I hadn't been keeping up with the case, but earlier this month the murder trial of Devon Hugh Saunders got underway.
Regular readers of this blog might find the name ringing a few bells. A good part of that is that, for no particular good reason, information about this case kept reaching my ears long before they became public.
If you aren't familiar with the case, it happened back when Last Link on the Left was covering every Edmonton homicide (the site stopped such coverage in 2012, the year after Edmonton's whopping 47 homicides led the country), and the Last Link on the Left page dedicated to the murder provides an excellent roundup of the case. You might even find some familiar "face" as you progress, along with screenshots of a blog design even I'd forgotten.
Shernell Sharon Pierre, a 26 year old Caribbean immigrant, was working at the Misery-cordia hospital in west Edmonton. She had been in a relationship with a married man, and later left him for another. After her shift at the hospital the evening of March 12, 2008, she left the premises and wasn't seen again until 11:23pm when her car was discovered burning up with her inside of it, on the side of 170th Street just south of 87th Avenue at West Edmonton Mall. The only thing recovered was her bible. Her purse was found a few blocks further west.
Two days later, Shernell Pierre was identified by police as the victim, and investigators started asking the public for information related to what was now believed to be the murder of Shernell Pierre.
That's where I come in.
I was out at a house party on the night of Saturday, March 15th. I can't remember exactly where, I do know that one of the people I went with knew either the owner of the house or another person at the party, so the three of us went to go check it out. During this time, I ended up in conversation on a couch with a girl who, for reasons I'll never understand, steered the conversation towards Shernell Pierre, who had been ID'd only the night before. I do remember this: she wasn't black (and I didn't score). I assume now that she was a coworker of Pierre's from the Misericordia Hospital, but she was telling me all sorts of things about Pierre. This being the days before smartphones, and a night that I had gone out drinking with the intention of having fun, I tragically didn't really catch all of it. Now I suppose I could have snuck my phone out and started recording video or a sound file. Ah well.
Anyways, of the things I do remember her telling me about Shernell Pierre, I blogged about the next day. Shernell Pierre was from the island of St. Vincent, who had met a Jamaican man in Canada and been in a relationship with even though he was already married. She ended the relationship, then married a man from St. Vincent, and brought him back to Edmonton just two weeks before her murder. From what we've heard after the event, we can look back and say that the first part of this was true: she did enter into a relationship with a Jamaican man, and a friend at her funeral procession did tell the media she'd broken up with him "a couple months" earlier. Nothing to date says that the second part of what I was told was true: that Pierre had gone to St. Vincent and married another man who she'd brought back. It's possible that she had started seeing another man, possible she went to St. Vincent to see him, even possible he came back with her. But her obituary made no mention of a husband or even a fiancee, and the only person the media has reported to come up from St. Vincent for her funeral and/or trial has been her uncle.
Soon after I published the post, it got noticed. It specifically got noticed from two different media persons, CTV reporter Scott Roberts, and Edmonton SUN reporter Nicki Thomas. This being the days before Twitter and DMs, they reached out the "old fashioned" way with a comment asking me to contact them for a chit-chat, even if it was going to be off the record. Now I have no doubt that Thomas and Roberts would have maintained my anonymity as a source if I had requested it. But I don't directly deal with the media. I didn't deal with the media when Global TV did their hit piece on me last year, I didn't deal with the media when they asked me to share what I knew about Shernell Pierre. Of course, I was helped a lot by the fact that I actually didn't know about Shernell Pierre! I'd never met her, I was highly unlikely to have ever even seen her before unless we shared an escalator at West Ed or something. I certainly wasn't connected to her other than I had heard somebody else's story at a party -- a story that we now know to be part true and part not true. It was an odd comment thread really: half the comments were from media wanting to talk to me to report what I knew about the case (when I had at best a half-truth) and then comments from family and friends of Shernell Pierre upset about me to because I was pretending to know about the case at all (when I had at worst a half-lie). I also, partly because Scott Roberts had just posted a phone number, had to deal with the non-zero possibility that the first comment was by somebody who was connected to Pierre; either one of the friends or family members wanting to know who was spreading rumours about their dead relative/friend, or even worse the guy who already showed he was willing to kill over her wanting to make sure somebody with a blog wasn't too well connected into details of the case. Regardless, I didn't talk to the media. I did address the comments with a followup post, where I noted that the "don't call her a homewrecker" comments meant that at least part of the story, the part about her being with a married man, must be true (and, indeed, it was). I also told the media that I pretty much laid everything out in the post, sorry but the Feynman and Coulter's Love Child well has tragically run dry.
Anyways, brief firestorm, angry relatives in the comments. It was, except for the bit of insider baseball I heard at the house party, just another day in the life of a Third Edge of the Sword post about a murder victim in Edmonton. It happened with Lily Tran, it happened with Niko Arlia, and it happened with Jacey Pinnock. Pretty basic stuff. Meanwhile, the investigation continued, and I didn't pay it much attention.
