Witness: A true crime story Part 1 of a seven-part series: Cold blood

News Mar 06, 2010 Hamilton Spectator

If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:8

Father's Day

Sunday, June 18, 2000

Central Station

Tape rolling, video recorder light blinking, the detective makes note of the time: 9:42 p.m. He looks at the witness, and begins.

"What's your full name?" he asks.

"Eugene."

Four hours earlier, Eugene had been wandering along King Street East, the child barefoot, wearing a diaper and dirty T-shirt.

"Eugene, what's your last name?"

"Charlisa," the boy says. His mother's name.

"Who lives in your house?"

"Pat," he says. Charlisa's boyfriend. "Pat got paint all over the walls."

"Who else lives with Pat?"

"Mama."

"Could you tell me where Pat is?"

"My house."

"What is Pat doing in your house?"

"I dunno. Sleeping in Mama's bed."

"Can you tell me what happened today?"

"Door locked."

"When the door was locked where were you?"

"With my shoes."

"What did you do when you found the doors locked?"

"Open the lock."

"Then what happened?"

"I opened the doors at my house. Pat's in my house. Pat ... all over ... over the wall. Paint all over the walls. Mama's wall."

It had been cool earlier that day, and it had rained hard. But by late afternoon when Eugene walked into a variety store along King East, feeling sick, the skies had cleared and the air warmed. Then the boy saw the giant police officer enter through the door.

The call had come over the police radio at 5:30 p.m. Constable Randy Carter had arranged to end his shift early, get home for the Father's Day barbecue he and his wife, Dianne, were planning with their son and daughter. From what dispatch was telling him, the call would not take long -- just a found child. He'd be home in no time.

Carter always shook his head at found-child calls. How could a parent be negligent enough to let their kid go missing in the first place? But the half dozen or so calls he had worked turned out fine, the child reunited with parent.

He parked his cruiser in front of the K & M Variety and went inside. Carter, hulking size, head shaved bald, silver goatee, saw the child with blond hair in a full diaper that looked ready to burst. A man behind the counter said the boy had thrown up on the floor.

Carter greeted the boy, who said nothing. Then he took him outside for air, just as two women came running up the sidewalk. They said the boy's name was Eugene.

"I know where he lives," one of them said.

"Take me there."

They led him to an apartment building nearby, went around back and pointed to the unit on the second floor where the boy lived with his mother. The building was low rise, the second floor not very high up.

Carter climbed the eight metal steps on the outside of the building and knocked at the rear door of unit C. No response. He knocked again, harder.

"Police!"

No answer.

This was what really grated on him, parents who let their child go missing and then, what, head to work? Take a nap?

He thumped his big fist on the door again, this time with the intent to force it open. The door opened slightly but was stuck on something, it went no further. He moved back down the stairs.

Another tenant showed. She said Eugene's mother's name was Charlisa, said there was a key hanging from the front door of her unit. Odd. Things were not going as expected. Carter knew something was wrong. The barbecue was going to be delayed.

"I'm at 781 King Street East," he said into his radio. "Not getting any response from apartment C. Can you send backup."

He wrote down information from the two women who knew the boy, and left him in their care. Eugene needed clean clothes, a drink, his temperature taken. Carter moved around to the front of the building, met another officer, and entered.

"We're going in, I need 10-3," he said into his radio -- radio silence, no officers speaking on air unless absolutely necessary, keep the channel clear so he can call for more help, and if there's someone inside with bad intentions, you don't advertise you're coming.

Carter's senses on fire, muscles rigid, expecting to discover something bad. He opened the front door to unit C, the keys dangling from the front lock, and moved through the apartment, which was very messy, his Glock at his side but not drawn.

One of the rooms had art supplies in it, a couple of easels, brushes.

He entered the main bedroom. And now he knew. You get hardened on the job, he had been to nasty calls in the past. But nothing like this.

Paint all over the walls.

"Send an ambulance," he said. "Make that two."

z z z

Later that evening, Eugene met the detective, the little blond-haired boy the first and perhaps only witness at the crime scene.

Eugene proudly declares he is three years old, notes the detective. Observe the boy chatting off camera first, rapport building, talk of colours, the alphabet, toys. Eugene has good language skills. Load tape. Start with general questions, then focus.

"Eugene," the detective continues, "who put you to bed last night?"

"Mama. Mama's gone."

"What happened when you woke up?"

"Mama pillow wet. Paint all on Mama pillow."

"What happened when you woke up?"

"Pat's van gone. Man ride it."

"Did you look at this man?"

"Van gone."

"Tell me what happened last night."

"I was sick."

"Did you wake up?"

"Yeah. Mama gone."

"Did you see anyone hurt your mom or Pat?"

"Mom and Pat. They are gone. Mom sleeping, Pat sleeping."

z z z

That night, forensic detectives moved gingerly through the dull glow in the living room of the apartment, that was lit by a solitary light on the ceiling. Don't touch anything, not yet. Just look.

Hank Thorne was new in ident branch, Ross Wood a veteran forensics man. They noted that the door to the balcony, facing King Street, was wide open. On the balcony, an open purse on a couch. A pair of men's sandals.

