Despite what she claimed, Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is not of Native American ancestry in general or Cherokee ancestry in particular. In similar style, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) claimed he served in Vietnam but didn’t.
As these and other cases confirm—Jussie Smollett also comes to mind—the United States is a leader in fake news generation. On the other hand, as 2019 closed out, Canada was closing in fast with a story from Windsor, Ontario. By way of full disclosure, Windsor is my home town.
Back in May 1971, an unknown person or persons abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered 6-year-old Ljubica Topic, from a family recently arrived from what was then Yugoslavia. It was one of the worst crimes in Canadian history, but Windsor police had no clue as to the identity of the killer. A vast manhunt rendered no leads and across the decades more than 500 “persons of interest” failed to turn up the killer.
Nearly 50 years later, a December 14 Windsor Star story by Trevor Wilhelm came headlined “Windsor police solve five-decade-old murder of six-year-old girl.” As the story revealed, Topic’s murderer was “never even on investigators’ radar” until a new lead appeared in recent months. As Windsorites learned, detective Scott Chapman “would not reveal what the lead was” but said a DNA test solved the case.
In fact, Chapman said, “this man’s DNA matched separate sources of DNA from the crime scene” and “we are certain that he is the person responsible.”
So there could be no doubt, Chapman added, “we know exactly who it was.” Then, lower, in the story, readers get the big surprise.
“While police now know who the killer is,” Wilhelm explained, “they won’t reveal his identity.” Police are “keeping the killer’s name a secret for privacy reasons, because he’s dead and they can’t charge him.” Further, “in the interest of keeping his identity a secret, police also would not say exactly when he died, except that it was ‘recently.’”
Windsorites did learn that the man was 22 when he killed the child. The murderer lived in the same neighborhood as Ljubica’s family but was “a stranger to them,” according to Chapman. And the perpetrator “also spent time out west during the 1970s before finally settling there.” Where, exactly, “out west,” was not revealed, and that raised a question or two.
There is no statute of limitations on murder, and the hunt for the killer would include police forces across Canada, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. If the vaunted RCMP, or perhaps the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), made any demand for the killer’s identity, it did not emerge in the reporting.
At this writing, neither Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey nor Premier Doug Ford had demanded the release of the dead man’s identity. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who felt compelled to speak out on a hijab hoax in Toronto, was silent about the news of the police cracking the cold case.
The only one to push back was former police officer Michael Arntfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Western Ontario.
“Are you telling me a sexual murderer of a child posthumously has more rights than the public’s right to know who this is?” Arntfeld told Wilhelm. Windsor police were claiming that under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, a person maintains privacy rights for 30 years after death. For Arntfeld, this was nonsense and there is “no defensible reason” to withhold the killer’s identity.
“The law is clear and this is across North America,” the criminologist explained, “in fact, essentially the G7. You cannot libel a dead person and a dead person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The refusal to identify the killer, he added, “casts a pall over the success in that there is really no public closure or resolution, and now dozens of other unanswered questions.” In Windsor and across Canada, anybody could be forgiven for believing the police have nobody for Topic’s murder.
Also in 1971, a man calling himself D.B. Cooper hijacked an airliner and parachuted out the back with $200,000 in cash. Jump ahead to 2019 and imagine CNN claiming to identify the real Cooper, yet withholding the identity for privacy reasons. Imagine also that across the river, the Detroit Free Press ran a headline, “Jimmy Hoffa’s Killer and Gravesite Found,” with police refusing to identify the killer or point out where Hoffa is buried.
That approaches the scale of the Topic case, which raises the issue of credulity. If Canadians wonder what else the cops might be withholding, it would be hard to blame them. Even so, Americans might hesitate to call them out.
Elizabeth Warren faked her identity and Richard Blumenthal did not serve in Vietnam as he claimed. Neither case prompted any official ethics investigation, censure, or a resignation. Blumenthal continues to serve in the Senate and fake Cherokee Warren strives to become the most powerful person in the world, the president of the United States.
With no consequences for such-high level fakery, and despite the brave challenge from Canada, the United States remains the leader in fake news. As President Trump likes to say, we’ll have to see what happens in 2020.