By Byron Christopher
August 28th, 2015
October 2nd marks a solemn, international commemoration: ‘Wrongful Conviction Day.’ It’s a time to pause and think about the many men and women around the world who have been ‘done in’ by flawed criminal-justice systems.
Fortunately, a good number have been set free. That’s great news. Even better news is that, as compensation for their pain and suffering, some have received payment from the government, albeit very reluctantly, mind you. Others have been released, only to see pin-suited government bureaucrats reject a court order for compensation, making them victims all over again.
And then there are the wrongfully-convicted who’ll never be shafted again. They left prison quietly in a wooden box … their voices silenced forever.
Those outside Canada reading this article might now see my country in a whole new light. That’s not my intention. All things considered, Canada is a darn good place — but its criminal justice system sure needs a little work. Make that a lot of work.
It’s hard to make the case that the judicial system in Canada is always on the up and up. It isn’t. My guess is that it has never been all that great … and I‘m certain there are far more judicial screw-ups than we care to admit. We want to believe the system works just fine. We hope we never end up in court handcuffed and sweating bullets in the prisoner’s box. But if we do — God forbid — that we’ll get a fair shake, perhaps even a break or two.
Then reality comes knocking.
Know that it’s not always easy for reporters to reveal prosecutorial misconduct. It’s my sense that society seem to have this need to protect the status quo. I’ve seen it with peasants in third-world countries who pay homage to a filthy-rich dictator. Unfortunately, its not unlike the thinking of some Canadians.
I recall my time at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [CBC], in the early 1990s, and talking with an editor at CBC National News in Toronto about a piece I was writing on a well-known prisoner. He was 16-years-old when he got a life sentence for the rape and murder of a young woman. For two decades, the ‘convicted killer’ steadfastly maintained his innocence.
How did the CBC editor assess things? “Byron, for all we know the little fucker killed her …” Turns out, he was innocent. He was eventually released from prison, got an official ‘oops, sorry, so long and good luck’ from the government and — thanks to taxpayers — also got millions of dollars in compensation for a judicial wrong-doing that messed up his life.
The con once escaped while on a pass from prison. Police struggled to find the guy — and when they spotted him, they shot him in the ass. Now the ex-con struggles to find himself. The man who suffers from bipolar lost much of his settlement money playing the stock market.
A quarter of a century later, the real killer was caught, convicted and shipped off to a federal prison. The man is out now. Sort of. He died of cancer in May 2015 at a pen in British Columbia.
What’s really repugnant about that case is that just one year after the youngster was cuffed and marched off to prison, someone remarked to the Chief Crown Prosecutor, “Serge, it looks like the kid didn’t do it!” To which the well-paid government hack responded — with absolutely no compassion that he had a wrongful conviction on his hands — “Fuck him!” Well, he got his wish. The system did indeed screw the innocent kid — for more than two decades. Serge didn’t go to prison but he was still punished anyway — as illustrated by the number of trips he made to liquor stores. If this ass had been working in the United States, he’d be eating prison food.
People who knowingly keep innocent people behind bars are to the criminal justice system what venereal disease is to sex. Sorry for showing my bias there.
When it comes to wrongful murder convictions, Canada’s track record can only be described as disgraceful. The official count for wonky murder convictions is approaching two dozen. You read right: two dozen. You tell me: Is that insane or what?
Life isn’t fair; I get that. Our judicial system should be fair, but isn’t. I don’t get that.
Some of Canada’s most terrible miscarriages of justice nearly destroyed David Milgaard, Guy Paul Morin, Donald Marshall Junior and Steven Truscott — to name but four. The men were found guilty of murder and given long sentences. Turns out, they were all innocent — conclusive proof that “every now and then” the justice system is an embarrassment and a joke. It’s a system that can’t be trusted, not unlike the thieves and con artists it tries daily.
The problem of course is that innocent people often pay for the mistakes of others — and pay dearly.
Milgaard and company went through judicial travesties and nightmares — as documented by the Toronto-based Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted, better known by its acronym, AIDWYC [pronounced “aid-wick”].
What’s stunning is that the four prisoners I mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more wrongfully convicted … how many more, Lord only knows. The fact that AIDWYC exists raises some serious questions about the effectiveness of Canada’s judiciary system.