Directly beside the living room was the front door to the unit; a key chain hung from the lock. Walking from the living room, about five paces, the first room on the left was a tiny bathroom, the light left on. Across the hall, on the right, was a child's bedroom, Eugene's room; the light on overhead, and also the table lamp, the room messy, toys and clothes all over the floor. In the corner was the bed, the closet door open.

Three more paces down the narrow hallway, Thorne writing observations. "Blood noticed on the west wall of the hallway by the light switch, and also on the heating radiator."

The door to a second bedroom was open. "Blood on the door frame."

Small bedroom, two bodies on the bed, unclothed, male and female. Socks the only clothing on the male; also wearing a gold watch. Fabric anklet on the female, one-inch bruise on the left elbow. Pillow, sheets, wet with blood.

Further along from the bedroom on the right was a room with art supplies in it, and then the kitchen. On the kitchen floor sat a bucket of dirty water with a mop. The back door was ajar, from when Randy Carter had knocked, the door had been caught on a chain-link lock, that's why it wouldn't open before.

The apartment was a disaster, littered with clothes. Lots of work to do on the crime scene, photograph, videotape, label evidence.

In the bedroom, the detectives saw it poking out from underneath clothes strewn on the floor.

"OK. That's interesting," Wood said. It was the handle of an aluminum baseball bat.

Later, Thorne wrote, they exited the building, and then returned with the coroner. "Entered master bedroom to pronounce dead."

z z z

Sue Ross had an odd feeling all Sunday afternoon, something was not quite right. And then, later, asleep in bed, she heard a voice, felt a hand. It was her husband. It was 2 a.m.

"You have to get up," he said. "Put on your housecoat."

She did, walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. It seemed full of people, strangers in nice clothes, suits, just these bodies she did not recognize. In fact there were four of them, two men and two women.

"Do you have a daughter named Charlisa?" a voice asked.

It was an uncommon first name, but one that Sue had pegged long before her daughter was born.

Sue Theroux grew up on the water, the Beach Strip in Hamilton, on the lake side of the boulevard. As a young girl she was a star ballet dancer, at Christmas performed The Nutcracker in Montreal, won a scholarship. At the National Ballet School in Toronto, her roommate was a girl from Memphis named Charlisa Lee Cato. Sue loved the name, decided that if she ever had a daughter, that's what she would call the baby. It happened when she was 24, on Oct. 15, 1975, Charlisa Lee was born. Sue later had a son, Greg.

Charlisa's father, Al Clark, loved taking risks: riding dirt bikes, helicopter skiing. When he married Sue, she suggested they do an activity together, take up tennis or something.

"Tennis? You can't get killed doing that," he said.

Al's daredevil lifestyle ended when Charlisa was a baby. He broke his neck hang-gliding. Al had been an accomplished glider, but one day he crashed into a cliff, became paralyzed from the neck down.

Sue and Al's marriage did not last. After they broke up, she stayed single for 20 years, thought about changing her name back to her maiden Theroux, but figured no one could properly pronounce it, much less spell it.

Sue was a strong, plain-talking woman with a dry sense of humour. She was also robbed twice in Hamilton. Once, working behind the counter of a variety store, at 28, a guy wearing a nylon mask pulled a sawed-off shotgun on her. She gave him the money, kept her eyes down but gave police a decent description of him. They caught him. It was frightening, but she moved on, rolled with it.

When Sue finally remarried, she took her new husband's last name, Ross. Charlisa kept her father's last name, Clark.

Char, as most came to call her, grew up to be very tall, nearly six feet, long hair, big dark eyes. Like her mom she took dance, but her passion and talent lay in art, drawing on anything she could get her hands on, including her bedroom walls.

After high school she left home, eventually had a boy she named Eugene Lee. Her relationship with the birth father was a stormy one, he was abusive, was convicted for assaulting her. She and Eugene got away, struck out on their own.

On June 1, 1999, when Eugene was two, Charlisa's grandfather -- Sue's dad, Camille Theroux -- died at 74 from a heart attack. Camille was a great guy, a steamfitter, built and drove drag racers. The family was devastated, but took comfort that Camille went the way you're supposed to, without suffering. In his casket at the funeral home there was a smile on his face.

One day, Sue would wonder about the timing of it all, her dad going away, suddenly, as though he was needed to comfort a loved one about to enter heaven. She sat down her grandson Eugene and explained what had happened. Papa became an angel, she told him, the minute he died.

Charlisa wrote a poem for the funeral: "Raindrops fall and breezes blow but we know in our hearts that he's near ... He will watch over us from heaven above and be our guardian angel ... We all will be reunited one day for eternity, and we will always love him, forever young at heart."

Almost a year later, Sue helped Charlisa find a new apartment, at 781 King St. E., unit C, 10 minutes from where Sue lived on Parkdale Avenue. Sue kept on Charlisa about the mess she often kept in the place, but both her daughter and grandson were not the tidy type. At the back of the apartment, just off the kitchen, Charlisa kept an art room where she painted and drew, Eugene had his own easel in the room as well. Sometimes she'd go out on errands with paint all over her hands. The art room overlooked the back alleyway, fences and old brick homes, natural light poured in, unlike her bedroom, which was smaller and had no windows.

