Newly released documents point to serial killer Michael Wayne McGray as another potential suspect in the killing of Brenda Way — a crime that another man, Glen Assoun, was found to be wrongfully convicted of committing in Nova Scotia.
The bundle of documents released by a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice Friday were instrumental in getting the murder charge against Assoun dropped. They were unsealed following an application by CBC News, The Canadian Press and the Halifax Examiner.
A preliminary assessment compiled by Justice Department investigator Mark Green said witness Michael Hebert and McGray were in prison together when McGray slipped him notes, telling him details about crimes he committed.
It said Hebert told investigators that McGray said he “murdered a prostitute that lived close to him in Dartmouth and that he slit her throat.”
“He said he dropped her body at the back of his building and that the police found the body in a dumpster,” the document said.
In his conclusion, Green said there was “a host of new information suggesting links between Michael McGray as well as other suspects, and the murder of Brenda Way.”
“I am of the view that on the basis of all this new and significant information… there may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in your case,” he wrote.
McGray is currently in prison, where he is serving seven life sentences and is not eligible to apply for parole for another 18 years.
The documents also reveal there were pages missing from RCMP booklets that related to the killing.
The Nova Scotia RCMP released a statement Friday, saying that in 2014, a then-serving member of the RCMP alleged his analysis and material related to the homicide were missing and had been intentionally destroyed.
The RCMP said it conducted an investigation and found that worksheets had been deleted in 2004.
“The deletions were contrary to policy and shouldn’t have happened,” the statement said. “They were not done, however, with malicious intent.”
Way’s body was discovered behind an apartment building on Albro Lake Road in Dartmouth, N.S., on Nov. 12, 1995. The 28-year-old had been stabbed multiple times and her throat slashed.
Suspicion immediately fell on her former boyfriend, Assoun, now 63. He was charged, convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. His appeal was rejected by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his case.
Assoun maintained his innocence during his nearly 17 years behind bars. He managed to persuade lawyers from the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted — a group later renamed Innocence Canada — to get involved.
That group then persuaded the federal Justice Department to take another look at the case, and what investigators for the department found prompted Justice Minister David Lametti to overturn Assoun’s conviction earlier this year.
In addition to alternative suspects, the investigators also looked at the failings that led to what Lametti called a potential miscarriage of justice.
Outside court on Friday, Assoun said he remains angry, but is trying to move beyond those feelings.
“It’s been 21 years and it’s destroyed my life. The time gone is time I’ll never get back,” he said.
In handing down his decision, Justice James Chipman said the public deserves to know the information in the documents.
“Mr Assoun must be able to tell a story,” said Chipman. “The media must be able to report on why the minister made his decision.”
Timeline: The murder of Brenda LeAnne Way
Nov. 12, 1995: Brenda LeAnne Way is found murdered at an apartment building at 109 Albro Lake Rd. in Dartmouth, N.S. She had been stabbed several times and her throat was cut.
March 25, 1998: Glen Eugene Assoun is charged with first-degree murder.
June 1, 1999: Assoun’s trial begins. Three days later, he fires his lawyer, Don Murray.
June 7, 1999: Assoun requests mistrial. Request denied. The trial is subsequently adjourned to Aug. 23, 1999. On that date, Assoun tells judge he will represent himself.
Sept. 17, 1999: Assoun is convicted of second-degree murder.
Oct. 13, 1999: Assoun files a notice of appeal.
Jan. 17, 2006: Nova Scotia Court of Appeal hears Assoun appeal. On April 20, the Court of Appeal rejects his appeal.
June 19, 2006: Assoun applies to the Supreme Court of Canada. Later that year, the Supreme Court of Canada says it will not hear Assoun’s appeal.
Sept. 23, 2010: Lawyers with Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (later renamed Innocence Canada) agree to take on Assoun’s case.
April 18, 2013: Innocence Canada applies for a ministerial review of the Assoun case through the Criminal Conviction Review Group (CCRG) within the federal justice department.
Aug. 19, 2014: CCRG releases preliminary report to Assoun and N.S. Public Prosecution Service on condition information is not released.
Sept. 26, 2014: Attorney General of Canada applies for sealing order and publication ban on material gathered by CCRG.
Sept. 29, 2014: Media informed of application for publication ban. CBC seeks intervenor status to oppose ban and request for sealing order.
Oct. 14, 2014: Judge grants ban and sealing order.
Nov. 24, 2014: Assoun applies for bail while his case is reviewed. Bail granted. Assoun required to live in B.C.
Nov 24, 2017: Assoun applies for permission to alter bail conditions to allow him to return to live in Nova Scotia. Permission granted.
Feb. 28, 2019: Newly appointed federal Justice Minister David Lametti overturns Assoun’s conviction, orders a new trial.
Mar. 1, 2019: N.S. Prosecution Service opts not to pursue second trial and the charges are dropped. Assoun is a free man.
Mar. 7. 2019: CBC begins process to request that sealing order and publication ban be lifted. The Halifax Examiner and The Canadian Press join in this action.
July 2, 2019: Justice James Chipman agrees to media request, sets July 12 for release of documents.