What’s it like to be wrongfully-convicted and stuck in prison? I’ve never been in that position, thank goodness, but here’s how I imagine it to be [please forgive me for waxing poetry]: wrongly-convicted prisoners begin their day — just like the previous 6,000 days — by gripping the cold, steel bars of their cells. They are angry, and for good reason; they’re doing hard time for something they didn’t do. Though they realize the justice system has failed them, they cling to hope that a smart lawyer or an advocacy group will find a “smoking gun” that will get them out of there. They’re so desperate they buy into any promise, real or otherwise. Beaten up by a system that has sucked the life out of them, they have become so disillusioned that they have simply given up. Hapless and helpless, and knowing all too well that the system protects itself — even more than bad cops and bad lawyers protect themselves — they’ve resigned to the cold realization they’ll likely die behind bars. They are the “living dead.”
Perhaps the most repulsive part of judicial system in Canada is that if a prisoner maintains his or her innocence, they’re likely not getting out — or if they do get out, it’s a lot later than what it should have been. How’s that for institutionalized sleaze?
In the early 90s, when I first got involved in the case of David Milgaard [brilliantly chronicled, I might add, in the post ‘Dead Man Under a Pool Table’], a dreadful thought washed over me: Milgaard might not be alone; there could be other poor souls like him. Could that really be, I wondered? Turns out, David Milgaard — then a convict known as ‘Shuffles’ — had plenty of company.
The following is my account of what happened to a young Ontario man, Michael James White, who moved to Western Canada in the 1990s, served in the Canadian Army and met gorgeous Liana Kelly in Edmonton, Alberta. The two went on dates, took in movies [but didn’t pay much attention to the show, a sign that something else was on their mind], got married and settled down to raise a family.
All good stuff. No drug, booze or cigarette addictions either.
Before you knew it, Mikey and Liana weren’t watching as many movies … and along came a little one. They got their own house, rescued a mutt from the pound … and, like all young adults, they learned to watch their pennies.
The Whites had friends, went to parties, made trips to the Canadian Rockies, visited relatives in Ontario and in British Columbia, were great neighbours — and they helped others. After interviewing people who knew them, I didn’t get the impression they were ‘me’ people — especially the husband, who was often described as giving and thoughtful.
I didn’t do these interviews to find “dirt” on the Whites, what I got was what I got.
The White Family flying back from a holiday with relatives in Ontario. [Date Unknown]
Michael and Liana were functional, not dysfunctional. Aside from a house mortgage, Mr. and Mrs. were pretty well debt-free. Liana’s bookkeeping was impeccable, like her home. Orderly and clean.
By all accounts, Michael and Liana White loved each other. Behind the glass doors of a china cabinet in the dining room I came across a good number of cards with scrawled heartfelt messages to one another. A stack of these cards was bound tightly together by an elastic band.
I made the discovery one day while I was at the house searching for evidence. The night before White’s bail was yanked, he called me on the phone and told me where to pick up his house keys. “Byron,” he said, “search my house as much as you want, tear up the floors, look everywhere — and if you find anything that shows I murdered my wife, tell everybody about it.” So I checked and checked and checked.
When I was finished my search I locked the front door and walked out into the darkness with a feeling of shame. I have a soul and it was telling me something was terribly wrong here.
It seems to me that Michael and Liana’s marriage wasn’t perfect, but it was stable. They were decent folk.
Then all hell broke loose. Liana had vanished.
A week later, her battered body was discovered — in full view, strange enough — near the top of a shallow ditch.
Michael was promptly charged with second-degree murder.
Fuelled largely by information [and misleading information] from the police, the news media went into frenzy-overdrive. Reporters turned against the accused. One reporter I worked with remarked that White had to be one of the world’s dumbest criminals — and, mind you, that was a full year before his trial started. They weren’t waiting around for a jury’s verdict.
Michael White, who had no previous charges of violence — or any criminal record, for that matter — had already been found guilty in the Court of Public Opinion … from which there is no appeal.
The sensational murder case attracted the attention of the U.S. media. Pictured is Greta Van Sustren of Fox Television’s ‘On The Record.’ The live interview was done in the summer of 2005, shortly after the arrest of Michael White.