Charlisa volunteered helping homeless kids downtown, teaching art, cooking for them, mentoring. The girls took to calling her mom, she urged them to get off the street, go back home. Perhaps Charlisa offered that advice because she had left home at a young age herself and had regretted aspects of that decision. As an adult, though, she enjoyed a free-spirited social life. When her mom or 16-year old brother Greg or her grandmother babysat Eugene, she often would hit a club, a rave, soak up the music, let go.

Her art career started to bloom, she thought about pursuing a career as an animator. On June 14, 2000, one of Charlisa's paintings was featured among works from across Canada at a gallery in Hamilton, the exhibit was called The Power of Healing. Her name was mentioned in The Hamilton Spectator as one of the artists.

Three days later, June 17, she spent time with her son, and her boyfriend Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo. She had known Pat for years, since high school at Orchard Park, but only recently started dating him. Eugene got a kick out of Pat, he made him laugh.

Later that night, Charlisa and Eugene were alone. She put the boy to bed, anticipated Pat showing after midnight, a warm evening, a night to open the balcony door to let in the breeze.

The next day, June 18, Sue drove with a friend downtown. She had taught ballet for years, and her class was presenting a recital that day. Sue and her friend stopped the car on King East, looked up at Char's low-rise apartment unit, which faced the street, and honked the horn. No one appeared on the balcony, and Sue moved on.

She had been thinking about her daughter a lot lately, was certain that Char was pregnant with her second child. Char had seemed to hint at it to a family member.

"I've got something to tell you, but I don't want to say just yet," Charlisa had said.

At the art show, someone had taken a picture of Charlisa, and in it, her hand rested on her stomach in a motherly pose. She wasn't showing, but Sue could tell, she sensed Char was waiting for the right moment to tell her.

The recital felt odd that afternoon. Usually Sue was backstage organizing the girls, but this time she sat on a table, let her assistants do the work. Just didn't feel like herself. And then after, usually she'd go with her friend to Hortons, but didn't feel like that either. She just went home.

The sun descended, darkness, and then the middle of the night, in her housecoat, trapped in the repressive light inside her kitchen, Sue in a daze, hearing the voice from one of the bodies ask the question.

"Do you have a daughter named Charlisa?"

"Yes," she said.

"I'm sorry, she's been killed."

Those were the words, Sue thought, but she could never be exactly certain, it wasn't registering, her brain not able to connect the dots. She turned to her husband. "What -- what are they saying? What are they saying?"

Sue bolting from the kitchen, downstairs to the basement where Greg had his bedroom, hysterical, jumping on top of him, slapping at him, screaming that Char is dead, your sister is dead.

z z z

Deep blue eyes meeting dark red; lead homicide detective Don Forgan, shaved head, wire glasses, suit, examining the walls and bedding in unit C.

"Extremely violent," he said.

The scene was so violent, some of the initial radio chatter among cops suggested that the victims had been shot in the head. But that had not been the case.

High-velocity spatter, on the walls, ceiling. Cast-off pattern. Transfer pattern. Unlike most of the homicide detectives, Forgan knew the blood patterns well, having worked in forensic identification with Hamilton Police for 10 years.

He saw the male lying face down on the mattress, the female on the floor, 90 degrees to the bed, arms and head on the mattress, as though kneeling, her ankles crossed. An odd position. Why?

In his 20 years as a cop, it was not the bloodiest scene he had attended. No, that had been years before, when he was in uniform. The deceased in that case was a physician; a major artery had been severed, he bled out in large volume, but not before moving through several rooms in his home. Looked like a homicide, was treated that way at first. But in fact the doctor had known exactly what he was doing. Suicide.

The crime scene Forgan now examined was disturbing, but then he had long ago taken to heart advice from Herb Walmsley, a veteran ident man who had trained him. The person is gone, Herb told him. It's just the evidence left for you. That's all it is.

Forgan tapped that mindset when he had worked as an investigator in child-abuse branch. It had helped, but then there was the case of a 14-year-old girl disciplined -- beaten -- by her father. The father had used a piece of garden hose. The attacks were so violent you could see, on the skin of her back, the imprint of the metal coupling of the hose, and even tiny threads of the coupling. Evidence. Just evidence. But Forgan could not shake that imprint in his mind's eye, many years later.

In this new case, he knew the little boy, Eugene, had not been hurt, not physically. But the little guy had to have been in the apartment a long time before he made it outside, perhaps 16 hours. What had the boy seen? How would it affect him? Forgan had too big a heart not to feel it.

Don Forgan had started as a cop very young; straight out of high school he bugged an officer at the station until he got hired. He grew up in Hamilton, his parents were from Scotland. At eight years old his mother enrolled him in bagpipe lessons, Monday nights at 7 p.m. The Monkees TV show was on Mondays, so Don resisted, but grew to love the instrument, eventually played in competitions and won his share. With the pipes, you are judged not on the emotion you show while playing, but the emotion conveyed through the tune. Don let it flow through his music.

