Last night my husband and I watched an episode of Murder She Solved. The case was about a 27 year old Ottawa woman, Ardeth Wood whose body was discovered five days after she went missing. She had been cycling near the Aviation Parkway. She was last seen by a young woman who saw her arguing with a young man. The witness was going to call 911 but then decided that it was probably a lovers’ quarrel.
For a long time the police searched for the bicycle path man who was accosting women. They had a composite sketch and many tips poured in from people who thought they knew the person–someone even claimed that it was her ex-husband who had angry issues with women.
They got a break when the perpetrator dropped his cell phone after a scuffle with a woman he was trying to assault. A neighbor scared him off. Ardeth’s killer turned out to be Chris Myers, a 22 year old man. The police had questioned him before because he fitted the composite sketch to a T. But he didn’t have the tatoo. Apparently, one of the women he had attacked mentioned that he had a tattoo of a bird. The police were baffled. It occurred to me that it was a fake tattoo. It turned out that it was a stuck on tattoo. His ex-girl told the police that and also that Chris was abusive.
Chris was arrested and questioned. It is believed that he approached Ardeth. The female investigator said that she didn’t know what he said to convince Ardeth to go to a remote area with him. She believes that Chris meant to sexually assault Ardeth but she got away from him and ran into the river to get away from him. Panicked, he went in after her and drowned her. Her naked body was found in the brushes. There was no sign of sexual assault. Myers later pled guilty charges of robbery and sexual assault that took place in the Ottawa and North Bay areas. And in a statement of facts was read during his hearing there was Myers’s admission that he drowned Wood and committed a string of sex crimes against other women.
Ardeth’s mother’s words touched me deeply when I read what she had to say about the man who killed her daughter.
“God desires not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live,” Catherine Wood said. “It’s sad to see a man so young have this happen to him, and he’s had a very difficult life from the very beginning…. So I just hope that his prison years will help him to reform and that he can pay back the debt perhaps that he owes to his mother, who has been with him through all of this. It must be very difficult for her” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2008/01/08/ot-myers-080108.html) These are the words of a woman who has Christ in her heart.
Could this tragedy have been avoided? Does the young woman who saw Ardeth with Myers blame herself? Does she wonder what would have happened if she had called 911? I hope she has stopped beating herself up for this. She made a mistake. It could happen to any one of us.
If you witness something that prompts you to dial 911, do it. Trust your instincts. Don’t assume anything. Don’t talk yourself out of doing something. It is better to follow your instinct and if it turns out that you were wrong than to dismiss it and it turns out that you were right. Don’t go with any stranger–no matter how charming, attractive, friendly or harmless he appears to be. If a stranger approaches you, don’t stop to talk to him–keep walking–have your pepper spray handy if you have one or a whistle. If he grabs you, kick, scream, yell, fight with all the strength you have.
Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t take shortcuts. Walk where there are lots of people. If possible, try to avoid walking home late at night or in the early hours of the morning. Take a cab instead or public transit if it is still running. Here in Toronto, women travelling alone on buses between 9:00pm and 5:00am can use the Request Stop program. Here’s how it works:
- Request Stop allows a woman to get off the bus at locations between regular TTC stops.
- Tell the driver at least one TTC stop ahead of where you want to get off. The driver must be able to stop safely in order to meet your request.
- Leave the bus by the front doors. The rear doors will remain closed so that no one can follow you off the bus (http://www3.ttc.ca/Riding_the_TTC/Safety_and_Security/Safety_tips.jsp).
If you find yourself in a situation or environment where you don’t feel safe, leave. It’s better to be safe rather than to be sorry. Trust your instinct. It could save your life or someone else’s.