The 1975 murder of Sharron Prior

The 1975 murder of Sharron Prior. Joe Giacalone and I teamed up to explore the nightmare that has haunted Point-St.-Charles ever since. We read the website that was made for Sharron and all the newspaper articles. Below are our observations and first reactions.

What happened?

Sharron (16) disappeared on March 29, 1975 after leaving from her home around 715pm. She was going to meet some friends (including a boyfriend) at Marina’s Pizzeria.

The restaurant is about five minutes by foot from her home. She never arrived. Sharron was found dead on April 1st, 1975.

Who was Sharron?

All the people quoted in the papers described Sharron as reliable, friendly, cautious girl who stayed out of trouble. She was sportive, well-behaved, and athletic. Her mother Yvonne Prior stated that Sharron went out Saturday nights but was usually back home by 11pm or at the latest by 1am. Sharron always called home if she thought that she was going to be late. There is no evidence that Sharron might have had plans to run away. She left her bus pass and money at home.

According to her twin sisters Doreen & Moreen, Sharron wanted to become a veterinarian. I wondered whether Sharron had looked into going to college. Did she visit any colleges in the Montreal area? Did she meet any college students or any people older than her usual high school friends? Did Sharron ever mention that somebody in the neighbourhood was bothering her?

The newspaper spoke about a girlfriend who came to the Prior house before Sharron left for the restaurant. We’d like to see that girlfriend re-interviewed. Why didn’t she want to go to the pizzeria with Sharron? Did Sharron tell her everything such as secrets? Did Sharron ever say anything about an older boy other than her boyfriend who was asking for a date? Did this girlfriend later go to the pizzeria anyway? Did she suspect anyone was involved?

The Gap in the Time Line

What this case needs first is a tightening of the time line. Only then will we be able to check where Sharron might have been or held captive before she was found.

There is a huge gap between the time Sharron left her home at 715pm on March 29, 1975 and the day that she was found, April 1, 1975.

What can we do?

In order to make a full evaluation of any case, a cold case investigator would have to see the crime scene photos, investigator’s case folder, hand written notes, laboratory reports, medical examiner reports, evidence list, etc. We can only offer an assessment from what we read in the papers and online and base it on our professional experience in these matters. The reason behind all of this is to shake the proverbial bushes in the hopes of spurring new leads in the murder of Sharron Prior.

Both Joe and I want to see confirmation that Sharron was expected in the restaurant and indeed, never showed up there. Did her friends really expect her or was it a casual date as in “I might stop by later!” If her friends were expecting her, what did they do when she did not arrive? Did they make phone calls? Did they walk over to Sharron’s house? It was after all, only a five minute walk. What did her boyfriend do when she did not show up that night? Did he call her home? Did he talk to her mother? Did he went out looking for her and if so, how? On foot, by car, with friends, with a parent?

The boyfriend and the foster brother

According to the papers, Sharron’s boyfriend at that time was John McAleer. Did John drive a car? How old was John? Did John have older brothers? Was he ever officially cleared as a suspect?

Also according to the papers, the Prior family was home to a foster child named Steven. How old was Steven when Sharron was murdered? How long had he been in the Prior family? Where was he before? Is there any chance that his former guardians or biological parents had anything to do with this? Were they all interviewed and cleared as suspects? What happened to Steven after Sharron’s death? Did he stay in the Prior family or not? Was he cleared as a suspect?

Circumstances under which Sharron was found

Sharron was found in a field at Chemin du Lac and Guimond Boulevard by a beekeeper. The beekeeper supposedly lived nearby and kept hives in season besides the field. “He went to investigate when he heard that the gate leading into the field was open.” WHO told him that the gate was open? Why did they not just lock it for him? Was that person cleared as a suspect? Was the beekeeper cleared as a suspect?

The padlock was hanging on the gate but was not hooked. I’d like to see a photograph of that. Police found that the open Yale lock had been tampered with but there were no traces. Does this hint at someone who knows how to pick a lock or someone who had a duplicate key? There supposedly were 2 sets of keys. Who had keys and were they all cleared as suspects?

