Using a new investigative DNA technique, Toronto Police have identified the person responsible for the death of nine-year-old Christine Jessop 36 years ago.
At a press conference at police headquarters on October 15, Chief James Ramer said investigators positively confirmed the identification of the person responsible for the DNA sample found on the girl’s underwear.
Calvin Hoover of Toronto was 28 years in 1984.
Known to the Jessop family at the time of the disappearance, he died in 2015 and there was no foul play in his death.
“If he were alive today, Toronto Police would arrest Calvin Hoover for the murder of Christine Jessop,” said Ramer. “Today’s announcement is only the first very important answer in this ongoing investigation. It has obviously generated many more questions and we are asking for the public’s help as we look for information about Calvin Hoover in an effort to create a timeline of his whereabouts and the last moments of Christine’s life.”
Ramer said Hoover had a criminal record.
“It had no significance to this investigation and he wasn’t a suspect in the case at the time,” the Chief noted.
On October 8, 1984, the nine-year-old girl boarded a school bus for the 1.2 kilometre commute.
No one was at Jessop’s residence when the school bus dropped her off at around 3.50 p.m. She and a friend had arranged to meet at a park after school later that day. The friend showed up at the park at approximately 4 p.m., but Jessop didn’t.
The friend’s phone call to Jessop’s home was unanswered and a nearby store owner recalled that the girl bought bubble gum from his establishment. He said she was alone.
Other witnesses said they saw Jessop that afternoon.
Searches were conducted in the area of Queensville in the days and weeks following her disappearance.
Jessop’s body was discovered on December 31, 1984 in Durham Region, about 56 kilometers east of her family’s residence.
She was stabbed to death and evidence that she had been sexually assaulted was located at the crime scene.
Guy Paul Morin, who was arrested for the murder, was acquitted at his first trial and found guilty of first-degree murder at his second trial before a successful Crown appeal ultimately led to his acquittal in 1995 on fresh evidence that was submitted jointly by the Crown and the defence.
“At that time, the fresh evidence was DNA that conclusively established Guy Paul Morin wasn’t the donor of semen stains found on Jessop’s underwear,” said Ramer.
Investigators met with Jessop’s mother and Morin to share the news hours before the press conference.
“I believe there’s no greater acknowledgment of his exoneration and the continued efforts of the Toronto Police Service to identify the person responsible for Christine’s murder,” said Ramer. “…There’s nothing I can say that can reverse the tragic events of 36 years ago. There are no winners in this announcement and this isn’t a reason to celebrate. It does, however, allow us to take a major step forward in our efforts to bring justice to Christine’s family.”
Staff Superintendent Peter Code said Hoover’s name appeared on police radar through the use of an investigative technique that’s fairly new in Canada.
“We used genetic genealogy which is a very useful tool in murder investigations such as this one,” he said. “We aren’t aware of any Canadian laboratories that specialize in this, but we are aware there are numerous labs in the United States that are available only to accredited law enforcement agencies. Simply put, it’s not a DNA match. It provides a potential family lineage from a DNA sample and it’s up to a police investigator to build from that by conducting interviews, going through historical records and by combing through numerous documents. In doing so, a family tree is built out. From that family tree, persons of interest may be identified.”
Code however pointed out that Toronto Police’s perspective in the Jessop case is that genetic genealogy isn’t evidence.
“We are utilizing it as an investigative tool and technique that can give us a list of potential persons of interest,” he added. “In this case through our partnership with the Centre for Forensic Sciences, we were able to submit a sample of a semen stain that was located on Christine Jessop’s underwear to a laboratory in the United States. It was the subsequent work by Toronto Police Homicide Cold Case investigators that allowed us to create two potential family trees. After extensively combing through detailed reports and documents, the second family tree produced Calvin Hoover.”