The hunt for a possible serial killer believed to be behind upward of a dozen killing of Edmonton prostitutes may be expanding to look more closely at cold cases in Calgary.
Project Kare, a RCMP task force conducting the investigation, has asked to review two 1991 slayings of Calgary prostitutes, according to newspaper reports. When the task force was formed in 2003, the RCMP asked the Calgary Police Service to review old cases but no strong leads or similarities were uncovered so nothing was pursued.
The RCMP asked for hard copies of two cases recently, the Calgary Sun reported, citing Staff Sergeant Barry Cochran of the Calgary police. Staff Sgt. Cochran could not be reached yesterday.
The possible expansion of the Project Kare investigation was reported as another Edmonton prostitute was found killed this month.
The burned body of 20-year-old Charlene Gauld was discovered on an isolated oil-service road southwest of Edmonton. Dozens of sex-trade workers and supporters gathered to mourn Ms. Gauld at a vigil in Edmonton last week.
Also last week, Project Kare issued an alert for Maggie Lee Burke, 21, a missing sex-trade worker last seen downtown Edmonton about five months ago. She is the second sex-trade worker for whom the RCMP task force issued an alert this year. In January, an alert was issued for Corrie Renee Ottenbreit, 27, who was last seen May 9, 2004.
Project Kare was formed after a one-year analysis of missing-persons cases in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, specifically looking at those people at higher risk of violent crimes such as prostitutes. Project Kare is investigating 82 cases in Western Canada.
It is specifically investigating the killings of about a dozen Edmonton prostitutes, most of which happened since 1997 but also a couple from the late 1980s. A serial killer might be involved, police have said.
"One person may be responsible for more than one of these cases," the RCMP said in June, 2004.
Yesterday, RCMP spokesman Corporal Wayne Oakes said it would not be unusual for Project Kare to look at cases from Calgary, though he wouldn't confirm whether Project Kare had made any requests of the Calgary Police Service.
Cpl. Oakes said an important part of the investigation is an extensive database used to hunt for possible connections between individual cases. Project Kare requests hard copies of old homicide investigations for information to expand the database but the effort can be monumental because a single case can account for upward of three dozen banker's boxes full of paper.
The Calgary Sun said Project Kare is reviewing the unsolved killings of Jennifer Joyes and Jennifer Janz. In the summer of 1991, 16-year-old Jennifer Janz was found dead just west of Calgary, off the Trans-Canada Highway. Jennifer Joyes, 17, was found dead several months later only a couple of kilometres from where Ms. Janz was found.
About 30 investigators work on Project Kare, supported by a staff of 20 others. The team's work is among the RCMP's highest priorities in Alberta, the force says on its website.
"These women were mothers, sisters, daughters and just like anyone else their deaths are being investigated with vigour by our members," the RCMP said.