When police arrived, the body was clothed only in a three-quarter length suede Leo’s Boys Sports jacket, a sweater and shoes and socks. Her jeans and panties were about 6 feet from her body, the underwear hanging from a tree branch. Police think the clothes were thrown out of the car when they were driving away.”

I disagrees. The pants might have been thrown out the car window as the car was driving away but the panties…such light fabric, they were not thrown out. They were hung on that branch as a flag marking territory or as a symbol of triumph. I hope that there is a picture of the jeans on the ground and the panties hanging on a branch. I might change my mind after seeing the picture but for now my gut feeling says that the panties were hung there as a flag. I wonder whether the date of April Fool’s Day has anything at all to do with the murder as well…

Police found a tire track about 15 feet from her body in the snow. The track came from a new radial tire. I hope that the track print was preserved. What exact brand was it and who was the manufacturer? Was it commonly sold in the area or not?

Police also found a footprint next to the gate post that was made by a heavy person wearing a shoe size 8, 5. I guess that they think that the person must have been heavy due to the depth of the imprint. Is it possible that the print was made by someone of average weight who stood still there for some time? We would like to see those prints to get a better idea what type of shoe made that print. Was it a sneaker, a leather boot, or a casual dress shoe?

The papers stated that there was a blood trial from where the car was parked running towards Sharron’s body. We assume that blood was collected, typed, and preserved. It would be interesting to see whether there is enough to draw a DNA sample!

Sharron apparently did not have mud on her shoes when she was found indicating that she was carried out of the car and lowered on the ground. She thus never walked through the snow in that field. Were there any other traces on her shoes? On her socks? On her jeans? On her panties?

Near Sharron’s body, police found a men’s shirt size 17 collar with 34 inch sleeves indicating a man of about 6 feet. Police believe that the shirt was used to bind Sharron. Was the shirt ever tested for DNA? If it was worn it would possible have hair in the neck area, chaffed skin in the neck and armpit areas, and we might even be able to get DNA from the shirt!

Last, Sharron had partly chewed tape dangling in her hair indicating that she had been gagged. Were any fingerprints found on the tape? Was her hair examined for other pieces of tape or foreign materials?

Autopsy and crime scene

Sharron died a violent death: she was raped, beaten, and died of asphyxiation.

According to the doctor, she had been dead for at least 20 hours when she was found and most likely died on Tuesday afternoon. The asphyxiation was caused by blood in her lungs. Police said that she probably hemorrhaged internally when her assailant crushed her chest with his knee. This is not easy to do so we are not only looking for a heavy person. This was a strong person as well!

The autopsy showed that Sharron was beaten around her head. She had several bruises on her face and two fractures on her jaw, on both sides of her mouth. Her nose was broken and there was a hole in one cheek probably caused by a tooth that was loosened during the struggle.

Most cruel is that Sharron was still alive when her body was dumped. When she was found, she was clutching a branch…

We would like to know whether any scrapings were found underneath her fingernails. Any semen collected from the rape? If well preserved, we should have it examined for DNA. Is familial DNA allowed in Canada?

From the articles we know that Sharron’s last known meal was stew and despite the fact that she did not like it, she ate some of it. During an autopsy, stew should then have been her last meal. If anything else was found that she did not eat at home that day, we would have more leads to find out where she could have been held captive. We would have to check the digestive track but for that, we need the autopsy report. Most importantly, did the medical examiner at that time look at her digestive track?

If any biological materials were found, we’d like to see them tested for familial and mitochondrial DNA. Was Sharron’s whole body swapped for biological materials? Were there any bite marks?

Police believe that more than one person was involved in the attack.

Here Joe and I differ in opinion:

I think that there were at least two people involved in Sharron’s murder. The shirt indicates a man weighing about 200 pounds and approx 6 feet tall. That does not correspond with the shoe size 8,5 found at the gate. A 6 feet tall man of 200 lbs is more likely to wear a shoe size 10 or 11. So I see it as an sign that at least to two people involved.