After 20 years on the job, in 1998, he was assigned to homicide, what was then called the Major Crime Unit. He was made for the work, intense, always up for a case, quick-witted and thoughtful, could put a family in pain at ease in the morning and grill a suspect in the afternoon with equal effectiveness.

First day on the job in homicide, Jan. 4, 1998, assigned to new partner Warren Korol, who was riding high in the branch, having arrested Stoney Creek serial poisoner Sukhwinder Dhillon three months earlier after chasing the case all the way to the Punjab. Forgan walked in the door on the second floor at Central Station and Korol met him immediately.

"Don't bother taking your coat off Donny, we've gotta head out. New case."

"But I don't even know where the coffee pot is yet."

The case was a missing person/suspected homicide, the victim's name Sheryl Sheppard. The body was missing, so there was no crime scene. They started at her apartment; you always start at the victim, start with people closest to her, and work out.

As of June 18, 2000, when Forgan cracked the new case notebook for the double murder, it was many investigations later, but that first case, while still open, had gone nowhere. Frustrating, knowing that someone was walking around free out there who should be locked up.

In the bedroom of the apartment on King East, Forgan saw the baseball bat on the floor, clothes now removed off it. Blood visible on the fat part of the bat. The killer did not bring it to the scene; a neighbour told police that she had loaned Charlisa the bat to use for protection. Char always kept it by the front door. It was a weapon of opportunity. If it was the murder weapon, why did the killer leave it behind? He rifles through drawers looking for money, tosses clothes around, and accidentally covers the bat? How could he forget to get rid of it? But then who knows what your thought process is like after you've killed two people, Forgan reflected.

Media would soon be on the story full-bore, they would need to keep the bat a secret: hold back evidence. Only one person out there knows about the bat.

He also saw a mark on the floor; a tread from an athletic shoe, a print left in blood.

Police had started interviewing neighbours, no one had heard anything unusual coming from that apartment. Forgan exited the bedroom, walked up the narrow hallway to the living room, where the open door led onto the balcony. He chatted with Korol, who had joined him at the scene. They could hear voices in an adjoining unit, so the detectives spoke quietly. If the walls were that thin, how could no one have heard anything, with the violence that had happened here? Forgan listened to the old hardwood floor under his feet creak. Did the victims hear the guy coming?

He knew the investigation would be complicated. Two victims, two circles of friends and relatives and acquaintances and potential enemies and motives. The only witness so far was the kid, who was speaking in riddles. No sign of forced entry to the apartment. Did the victims or at least one of them, know the killer?

Forgan left the living room, out the front door of the unit, saw the key chain dangling from the lock. It was the mother's key chain. Who left it there? Would make no sense for the killer to lock the door and leave the key on his way out, unless he was trying to throw them off. The kid? The boy clearly had not exited via the chain-locked back door; more likely he exits through the front, then locks the door like he had seen his mother do many times before.

Forgan walked down a flight of stairs and out into the darkness, to the strip of grass in front of the apartment building. Shoe indentations on the grass. On the front concrete facade, the word "Victoria" and an iron lamp fixture below the balcony of unit C. The second-floor balcony was maybe 10 feet off the ground. Someone with strength and purpose could grab the fixture, climb up to the balcony and hop back down again. Might explain the pronounced footprints in the grass.

His night ended at 4 a.m. Forgan went home, a few hours sleep, back in the office at Central Station Monday at 9:30 a.m. He had three voice mails from reporters about the case already.

That afternoon he attended autopsies for both victims performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Chitra Rao. Her conclusion: both were bludgeoned to death, struck numerous times in the head and face. Multiple skull fractures and hemorrhages in the brain. Tramline bruising; caused by striking by a cylindrical object.

Later that day, Forgan drove to Stoney Creek with Detective Dave Place, who had been among those called in to assist. The second of the victims, the male, had been identified by fingerprints. The family had to be notified.

z z z

It had been a sad year for Ruth Del Sordo. She lost her mother, Lily, in February. Ruth's husband had tried to tell her all the right things, that Lily had lived a good and long life, 84 years. But Ruth was very close with her mother, she could not believe she was gone.

Lily had been a survivor; her parents were born in Poland and she had family members who were captured and killed by the Nazis. Lily's parents made it to England, where she was born, and moved to Canada after the war. Lily raised four kids on her own in Hamilton when her husband left her.

Ruth grew up on the Beach Strip, went to Van Wagners Beach School on the lake, the building that would one day be reborn as Barangas restaurant. She married an Italian-Canadian named Flavio Del Sordo in 1973.

Their first child, Pasquale, was born a year later, on Sept. 20, 1974. Ruth and Flavio had four other kids: Anthony, Flavio Jr., Cindy and Joey. Flavio started a construction company, all the boys worked for him.

Pasquale (Pat) especially loved the work, had a passion for woodworking since he picked up a toy hammer as a toddler. In his teens, he won awards for woodworking and carpentry projects.

As the first-born, Pat occupied a special place in the family, but especially in Ruth's world. He had epilepsy as a boy, but with treatment his symptoms had vanished before he hit his teens. Still, she never stopped worrying about him even into his 20s, when they continued to grow very close. Pat shared everything with her. He always drove her places, took her shopping, he cranked up the music in the car or in the house, Ruth got a steady dose of his favourite rock. He used to walk up and give her a big hug, and say, "Me and you against the world, eh mom?"