A few months after the Van Sustren interview, I appeared on a different Foxprogram, again about the White case. The network sent a crew from Los Angelesto produce a more in-depth feature on the death of Liana White and the arrest of her husband. Their final interview with me was at the CHED Radio building, in the main studio, its walls plastered with the CHED logo. This was a subtle reminder to millions across the world the name of my radio station. I’m surprised I wasn’t asked to wear nothing but my CHED jacket.
The Fox producer shared that she found it odd that anyone would seriously think Michael White was innocent! I believe that a vast majority of people felt that way.
Part of the reason of the producer’s sentiment was a celebrated murder trial in the United States. Scott Lee Peterson was found guilty for the 2002 murder of his pregnant wife, Laci, 27. Reporters often mentioned Peterson in stories they did on Michael White. And they were quick to point out the similarities: missing wife / husband a suspect / husband organizes search team / husband says he loved his wife / attractive wife / wife found murdered / husband charged / husband pleads innocence.
Peterson was found guilty of first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the death of his unborn son. If bullshitting had been a crime, he would have also been found guilty of that.
Scott Peterson is now on death row at the State Penitentiary in San Quentin, California.
Lady Killer: A 2011 mugshot of Scott Peterson. [Source: California Department of Corrections]
There were differences of course in the Scott Peterson and Michael White cases, primarily with how evidence was collected and presented. Those who collected evidence and information in the Peterson case were never accused of spoliation of evidence and selective prosecution.
Another thing, Michael White wasn’t banging a number of women while he was married.
The Michael White case drew massive media attention, becoming one of the most widely-covered crime stories in Edmonton’s history.
Unfortunately for White, it came across in media reports as a “fact” [and not a police theory] that he led searchers to his wife’s body. It was the police search coordinator who asked White’s search team to stop where they were looking and move to a different part of town and search around a dirt road — which hadalready been checked. Any reasonable person would say that’s a tad suspicious.
One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out why everyone thought the guy was guilty. If it were indeed true that he had directed searchers to his wife’s body, then — duh — obviously he knew where she was.
It helps explain the overwhelming public sentiment against Michael White. Separate from that, White was indeed guilty of some bonehead moves that came back to bite him. More on that in this article.
Conflict-of-interest? A local television reporter who covered the Michael White case was married to an Edmonton Police officer. That same reporter ambushed a beleaguered White within minutes of him being granted bail and released from the Edmonton Remand Centre, asking the accused, “Did you do it, Mike …? Did you do it?” Viewers weren’t informed of a conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise.
I did a number of radio news stories on Liana’s murder, which included exclusive interviews with her husband. I even ‘hung out’ with him for a while — in the faint hope a confession might fall in my lap. But that never happened.
I was trying to figure out White … and he was doing the same with me. Go figure. White wondered if I was a “spy” for the police. What the man was really saying was that he didn’t trust me. Fair enough, but if I was spying, it was for my audience at CHED Radio in Edmonton. I have never been an informant for the police, nor have I ever accepted money from the police.
When the White case went to trial, police evidence wasn’t seriously scrutinized. A jury didn’t deliberate very long before finding the man guilty of murder.
Within minutes of the jury announcing ‘guilty’ the handcuffs went on Michael White, with a sound that reverberated throughout the courtroom. And off to prison the “killer” went — to serve at least 17 years — perhaps more — if he continues to maintain his innocence.
At quick glance, it looked like Edmonton Police were nothing short of brilliant and the convicted “killer” was a real dummy. But was that accurate?
There are some who now say that things just don’t add up. They wonder if Michael White was a victim of malicious prosecution — especially now that new, damning information has surfaced. [more on that coming up]
The man’s murder conviction has always gnawed at me, and so I’ve written this article to a] draw attention to Wrongful Conviction Day … b] because I want to get this off my chest … c] the public should know this story … and d] as a warning. My wish is that you are never falsely convicted of a major crime. If that happens, good luck.
- My Time With The Accused
- New Confession Surfaces
- Bad Everything
- Legal Malpractice?
- Suspicious Video Evidence
- What Happened to Camera #4?
- Journalist Warren Henderson
- More Inconsistencies
- One Disappointed Private Eye Team
- Dunne-Nowell Report Collects Dust
- Michael White Attacked in Prison
- Message For The Dead
- Michael White Today
- Private Effort Stalls
- Ten Years On
- Tough Road To Hoe
- Take Heed!
*READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED*
Michael White, the heavy-duty mechanic and former soldier, went down for the murder of his pregnant wife, Liana, in Edmonton, during the summer of 2005.
The 29-year-old hospital clerk had been stabbed repeatedly. White, 28, was arrested and charged with murder. In an exclusive jailhouse interview, White told me that he didn’t do it, that he loved his wife and would never harm her.
At the time, few believed him. Even his own mother thought he might be guilty, although she sure doesn’t think that way now.
About a week after Liana vanished, her nude body was discovered near the top of a shallow ditch alongside a dirt road between Edmonton and St. Albert.
Liana, baby Ashley and Michael.2004. The small photo was attached by a magnetic strip to the fridge in their kitchen.
MY TIME WITH THE ACCUSED
Most of my time with Michael White was when he was out on bail [that is, after his arrest and before his trial]. After his murder conviction, I saw him at the Edmonton Institution.
Someone in administration at the Max [whose name I will not reveal] once asked me, “What is it with Michael White? He’s not like the other inmates …” He sure wasn’t.
I explained that White hadn’t been behind bars before, had no prior history of violence … and that his trial stunk to High Heaven.
NEW CONFESSION SURFACES
I hate to disappoint those who thought this “dummy” was 100 percent guilty, but in addition to White’s trial being suspicious, there is new, damning information that suggests Michael White didn’t commit the crime. Police should seriously consider another suspect — one who has since confessed to the murder.
This is not to say definitively that Michael White is innocent — or guilty. The purpose of this article is to point out a phenomenal high number of inconsistencies and questions on the White file. Tremendously high. They’re based on both my own observations and what others have noted.
Was Michael White wrongfully convicted? From the information in this article — and in other media stories you may have read about White — you make the call.Think of yourself as an unpaid juror.
Read on … what you’re about to discover differs greatly from the “official version of events.”
BAD REPORTING, BAD POLICE WORK, BAD LAWYERING
Reporters took a police theory [“Michael White led searchers to his wife’s body”] and turned it into a fact. Like magic. That’s not terribly unusual in the news business. Happens all the time. Journalists most always take information from the police and publish or broadcast it without verification. Are you sitting down? Did you know that some reporters are huge supporters of the police — boosters, in fact. I’m not making that up. They’re known as ‘cop-suckers.’ Not making that up either.
A year before White’s trial even got underway, so-called unbiased reporters were privately calling Michael White “stupid,” “dumb” and a “killer.”
White had no hope in Hell of getting a fair trial, especially after he chose to go with a jury. Keep in mind that Albertans once elected an alcoholic buffoon who had a grade 9 education … to the highest position in the province — Premier. The “‘Honourable” member of the Legislative Assembly would sometimes take a drink of water just to surprise his liver. [Yes, I’m joking.] Point being, though: This tells you all you need to know about the perils of jury trials in Alberta.
Of all those who “dropped the ball” on the White file, lawyers were by far the worst. It’s hard to describe the unprofessionalism and lack of dedication of some in the legal profession. It was beyond “disappointing,” beyond incompetence and beyond sleaze.
Lawyers talked a big game, made big promises, gave reassuring smiles, spewed excuses that changed as fast as the weather — but in the end, it was nothing but talk. Michael White was told by lawyers that the charges wouldn’t stick, and he bought into the lie. When his trial was over and the dust had settled, White — along with his family members in Ontario — realized they’d been duped.
Turns out, the cheap talk wasn’t cheap after all. The false assurances came at a tremendous personal and financial cost to both Michael White and his family.
When White’s mother says lawyers have them by the “short and curlies,” it’s a sad indictment of Canada’s legal community.
It doesn’t speak well of our legal community, and it sure doesn’t speak well of the Law Society of Alberta, the watchdog group the public has entrusted to keep an eye on these lawyers. Perhaps they’re all asleep at the switch at the Law Society, but maybe they’re not. Perhaps it simply comes down to this: they don’t give a rat’s ass if lawyers make empty promises to their clients. Who knows, perhaps lawyer misconduct isn’t really a big deal with the Law Society of Alberta. I just don’t know.
Another comment about lawyers: For God’s sake, when schools of higher education offer law degrees, make sure the program includes something about how one shouldn’t lose their moral compass. That could save people a lot of misery.