Joe’s first instinct is that the perpetrator lived in the area. “I say perpetrator because I believe there is only one. I don’t buy into the two perpetrators theory.  Based on the earlier attack during the day of another woman, the man is in his late twenties and probably still lived at home with his parents. The first attack would be the closest to the perpetrator’s home.”

We would suggest conducting a re-canvass of the neighborhood, especially Favard Street where the tip from and focus on men in their late twenties who had previous experience with the Criminal Justice System. The suspect knew the area well – he knew where he could do this without being detected. He knew where he could dump the body and go undetected – he even thought the body wouldn’t have been discovered until the weather would warm up.

The perpetrator came prepared with a knife. This would show that he tried this before and failed so he now knows that he needs some “help.” Even still, he had a problem which showed that he had not quite honed his craft yet – a bit amateurish. I would surmise that he may have a minor record with the police. However, aside from this I would be looking into the following: how many cases (attempted sexual assaults) were there before in the area? Where there any report about peeping toms? Were any burglaries committed where odd items were taken?

The garage

InJuly 2004, police acted on a tip and searched a garage behind an apartment hoping to recover Sharron’s DNA and maybe that of Sharron’s killer(s). Where did the tip come from? Did it get in through a crime line, crime stoppers or, was it directly given to a detective? Was it documented? If the person who gave the tip was known, was that person cleared as a suspect?

Three DNA samples were found in the garage on July 28, 2004, but they proved negative for Sharron. However, were the samples from men? Can they be compared to any of the biological material found on Sharron’s clothing and body?

Other case/similar cases in that neighbourhood

We need to explore one more time whether there is a connection to the murder of Norma O’Brien in Chateauguay, in the summer of 1974. She was only 12 years old, was found raped and mutilated in a field not far from her home. We’d like to find a photograph of Norma to compare to Sharron.

Another case is Cheryl Roy’s who faced an attempted sexual assault with a knife on Saturday March 29, 1975. She described an attack by a man with a mustache and who was armed with a knife. He was about 6 feet tall, weighed about 200 lbs, and he spoke English. He had blue eyes and the mustache was squared at the corners of his mouth. He was dressed in blue jeans with cuffs, a dark blue ski jacket, and black shoes with pointed toes. Cheryl did not smell any signs of liquor on his breath and he spoke in a low and calm voice. This was obviously not his first attack! We’d like to compare a photograph of Cheryl Roy with Sharron’s as well. Also, see Joe’s notes about the attacker in this article above.

Last, was ViCap used to conduct a survey of similar cases?

The list of 38 people who were interviewed

Who is in jail now and for what kind of crimes? Do we have post-conviction DNA samples of any of those men and was their DNA compared to the DNA strands found in the garage? Since the crimes in the area stopped, we need to know who on that list went to jail around that time and for what kind of crimes. Were any of the 38 also on volunteer list of people willing to help in the search for Sharron? Did any of them spent time with the beekeeper or did any of them have keys of that padlock? Are any of the 38 people on parole? Who moved away and who is dead now?

As you can see, we have many questions and all this just comes from reading online articles and websites. We will keep digging into this case.

To help my memory, I make mind maps. This one is the first map I made in Sharron’s case with information I got from the Internet search. It shows the places that could hold clues (red), of course Sharron in the middle, her family (purple), and her non-family life (green). Later on, when more information is available, the map will change. Things that can be left off because they have no relationship to her murder will be deleted and other items and places may seem or existing ones will have more details.

Mindmap Sharron Prior-case overview by AdS

 

Should you have any information that you wish to share with us, any memories, please use the comment box below or the contact page.

To be continued…

UPDATE 1: Sharron’s mother, Yvonne Prior, has provided us with details to correct the post.

a:  “The girl who was at our home, Sharron’s friend, on 29/march/1975,  asked my daughter if she wanted her to walk her to the Pizza place. Sharron said NO, but thanks anyway!”

b: “Everything you said about Sharron being found is correct except her being found with the Leo’s jacket—-That is not your fault as I know at the bottom of Sharron’s blog it states that a Keven said that he will never forget seeing a photo of Sharron lying there with a Leo’s boys jacket covering her. Sharron had gone to pick up her Leo’s boys jacket in the afternoon 29/march/1975 but they did not have her size—they gave her a receipt to pick up the jacket at another time. She had the receipt in her brown jacket when she was found. We will be removing the statement of what Keven said on her site as it is confusing people.”

