RCMP releases results of inquiry into McKendy murder

RCMP: ‘There was never any information which would lead us to believe John McKendy was at risk of physical harm by Nicholas Baker’

Bailey White – The Aquinian

The death of STU professor John McKendy has prompted the RCMP to change procedure in potentially violent cases, according to the RCMP assistant commissioner.

The RCMP released the results of their internal inquiry into the McKendy case last Thursday. At the request of the family, the full report will not be made public.

The inquiry was prompted by allegations that, prior to the murder of STU professor John McKendy, the family received threatening e-mails from Nicholas Wade Baker, the man who would eventually kill McKendy.

The McKendy family forwarded Baker’s threatening e-mails to the RCMP. The RCMP initially denied that statement but later confirmed it.

“Back in November I appeared before the media to offer a public apology to members of the family for John McKendy. The apology was regarding public statements made by the RCMP that no one with the McKendy family had raised concerns about the safety of any family members due to the possible actions by Nicholas Wade Baker. We quickly discovered that this was not the case,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Darrell LaFosse said.

On Oct. 31, 2008, Baker, McKendy’s son-in-law, killed McKendy after an altercation involving Baker’s wife and McKendy’s daughter, Laura McKendy. A day later, Baker was found dead of an apparent suicide in a car in Moncton.

LaFosse said that prior to the murder, Baker was being investigated for non-violent crimes, including theft and fraud. The RCMP believed Baker was in the United States, and issued a “be on the lookout” request to Canada Border Services.

“The RCMP was actively investigating the complaints and concerns of the McKendy family. All evidence suggested Nicholas Baker was in the United States and that he was a possible

harm to himself. Initially, there was nothing to suggest anyone else was in danger,” he said.

LaFosse said the inquiry has prompted the RCMP to make several changes. He said there’s now a need for clarity about what to expect when a “persons alert” is issued to Canada Boarder Services. He said they also need a better understanding of domestic violence indicators.

“The review states that a better ability by police to recognize possible warning signs of domestic violence may help in future investigations,”

LaFosse said. He went on to say the review did not uncover any “significant contravention of policy and or procedure” in the McKendy case.

In a joint statement, Colleen Wakeham McKendy, John McKendy’s daughter, and Carol Wakeham, the mother of McKendy’s two daughters said they “applaud and endorse” the reviews, and its recommendations. “It is our hope that his tragic death will serve as a catalyst for change in the way police respond to threats of domestic violence.”

Sylvia Hale, a professor of sociology at STU and former colleague of John McKendy, shares that hope. “There is a real recognition that there is a need for more training of the police… to recognize key indicators of domestic violence. And to… begin to do something about it. To be more proactive,” she said.

Hale also said the RCMP were given numerous indications Nicholas Wade Baker could be violent.

“In this case they had all kinds of indicators that, as a sociologist, I would have read as [a] real threat,” she said. “The family met a brick wall, basically, a wall of non-action.”

LaFosse said the RCMP didn’t see signs that Baker would kill.

“Concerns were raised a few days before the event that if he returned, he may do harm to one family member. In hindsight … there were some warning signs of possible family violence, but even with that taken into consideration, there was never any information which would lead us to believe John McKendy was at risk of physical harm by Nicholas Baker,” said LaFosse.

“Looking back…indicators were things such as: Nicholas Baker fleeing to the United States, the criminal behaviour such as credit card fraud, the increase in e-mails and the tone of those e-mails he was sending.”

Hale also rejected the argument about Baker’s whereabouts leading up to the murder, and how that affected the case.

“The e-mails [the family] received made it very clear that Mr. Baker was moving north, that he was in Maine … which is, what, three hours away from Fredericton? That’s right here,” she said. “It’s a pretty weak argument to say, ‘Somebody’s in Maine so we don’t have to worry about them.’”

Friend of John McKendy and fellow Quaker, Vince Zelazny, raised similar concerns.

“I’m glad that the police recognized that there is a problem … My concern is that it won’t be solved by sending a few police officers for training in family violence,” he said.

“It seems to me, over time…that the culture of our policing has changed.”

Zelazny said he wants to see a larger-scale change within the RCMP.

“The government of Canada has to recognize this as a problem, that the style of our policing is not working and the consequence is violence.”

LaFosse says the inquiry has given the RCMP a better awareness of domestic violence issues.

“Although nothing is going to bring John McKendy back, I am hopeful that the steps we are taking will make us a better police force, and better equip us when dealing with these kinds of cases in the future.”

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