The Unsolved Abduction & Murder of Kelly Cook S01E10
The village of Standard, Alberta is home to about 353 residents living a peaceful country lifestyle just 80 km from Alberta's largest city, Calgary. On April 22, 1981, however, big city crime, shocked the tiny village to the core. Standard would never be the same, and Alberta would be on edge.
15 year old Kelly Cook was abducted and later found murdered. Alberta would be on gaurd for years to come as the case bled into the psyche of every parent. To this day, the abduction and murder of Kelly Cook remains unsolved.
Investigators have worked tirelessly on the case for decades and there is a special room dedicated to the files for the Cook homicide which is filled to the roof with boxes and boxes of evidence. More than 2200 possible suspects have been looked at, and police confirm the case is still active.
RCMP believe this was a well planned crime. But let us delve into this further to see if there is another possibility.
Reports indicate that Kelly Cook received a phone call from a man identifying himself as Bill Christensen who asked her to babysit for him that evening. He explained he would pick her up at her residence. Kelly routinely babysat and although she did not recognize the name, the surname was a common one in that area. Crime was virtually none existent and residents would often leave doors unlocked. Kelly's friend Cindy Krabsen, who also babysat regularily, recalls Kelly was uneasy and asked if Cindy knew this Bill Christinsen person, but then Kelly reassured herself because she indicated to Cindy that when she asked if the man knew where she lived, he reassured her by providing the names of her next door neighbors.
At 8:30 PM a car pulled up in front of the Cook house and beeped his horn. The driver did not leave his care and Kelly walked out of her house and climbed into the automobile's front passenger seat and then the care simply drove off. Kelly Cook's younger sister Marnie, aged 12 at the time, watched this unfold from the basement window.
Later that night, concerned that Kelly had not called in to report where she was and that she had not returned home, they called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. A quick local search yielded no results and as a result a massive local search was launched, but again yielded no results or even clues.
Police knew they were dealing with a dangerous person and had hopes that Kelly Cook would be found alive and immediately started pressing into the evidence they could gather. They traced the original call from the man identifying himself as Bill Christensen to a local gas station owned by Lee Abbott, which was several miles outside of Standard on Hwy 561 and The Trans Canada Highway. Police learned that Kelly Cook may not have been the intended victim as a witness came forward and identified herself as Kelly's friend. She had received a call from Bill Christensen on April 18th who phoned from The Standard Hotel Bar and who asked to have her babysit, however, she was not feeling well and was busy, so she passed along Kelly Cook's phone number as a back up.
Bar staff identify the man as having a rough attitude. He walked directly up to the bar and almost demands to use the telephone. He makes the call to Kelly's friend, buys a case of beer and gets annoyed about his change and leaves without evening saying thank you. They include a vague description of a tanned, heavy set man.
However, there are reports that a man who entered a local restaurant asking the waitress if she did babysitting and if she could help him out. The waitress gave Kelly Cook's friend's number, and she in turn gave the number of Kelly Cook.
A composite describes of the the man from all witnesses indicated the perpetrator as being about 30-40 years old, 5 10, 160 pounds medium to heavy build with a round face and swarthy complication. His hands and face were weather beaten but with short dark hair and clean shaven. He had a blue windbreaker with a possible logo on it. The car he was driving is reported as being a 1978 full sized Chrysler or GMC, light colour with possible Alberta plates.
If we are to believe these reports, then the perpetrator had not planned on a specific victim. He was most likely fishing for a young girl, any girl. But the question remains, why do this in such a small village where the relative amount of young girls is low and the chance of being identified high?
There are reports that the school at which Kelly Cook was attending received a telephone call just prior to the abduction. In March 1981, a photo ran in a local paper of a girl from a figure skating club. The Principle of the school recalls that a man indicated he saw the girl in the photo and wanted to know more about her. The Principle indicated it was not policy to reveal the girls name, address or phone number. The caller hung up. It seemed as if the perpetrator was looking for a specific type of girl and may have settled on Kelly Cook.
Police learned that at 10pm the evening of the abduction a call was placed to the operator from a payphone in Hussar, Alberta, only 25 km away. The operator reported that she hear the sound of a woman screaming and then the call was cut off. Police believe that this may very well have been Kelly Cook. Speculation is that the perpetrator stopped for gas, but at this hour, at that time, everything would have been closed. Did Kelly jump out of the vehicle in an attempt to escape? Or was she held captive near the payphone?
The two month in depth search for Kelly Cook ended on June 29th when her badly decomposed body was found in an irrgation canal 90 miles southeast of Standard. The discovery was made by two Taber youths riding motorcycles along Highway 36 along the shore of Chin Lake, a natural reservoir 25 miles east of Lethbridge.
