Toronto Police Chief James Ramer sits next to a screen displaying photos of Calvin Hoover during a news conference at Toronto Police Headquarters, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Ramer said DNA evidence indicated Calvin Hoover, then 28, who was known to the girl's family, had sexually assaulted Christine Jessop. Officers met with the Jessop family as well as with Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongfully convicted in the case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Toronto cops ID dead man as likely killer of Christine Jessop, 9, in 1984, via DNA

Toronto cops ID dead man as likely killer of Christine Jessop, 9, in 1984, via DNA

TORONTO — A man who died five years ago was the likely killer of a nine-year-old girl in a 1984 murder that sparked widespread revulsion and led to a notorious wrongful conviction, Toronto police said on Thursday.

At a news conference, Chief James Ramer said DNA evidence indicated Calvin Hoover, then 28, had sexually assaulted Christine Jessop and would have been charged with her murder if he were alive. A lawyer for Jessop’s family said they learned from police that Hoover died by suicide in 2015.

Ramer said police were still looking for more information on Hoover, who had lived near Christine’s family.

“Today’s announcement is only the first very important answer in this ongoing investigation,” Ramer said. “It has obviously generated many more questions.”

Christine, of Queensville, Ont., disappeared on Oct. 3, 1984, as she headed to a park after school to meet a friend. Her body was found on New Year’s Eve that year in a farm field about 55 kilometres away. Forensic evidence indicated she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed soon after her abduction.

Lawyer Tim Danson, who has represented the Jessop family, said they were in shock and still processing the sudden turn of events.

“There is an emptiness that Calvin Hoover did not answer for his brutal and cowardly crimes in a court of law and thereafter, in a prison cell,” Danson told The Canadian Press. “Suicide was too good for a person who committed such a horrific crime on such a beautiful innocent child.”

Described as a sweet girl who loved animals and sports, Christine’s killing sparked widespread fear, sadness and anger.

Hoover and his wife apparently had a “neighbour acquaintance” relationship with the family at the time, police said.

Ramer said Hoover’s DNA had been positively matched to semen found in Christine’s underwear. However, he was only identified as a potential suspect through genetic genealogy tracing done in the United States. Confirmation then came from matching the semen to an autopsy blood sample of his at the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto.

The identification of Hoover as the culprit came with a great sense of relief, Ramer said.

“This has impacted the entire judiciary and the legal system in terms of prosecutors, judges and everyone involved in this process,” Ramer said. “We are all genuinely relieved that the person actually responsible for this has finally been identified.”

Hoover’s death did not involve foul play, Ramer said. While he did have a “dated” criminal record, it was of no significance to the killing.

Police also put out an old photograph of Hoover in hopes it might jog memories about his whereabouts at the time of the killing. They also said they were looking for information on his later activities.

Officers met with the Jessop family as well as with Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongfully convicted in the case, before the announcement.

“There’s nothing I could say today that can reverse the tragic events of 36 years ago,” Ramer said. “There are no winners.”

In 1985, police arrested and charged Morin, Christine’s then-24-year-old neighbour, in her killing. Morin was acquitted at his first trial, but convicted of first-degree murder on retrial in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison.

DNA evidence finally exonerated him 1995, prompting the Ontario government to apologize for his prosecution and pay him $1.25-million in compensation.

In a statement Thursday, Morin said he was relieved for Christine’s family, hoping the announcement would give them some peace of mind after going through a “dreadful ordeal” for 36 years.

“When DNA exonerated me in January, 1995, I was sure that one day DNA would reveal the real killer and now it has,” Morin said.

Morin’s wrongful conviction — based in part on police and Crown tunnel vision and jailhouse informants — was subject of a judicial inquiry.

“I am not here today to revisit that historical investigation,” Ramer said. “I believe there’s no greater acknowledgment of his exoneration than the continued efforts of the Toronto Police Service to identify the person responsible for Christine’s murder.”

Christine’s older brother, Kenney, who was a teen at the time of her disappearance, said two years ago that he believed there would eventually be a DNA match but that her killer would be dead.

“One day there will be an announcement, ‘We made a match’,” he told the East Gwillimbury Express. “Then there will be a press conference.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2020.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Jason Kenney condemns Joe Biden’s plan to scrap the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, in a Jan. 18, 2021 story. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Kenney, Moe condemn Biden’s plan to scrap Keystone XL on Day 1 of presidency

Kenney prepared to ‘use all legal avenues available’

A member of staff at the university hospital injects the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 into a patient in Duesseldorf, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP)
WHO chief lambasts vaccine profits, demands elderly go first

One poor country received a mere 25 vaccine doses

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
Gov’t reports two more COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer on Sunday

Nineteen new deaths, including two in Red Deer, were reported by the… Continue reading

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

Facebook/ The Open Door 24/7 Integrated Response Hub- Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin residents show support for 24/7 Integrated Response Hub

Wetaskiwin residents and City Council members showed support for Hub with positive signs.

Indonesian soldiers distribute relief goods for those affected by the earthquake at a stadium in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Rescuers retrieved more bodies from the rubble of homes and buildings toppled by the 6.2 magnitude earthquake while military engineers managed to reopen ruptured roads to clear access for aid relief goods. (AP Photo/Daeng Mansur)
Aid effort intensifies after Indonesia quake that killed 84

Nearly 20,000 were survivors moved to shelters and more than 900 people were injured

Deeply covered with snow are the trees at the Grenzadler in Oberhof, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Two World Cups are taking place in the town on the Rennsteig this weekend. In front of empty crowds, the best lugers and biathletes compete for World Cup points. (Martin Schutt/dpa via AP)
Freezing weather hits much of Europe, from Poland to Turkey

A skier in Switzerland died after buried by an avalanche on the weekend

Canada forward Cyle Larin, left, vies for the ball with Mexico defender Nestor Araujo during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at Mile High Stadium in Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, David Zalubowski
Canadian forward Cyle Larin plays provider in Besiktas win over Istanbul rival

Larin into the game having scored six times in his previous three outings

Skip Brendan Bottcher celebrates his victory over Team Koe in the men’s final of the Humpty’s Champions Cup in Saskatoon, Sask., on April 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith
Curling Alberta decision will have ripple effect on potential wild-card teams

National federation adds two more wild-card teams to the field at Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier

A cat named Willow is shown in this recent handout photo. Victoria firefighter Capt. Tim Hanley says using a jackhammer and other home repair tools to save a cat stuck in a tiny basement drainpipe ranks as the strangest rescue call he's been on in his 20-year career. Hanley says he and three other firefighters spent more than two hours using sledgehammers and a jackhammer to break through Victoria homeowner Emma Hutchinson's concrete basement floor to free Willow, a nine-month-old kitten. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Twitter, City of Victoria
Victoria firefighters use homeowners’ jackhammer to rescue cat trapped in tiny pipe

VICTORIA — A Victoria firefighter says using a jackhammer and other home… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party: O’Toole

OTTAWA — Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says there is “no place… Continue reading

Most Read