#16 – The Open Road – Michael Lovejoy’s Story

He had already been driving for 8 hours and on the road for longer. He needed sleep. He had left his home in Flint, Michigan sometime either the late evening of Thursday April 7th or the very early hours of Friday April 8th, 1994. He was scheduled to drive to the American Axle and Manufacturing plant in buffalo, NY where he was to pick up a cargo shipment of automotive axles to deliver to the now defunct GMC truck & bus plant in Pontiac, Michigan.  He made it to the American Axle & Manufacturing plant, he picked up his cargo, but he never made it home.

Michael was a big guy. He had broad shoulders and would tower over almost everyone. He stood 6’6” and weighed around 200 Lbs. And he hated the heat! Couldn’t sleep if it was too warm. Even though he was a tall man, he wasn’t imposing. He strongly believed that any conflict could be resolved by talking them out. He wasn’t a fighter and he didn’t like weapons.

Michael lived in Flint, Michigan. This was the Flint before multiple financial emergencies were declared and the city needed to have unelected emergency managers run the city. This was Flint before the scandal in which government officials ignored evidence that the city’s water supply was contaminated with lead. This was the Flint at the cusp of becoming one of the leading cities in the United States for violent crime. A city where the many citizens fell below the poverty line at more than half the household income of the state median. A city on its way to becoming a top contender for the worst place to live in the US. This Flint was a far cry from its former glory. Flint was once the largest single manufacturing complex of General Motors however the closing or relocation of various General Motors plants in the 1980s and early ’90s lead to a shrinking economy, high unemployment rates, and a mass reduction in population. This is the Flint where Michael lived.

Michael loved to drive. Give him the empty road and he could go for hours. Which is why it wasn’t a surprise when he landed his dream job of driving a big rig all over North America. He started working at Michigan based RTS Transportation at the end of February or the beginning of March 1994. He was only 5 weeks into his new job.

On this trip, he was to drive to the American Axle & Manufacturing Plant in Buffalo, NY to pick up cargo destined for the GMC Truck & Bus Plant in Pontiac, Michigan. He left his house either late Thursday or early Friday, arrived in Buffo the morning of Friday, April 8th. The drive from Flint Michigan to Buffalo, NY is around 7.5 to 8 hrs, barring any issues at the borders or traffic. He arrived at the American Axle & Manufacturing plant at approximately 10 AM. He picked up the shipment of truck axles and left the plant 1h and 16 minutes later heading back into Canada through the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge. Between 1:30 – 2:00 PM Michael pulled over to the side of the road of 403 (westbound) between Garden Avenue & Wayne Gretzky Parkway (formerly Park Road North). This is the location of his death.  I conducted a site visit. Here are some photos of the location.

Side of Hwy 403, Brantford, ON – Between Garden Avenue and Wayne Gretzky Blvd – December 2019 (West Bound)

At approximately 4:30 AM on Saturday April 9th, another RTS transportation driver who was travelling east bound on the 403 towards Buffalo spotted Michael’s truck parked on the side of the west bound lanes. He tried to contacting Michael over the CB radio but there was no answer. Michael Lovejoy’s CB handle was “Supertramp”. At 2:50 PM this same driver was on his return run to Michigan when he noticed that the same RTS transport truck was still parked in the same location, so he stopped to investigate why. He discovered Michael Lovejoy’s body in the sleeper portion of the cab. Michael had been shot several times. The person who found his body immediately called the police.

Police arrived on scene and spent just over 5 hours taking photos and combing the surrounding roadside and ditch for clues. Additionally, they received assistance from the Ontario provincial police’s canine unit. However, no murder weapon was located. The cab portion of the tractor trailer, with Michael still inside, was towed to Toronto that Saturday night for examination by the centre of forensic science and the chief’s coroner’s office. This was done to prevent contamination of the crime scene.

The ballistic results were never released to public, nor the amount of times Michael had been shot, other than to say it had been several times.

Michael was found in the sleeper portion of the cab. His shoes and socks were off and on the floor of the vehicle and he had the alarm on his watch set for that Saturday at 5:30 PM as he was scheduled to arrive in Pontiac by 10:00 PM. Robbery was ruled out as a motive. His wallet lay undisturbed in the cab and the cargo was not touched.

Between 1991-1994 there had been 13 truckers that were shot at from overpasses along highways 401, 402, and 403 in Southwestern Ontario. Police were quick to rule out the possibility of a sniper in this case as the truck was not parked close to an overpass and the homicide was confined to the “close proximity of the truck’s cab”.

