#28 – London’s Sordid Past – Part 3 – The Mad Slasher
About a month after Russell Johnson Silently killed Alice Ralston in Guelph, there was another killer out there, operating at the same time, once again victimizing women and girls, in London, ON’s census metropolitan area. Russell Johnson and this killer would have a couple of things in common. Let’s go back another time to the 1970s in London, ON and surrounding area as we explore the crimes and terror committed by yet another serial killer in that area. This is episode 28 of True Crime Real Time – London’s Sordid Past – Part 3 – The Mad Slasher.
Things were looking up for 19-year-old Judy Barksey. Although she had a bit of a tough childhood moving through a few foster homes, she was making the best of her life. She moved to Strathroy, ON, a suburb of London, and was boarding in the house of a local family while she worked. She worked a short stint at Mother’s Pizza. She then started working at Merry Hill Nursing Home, working and studying her way to officially becoming a regular nurse’s aid. By the beginning of March of 1974, she was only 2 weeks away from that goal.
Saturday, March 2, was a bitterly cold day, in fact, the past few days had been frigid, it didn’t seem like spring was right around the corner. The night didn’t roll around any better conditions either, with it, brought thick and dense fog.
Judy had a night shift at the nursing home later, so she went out to pick up a pizza, before having to get her work clothes on and head out to work. She walked from her home on Maitland Terrace to Mother’s Pizza, a joint she was familiar with, on Frank Street and ordered a pizza, grabbed a bottle of grapefruit and a bottle of orange soda and threw in a tasty coffee crisp while she was at it. She was there for a bit, joked around with a few of the guys, the paid-for her pizza then stepped out on to Frank Street in the light of the full moon.
Seeing as it was freezing out and she had to work later, Judy wanted to make it home in the shortest amount of time possible. The pizza was at it’s best when still warm. She started walking down Frank Street, past the News Depot. She decided to take a short cut across a warehouse property right beside the CNR station. This was basically a diagonal to where she lived at the time. But someone was following her. Someone who knew her slightly and decided that he liked the way she looked. He had been home with his wife, watching a hockey game and decided to go out to buy some raffle tickets on the game at the nearby News Depot on Frank Street. He went inside, bought his tickets and headed out the door. That’s when he saw Judy walking in front of him along Frank Street as well. He started fantasizing about her and was drumming up the courage to approach her. Not a boy meets girl cute-meet, this guy was already married. His fantasies were a little different than the average joe and would give in to his impulses. He was fantasizing about having a forced sexual encounter, he was fantasizing rape.
She hurried along, not sure about the person walking behind her and started cutting across the property leading to the tracks. He was still following her. She made her way the phone booth, likely for safety and to call the police. He came after her, pulling out his jackknife. She started running, one running shoe coming off her foot, standing guard the phone booth, where the receiver swayed back and forth, dangling from the phone as he chased her. Finally, he grabbed her by the hair, pulling her back to the pavement as she was making her way across the tracks. He told her what he wanted, made it very clear his intentions. She didn’t want to; she resisted, struggled against him. He grabbed her by the throat, slashing her almost from ear to ear as she goes down. As she lay there, bleeding to death, he undid her pants, fondled her genitalia and dug through her pockets and purse for whatever change she had. He ended up getting a total of about $10. When such small sums of money are taken after a murder, it’s clearly not motivated by robbery. He was motivated by something else. The killer left the scene after cleaning off his knife in a nearby puddle and calmly walked home to his wife.
Judy never made it to work that night; in fact, she never made it home.
A little before noon the following day, March 3, a local resident was cutting through that same property adjacent to the CNR station on his way to mail a letter and found the bloody froze body of 19-year-old Judy laying on the warehouse parking lot pavement with her throat slashed. Strew about the area was a blood-splattered box of pizza, 2 bottles of soda and a chocolate bar leading to a nearby blue and clear glass Ontario phone booth where the running shoe stood guard, and the receiver solemnly hung.
This murder was very shocking to the community. Although Strathroy is part of London’s census metropolitan area, they prided themselves on being separate. London’s problems were finally reaching Strathroy. It had almost been 20 years since the last vicious crime of that nature, which was the beating death of John Orange in 1946.
The Strathroy Police had identified a person of interest in the murder following investigative leads; unfortunately, they didn’t have enough info at the time to make an arrest. It was too bad because one killing wasn’t enough for this offender.
