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‘A long 35 years’: Murder charge laid in Canadian cold case due to genetic genealogy

Who killed Byron Howard Carr?

For more than three decades, that question has haunted his family, friends and the people of Prince Edward Island.

On Friday, Charlottetown police Chief Brad MacConnell said they finally had an answer.

“His tragic death shook our city and our province to its core,” MacConnell said during an emotional news conference.

“Unsolved for over 35 years, Byron’s murder has caused trauma to generations of Islanders.”

Todd Joseph Gallant, 56, also known as Todd Joseph Irving, was arrested Thursday in Souris, P.E.I., and charged with first-degree murder and interfering with human remains.

A second person was also arrested in connection with the case but later released. MacConnell said the investigation into that individual is ongoing.

“We would like to thank Byron Carr’s family for their patience and support throughout this investigation. We only wish we could have given these answers sooner,” MacConnell said.

Byron’s brother, John Carr, shared his family’s appreciation for the police force’s efforts — saying there were times the chief was “more optimistic than we were.”

“It’s been a long 35 years,” he said.

“Both our parents, mom and dad, have passed away and weren’t here to take part in this process today. We know they’re with us in spirit for sure. This would have been very important to them as the next step in pursuing justice for Byron.”

‘I will kill again’

Carr — a former teacher — was 36 years old when he was found strangled and stabbed to death in his bedroom on Nov. 11, 1988. Police have said it was believed he was killed after a sexual encounter with another man.

“Yes. Byron was a gay man. A secret he kept from many people. A revelation only brought (to) light (by) his tragic death,” MacConnell said.

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“Byron’s death occurred during a dark and unfortunate time in our province’s history when members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community did not feel welcomed or accepted, forcing many, like Byron, to socialize in the shadows and take unnecessary risks.”

Most chilling at the crime scene was a note on a wall left behind in the killer’s handwriting: “I WILL KILL AGAIN”

The cold case was reopened in 2007, and while there were no new leads at the time, investigators did have DNA evidence, — specifically, a pair of underwear that was believed to belong to the killer, was found at the scene.

Investigators were waiting, in essence, for science to catch up.

During Friday’s news conference, the police chief praised services provided by Wyndham Forensics Group and Convergence Investigative Genetic Genealogy.

“Genetic genealogy is a game-changer for police in how we investigate major crimes,” MacConnell said.

He said Gallant’s name had never come up in the numerous tips they’ve received over the years. Instead, the “bigger development” in the case began in 2022 when they started using genetic genealogy.

MacConnell described the process as using crime scene exhibits to create a DNA profile that was uploaded to family genealogy sites to “find common relatives of people in those databanks.”

From that point, they were able to identify Gallant through a common relative.

“It’s a long process. There’s no straight line to the finish. However, we’re very thankful for the work and assistance in this file the genetic genealogy has offered because I’m not sure that we’d be here today … without it.”

Suspect lived in Texas and Arkansas

MacConnell said while Gallant’s arrest was made Thursday, he was identified as a suspect much further back.

Gallant would have been 21 years old at the time of the murder, and according to police, was previously convicted for break and enter on P.E.I. in 1987.

Police believe he lived in Charlottetown in 1988 but moved to Texas and Arkansas after Carr’s death. Gallant moved back to the Island in 2022.

MacConnell said they are working with law enforcement in Texas and Arkansas to “piece a timeline together over the last 35 years.”

As for the motive behind the killing and whether it was a hate crime, MacConnell said “that particular answer is one we all want to know.”

“We’ve never been closed-minded to the possibilities of what might have happened here. And we’re hoping before this is over, we will get the truth.”

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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