RED PANTS CONTROVERSY

On 10 April 1998, a body of a male was recovered from the Niagara River, near the water intake channel for Sir Adam Beck Hydro Generating Station, by Niagara Regional Police.  It was designated as case # 98-31237.  In conjunction with the Office of the Ontario Coroner the following description was provided:


Age (estimated) – 25-60

Race  ̶  Caucasian

Height (cm) – 172-180

Height (imp.)  ̶  5 ft 8 – 5 ft 11

Clothing – Red Levi-Strauss jean pants, 32” at waist and a 31” inseam with a dark brown belt.  White athletic socks, with a red, white and blue stripe.

Personal Property – Black Wallet (empty of contents)


This description can be found on the OPP Missing Persons and Unidentified Bodies Unit web site at: http://www.missing-u.ca/UIDetail.aspx?PersonID=66.  There is also a photo of the jeans and belt which were discovered with the body.


This description, in general, fits that of Jay Boyle.  Although Jay was only 17 at the time of his disappearance, he was reported as quite tall and strapping for his age; 6 feet (183 cm) tall and 150 pounds (68 kg) in weight.


Prior to his disappearance, Jay Boyle’s mother purchased two identical pairs of jeans for Jay.  The only difference in the pairs was the colour.  On the evening that he went missing, Jay was wearing one of these pairs of jeans… the red (also described as maroon) pair (image 1).  Image 2, below, is a copy of the photo of jeans found with the unidentified body by NRPS in 1998.  A close up photo of the belt (Image 3, below) was also recognized by one of Jay’s sisters.

  

There was a long bone found with the pants but no DNA testing was done.


In late 2013, the family of Jay Boyle learned of the Niagara case and requested Detective TS of the DRPS to investigate this potential lead by requesting that a DNA profile be done by NRPS on the remains and compared to the DNA profile of Jay’s mother, a copy of which was on file at DRPS.  According to Detective TS, in a communication with one of Jay Boyle's sisters, NRPS refused to do the profile for two reasons.  First was cost, although the Boyle family stated that they would cover the costs.  The second was based on a fact that a body that drowned in Lake Ontario could not drift into the Niagara River due to the water currents. This reason would have been valid except for the fact that there was no concrete evidence to conclude that Jay Boyle was lost in the lake.


On 16 December 2013, we sent an Access to Information request to the NRPS.  The case numbers used were OPP case numbers as these were the only identifiers available to us at the time.  We also specified the description of the case, date and location of the unidentified remains.  The response to this ATI contained the following statement: “This request is an OPP matter.” and was refused. 


We contacted the OPP Missing Persons unit and was told that the OPP case number was merely an identifier for their database and that the case was indeed owned by NRPS.  The contact also provided the NRPS case number which was used to refile the ATI request on 13 January 2014. 


This second request was also refused because, as was stated by a FOI officer at NRPS in a telephone conversation on 29 January 2014, the request was not accompanied by notarized ID.  There is no requirement in the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of the province of Ontario to provide notarized ID when requesting ATI files.  It was our opinion that NRPS’s two refusals were a form of obstructionism. 


Following a third ATIP request we finally received a heavily redacted copy of the report.


We contacted the Ontario Coroner to request that they assess the evidence of the red pants and the long bone.  They agreed and, following a long delay, NRPS sent the evidence box to the Coroner.


We had a face-to-face meeting with the Ontario Coroner’s office on 15 October 2014.  We was left with the impression that there were major discrepancies between reports made in 1998 by Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) and the 2014 statements made by the Coroner’s office.


In their 1998 Supplementary reports of case # 90-31237, NRPS stated that the pants discovered with the unidentified remains were:


  • “red denim jeans… waist 32””

  • “manufactured by Levis Strauss.”


Following the 15 October 2014 meeting, we made an ATI request to the Ontario Coroner for notes taken during the meeting. This was received, with some redaction, on 27 May 2015. The meeting had been attended by our investigator, the four sisters of Jay Boyle, Dr. David Evans (Supervising Coroner Central East Region), Dr. Kathy Gruspier (Forensic Anthropologist, Ontario Forensic Pathology Service) and an unidentified note-taker.


The minutes include the statement which caused us to be concerned:


  • “Dr. Gruspier also elaborated on the pants, saying how they had a waterproof coating on them, cannot be a red Levi’s pair of jeans from the 1990s.”


During the meeting our investigator asked about the results of DNA testing on the remains since DRPS had reported to the Boyle sisters that testing had been done by the Coroner.  The verbal release made by DRPS included statements to the effect that initial testing was done by Ontario Coroner and proved inconclusive, so the samples were being sent to a private third party for more sensitive testing. The answer to this question also raised a “red flag”.


The answer by Dr. Evans to our question about the delay in the testing, but not included in the provided minutes, was an admission that the DNA testing had not been done because of a delay in getting the evidence box from NRPS. According to Evans, NRPS told him that they could not find the box (misplaced during some renovations) until much later.


One side note is the additional discrepancy between the 1998 finding and the 2014 finding with respect to the estimated age of the remains. In 1998, according to the OPP database, the estimated age was 25-60 years. In 2014 the estimated age was 38.2 (+/- 9) years or 29-47 years.


Many questions remain on this portion of the file.  The Ontario Coroner finally did a DNA analysis and comparison to that of Jay Boyle and declared a negative outcome.  While this would appear to close this part of the case, the fact that NRPS took so long to send the evidence box to the Coroner, compounded with the description of that pants by the Coroner which contradicts the description by NRPS leads one to ask why.


A further anomaly concerning the evidence box raises another red flag.  NRPS in a memo to our investigator, stated that the evidence box was in the custody of Hamilton Hospital Pathology Dept., where it had been sent for autopsy in 1998.  In a  conversation with the Chief Pathologist at the hospital, it was stated that no items such as this would be kept for 16 years and that there was no secured lock space at the hospital to store evidence.  This contradiction tells us that the Chain of Evidence, for the pants and bone, was broken and casts further black clouds over the veracity of the findings by the Ontario Coroner.


Following the meeting, the Ontario Coroner replaced the photo of the “red pants” in the OPP database with one taken at his lab.  As anyone can see, these are indeed LEVI jeans, one can even see the label.  Why then did Dr. Gruspier say they “… could not be Levi jeans from the 1990’s”?

Note three things about these images:

  • The V stitching on the pocket is visible

  • The label on the recovered jean is different colour than the stock pair.  It was confirmed that in the 1990’s, this alternate label was used.

  • The stock pair shows a  five belt loops configuration, while the recovered jeans have seven loops.  This was confirmed as being characteristic of the special 1990’s design.