Maybe I should have. At some point, an anonymous comment had been posted to my followup entry where a man was named as the killer. I don't know when: sometime between March 2008 and February 2012. My website stats don't go that far back historically, so when I tried to research further I was stymied. The native blogger commenting system only gives you a time of day for a comment posting, not an actual date. Anyways, the comment included this line (in ALL CAPS)
The name of that Jamaican man is Devon Hugh Saunders. He is the murderer of Shernell. He is the ex-boyfriend a very cold and callous person. He calculates his every action to a "T" and does not care who gets hurt. Everything has to be to his satisfaction. When you see this man stay far away from him. He drives a navy blue avalanche with "Hugh's Home Renovations" on the back window.Had I noticed that earlier, I would have followed up. I probably could have found out where "Hugh's Home Renovations" was. I could have looked up Devon Hugh Saunders. I may have got a picture of him, his house, his vehicle, who knows. Instead, the only way I found that entry is when I Googled the name "Devon Hugh Saunders", which I did when Edmonton Police announced they arrested him for the murder on March 6 2012. which is where I discovered the first ever non-dark internet presence of him was...me.
So I posted a little boasting, figured it was at least a minor feather in my cap, and went about my business. The media started reporting more about Devon Hugh Saunders, a Jamaican (go figure!) who was married (you don't say!) and was in a relationship with Pierre (gasp!). I sort of kept up on it, sort of didn't, but it wasn't exactly to start impacting my social life. So on the night of Friday March 30th, 2012, I went out drinking downtown and we ended up at The Rack on Whyte Avenue. Well, it's The Rack now, I think it was The Rack then too but that's the bar that was Roxy's and the temporarily Urban Lounge and I think another dozen or so names since the turn of the century. Anyways, I'm at that place that now you know of as The Rack. I go to the bar in the southeast corner to refill my wobbly pop, and pass a table of mostly black girls (there was one or two white ones there, if I recall). One of the black girls is in the middle of telling a story, I briefly perk up to see if it's about her wanting to have sex with me and then disregard and turn my attention to my drink. Wait, what was that about Hugh Saunders? Why do I know that name? Suddenly I don't think an earthquake could displace me from that spot. Her table is one of the ones just to the southwest of the corner of the bar ("the bar" here is the big table with a girl behind it serving drinks, not the establishment as a whole) so I am able to order, pay, and then stand there and eavesdrop while trying to look as casual as possible.
She's one of Saunder's friends (I'm going to just assume at this point intimately, which would explain a lot of the content), and is telling them that he did it. It wasn't a huge revelation in and of itself, but he had come clean with his family members about what happened. He went to the hospital when he knew her shift was ending, found her car in the parking lot, and waited for her. He confronted her, and they went for a drive. The reason he confronted her was that she had borrowed a lot of money from him (or "Hugh's Home Renovations") and after they broke up he wanted it back. Instead she refused to repay the money, and even taunted Saunders that she was going to use it to be happy with her new beau. So he killed her. Police seized his passport, questioned him, and tried to build a profile of him by speaking with family members. It didn't sound like she was interviewed. At that point their conversation morphed into stories not about major cases covered in the news, I waited around just in case it swung back Pierre's way, and then casually moved away when it didn't. Armed with this information, and fairly sure talking to them wouldn't let me obtain any more of it, I wrote a new post about it.
Since then, I've been done with the case, just like I had been before, and so I didn't realize the trial was on until I started noticing an increase in Pierre-related blog traffic, mostly directed from Last Link on the Left or Google. There hasn't been much news coverage of the case, but Devon Hugh Saunder's interrogation video was played in court, and a portion published by Global. A man suspected to be him is seen entering West Edmonton Mall, though they don't seem to mention which entrance. Was it Entrance 50, which faces towards the transit station and also happens to be the closest entrance to 87th avenue and 176th street where Pierre's purse was found by investigators. The Crown also alleges, as did Saunder's gal-pal, that he met up with her in the parking lot, which they say security cameras will back up. Glenmore Rennis, a contractor who worked with Saunders, said he'd been shown the gun used to kill her before, and the Saunders said he'd "never fall in love" like that again, crying over Pierre regularly before -- but not after -- her death. Saunders had hidden his gun on his property, and the police hadn't found it. Saunders also had been heard talking very angrily to Pierre over the phone because she was sleeping with another man (possibly in St. Vincent?) and then said he'd kill her, though it didn't sound serious at the time. Fellow nurses said that Saunders was a jealous person, maybe even "a cold and callous person"?
We then got further information about Pierre, who did hook up with a "childhood friend" while she was in St. Vincent, just like my 2008 source had revealed. The trial is ongoing, and while I haven't been in any position to attend, I have kept an eye on the videos taken by the media around the courthouse, with half a mind to identify either of my two sources. So far no luck, though I suspect that even if I saw them, I wouldn't recognize them.
On the bright side, they wouldn't recognize me either. And that's why I've been able to give you inside information on a case that I otherwise would have had no involvement in.