She was fiercely protective of him; one of his girlfriends once broke up with him because he paid so much attention to his mother.

When he was in his early 20s, Pat and a girlfriend had a child, a girl. The mother and Pat did not stay together, though. Still, Ruth glowed with pride when in the early days she saw him bathe and diaper the baby.

By the summer of 2000, nearing his 26th birthday, Pat worked for his dad framing houses and still lived upstairs in the family home in Stoney Creek. He loved his food and music, fixing up his blue Jeep and riding around blasting classic Kiss; heading out at night adorning six or seven of his fingers with gold rings, taking centre stage on the dance floor at clubs, all 5-foot-11, 240 pounds of him. Others gravitated toward him, his big laugh and brassy presence.

His dad warned him not to stay out too late. Pat often had to work early in the morning, and most of all he needed to be careful out there. But Pat seemed to trust everyone.

"Don't worry, I'm going to be OK," he said, and gave Flavio a hug and playfully pinched his cheek.

Even when he had a late night, Pat always returned home to sleep in his own bed. That continued that summer, when he was seeing Charlisa Clark, a girl he had known since high school but with whom he had only recently become romantically involved.

Saturday afternoon, June 17, he hung with Charlisa and her son Eugene, and then later that night he was out with his friends Moe and Luca in Burlington at a carnival on the lakeshore. They stopped at a club called Billy Bob's but the lineup was too big, they decided to pack it in. Pat was dropped off at the Del Sordo home just after midnight.

His family had plans for Sunday, Father's Day, everyone going to the Mandarin for a big dinner as was the custom. Soon after midnight, Charlisa called him on his cell. He left the house, took his dad's white Del Sordo Construction van and drove the 15 minutes to visit Charlisa at her apartment on King Street East, parked in a lot right across the street.

Ruth woke up at 9 a.m. Sunday. Pat had not come home. She was worried, called his cell repeatedly, no answer, just his voice mail. At 4:45 p.m. Ruth and Flavio drove downtown to pick up their youngest, Joey, from where he was getting off a shift working at Tim Hortons. On the way, driving along King East, they noticed the white van in a parking lot. They did not know that Charlisa lived across the street.

Flavio phoned his son Anthony, told him to bring the extra set of keys. Flavio opened the back door of the van, which was unlocked, but set off the alarm. Anthony left his father, and Flavio drove the van home by himself.

By 7 p.m. no one had heard from Pat. The family decided to go back to the spot on King Street where the van had been parked. Flavio, Anthony and his fiancee, Joey, and Pat's friends Luca and Moe went down. The area near 781 King Street East now buzzed with police, yellow crime-scene tape up.

Officers invited them to Central Station, where detectives began interviewing Pat's family and friends. Did anyone have any reason to harm Pat, any trouble with friends or girlfriends? Any drug use? No, they answered, everyone loved Pat, and no drugs, he was very hard on others if they merely smoked cigarettes.

Flavio phoned Ruth, who was still at home. I don't know what's going on, he said, but the police are saying there are two people found dead in an apartment on King Street, but are not saying who it is.

Ruth dropped the phone, fearing the worst.

"Please!" she yelled, "Don't take my Pasquale, take me! God, take me!"

All that night, still uncertain if her son was alive, Ruth prayed, asked God for a miracle, even as she sensed the truth. Flavio suggested maybe Pat had been in a fight, was attacked, had fled out of town? No, Ruth thought, he would have come home, no matter what. My Pasquale always comes home.

She kept thinking back to the night before, the last time he had been in the house. Ruth heard Pat leave to go see Charlisa. She wanted to stop him. But Flavio had recently given her a hard time about being so protective of their son.

"Don't phone him all the time, he's a man," he had said.

When Ruth once asked Pat about that, he said, "Don't stop bugging me, Ma, it just shows you love me."

Still, that night she had a mind to call him on his cell when he went out the door to Charlisa's: It's too late, Pasqua, tomorrow's Father's Day. Come on back, we'll have some coffee, talk a bit.

Ruth knew if she had called, he would have come back. No question about it. How many times had he cancelled dates in the past if she needed him? Many times. Why hadn't she just called him once more, kept him home where he belonged?

Just after 5 p.m. Monday, Don Forgan and Dave Place pulled in front of the Del Sordo home, the house the family had renovated, where Pat himself had helped screw down every new floor.

Place had, just 15 hours earlier, stood in Sue Ross's kitchen to pass along the news of Charlisa's death. And now he was doing it again. Place dreaded notification. There you are, personally bearing the worst news in a family's life, a moment they will never forget.

The detectives were invited inside. They told the Del Sordos one of the victims was Pat.

Some sat in silence, brother Anthony punched a pane of glass in the china cabinet, slicing his hand, a tendon, he had to get it wrapped and rush to hospital.

Ruth? She knew the police would bring that news. Her heart was shattered. My boy is gone, she thought, my music man. My Pasquale.