Likely feeling a little heat and a bit scared following the murder of Judy, he dampened down his urges for another 13 months before finally giving in and acting on impulse. His next victim would thankfully fare a little better than the last. It was late spring/early summer in June of 1975. The weather was starting to get nice and more people would be milling about. One of those people would be 18-year-old Rosalie Winters. She was out walking in Strathroy on her way to Alexandra Park, a beautiful park with conservation areas and large old oak trees. And like Judy, a long-haired man was following her, fantasizing. He grabbed her by the throat and told her what he was after. She refused, but the more she struggled against him, the tighter his grip was around her neck became. Out of a need for survival, she stopped fighting. He started to remove her clothing but was stopped in his tracks when the zipper on her pants broke as he was trying to take them off. Now he was frustrated and angry. He groped her vagina and choked her until she lost consciousness, but ultimately left alive in the park. Violently assaulted, violated, and emotionally shattered, and she, unfortunately, was the lucky one.
This time he wouldn’t wait 13 months before he attacked again. A little further down Highway 81, near Mount Brydges, ON, just a few kilometres from Strathroy, was a small white and pink shuttered frame house. A perfect starter home for a young family. There lived 19-year-old Louise Jenner, her 24-year-old husband, Dennis Jenner, and their 6-month old daughter Rachel. Louise used to work at Mother’s pizza in town, but she was at home now with the little one.
Summer had come and gone, and Halloween was just around the corner. On Thursday, October 20, 1975, Louise had put little Rachel to bed in the room adjacent to the kitchen and was going about what she regularly when a white man with collar-length hair driving a late model cream or light-coloured Oldsmobile pulled into the driveway. Little did he know that Louise and Dennis’s neighbour had a keen eye and were keeping an eye out in the neighbourhood, saw him enter the driveway and made a mental note of the vehicle and the man. There was no other person in the car with him. He got out of the car and made his way to the door. He awkwardly stood at the door for a few minutes before someone finally let him inside. After all, it was a familiar face. Louise invited Chris in, started chatting and was showing him some photos while seated on the sofa when he attacked her. The photos tumbled in all directions. He forced her to the floor, tore off her pants, and started raping her, but after a few moments, withdrew before climaxing, and allowed her to redress. While preoccupied with the task at hand, with trembling hands, Chris removed one his black shoelaces, approached her from behind and strangled her until she lost consciousness. Once immobile, he reached in for his jackknife and slashed her across the throat. There she bled, lying on the kitchen floor, with the little one left unharmed in the next room. Chris rummaged about and took whatever cash he could find, which in this case was about $40, and then quickly left the scene. Dennis arrived home from work at 6:50 PM that day to find his wife dead lying on the kitchen floor, throat cut, in a pool of blood.
When the police attended the scene, they immediately noticed no forced entry and the family photos all over and around the sofa. This told them that this was someone Louise knew. It had been apparent that she had let someone in and was showing him or her photos. Law enforcement canvassed the neighbours to see if anyone had seen anything unusual or noticed any visitors during the day. They spoke to one of Louise & Dennis’ 74 year-young neighbours who told them that what she had seen. That description loosely fit a suspect in another murder case, and his dad happened to also own a yellow older model Oldsmobile. Through the investigation, police had interviewed thousands of people, including a man in his late 20’s name Chris Magee. But there wasn’t enough evidence to move him further along in the suspect pool, despite the interviews completed with him and any other effort made, which included offering a $10,000 reward, which would be about $45,000 current value, leading to the arrest of the individual responsible for Louise’s death. Yet, it wasn’t enough to get their man, and the mad slasher would strike once again.
This time the window was small. He would only wait two and a half weeks before striking again, and this time, she was only 14 and was a stranger.
Fourteen-year-old Sylvia Jennings was hitchhiking on London on Monday, November 3, when she accepted a ride from a white man in his late 20’s with shoulder-length hair. She wished she never did. She let him know where she was headed, but he didn’t stop and let her out…He kept driving. He drove to an abandoned side-road in Mount Brydges and attacked her. He menacingly told her to take her clothes, and when she took too long, he violently ripped them off her himself. He viciously raped her as she struggled against and fought against him. And when he was done using her body as though an object for his pleasure, he bashed her over the head, severely fracturing her skull, with a glass coke bottle, then rolled into the ditch and left her to die. She would later wake up nude in the ditch on the side of this abandoned road, covered in blood. She spent at least a month in hospital recovering from her physical wounds. Her psychological ones would take much longer if they healed at all. She was a fighter and very brave, and one day she would identify the person who did this to her.
The winter months would pass, as would most of spring, without another attack attributed to the mad-slasher.