Think I’m overstating things when I say that Michael White’s lawyers let him down? Read on …
SUSPICIOUS VIDEO EVIDENCE
- A grainy pub video purportedly shot in the early morning hours of Liana’s disappearance shows a bald man [resembling Michael White] first driving by a pub in a vehicle [with its window down which allows a brief glimpse of the driver], then what appears to be the same individual casually jogging on the sidewalk.
The sidewalk-facing surveillance camera, as I shot it on 23 June 2011. I can’t say if this was the same camera that was on the roof in July 2005.
- The video has been debunked by one of Canada’s top private investigators, Bruce Dunne who was assisted in his investigation by another PI, Shelly Nowell, both of Calgary … and Doctor Mark Morris of Edmonton, a forensics expert trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dunne, a former Calgary Police sergeant, believes the event was staged days after the murder. There’s no proof when the video was shot because the recording didn’t have a digital date-stamp. All we know for certain is that the analog recording was done overnight, when no one was around. [Nothing like this came out at the murder trial.]
- Black-and-white video recordings were shot from TWO outdoor security cameras, both stationary and both mounted on the roof of the one-story drinking establishment, located in a strip mall, about a mile from where the Whites lived. One camera was pointed at the sidewalk; the second at the mall’s parking lot. Video from the second camera revealed some interesting information, which has never been made public.
This surveillance camera was facing the parking lot. Photo taken on 23 June 2011. I do not know if this was the same camera that was used back in July 2005.
- Eugene Liscio of A12-3D Forensics in Toronto —- who has seen some of the tape from the second camera, points out there appears to be at least one witness to the “jogger” on the sidewalk — someone in a full-size sedan parked conspicuously in the middle of the parking lot. It’s as though they were overseeing everything, and maybe they were. It seems unlikely they were waiting for a store to open. I saw that tape as well. So the Dunne-Nowell Team and Edmonton injury lawyer Marilyn Burns, who is preparing a legal brief for the Federal Department of Justice. At Burns’ request, three years ago the Dunne-Newell Team prepared a comprehensive, 117-page report on events leading up to the Michael White trial and trial transcripts. [PI Dunne’s report highlights scores of police investigation and trial lawyer inconsistencies and screw-ups — a fraction of which I will touch on in this article.] Dunne believes the mystery vehicle is an unmarked police cruiser. “I’d bet my life on it,” he says. It gets worse. I went around to the pub, where the owner told me that the second camera captured the “jogger” running diagonally across the parking lot. If that really was Michael White, for a guy on a very tight schedule he sure did a lot of unnecessary running around that morning. Perhaps he just couldn’t make up his mind about which route to take? If it was a staged event, police had a choice of whichever tape was more convincing, and the sidewalk clip won out. When Liscio questioned the pub owner about the “jogger’s” second run, he denied any knowledge of it. The convenient memory loss didn’t surprise me, not in the least. I know what I was told and what I was shown. I have a clear memory of the pub owner standing alongside me at the front door of his establishment, pointing out the route of the “jogger” as he cut across the parking lot. [Again, this kind of stuff did not come up at White’s trial.]
Could this sedan be a police cruiser?? If anyone was in the car, they’re a potential witness to the ‘jogger.’
The two blue circles indicate the position of the pub’s outside security cameras. The blue lines indicate the separate routes the two cameras caught the “jogger” doing. Click to enlarge. [Photo by Author in July 2015, at the request of Eugene Liscio]. Note: The pub installed new cameras and equipment in 2011. It no longer shoots analog, as it did in 2005.
WHAT HAPPENED TO CAMERA #4?
- The pub had four video cameras: two outside, two inside. The placement of the inside cameras: one was aimed at the main entry door, in front; the other at the back door. The camera pointed at the front door was recording that night … but as the Dunne-Nowell Team noted, THE CAMERA POINTED AT THE BACK DOOR HAD BEEN TURNED OFF. Why do you suppose that was? Consider this: If the “jogger” recording was, say, a set-up — just saying, mind you — could it be that perhaps those involved were going in and out the back door … and didn’t want to be photographed??
- The video, recorded on an old-style VHS tape, automatically recorded over top of the previous recordings. This would go on for several days, one recording on top of another, leaving a ‘ghost’ image. PI Dunne reveals that second, third and fourth recordings done on the same tape leave tiny trace lines on the tape. The VHS “jogger” tape shown to the court was a new tape, with no sign of a previous recording on it — yet the tape was supposedly put in the VCR several days earlier. Something does not add up.