UPDATE 2: I have added my first mind map of the Prior case. The first map basically holds everything that pops up in my mind while I read about a case. Later on, I make different maps for only suspects, the victim’s last 48 hours, the chain of evidence, etc. Mind mapping helps me to keep the case lively in my memory and provides me with details at-a-glance.

Comments

  1. Stéphane Brunet says:

    Hi, the 2 girls killed in 74, 75 Norma and Debbie, you’ll have more info here… I lived in montreal in 74,75 I was only 7-8, but I arrived in chateauguay in 76, and I remember that story, freaky… I’m here on your HSB site because I found something on this issue… ( Coolopolis type chateauguay ) http://coolopolis.blogspot.com/2008/02/who-was-chateauguay-sex-killer.html

    Some even say his name… Daniel Couillard… he should be 51 or so…

    All this is pretty weird and sad…. Hope this guy PAID for these murders…

  2. Yvonne Prior says:

    Hi Joe & Vidocq:

    Thank you for your input and investigation in the murder of my young daughter Sharron Prior.

    Oh by the way…I like your memory map!

    Question: I am very curious to know why you think that it was only one perpetrator and Vidocq thinks that it was two?

    JOHN McALEER, Sharron’s boyfriend at the time, has been CLEARED as a suspect.

  3. Thank you, Yvonne, for contacting us again and for the compliment on my mind map! I will add “cleared” on my next map below John’s name. He will remain on my maps for the simple reason that John could have had friends who did or, more importantly, did not approve of his relationship with Sharron. Relatives of John not approving will also remain on the map.

    Why do I think there were at least two men? Evidence.

    1: Police also found a footprint next to the gate post that was made by a heavy person wearing a shoe size 8, 5.
    2: Near Sharron’s body, police found a men’s shirt size 17 collar with 34 inch sleeves indicating a man of approximately 6 feet.

    The shirt indicates a man weighing about 200 pounds and approx 6 feet tall. That does not correspond with the shoe size 8,5 found at the gate. A 6 feet tall man of 200 lbs is more likely to wear a shoe size 10 or 11.

    Maybe I am wrong, but somehow I think that they knew that Sharron would put up a fierce fight (they knew she was athletic) so they came prepared. Together and with restraints. One person could have done this but then I would expect this person to use a gun to have total control. No gun was used here. Sharron did not die of gunshot wounds.

    Last, one man alone might not have marked his territory by hanging Sharron’s underwear from a branch. Two or more, in a sick macho bravado mood, could have. Again, until we see the crime scene pictures there is no way of knowing whether the underwear was hung or thrown and then caught by a branch. But the captivity, the strength exercised, the evidence…to me it is a possibility that should not be overlooked!

    My analysis may be wrong and I am hoping to gather more information to disprove myself. Hence the last post…those comments came from people who read about the case, remembered it from decades ago but only now were reminded again of the details. I am hoping to get in touch with a lot more people who used to live around your area, who maybe moved away for college or their first job or for marriage, and who now read about it again. I hope to pick their brains! Who knows what we can find out this way!

    Thank you for your support. I admire your strength and courage and sincerely wish I could end this agony once and for all.

    My best, Vidster

  4. yvonne prior says:

    Joe, why do you think that it is one perpetrator?

  5. @ yvonne prior:
    Hi Yvonne,

    I am still sticking with the “one” man theory because, in my experience, perpetrators of violent crimes such as these, use them as a “personal fantasy” that they wouldn’t want to share- especially a sexual predator such as this. And, yes, there are always exceptions to the rule, but I don’t see one in this case.

