Mary Edgar couldn’t help the angry tears that sprang to her eyes.
As the Petrolia woman sat listening to former OPP officer turned author Barry Ruhl all the injustices of the arrest and conviction of a teenaged Steven Truscott came flooding back to her.
Ruhl, who recently spoke about his book A Viable Suspect, explained how one man may have been responsible for several brutal murders, including the headline grabbing death of Lynn Harper near Clinton in the 1950s.
Truscott was a 14 year old student in the same class as Harper at a private school for the children of the military near Clinton when Harper was murdered. But Ruhl believe a man he’s called Larry Talbot is a viable suspect in the crime.
Ruhl outlined for about 30 people how evidence from other murders mirrors Harper’s death – everything from the place – a wooded area – the size of the shoes the suspect wore and the day the eight murders were committed – Tuesday.
Ruhl had his own encounter with the man in 1971. He broke into the Sauble Beach cottage Ruhl and his then fiancée – now wife – were staying at and assaulted her not knowing Ruhl was there. He chased Talbot out the door and was shot with a pellet gun and pistol whipped before arresting him.
After being told Talbot was a suspect in another Ruhl put together a case for investigating him as a suspect in eight women’s deaths including Lynn Harpers.
The story brought Edgar right back to the 1950s. Her husband, Maitland, was Truscott and Harper’s teacher at the military school and she vividly remembers her husband telling her how the military marched past the classroom as they searched for Harper while Steven Truscott sat and listened to his lessons.
Days later, he was under arrest for Harper’s murder. “Mait was upset and he was angry,” Edgar says through tears. “He couldn’t believe what happened. It was done too quick and tidy. They needed a suspect and it was him.”
Edgar says it always bothered her husband the authorities didn’t interview him so he could tell them Truscott wasn’t acting strange after Harpers murder. “If a 14 year-old kid had done something like that, you would have known.”
Edgar says her husband visited Truscott while he was in jail and thought about him constantly. Years later, after he was let out of prison and acquitted of Harper’s murder, the pair met again by chance.
The teacher was organizing a farm safety day and called the University of Guelph looking for a speaker. The woman on the other end of the line was Truscott’s wife. Later, she contacted Maitland Edgar again and the former teacher and student reunited again.
The pair kept in contact with Truscott coming for the couple’s 40th wedding anniversary and then again for Maitland’s funeral.
While Mary Edgar is pleased he’s been acquitted of Harper’s murder, she’s still angry about the injustice of his conviction. “It still makes me angry.”
And Edgar still holds out hope he can be exonerated of the crime, clearing his record and allowing him to travel wherever he pleases.
Caughlin not connected believes author
Barry Ruhl doesn’t believe the murder of Karen Caughlin is linked to the man he believes should have been questioned for the murder of Lynn Harper in the 1950s.
Ruhl, a former OPP seargent turned author, was recently in Petrolia explaining his new book, Viable Suspect. He outlines how up to eight murders of young women in southern Ontario, including Harpers, may be linked to one travelling salesman.
Harper’s is the most infamous of the cases since 14 year old Steven Truscott was found guilty and sentenced to hang in her death. He was later acquitted of her death at a new trial.
Ruhl believes a man he calls Larry Talbot should have been investigated for eight murders which were all similar. He made his case to the OPP, however the man died in a nursing home before being questioned.
Ruhl told The Independent he has talked to the family of Karen Caughlin whose beaten body was found on Plowing Match Road outside of Petrolia nearly 40 years ago, about his theory since they were curious if he thought the death of their 14-year-old sister could be connected to the man.
Ruhl says the Caughlin case has some differences leading him to believe they aren’t.
But he says talking to Caughlin’s family reinforced in his mind that the OPP has to do more to solve so-called Cold Cases.
He doesn’t believe the OPP has a squad dedicated to unearthing new details of old crimes and he says it doesn’t do a very good job of keeping in contact with the victims’ families.
Ruhl believes “a middle person is needed” to connect with the families about the progress of the cases.
“The relatives and friends of murder victims want to know what happened,” he says “surely they (the OPP) can keep tabs on the case with them.”