- Michael White had short hair when his wife vanished. The “jogger” was bald, White wasn’t. White shaved his head later that day, so when the man ended up in media images [and in police custody] — at that point, yes — he was bald. Don’t ask me why he shaved his head, I have no idea. [If this came up at the trial about White not being bald at the time his wife disappeared, no one paid it any mind.]
- According to a study by the Dunne-Nowell Team and Mark Morris, it’simpossible to tell if the “jogger” and Michael White are the same person. With the help of forensics Mark Morris, the private investigators confirmed the grainy video showed someone to be 6-foot to 6-2. PIs Dunne, Nowell and Morris came to the conclusion that the physical appearance of the “jogger” does not fit the description of Michael White.[And what has all this to do with lawyers, you ask? Simple. White’s lawyers didn’t question the validity of the security video tape. The Crown presented the surveillance tape as legitimate evidence.]
- Doctor Morris and the Dunne-Nowell Team are not alone in saying no one can tell if the “jogger” is Michael White. Here’s a portion of a report prepared by Eugene Liscio. Lawyer David Willson [retired] says essentially Liscio couldn’t conclude one way or the other if it was Michael White. The following is a portion of Liscio’s well-produced 16-page report:
Liscio’s report was prepared in July 2011 for Edmonton Criminal Lawyer David Willson, who had been assigned by The Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted to look into the Michael White case. Willson [who has serious doubts about Michael White’s innocence] — is now retired and living near Ottawa, Ontario. [Click to Enlarge]
- The “jogger” in the video ran with relative ease. However, Michael White couldn’t run worth a damn after he nearly sliced off his big toe while in the Canadian military. That was my observation — and it was that of Doctor Morris as well. Story time: While Michael White was out on bail, I challenged him to a foot race. We were on a back road and the ‘finish line’ was the door handle of my old car, parked about a city block away. White got a head start. Before I could say ‘Go!’ he took off like a bat out of hell. Yet, I beat him … easily. I’m no runner, but neither was he. White ran with a pronounced limp, as though one leg was shorter than the other. I was in better-than-average shape, at least I like to think so — but I’m also about 30 years older than White. [I mentioned all this to his trial lawyer, and she seemed interested — so interested that she had me down on the list of witnesses to be called by her. That of course meant I could not sit in on White’s trial and see and hear what was going on. Turns out, I was not called to the stand, but I only realized that when the trial ended. Defence counsel didn’t have the courtesy to let me know that I wasn’t being called after all. It was ‘communication by silence.’ Hey, I was disappointed … but hardly surprised. Let’s face it … class is only an option.]
- Liana White bled to death after she was reportedly stabbed a number of times — with the blade of a large knife plunged deep in her shoulder. All this, supposedly in her own bedroom. However, the amount of blood found in the White house might fill a thimble. A small amount of blood and human nasal mucus [snot] was found on paper towels — which White claims came from Liana’s nosebleed, days earlier. It’s telling that no blood was found in any of the drains in the White residence. No offence to Michael White, but he’s not smart enough to pull off such a phenomenal clean-up, especially in such a short time. How can there be no trace of a bloodbath in a regular-size bedroom that has laminate flooring? Where the hell did all that blood go? Did it evaporate? If Liana was bludgeoned to death in the bedroom, as police claim, with her moving around and blood squirting, surely some blood would have found its way into the floor cracks … or seeped to the edge of the flooring, under the baseboard. But no. There was hardly a trace of it, just a relatively small area of the floor where luminol indicated where some blood, perhaps, had been cleaned up. If anything, the spill seemed to back up White’s story his wife had a nosebleed — certainly not bludgeoned to death. If there’d been a bloodbath in the bedroom and it was all cleaned up, it would have been impossible for anyone to remove all the furniture, tear up the flooring, clean every bloodied board [top and underneath], and put everything back together — in minutes. Can’t be done. Superman and Batman on speed could not have done it. Police did find a small amount of blood [a drop or two] on the bed covering. Investigators cut off a small corner of that covering measuring several inches square. Bloodbath, my ass. [There was no demand by defence counsel to have the floor boards taken up and examined.]
