N.B. detective who helped solve murder of young girl reconciles with past
FREDERICTON — It took Mike Richard more than two decades to realize how deeply he was affected by his work on a devastating case that rocked the city of Fredericton.
The former detective was one of the lead investigators who helped convict Murray Edward Lyons in the rape and murder of eight-year-old Jackie Clarke in 1995.
“At that time, in the community, this was the worst crime that had ever happened,” Richard said in an interview. “It was a parent’s worst nightmare.”
Lyons, then in his 30s, lured the young girl away from where she was playing with friends in a wooded area in the city’s north side. He took her deeper into the woods on his ATV, where he sexually assaulted her, murdered her, and left her in a shallow grave.
The story of how Richard interrogated Lyons and helped solve the crime will be featured in Thursday’s episode of the CBC docudrama series “The Detectives” — an experience he said helped him come to terms with the trauma of the investigation.
“It was a very difficult case to work on, in many dimensions: my nephew was involved, it was an eight-year-old, it was a murder,” said Richard, whose young nephew was playing with Jackie when she was abducted, and ended up identifying Lyons.
The killer acknowledged that he took Jackie for a ride on his ATV, but flatly denied any involvement in her death. Richard said there wasn’t enough physical evidence for a conviction, so it all hinged on his interrogation.
“If we didn’t have a confession, we would have never, ever put him in prison,” said Richard.
After seeking advice from a now-retired American detective, Richard was given guidance he found unsavoury: pretending to blame the child for her own rape and murder.
“It was difficult to do, considering she was eight,” said Richard.
But it worked: Lyons eventually admitted to the murder and was sent to prison. He was later killed in his cell.
Richard said he isolated himself while working on the case, shutting out his wife, his friends, and his colleagues. He also avoided getting involved with Jackie’s family, a task that he left up to his partner at the time.
“I was burying myself, I was putting walls around myself,” he said.
“Looking back, I thought I was doing it so I could focus on the case ... (but) it was maybe a weakness on my part.”
After the case was closed, Richard said he pushed the sad story to the back of his mind. He would think about it from time to time — like whenever he drove by the area where the girl was last seen alive — but he largely ignored it until he was contacted by CBC.
After opening up on “The Detectives,” he said he believes more police officers should feel comfortable with sharing their stories of how they’re affected by the work they do.
“There’s a culture of being closed, and showing strength in public, but they suffer in private, as I did,” he said.
“Hanging on to these experiences and not talking to anyone about it is not going to do any good over time — I can certainly attest to that.”
In the wake of Fredericton’s more recent tragedy — an August shooting that killed four people, including two police officers — Richard said he hopes his story will help humanize the officers.
After reconnecting with Jackie’s family during the shooting of the episode, Richard also started a GoFundMe page with the consulting fee he got for the show. The money raised will go toward memorializing Jackie.
“I hope it offers some healing and understanding for folks that witnessed it and went through it,” he said.
Petro Duszara, executive producer for “The Detectives,” said the show selects cases that had a large local impact, and they only proceed with the episode if the detectives and families of those involved agree to it.
Duszara said a big part of the show is highlighting the difficult cases police contend with.
“We see news pieces about horrific tragedies, and we often hear about the families, but we rarely hear about the guy, or the woman who got up in the morning and this was their job to solve this,” he said.
“We know that these stories are all tragic. Every single one of them.”
— By Alex Cooke in Halifax
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2018
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