Very early theories indicated a possibility that Michael may have picked up a hitchhiker. However, this was quickly ruled out in the media as there was a strict no passenger allowed policy that if violated were grounds for dismissal.  His Aunt told the Brantford Expositor that Michael would in no way pick up a hitchhiker and jeopardize his job. After all, he did have a family to support.

RTS Transportation company officials were also fast to dismiss any possible connection between the murder and the American labour problems involving the Teamsters Union at the time. The brotherhood of teamsters is a labour union in the united states and Canada, previously plagues by Infiltration of organized crime throughout the 1950s. I couldn’t find any affiliated labour disputes that could potentially be affiliated. 

Some witnesses came forward and indicated that another tractor trailer with similar colouring and markings was seen parked behind Michael’s tractor trailer close to when he first left the highway (between 1:30 PM to 2:00 PM on that Friday). Someone saw a man walking from Michael’s truck to the other one. This was on the Friday and is not the same man that discovered his body the following day.  One witness indicated seeing 2 men running from Michael’s truck. However, I could not confirm if it was 1 male or 2. This person has not been identified to this day.

Police have received and followed up on more than 300 tips since then and none of the tips have panned out. Investigators have spoken to numerous people from Canada and the united states. The case still remains unsolved. 

Michael was 35 years old at the time of his death. He was married to Linda and had one son together, Billy, who was 10 at the time. He has also had a 12-year-old step son. Following Michael’s death, his wife , mother , and sister travelled to Brantford and Toronto for Identification of Michael and for police interviews. Michael’s murder was one more blow to the family as Michael’s father, uncle and grandfather had all passed within 2 years prior to his death.

To recap what we do know, Michael Lovejoy travelled from Flint Michigan to Buffalo, NY, cutting through Canada. He left Michigan sometime either the evening of Thursday the 7ths or early morning Friday the 8th. He arrived in Buffalo at the America Axle and Manufacturing plant at around 10 am, picked up his cargo and left at approximately 11:15 AM. He crossed the Queenston & Lewiston bridge at approximately noon. Drove around 1.5 hr and pulled over to the side of the road in Brantford, Ontario, between Garden Avenue and Park Road North for a nap at around 1:30 PM.

He took is shoes and socks off and placed them on the floor of the cab, took his wallet out,  set is alarm on  his watch for 5:30 PM and settled in the sleeper compartment of the cab for  a nap before having to head out to meet his delivery time of 10PM in Pontiac, Michigan. Another truck bearing the same colours and markings as RTS Transportation pulled up behind Michael’s truck between 1:30 PM and 3:30PM. 1-2 males were seen fleeing from Michael’s truck to the truck behind Michael’s truck. At 4:30 Am on Saturday April 8th another driver from RTS transportation who was driving east bound on the 403 towards Buffalo saw Michael’s truck pulled over on the shoulder of the highway. He called over for him on the CB but it went unanswered. At Approximately 2:50 PM that same Saturday that same driver was returning from Buffalo and saw that Michael’s truck was still stopped on the side of the road. He stopped behind him and went to investigate. He discovered the body of 35-year-old Michael James Lovejoy in the sleeper compartment of the cab of his truck. He had been shot multiple times. He had likely been deceased for close to 24 hours. Sniper shooting was ruled out and the company denied that his death was related to any labour disputes involving teamsters’ union. His murder was confined to the cab of his truck.

Michael was 35 at the time of his death. He was married and had a 12-year-old step son and a 10-year-old son. His murder has not been solved and is now considered a cold case as all investigative leads have been exhausted. If you have any information in the death of Michael Lovejoy OR have any information with regards to relationships or events involving RTS Transportation, Teamsters Union, or Michael Lovejoy please contact the Major Crime unit of the  Brantford Police Services at 519-756-0113 OR If you have information about a crime that you would like to report anonymously, please call Crime Stoppers at 519-750-TIPS (8477) or toll-free: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Tips may also be sent via e-mail by visiting www.crimestoppers-brant.ca.

Michael’s Route

Resources:

Scene Visit & Site Description:    Podcast Original

Original News Articles:  The Brantford Expositor (April 1994 – Newspaper – Local Archives)

Original Crime Stoppers Video:   Lovejoy Crime Stoppers YouTube Video

Other News Articles: CTV News – New Appeal in Trucker Found Shot Dead

Other:   Teamsters union Info – Wikipedia

              Teamsters Union Info – 1994 Case Law

              The Unravelling of Flint

              Flint Michigan – Britannica Encyclopaedia

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