- How did the White family dog sleep through the vicious attack?? Not a sound from the mutt, and you’d think the animal would have gone nuts if the owner it loved deeply was being attacked and screaming for her life in the same bedroom where it slept, at the foot of the bed. I saw that dog — it was one hyper mutt; over-alert and skittish.
- A man sleeping in a tent-trailer parked between the White residence and the neighbour’s house to the north heard squat. He did not hear any blood-curdling screams, and no dog going crazy. It was a warm July night and owing to the White residence not having air-conditioning, the windows were open. Perhaps the gentleman in the tent trailer was a heavy sleeper, or maybe he was from Los Angeles where the shrills of murder victims are fairly common. [Nothing about the White’s dog being hyper was mentioned at the trial.]
- More blockbuster information: According to a reliable source, AN OLDER WOMAN HAS SINCE CONFESSED TO HER SHRINK THAT SHE KILLED LIANA. You read right: someone is admitting to taking Liana’s life. Let’s call her ‘Alternative Suspect.’ Given the woman’s mental capacity, it’s unclear how much weight should be given to her confession. Even so, that kind of stuff just can’t be ignored. ‘Alternative Suspect’ cannot be identified owing to child-welfare privacy laws [my terminology]. I have not seen the confession, I did request to see it — but was refused. However, my source is adamant and it’s on a file at a shrink’s office. I won’t say in which city.
- ‘Alternative Suspect’ has a history of violence. She once stabbed her husband [who soon became her ex] with a large kitchen knife in an unprovoked domestic dispute that turned violent — and bloody. The man told me that he came home from work, found his food dumped in the kitchen sink and asked what was going on. His wife then lunged at him with a kitchen knife. He defended himself with a chair, but was still cut. Bleeding, he tried to leave to go to a clinic, but his wife stopped him, sitting on the floor to block the door. [“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry …”] The man bandaged himself up and kept quiet about the attack. Until I located him and interviewed him in 2014 and in 2015. Fearing for his life, he slept in a separate bedroom — with a chain on the door, and a chair pushed up against the door. He also firmly believes that Michael White did not kill Liana White — and that his ex-wife did the murder. “I feel sorry for him,” he says. “I was a victim … and now he’s a victim.” The psycho also attacked others close to her, both prior to the knife assault on her husband, and after. The last known assault, in Ontario, netted the loony some time in the slammer.
- A 15-page affidavit was filed in Queen’s Bench of Alberta [in Edmonton] on 26 November 2014 by lawyer Marilyn A. Burns, who is also representing the brother of the ‘Alternative Suspect.’
- The applicant alleges that even as a teenager, his sister [‘Alternative Suspect’] was extremely violent. [Her name has again been redacted]Note the references to knife attacks. I’ve spoken several times to the applicant and he has told me he firmly believes his sister is Liana’s killer.
- Liana was stabbed with a large kitchen knife — one with a serrated edge — definitely not the kind of weapon a hood on the street would be using. Another thing: whoever killed Liana obviously had the upper hand. The victim’s slashed fingertips indicate she tried in vain to fend off her crazed attacker. Like Liana’s wedding ring, the murder weapon was never found. The brother of the ‘Alternative Suspect’ — also a victim of her attacks — says there’s no doubt in his mind who killed Liana … and who snatched her ring.
- If Michael and Liana were arguing upstairs in the bedroom — and Michael lost his cool with a sudden urge to murder his wife — why would he run downstairs to the kitchen, and look for a bread knife? Why wouldn’t he just strangle her? White was built like a football lineman. Strangling would be quicker, quieter … and no huge bloody mess to clean up. There were no scratch marks on Michael White, no sign he’d been in a fight-to-the-death struggle.