    In addition, from the evidence that I am aware of, there was some preplanned activity by the perpetrator. Someone who is that cognizant shows a level of sophistication not seen in amateurs and would not open themselves to detection by allowing someone else in on their “secret.” He has done this before and wanted to continue doing it.

    As discussed earlier, a number of people had access to the gate and area. Unfortunately, they can’t tell us when the footprints were made – the second set could have been from the day or from several days before – the location was not well traveled during that time of year. The suspect knew that and was hoping the body wouldn’t have been found for months.

    Also, the men’s shirt (perp’s father or older brother?), etc. more than likely came from the location where the perpetrator held Sharron – we know the fatal blows occurred somewhere else.

    Without sounding like a broken record: I would want to know who is on that interview list with prior burglaries and petty offenses with a gradual incline to sexually related crimes. A perpetrator capable of doing what he did, wouldn’t stop, unless he 1) moved somewhere else and is doing it, 2) dead or 3) incapacitated.

    Just my opinion – nothing more.

    Joe

  6. yvonne prior says:

    Thanks Joe, just wanted to let people on DCC know the different opinion’s between you and Vidster.

    All is good.

  7. yvonne prior says:

    Thank you, Vidster: Let’s keep digging.

  8. I remember this story from when I lived in Verdun back when I was about 13 or 14.

    Any chance that the shirt may have been brought by someone who may have followed her from the gym after she went to the gym and didn’t get her jacket? Or, maybe someone who had access to gym clothes or lockers and may have had the shirt or jersey in his car and then used it ? Just a suggestion … maybe focusing on the size of the person who may or may not have worn the shirt at the scene will take away from the size 7 or 8 shoe print left at the scene…

    I think you raise a lot of valid points on what was checked, cross checked and the dna that may or may not have been checked, as well as those incarcerated at the time or after, and who is in for crimes of similar attacks..

    I’d also like to know if you would could or would be interested in the case of Jessica Nielson. I think we’d all agree something is amiss there as well with all the evidence and still it remains a cold case … If the obvious could be used as evidence, the murderer would be incarcerated already. But, I think alot of evidence has been mishandled and or overlooked… I don’t mean to disrespect any involved in trying to solve Her Murder. I know cases become numbers over time ..I’d like to see her family get some closure …They are good people and are suffering silently in seclusion….

    In any case just another view from an outsider .. sometimes a different look is all it takes ..

  9. Hi John,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    I agree that the shirt could have been discarded by someone else or may not have any ties to the attackers but still, it should be tested for DNA. We are definitely interested in the case of Jessica Nielson and if you have any information (links to newspaper articles, magazines, photographs, anything), please contact us.

    Best, Vidster

  10. Yvonne Prior says:

    We have started a new blog on my daughter Sharron’s website. (this site is still under constuction as we have many more to add). Jessica Neilson’s photo and details about when & where she was found is there. Our family lives within walking distance from where she was found. Just under the IN MEMORY OF SHARRON PRIOR VIDEO, you will find Quebec’s unsolved murders.

  11. What I want to know –

    There was a minister or someone who visited the house that day and left just before dinner. He told Sharron to tell Steven how Easter came about, rather than about the Easter Bunny.

    I’m NOT accusing anyone — but where was this guy when she went missing? Whats his alibi and was it checked out and was he cleared? Further – was there perhaps another minister / clergyman who might have known the minister, and who in idle chat had discovered Sharron’s plan for that evening? Example, Mr. Minister Man went back to his residence and could have been chatting with another colleague or perhaps parrishoner regarding his lovely visit at the Prior household… and maybe he might have mentioned to someone in passing (so much so in passing that even he might not recall it immediately afterwards, or even now) that Sharron was to go out with friends etc that evening???

  12. Fire,

    excellent question! Anyone here on DCC know where this man was? And where he is now?

    We need more brainstormers to get this case going. If you hear anything, let us know!

    Thanks for commenting, V

  13. @ John:

    Sharron did come home after going to the (gym)boys and girls club to pick up her jacket. But you do have a good point about the man’s shirt found at the scene. I have also thought about that. Like…just say that another man/boy/boys/ knew of the attack on the other lady and that the man was six foot or more…could they have used that information by putting a big shirt at the scene of the crime. But at the same time I do have a hard time believing that there were two sets of predators on the same night–same hour–within a five block area.