Pat's cellphone was recovered from the apartment. Detectives monitored it, waiting to see if anyone called in the days that followed. There was one person who dialled the number several times. It was Ruth. She yearned to hear his voice on the recording, the one that said without fail, "Hello, this is The Pasqua. If you got something hot or interesting to say, just leave a message after the beep. Ciao."

Ruth focused her energy on the investigation, her sorrow competing with puzzlement and anger. Her boy was so gentle, full of fun, who could want to harm him? And, she could not fathom it, he was a large man, big arms and shoulders muscled from weight lifting and building houses, a gentle giant but so strong he could kill a man with a punch. Who could possibly have done this to him, she wondered? Surely not just one man.

z z z

After it had all gone down, Carl crashed at a friend's apartment, very late. In the morning he rose, stood on the balcony, high up, thought about what he had done, what he had seen and heard.

Jump? Should he? The thought crossed his mind, and not for the first time. Except Carl had issues with suicide. Not that he considered himself religious, but still, he wondered, what if it was true that you burned in hell for it? On the other hand, what if when you die, everything is just black? That would be good, he would choose suicide if that were the case.

Mostly he wondered if he had cleaned up enough back at the apartment. After it was over, he had hopped off the low balcony of the apartment to escape. Then he climbed back up the wall again, through the open balcony door, wiped down everything; walls, light switches. What had he touched? Anything that would stick? He hopped off the balcony again, threw one of his shoes in a dumpster, another in a second dumpster. Then he returned to the apartment a final time, remembering he had handled a wallet in there. Grabbed the wallet, a set of car keys, left, threw it all down a sewer.

At 11 a.m. he visited his girlfriend, Elaine, who lived down at Melvin and Parkdale, six kilometres away from where it had happened on King East. They had a stormy relationship; his violent temper and drug habit did not help. She once called police to complain that Carl had stolen her VCR.

"What channel is the Hamilton news on?" Carl asked. He never watched the news.

On TV he saw a reporter at the scene outside the apartment. The reporter was talking about a double homicide.

"What, did you have something to do with that?" Elaine asked.

"No."

In the past, when they were high, they had talked about what violence each might be capable of doing.

"I believe in God," Elaine said. "I couldn't kill anyone."

She looked at him, the red hair, bloodless white skin, the pale blue-grey eyes that seemed to possess a crazed light, an unhinged quality. As a teenager growing up back east, in the Maritimes, Carl had once dreamt of killing someone. Woke up thinking it had actually happened.

He told Elaine it wouldn't bother him, killing.

"Because I don't have a conscience."

He left Elaine's place and decided to return to the scene outside the apartment on King East. The Hamilton Police command van was there, uniform and plain clothes cops, news reporters.

"I have to see it, see what they have on me," he thought.

Was that the reason he went back? Why drop hints to Elaine? Why come to the scene and show his face, where he had just murdered two people in cold blood? Curiosity? Or was the urge explained by something else, something dark that beat inside him?

He moved closer to the yellow police crime scene tape, his thoughts spinning.

"Hey, stay back," ordered a cop in uniform.

"OK."

Eventually Carl reflected more about having taken two lives. He had done something that most people didn't get to do. Didn't get to do? An odd statement to make, he thought. He knew that.

z z z

A couple of weeks earlier, out east in Nova Scotia, a north wind off the Bay of Fundy whipped a man's face, along with a hard rain. He fought through tears for the right words.

This was it, in a sense, the moment when a man named Shane Mosher started on the road to something dark and dangerous, and also a fateful decision.

Shane was 32, very slim, a young face, short dark hair. He lived in Brantford and had travelled to his boyhood home of Middleton, a small town in the Annapolis Valley, to see his mom, Barb. She had colon cancer and time was running out. It was tearing him apart.

Mom was an angel of a woman, had always been there for him. Growing up in the valley, Shane's relationship with his father had been more complicated. He wanted to emulate his dad or some of him, anyway. His dad, a great athlete, played for Canada's national baseball team, the one that toured Cuba and met Fidel Castro in 1964. Shane kept a scrapbook of the pictures. His dad, good looking guy, women loved him, guys wanted to be like him. His dad, who couldn't deal with the shadow of his own father or not making it big-time in sports, who turned to the bottle.

His dad hadn't been abusive to him, although Shane got his lickings growing up, sure. He deserved them, he figured. Shane face down on the bed, naked, getting it good, his mom stepping in to stop it: "Enough's enough."

And now, visiting his mom for what he knew would be the last time, Shane was nervous, his mind racing, what should he say? He came to the front door of her house, where she was receiving palliative care. Shane had come down with a sore throat, earache, he told his stepfather about it. The stepfather wouldn't let him in the door because of his symptoms.

Shane pleaded with him; it's the last time he will see her. Please. The stepfather said no. Instead he set Barb up in a room at the front of the house, by a window. Shane had to stand outside in the wind and rain, talk to her through a screen, both of them crying.

She died on June 13 at just 52 years old. Shane flew back to Nova Scotia, this time for the funeral. He went to the Warren T. Roop Funeral Home in Middleton, right next door to Shane's old family house. His dad used to work at Roop's embalming bodies; Shane always stayed away from the basement of the place, it freaked him out.