- A police theory [and media ‘fact’] was that Michael White led searchers to his wife’s body. That’s absolutely false — and very misleading to boot. Because the misinformation was broadcast and published far and wide, hardly anyone believed White was innocent, and you can’t blame them. Truth is, Michael White was part of a family search team of about half a dozen checking an area in the north end of Edmonton when a CITY POLICE OFFICER suggested they look instead on a certain dirt road — miles away — in west-central Edmonton. The searchers thought that was odd, since that road had already been checked, just days earlier. But they abided by the officer’s wishes and headed off there anyway. Police know best. Well, what do you know …? There was Liana’s body — nude and lying near the top of a shallow ditch! It’s impossible no one had seen the body before, because it was only 10 feet or so from the edge of the roadway. And according to those who found Liana, her body was NOT covered by branches, leafy or otherwise. The startled searchers immediately called 9-1-1. When police pulled up, they said they knew it was Liana because of the dolphin tattoo on her ankle. Members of the search party were taken to the main police station downtown to give statements, then released. But White was soon taken away to a police holding cell. Next day, detectives charged the heavy-duty mechanic with 2nd degree murder. File the following under ‘a tad suspicious’: When the Edmonton Police ID Unit snapped photos of the crime scene, Liana’s body was now covered with leafy branches. Conveniently protruding from the heap of branches was the dead woman’s feet and ankles — with a dolphin tattoo in full view. [This information didn’t come up at the trial, although there was mention that searchers had been directed to the spot by an Edmonton policeman.]
The tattoo of a blue dolphin, proof for the searchers that that the woman they found lying face down in the dirt was Liana. After police snapped their ident [crime scene] photos, the lower part of Liana’s legs was the only part of her body that wasn’t covered with leafy branches. [Autopsy photo, source confidential]
- Homicide detectives continued to interrogate suspect Michael White — sometimes at the strangest hours — removing him from his cell at the Remand Centre at two and three o’clock in the morning. That unGodly hour was chosen because they knew White was half asleep, and therefore most vulnerable. White can be seen on a police video tape curled up on a small couch in an interrogation room, trying to get some shut-eye. There’s nothing unlawful about those interrogation tactics. Sleaze isn’t illegal. In media reports, the time of the interview came off as “early morning.” [There was no objection at the trial of what some would call underhanded methods by the police.]
- Police also put a “plant” in White’s cell at the Remand hoping to weasel information from him. “He’s a nice guy,” an obviously naive White shared about his cellmate when I first interviewed him at the Remand Centre on a Sunday evening, just days after his arrest. White was impressed with the guy. He went on, “He even showed me pictures of his wife and kids!” I looked at White and asked, “Do you have any furniture in your cell … anyplants perhaps?” White had a blank look on his face. He said nothing, but his eyes shouted what his lips feared to say: Oh shit. Next morning, I got a phone call from an excited prisoner in Unit 2B at the Remand Centre who revealed that Edmonton Police had just been over to the Remand … and were “fucking pissed” I’d spoken to White. “You can expect a visit from the cops, Mr. Christopher,” the prisoner warned. Sure enough, within half an hour or so a detective called. He wanted to know if I was available for lunch. I said sure. Hey, I was working in private radio for a few bucks over the minimum wage and someone else was buying. The detective pulled up in an old ghost car and we drove to a pizza joint on 118th Avenue, near the stadium where the Oilers play hockey. He wanted to know how I got in the Remand. I joked that I walked in through an unlocked screen door at the back of the building — and there, to my surprise, was a church service with hundreds of prisoners singing hymns. “Such beautiful harmony,” I added. “I approached a big con, tapped him on his bulging biceps and inquired, ‘Excuse me, sir, but where’s Michael White? … and the gentleman replied, ‘Hush! We’re praising the Lord!’” “That’s fucking bullshit!” blurted the cop. “Yes,” I said, “… but you like bullshit.” Like I say, City of Edmonton taxpayers picked up the tab for the meal — and for the nice car ride too. Thank you, folks.
JOURNALIST WARREN HENDERSON
- And thank you, Warren Henderson, Assistant News Director at CHED Radio in Edmonton. On 27 July 2005, Henderson fired off this email to staff at CHED and our three sister stations after the jailhouse interview with Michael White garnered CHED a fair amount of positive [and free] publicity …
Seven months after writing that memo, respected news veteran Warren Henderson died from a heart attack while in a movie theatre. He was 50. Henderson is buried in a small cemetery south of Edmonton. The blue object embedded in the cross is a toy motorcycle. Warren loved his Harley.
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Bio – Byron Christopher
Broadcast/Journalist, born in Campbellton, New Brunswick. Previous: News and current affairs CBX Edmonton 1982-mid-1995; NAIT Journalism instructor; Court Reporter CHED Edmonton mid-1995-November 2007. Australia radio & TV;