts, her file remained unsolved, until now.

“For the last 47 years, Pauline’s connection to Calgary has been at the forefront of our investigators’ minds and they worked closely with the RCMP to ensure her case remained a priority,” said Calgary police Supt. Ryan Ayliffe.

“In this case, as with all cases, we want to ensure we have explored every investigative avenue and that we are always looking at different ways to solve these files.”

The case was reopened in 2021 in an effort to reanalyze historical homicide investigations from the Calgary area that dated back to the 1970s.

With the advancements in DNA technology, Alberta RCMP used a tool known as investigative genetic genealogy to help identify leads, the second time they have employed this technology to solve a historical file.

In 2022, the RCMP historical homicide unit sought the assistance of Othram Inc., a private lab in the United States.

Calgary police then worked with two dedicated genealogists from Convergence Investigative Genetic Genealogy in an effort to move the file forward.

It led to a suspect this year and the arrest of 73-year-old Ronald James Edwards, a resident of Sundre, Alta., on Tuesday.

Edwards has been charged with non-capital murder, which was the definition listed in the Criminal Code at the time of Brazeau’s death.

Supt. David Hall of the Calgary police said that based on the evidence investigators have collected, they have no reason to believe that Brazeau’s murder is connected to other murders around that time. 

“The Alberta RCMP historical homicide unit investigators are committed to speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. The search for Pauline’s killer has never ended over the past 47 years,” said Insp. Breanne Brown, officer in charge of the Alberta RCMP’s serious crimes branch.

“I truly hope that Pauline’s surviving family find some closure as they receive answers.”

Ayliffe said the instance shows that no case is ever too old to be re-examined. 

“It’s never too late for new information to emerge, especially as advancements in technology are made,” he said.

Source : CBC