Back home in Brantford, Shane continued his life with Shannon, his wife, and their one-year old girl, Riley. On the outside he was still good ol' Shane from the valley, likable, clean-cut, big smile. But inside everything was a struggle, he could not shake the sadness, he talked to a doctor about it. Was he losing it, going crazy? He reflected on his own history a lot, such an unusual life back east growing up, he had taken it on the chin more than a few times, kept surviving. What was it all about?

He was drinking some, smoking pot a bit as he had done on occasion in his valley days when he'd have a joint and a beer with the guys after hockey. But that wasn't enough, not any more. He could not clear his head, shake his depression, and could not bring himself to talk to Shannon about it.

And then, one day he found the answer. Well, he was smart enough to know it was not the answer, but he couldn't help it, he was acting outside his own skin now.

Shane Mosher was about to plunge into another world, race toward rock bottom, put everything at risk -- and find himself face to face with a killer.

Monday: Naked eye

Caption: Photo: Shane Mosher, his newborn daughter, Riley, and his mother, Barb. As police unravel the mystery of unit C, Mosher plays an ever-larger role.

Photo: Eugene with Hamilton detectives Don Forgan, left, and Mike Thomas.

Caption: Photo: JON WELLS' research for Witness included studying investigation documents and video, court transcripts, interviewing homicide and forensic detectives, family members of the victims, and the killer. All of the detail and dialogue in the story is true, drawn directly from research. Jon has won two National Newspaper Awards for his true crime serials and has had five books published, most recently, Vanished.

Photo: RON ALBERTSON, who returned to photography nearly five years ago after 17 years as The Spectator's Photo Editor, is an award-winning photojournalist. The photographs in this series are a combination of Ron's original portraiture and those that were provided by families and police sources.

Photo: Hamilton police services

The rear of the Victoria apartments on King Street East. There was no answer at unit C when Constable Randy Carter knocked.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton Police Detective Don Forgan at unit C, 781 King St. E. The investigation would be complex: two victims, two circles of friends, the only witness a child, speaking in riddles.

Photo: Charlisa and Eugene. They both had easels in the art room in the apartment. Below, a birthday for Eugene.

Photo: Sue and her daughter Charlisa: both were artistic. When she was a girl Sue was a ballerina, and as an adult taught dance in Hamilton. Charlisa was an artist, she had a painting in an exhibition in a Hamilton gallery and a mention made of her in The Spectator just days before her murder.

Photo: A Hamilton Police photo taken at Charlisa's apartment in the aftermath of the murders: It appeared that the killer climbed the wall and entered through the open balcony door.

Photo: Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo at his high school graduation.

Photo: Pat worked in construction -- carpentry and framing houses -- with his dad, Flavio.

Witness: A true crime story Part 1 of a seven-part series: Cold blood

News Mar 06, 2010 Hamilton Spectator

If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:8

Father's Day

Sunday, June 18, 2000

Central Station

Tape rolling, video recorder light blinking, the detective makes note of the time: 9:42 p.m. He looks at the witness, and begins.

"What's your full name?" he asks.

"Eugene."

Four hours earlier, Eugene had been wandering along King Street East, the child barefoot, wearing a diaper and dirty T-shirt.

"Eugene, what's your last name?"

"Charlisa," the boy says. His mother's name.

"Who lives in your house?"

"Pat," he says. Charlisa's boyfriend. "Pat got paint all over the walls."

"Who else lives with Pat?"

"Mama."

"Could you tell me where Pat is?"

"My house."

"What is Pat doing in your house?"

"I dunno. Sleeping in Mama's bed."

"Can you tell me what happened today?"

"Door locked."

"When the door was locked where were you?"

"With my shoes."

"What did you do when you found the doors locked?"

"Open the lock."

"Then what happened?"

"I opened the doors at my house. Pat's in my house. Pat ... all over ... over the wall. Paint all over the walls. Mama's wall."

It had been cool earlier that day, and it had rained hard. But by late afternoon when Eugene walked into a variety store along King East, feeling sick, the skies had cleared and the air warmed. Then the boy saw the giant police officer enter through the door.

The call had come over the police radio at 5:30 p.m. Constable Randy Carter had arranged to end his shift early, get home for the Father's Day barbecue he and his wife, Dianne, were planning with their son and daughter. From what dispatch was telling him, the call would not take long -- just a found child. He'd be home in no time.

Carter always shook his head at found-child calls. How could a parent be negligent enough to let their kid go missing in the first place? But the half dozen or so calls he had worked turned out fine, the child reunited with parent.

He parked his cruiser in front of the K & M Variety and went inside. Carter, hulking size, head shaved bald, silver goatee, saw the child with blond hair in a full diaper that looked ready to burst. A man behind the counter said the boy had thrown up on the floor.

Carter greeted the boy, who said nothing. Then he took him outside for air, just as two women came running up the sidewalk. They said the boy's name was Eugene.

"I know where he lives," one of them said.

"Take me there."

They led him to an apartment building nearby, went around back and pointed to the unit on the second floor where the boy lived with his mother. The building was low rise, the second floor not very high up.

Carter climbed the eight metal steps on the outside of the building and knocked at the rear door of unit C. No response. He knocked again, harder.