It was almost summer and school was out! The Scholes family packed up their stuff and head to their beachside cottage along Lake Huron, about an hour west of their home in London in June of 1976. Fifteen-year-old Susan was 6 weeks pregnant; did she know? Did her parents know? Was she scared?
She slept in a little bit on Tuesday morning, getting out of bed at about 10:00 AM. She talked to her mom, had breakfast and then left the cottage just 30 minutes later to have a short visit with a friend. She was back to the cottage at 11:15 AM and decided to go help a neighbour paint the window trims of their cottage just across from them. She came back a little while later, around lunch, and asked if she could hop a ride to Forest, a town only a few kilometres away, with her brother Jeffery. Jeffrey was working in Forest and needed to get back to work after his lunch break. He was already taking two friends to drop off in town, and Susan really wanted to get batteries for her radio. She was given permission to go. So, Susan, dressed in her faded Hillsborough T-shirt, hopped in the truck with her brother and his two friends and made the short trip to Forest.
Susan was dropped off in the downtown area of Forest at around 1:00 PM. She went into a few different shops, including one where she did purchase some batteries.
Just a few kilometres away, Chris was on a farm on Lake Road in Bosanquet Township, disposing of a dead animal. He was there until about 2:10 PM and then left.
Back in Forest, between 2 and 3, a guy working at his dad’s tiling company saw Susan, whom he knew for about 2 years, heading west on a private laneway. Someone in a ford one-ton pickup truck pulled up beside her, and after 30-seconds to a minute or so, she hopped in for a ride. He recognized the truck as an animal removal truck, which has seen several times before in town and at nearby farms.
At 4:30PM that same day, farmer James Frayne, driving his tractor, in nearby Lambton county, came across the body of a young girl, a teenager, covered in blood and partially nude, partially hidden amongst the tall grass in the middle of a laneway (dirt road). He was so shocked at what he was seeing, that his legs were shaking, and he couldn’t muster up enough courage to get closer to the body and check for vitals. That being said, it was fairly obvious that she was no longer alive at the time.
The Ontario Provincial Police attended the scene. She was dressed in bikini bottoms, and the faded Hillsborough shirt she was wearing was pulled up and knotted on the left side of her neck. She had been jabbed in her neck, stabbed in her chest and had some superficial wounds to her pubic area.
A sample of grass from under her body was removed as potential forensic evidence.
An autopsy was performed, very likely within 24 hours. The pathologist confirmed that she had been raped, stabbed and strangled. There was semen and blood evidence present on her body. There was also evidence that some type of cord of ligature was used to strangle her. Could he have strangled her with her own shirt? Her ultimate cause of death was bleeding out due to the stab wound to her chest. She had lost around 750cc of blood just from that wound, which is close to 40% of total blood volume. There were other contributing factors, including blood loss from the neck wound and strangulation.
No murder weapon was found on the scene.
After identifying their victim, her time-line was identified, and they were able to confirm people saw her in Forest after her brother dropped her off. They also had the witness statement from the guy who saw Susan get into the animal disposal pick up truck. Through the investigation handled by the Ontario Provincial Police, they identified the suspect’s vehicle as a 1975 Ford Pickup truck owned by John Grinsven. He had a Strathroy owned company that dealt with the disposal of dead farm animals and roadkill. He had confirmed that on the day of Susan’s murder, his employee Christian Magee was using it and also confirmed there was usually a filleting knife in the truck, as part of a tool needed for the job. This prickled the investigator’s ears; Christian Magee was a suspect already in two other murders.
The next day, on the 16th, at 3:27 PM, a marked OPP cruiser and an unmarked police vehicle arrived as Chris Magee’s employer’s home/farm. And nearly as soon as the marked cruiser was shifted into park, Chris opened the passenger door and got in, without saying a word.
Law enforcement brought Christian, aka Chris, in for questioning. He admitted to picking Susan up while she was “hitchhiking” but denied killing her. He told them that he dropped her off and continued on his way.
Early on Thursday, June 17, just two days after Susan’s murder, eight OPP officers showed up with a seize and search warrant at the Magee residence. Christian, at the time, was living with his mom and dad and his two kids, 4-year-old Christopher and 2-year-old Tracey.
They conducted a search of the home and confiscated his car and pickup truck. Some grass was located in the truck, and the type of grass matched the grass under Susan’s body. There was some evidence of blood on some of Chris’s clothing but wasn’t enough to complete blood type analysis and remember no DNA testing in the ’70s. And there was no knife found in the truck.