  14. @ Fire:

    Hi,”Yes the minister came for a visit that afternoon…he left befor supper…My daughter Sharron left our house at 7:10pm Saturday Easter weekend to meet friends at the pizza restaurant.

    On Easter Sunday around 10:30am I called the minister at the church to tell him that Sharron was missing—he was very concerned and said he will be over to our house right after the Easter service….he arrived soon after. The police would not search for my daughter as they said that they have to wait 24 hour’s—and Easter monday was a holiday…our Minister went down to the police station and demanded a search.The police only started the search on The Monday.

    I can understand your questions about the Minister as with all the things that go on now with priest ect, ect..one never knows who to trust. I trusted our minister with my daughter’s and even allowed him & his wife to take my twin daughter’s to stay at their country home in Ontario for two weeks–they were about 12yrs old at the time. Our minister died about ten years ago.

    Thank you FIRE…for your input.

  15. @ Yvonne Prior:
    Hello Yvonne, I pray you’ll find answers over time … I’d say as well the chances of two predators lurking the streets so close and possibly teaming up would be so incredible that the odds could never be calculated… I don’t say that maybe somebody put it there to make it look like the person responsible was bigger, I just wonder if anyone might have been involved with the gym could have had it in the trunk of their car and used it just because it was handy.

    I don’t understand also the fact that a 17 1/2 neck determines size and weight? I wear 16 1/2 neck and I am 142 lbs, 5’9″, size 8 foot (considerd small by most) ..in the summer I am comfortable in large to extra large shirts meaning I could be in a 17 1/2 …also depending on the summer heat .. Not to take away from any hard core evidence but just on how I dress makes a difference on how I’d view a scene.

    My foot is a size 8. I have been known to wear a size 9 or 10 adding a liner or a double liner if the boots were special .. Perhaps the person who was in charge of the gate made a pas to see if the gate was not tampered with that night or that day .. might account for a second foot print .. Perhaps just a local taking a walk left one .. I wish I could shed more light on who, how, or what..

    Sometimes a look from another angle might just help..I’m happy to see there are so many to offer their thoughts and ideas … Perhaps in time we’ll all have an answer..I hope so anyway…

    And thank you Yvonne, for posting the links for Jessica Neilson. I have them but they are in my other pc which is inoperative. I wondered about that one too because I have a link where there is something .. very bright blue like chrome blue on the roof of the van in the photo where she was found .. It looked to me very out of place like it was a cell phone … but to date I have never had an answer of what it was …or if it was ever looked into… But I left note of it on canada.com news posts …

    Best of luck Yvonne and to everyone involved …Will stay in touch as time permits .

  16. @ Yvonne Prior:
    Yvonne, as much as I’d like to say I’d rule him out HE’d be the first on MY list to investigate. It is and could always be possible that somebody had her already and feigned suprise and offered assistance like a priest would, and it would not be a suprise that in the end the very person who you’ve trusted was to blame … I only say this because there are few I now trust for obvious reasons .. It’s those who gain one’s trust that usually end up betraying it and end up with the most to hide through no fault of our own… I sure hope this is not the case but would be overjoyed to have helped brought it to an end if it were …

  17. Anonymous says:

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001022410269

    This man is a Daniel Couillard who went to LPP. He looks about the right age, build, seems relatively low key….

    could be WAY off, but how many Daniel Couillards that went to LPP can there be?

  18. search google: (news) chateauguay debbie fisher – you will find an article that states they have the person.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cold Case Squad, Vidocq (Vidster). Vidocq (Vidster) said: Yvonne Prior, Sharron's mother, just commented on DCC! http://tinyurl.com/4w9veg6 [...]

  2. […] what I do and especially why. For both the morning and the afternoon session, I used the case of Sharron Prior to explain where I start reading and in what order. I showed them the mind-maps that I made in […]

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