EDMONTON – About 12 hours after two teens ran away from a group home, RCMP discovered the bodies of a man and his female friend on a rural property east of Edmonton.
At first, it seemed to Mounties like an open-and-shut case: the teens were found in the man’s stolen pickup truck and one of them quickly confessed their involvement to police.
Four years later, a trial for one of the boys has begun without that key confession, but with hope from the victims’ families that someone will be held responsible.
“Hopefully this time we’ll get some positive results,” Gerlind Koesling said outside the Edmonton courthouse Monday, nearly breaking into tears.
“It’s not easy, it’s not easy. He was my big brother and now I don’t have him.”
Her brother, 68-year-old Barry Boenke, and his friend and neighbour Susan Trudel, 50, were found shot on the property near Ardrossan on June 1, 2009.
RCMP originally charged two 14-year-old boys with first-degree murder, but two years later, following pretrial hearings, the charges were stayed. A judge ruled the statement made by the one teen was inadmissible and prosecutors admitted they had no case without it.
Last May, the Crown reactivated charges against the one teen because of new evidence. It was also learned that he faced a new, unrelated charge of counselling others to commit murder.
The fresh-faced boy, who turns 18 next month, sat in the prisoner’s box Monday wearing black pants, a dress shirt buttoned right to the top and a blazer, his hands folded in his lap.
He stood up briefly and pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, break and enter and possession of stolen property. He is being tried as a youth and cannot be identified.
The other teen originally charged in the case, wearing a hoodie and holding a cap, stood in the back of the courtroom as a judge ordered him to appear again later during the six-week trial to testify as a Crown witness.
Prosecutor William Wister told court he also plans to call key evidence about an undercover operation —a “Mr. Big” sting — by Mounties.
Koesling said she’s glad RCMP kept on the case.
“I can’t express how sad it made us when they threw everything out the first time, but when we found out the RCMP were going the extra mile … I’m very happy,” she said.
Court heard the two boys ran away from the Strathcona County Ranch, a youth treatment facility run by Bosco Homes, the day before the two bodies were found. They had been sent to live at the group home after being charged with mischief for allegedly vandalizing a school.
They were later spotted in the stolen pickup truck in an Edmonton McDonald’s drive-thru. The motorist behind them called police because they didn’t seem to know how to drive the large vehicle and were hanging outside windows, yelling and spitting at signs.
Police caught up with the teens minutes later outside a 7-Eleven store. Police discovered the truck belonged to Boenke and officers were sent to track him down.
But his wife told officers she didn’t know where he was. Boenke had last been seen the day before, taking a lawnmower over to a nearby mobile home that Trudel was renting.
Police went to the property, which contained an auto salvage yard and a pen holding exotic birds and donkeys. They found Boenke lying face-down on the ground and Trudel a few steps away inside her trailer.
Cpl. Pamela Robinson, the first witness to testify, told the trial the one boy’s initial confession laid the foundation for murder charges. She said she was later surprised to learn there was a lack of forensic evidence linking the boys to the crime. Their DNA was not found at the scene and there was no blood or gunshot residue on their clothes.
The killings prompted complaints from people living in the area about the lack of security at the group home. The facility later shut its doors, but Bosco Homes continues to operate other homes in the province.