Later, the truck owner leads the police to the filleting knife that he said was in the vehicle at the time. There was a bit of confusion with his statements on the knife. He initially had stated the knife wasn’t in the truck and then came back to say he remembers the knife being in the truck on the day Chris was using it for work, the day Susan was murdered. Testing was done on the knife, and there was no evidence of blood. This may not have been the knife or the handle potentially wasn’t removed to look for blood evidence within. That being said, the pathologist indicated that Susan’s wounds were consistent with that type of knife.
After Susan’s death, the police told the local media that they believed four murders against young women in southwestern Ontario within a 2-year period to be linked. They indicated that in 2 of the 3 earlier deaths, the women’s throats were slit, and the third was strangled by a nylon stocking.
Chris Magee was arrested for the murder of Susan Scholes and then held at Sarnia Jail. The preliminary hearing took place on October 20, 1977, and he was committed to stand trial by judge and jury and then remanded to the Penetanguishene mental health centre for psychiatric examination.
The trial, held before the supreme court of Ontario, with a 6-man, 6-woman jury, lasted eight days. Testimony was given by Sylvia Jennings, who identified Chris Magee as the person who brought her to an abandoned side road after picking her up while hitchhiking, raping, severely beating her, strangling her and then leaving her for dead in a ditch. The prosecution did an excellent job of showing proof that he was using that company truck that day, confirmed by statements by his employer and eyewitness testimony from the farm he was at disposing of a deal animal that same day. Evidence was also provided by the person who saw Susan get in that pick up truck, he was able to identify the vehicle successfully in a photo line-up. Testimony was also given by 4 psychiatrists and 1 psychologist, labelling him as a dangerous psychopath with a severe personality disorder. All of them had agreed that his mind was so diseased that he didn’t fully appreciate the nature of his acts. Chris testified in court in his own defence, and throughout the entire trial, he denied killing Susan. The jury deliberated for a little over 3 hours. Ultimately, he was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity, and he was remanded into psychiatric care at the maximum-security ward Penetanguishene mental health centre (now named Waypoint).
An appeal was made because the defence didn’t think that Sylvia Jenning’s testimony should have been heard, but the appeal was denied.
He was subsequently charged with the murders of Judy Barksey and Louise Jenner, as well as the assault & rapes to Rosalie Winters and Sylvia Jennings. He was suspected in these crimes, and law enforcement was able to obtain written & signed statements from Chris admitting to these murders and assaults. The charges were able to be brought by the assistance of the Ontario Provincial Police to the Strathroy police.
There was a second trial for the 2 additional murders and 2 rapes. The criminal code says that no person should be convicted of an offence while insane. So first, the jury would have to decide that he was guilty of the crime and decide if the evidence proved he was ‘insane’ while committing the crime. The jury deliberated for only an hour, and like the initial trial, he was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity, following psychiatric evidence.
After around 30 years or so, he, like Russell Johnson, would make the request to move from the maximum-security wing to a medium-security facility. A written report in 2004 after a 5-hour lengthy examination stated the following by Dr. Phillip Klassen,
“This gentleman’s fantasies involving torture, dismemberment, and cannibalism with respect to his victims is also consistent with the diagnosis of sexual sadism, as is a history of post-mortem sexually related activities. […] This gentleman’s history suggests to me that this gentleman could be [..] managed on a medium secure unit, with respect to both aggressive behaviour and elopement risk.”
The board had recommended the transfer; however, the Penetanguishene facility refused to accept that decision by the board and maintained that he remained a threat to women. They stood their ground and said that several doctors have reviewed Christian Magee over the years said he “is an incorrigible, violent offender whose chances of rehabilitation are almost nil.”
We should note that he would have access or present to women at the medium-security facility.
Chris Magee tried to convey a sob story of a loveless and abusive childhood, quoting times when his mom “made” him walk around with a broomstick behind his back, curled in his elbows to correct his slouch. OK, this is stretching; this is actually an excellent method to help with posture, and if this is the worst scenario he can quote, then he really is delusional. He even went on to offer to meet the family of his victims to provide them closure, if that’s what they needed. Um, no.
He is quoted as saying he doesn’t belong there anymore and that he’s not a criminal, but a mental patient. Sometime over the past 43 years, he found “God” and said he is no longer a threat to women and has said, “The Lord has used me while I’ve been in here and he’s given a desire to help others.”
His transfer to the medium-security facility was blocked and still remains in the all-male maximum-security wing at Waypoint.
Murder City, Michael Artfield – Pages 224 – 225,
Cold North Killers, Lee Mellor – Pages 235 – 239