The body was so badly deteriorated that the Calgary medical examination office was unable to determine how, or when, Kelly Cook died. Later, the press indicated they received reports that Kelly died of asphyxiation but she was not sexually assaulted, leaving investigators baffled as to the motive of her slaying. She was bound by the hands and feet by rope and anchored by two concrete blocks. The body was found several yards from shore, and 200 yards from the highway bridge. The body was only discovered because of the low levels of Chin Lake due to a drought. The RCMP subsequently dragged the lake in an unsuccessful search for additional clues, and a team of divers also conducted a fruitless exploration.
Following the discovery of her body, there was an eerie twist in the case. On July 2, 1981, a man went into the Calgary funeral home where Kelly's body was being kept and demanded to see the corpse. Attendants turned him away. Police still haven't been able to determine whether the man was her killer. Police say it was not common knowledge that Kelly's body was in that funeral home following the autopsy'.
RCMP Inspector George Foulon says investigators were searching for this man where Cook's body was being held after an autopsy before it was shipped to Standard. Foulon said the man walked into the funeral home during the early evening of July 2 claiming to be a friend of the Cook family and "requested to view the body." He was told he could not and he left.
The Cook family has told police they were unaware of any friends of theirs who had tried to view the body in the Calgary funeral home. Nor was it public knowledge that the body was in the funeral home. The man was described as being in his mid to late 30s, about five feet, 11 inches tall and 165 to 170 pounds. He was heavy set and had a dark complexion.
The man never came forward and was not identified.
Four and a half months after the abduction, girls in Canmore, Alberta, 2 hours west of Standard along Hwy 1 reported getting strange calls from a man, who's name was not remembered. The man was requesting a babysitter and said he would pick up the babysitter at their house and drive them. Suspicious of the request and that they did not recognize the name in a small town of 3000, each girl failed to provide the service to the man. RCMP were called and investigated but no leads surfaced other than the phone calls were placed by a man using a payphone and that he had called 11 girls and if a girl turned him down, he asked for referrals, just like Kelly Cook's abductor had done.
But let's back up a bit, before the abduction of Kelly Cook, before the creepy call to the school and before the search for a babysitter by the unidentified man.
On April 1, 1981 it is reported that Michelle Allan, aged 15, provided a warning to residents and children about a child abductor and that it is unsafe for anyone her age to be on the streets alone, even in a small community, like the one she resided in.
Michelle Allan's experience began near the Mayfair Theatre at about 6:30PM in Olds, Alberta which is 1.5 hours north of Standard Alberta. She was on walking toward the Theatre when a small care stopped opposite her. Seeing the American license plates, Michelle also stopped thinking that the lone occupant might need some directions. Instead, the driver got out, grabbed her and shoverd her into the car and took off toward Red Deer Alberta.
Michelle said the driver was frustrated with the selection of hotels in Red Deer so he continued on toward Edmonton. Again, in Edmonton he was dissatisfied with the selection and then drove back to Leduc where he stopped at the Leduc Inn. Once stopped, Michelle struggled with the driver and managed to get out of the vehicle where she began screaming for help. One man came to her assistance and then a crowd gathered. Police were called and Michelle and her abductor were taken into the RCMP officer. Michelle was reunited with her parents and facing charges was 44 year old Chester Keith Bordelon, of no fixed address, from Louisiana. He faced multiple charges including deportation.
It is unclear what exactly happened to Chester Keith Bordelon, if he was released on bail, or on a promise to appear, or was deported immediately or if he ever did time in jail. What is for certain is that he died in 2008 in Morrow, Louisiana. It is unknown if he had any charges or convictions. What is assumed is that he was from Louisiana, so would have had a tanned complexion, like the perpetrator in the Kelly Cook abduction and murder. What is known is that he was a child abductor and a sexual predator in 1981.
In 2017 Toronto Police stated they want to find child killer Dennis Melvin Howe by any means possible, and either dead or alive. Detective Sergeant Stacy Gallant of the cold case squad says no other killer equals Howe for the sheer evil and depravity that seers in his dark soul.
Howe raped and murdered a 9 year old and squished her body into a refrigerator. For more than three decades, detectives have scoured the earth for the elusive killer. No tip has been too outlandish for them to chase down. The road has led to heartache and nearly all leads have been dead ends.
For some, Howe is a suspect in the Kelly Cook case. Howe was last seen in Winnepeg, Manitoba in the early 1980s. Howe had a lengthy criminal record and spent almost 15 years in a Saskatchewan prison for assaulting women and girls.
Although no confirmed records show Howe in Alberta, it is possible he was there in 1981. He was born in Regina and it is said he visited Alberta in the past. Howe's whereabouts today are unknown.
