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Canada Case of murdered RCMP officer still haunts retired Alberta detective

17:20  13 february  2020
17:20  13 february  2020 Source:   calgaryherald.com

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When retired RCMP Insp. Earl Peters was called to the scene of the shooting of a fellow officer on a cold January night in 1987, the gravity of the situation hit him hard. “It’s hard for me to describe and put into words,” said Peters.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the federal and national police service of Canada. The RCMP provides law enforcement at the federal level.

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Retired RCMP detective Earl Peters led the investigation into the murder of Special Constable Gordon Kowalczyk, who was shot during a traffic stop in 1987. © Photo Courtesy CBC/ The Detectives Retired RCMP detective Earl Peters led the investigation into the murder of Special Constable Gordon Kowalczyk, who was shot during a traffic stop in 1987.

When retired RCMP Insp. Earl Peters was called to the scene of the shooting of a fellow officer on a cold January night in 1987, the gravity of the situation hit him hard.

“It’s hard for me to describe and put into words,” said Peters. “It was a cold evening as it was, but it’s extra cold when you walk up on that type of a scene.”

Special Const. Gordon Kowalczyk, 35, was dead on the ground.

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The 35-year-old father of three had been shot several times with a shotgun at close range. There were empty shell casings from his service firearm, meaning he’d fired several shots at the person or people who had killed him.

His service firearm had been taken by the killer.

His final radio message to dispatch was that he was pulling over a truck, whose driver was suspected of stealing $20 worth of gas.

a man wearing a black hat:  Const. Gordon Kowalczyk, who was gunned down in 1987 outside Calgary. Const. Gordon Kowalczyk, who was gunned down in 1987 outside Calgary.

The story of how Peters helped unravel the case and bring Kowalczyk’s killer to justice is featured in an episode of CBC’s The Detectives, set to air Thursday night at 9 p.m.

Peters said he had some hesitations about dramatizing the story of Kowalczyk’s death and the ensuing investigation, but he also felt it was important to “tell Gord Kowalczyk’s story.”

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Although Peters was leading the investigation, he’s quick to credit the team that helped crack the case in less than a month.

“I had 165 police personnel, including Calgary city police, and everybody contributed a bit for it,” he said. “It was very much a group effort.”

Peters said in hindsight, the case unfolds clearly, but at the time there were reams of evidence and leads to be followed.

“It’s all simple looking backward. But, of course, when you’re in the midst of it, appreciate that there’s all sorts of serious crime going on around the country, including with shotguns.”

Early on in the case, investigators focused on two suspects who were known for violent crimes. Peters tracked them all the way to Mexico, only to find that their alibis were solid.

“It is a great example of why an investigator needs to be very careful to not develop tunnel vision,” he said.

“Keep as broad a view as you possibly can until you’ve got it locked down tight.”

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It was a robbery almost a month later that led to the big break in the case. Shotgun shells left at the scene matched the gun used in Kowalczyk’s murder.

Peters said a witness at the scene got a description of the getaway vehicle as well as a licence plate. That led police to the home of Andrew Kay, who lived with his mother, Linda Marie Bowen.

It was later revealed Bowen had been an accomplice in several armed robberies committed by her son but she was not present when he had killed Kowalczyk.

“Mom’s confession was very important,” said Peters.

She led police to a section of the Oldman River, where she had disposed of the constable’s gun for her son.

 Andrew Kay and his mother listen to proceedings during their trial into the death of RCMP Special Constable Gordon Kowalczyk. Linda Bowen pleaded guilty to manslaughter and four counts of robbery. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Her son Andrew Kay was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years.© Postmedia File Photo Andrew Kay and his mother listen to proceedings during their trial into the death of RCMP Special Constable Gordon Kowalczyk. Linda Bowen pleaded guilty to manslaughter and four counts of robbery. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Her son Andrew Kay was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years.

“We were able to locate the handgun in the river within a matter of minutes,” said Peters. “Who but the person who threw it in would know where it was?”

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After a six-week trial, Andrew Kay was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years, while his mother received a 13-year sentence.

In 2012, Kay was denied parole after serving 25 years. In September 2017 he was granted an escorted temporary absence for personal development rehabilitation.

Peters now lives on an acreage north of Calgary. He said that during production of The Detectives, he was asked if there was anything he’d say to Kowalczyk’s children.

He said more than anything, he wanted them to know their dad did nothing wrong.

“People will sit back and say he should’ve waited for backup,” said Peters.

“Their dad, he didn’t die because he made a mistake. He died because someone decided to murder him.”

brthomas@postmedia.com

Twitter: @brodie_thomas

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