Another interesting suspect is Robert Edward Brown, who was a junk yard worker and pig farmer who was arrested in 1983 for the murder of two girls, one in High River and another in Okotoks Alberta in 1981. The first was beaten to death and the other, a 16 year old female stabbed to death. Robert then poured gasoline on each of the bodies and burned them until only charred remains were left.
During police interviews Brown indicated he had committed other murders in Alberta and up to seven across Canada. He provided details not released to the public about some cases to which the police believe his narrative. In 1981 he was living in Blackie about an hour south of Standard Alberta.
However, Robert Brown will never divulge any more, as he was was knifed to death by a fellow inmate in 1986.
And then there is serial killer Terry Arnold, of St. Catharines Ontario. Terry moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba and then to Bentley Alberta. Terry was a troubled youth who found himself in and out of youth centres. His first relationship ended quickly when his new wife in 1980 found out about his kinky views about having sex with children. Arnold told her that if they had a daughter, he would have intercourse with her when she was old enough. She left her husband and was so terrified she aborted their baby. At this time he lived in Calgary Alberta and it is at this time, the killing started.
Some people believe that Terry Arnold's first victim may have been Kelly Cook. Psychiatrists said he had a high IQ and was very detail oriented and was bold. However, at the time of the abduction and murder of Kelly Cook, Terry was only 18 years old. However, witnesses in his other murders during this time say he looked much older, more like he was in his 30s. Terry Arnold was said to be living in Strathmore, minutes away from Standard in 1981. This is where the Standard figure skaters pictures were published and maybe even where they practised. Arnold's girlfiend at the time believed to be a Victoria Spakowski claimed that a local skating rink was their place for hanging out and socializing prior going to Winnipeg. Arnold may have seen or met or even known some of the Standard figure skaters. Barb Stoppel, a later murder victim of Terry Arnold had previously disclosed Arnold’s fascination and fixation with girls wearing the skaters costume of the day.
Terry Arnold worked across Canada and the United States as a hand for a travelling carnival. At this time, both Canadian Law Enforcement and the FBI suspect him of serial raping girls as young as 10 and murdering others across Canada and the US. In the 1990s he was convicted of raping four girls, aged 10, 11, 15 and 16 to which he only received 6 and half years in prison. Arnold was also the main suspect in the 1987 death of Calgary teen Denise Lapierre and the 1988 murder of Roberta Marie Ferguson, last seen getting into a car near Chilliwack, British Columbia. He was also a prime suspect in the unsolved murder of Barbara Stoppel, aged 16 in Winipeg. Authorities believe he may have raped and murder dozens of young girls in Florida, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma New York and even in Mexico.
Terry Arnold was serving a life sentence for the 1987 killing of Christine Browne, aged 16 near Kelowna BC after she had refused to have sex with him.
Recently a Calgary woman has come forward, claiming Arnold raped and sodomized her as the nine-year-old daughter of one of Arnold's Calgary girlfriends in the 1980s. The traumatized woman has spent the ensuing years fighting depression, alcoholism, working as a stripper and dealing with her anger that the man who victimized her could roam the country for so long without being caught.
Terry served only five years of his life sentence and then won a new trial on appeal after he argued some documents available to the Crown had not been made available to him. Terry is rumoured to have also made some very loose confession about murdering Cook, but it is not publicly available.
But like the previous suspect, Terry took the secrets with him to the grave. At age 42, he ended his own life in an apparent drug overdose suicide. He left a suicide note that did not include any confessions. In fact, he declared his innocence. He was scheduled to appear on child porn charges.
The Kelly Cook investigation remains open as law enforcement believe the perpetrator is still alive.
Between 1981 and 1986, more than 20 RCMP investigators have been handed the Cook file and today it still remains active. All have reviewed it with a fresh outlook, but in the end all have come to the same conclusion: not a stone has been left unturned in the search. Over the years the murder file has been shifted from investigator to investigator for a fresh look, yet all of them have been stumped.
Law enforcement strongly believe the killer and police have crossed paths at some time during the investigation, which has exhausted thousands of man hours.
Police believe they have spoken with the killer at least once.
Although Standard town residents are disappointed the case remains unsolved, they are not critical of the police. Most say the police have done everything they can.
Witnesses described the man as 30–45 years old in 1981, making him about 63–78 today. He was around 178 centimeters (5’10″) in height with a medium to heavy build and dark hair. There is currently a $120,000 reward being offered to anyone with information.
Rumours abound in 2017 that police have a suspect in mind and are investigating. Any tips, are essential in bringing justice to Standard and for Kelly Cook and her family.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Serious Crimes Branch South Airdrie “K” (AB) Division at 403-420-4900 or Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8477.