"Police!"

No answer.

This was what really grated on him, parents who let their child go missing and then, what, head to work? Take a nap?

He thumped his big fist on the door again, this time with the intent to force it open. The door opened slightly but was stuck on something, it went no further. He moved back down the stairs.

Another tenant showed. She said Eugene's mother's name was Charlisa, said there was a key hanging from the front door of her unit. Odd. Things were not going as expected. Carter knew something was wrong. The barbecue was going to be delayed.

"I'm at 781 King Street East," he said into his radio. "Not getting any response from apartment C. Can you send backup."

He wrote down information from the two women who knew the boy, and left him in their care. Eugene needed clean clothes, a drink, his temperature taken. Carter moved around to the front of the building, met another officer, and entered.

"We're going in, I need 10-3," he said into his radio -- radio silence, no officers speaking on air unless absolutely necessary, keep the channel clear so he can call for more help, and if there's someone inside with bad intentions, you don't advertise you're coming.

Carter's senses on fire, muscles rigid, expecting to discover something bad. He opened the front door to unit C, the keys dangling from the front lock, and moved through the apartment, which was very messy, his Glock at his side but not drawn.

One of the rooms had art supplies in it, a couple of easels, brushes.

He entered the main bedroom. And now he knew. You get hardened on the job, he had been to nasty calls in the past. But nothing like this.

Paint all over the walls.

"Send an ambulance," he said. "Make that two."

z z z

Later that evening, Eugene met the detective, the little blond-haired boy the first and perhaps only witness at the crime scene.

Eugene proudly declares he is three years old, notes the detective. Observe the boy chatting off camera first, rapport building, talk of colours, the alphabet, toys. Eugene has good language skills. Load tape. Start with general questions, then focus.

"Eugene," the detective continues, "who put you to bed last night?"

"Mama. Mama's gone."

"What happened when you woke up?"

"Mama pillow wet. Paint all on Mama pillow."

"What happened when you woke up?"

"Pat's van gone. Man ride it."

"Did you look at this man?"

"Van gone."

"Tell me what happened last night."

"I was sick."

"Did you wake up?"

"Yeah. Mama gone."

"Did you see anyone hurt your mom or Pat?"

"Mom and Pat. They are gone. Mom sleeping, Pat sleeping."

z z z

That night, forensic detectives moved gingerly through the dull glow in the living room of the apartment, that was lit by a solitary light on the ceiling. Don't touch anything, not yet. Just look.

Hank Thorne was new in ident branch, Ross Wood a veteran forensics man. They noted that the door to the balcony, facing King Street, was wide open. On the balcony, an open purse on a couch. A pair of men's sandals.

Directly beside the living room was the front door to the unit; a key chain hung from the lock. Walking from the living room, about five paces, the first room on the left was a tiny bathroom, the light left on. Across the hall, on the right, was a child's bedroom, Eugene's room; the light on overhead, and also the table lamp, the room messy, toys and clothes all over the floor. In the corner was the bed, the closet door open.

Three more paces down the narrow hallway, Thorne writing observations. "Blood noticed on the west wall of the hallway by the light switch, and also on the heating radiator."

The door to a second bedroom was open. "Blood on the door frame."

Small bedroom, two bodies on the bed, unclothed, male and female. Socks the only clothing on the male; also wearing a gold watch. Fabric anklet on the female, one-inch bruise on the left elbow. Pillow, sheets, wet with blood.

Further along from the bedroom on the right was a room with art supplies in it, and then the kitchen. On the kitchen floor sat a bucket of dirty water with a mop. The back door was ajar, from when Randy Carter had knocked, the door had been caught on a chain-link lock, that's why it wouldn't open before.

The apartment was a disaster, littered with clothes. Lots of work to do on the crime scene, photograph, videotape, label evidence.

In the bedroom, the detectives saw it poking out from underneath clothes strewn on the floor.

"OK. That's interesting," Wood said. It was the handle of an aluminum baseball bat.

Later, Thorne wrote, they exited the building, and then returned with the coroner. "Entered master bedroom to pronounce dead."

z z z

Sue Ross had an odd feeling all Sunday afternoon, something was not quite right. And then, later, asleep in bed, she heard a voice, felt a hand. It was her husband. It was 2 a.m.

"You have to get up," he said. "Put on your housecoat."

She did, walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. It seemed full of people, strangers in nice clothes, suits, just these bodies she did not recognize. In fact there were four of them, two men and two women.

"Do you have a daughter named Charlisa?" a voice asked.

It was an uncommon first name, but one that Sue had pegged long before her daughter was born.

Sue Theroux grew up on the water, the Beach Strip in Hamilton, on the lake side of the boulevard. As a young girl she was a star ballet dancer, at Christmas performed The Nutcracker in Montreal, won a scholarship. At the National Ballet School in Toronto, her roommate was a girl from Memphis named Charlisa Lee Cato. Sue loved the name, decided that if she ever had a daughter, that's what she would call the baby. It happened when she was 24, on Oct. 15, 1975, Charlisa Lee was born. Sue later had a son, Greg.

Charlisa's father, Al Clark, loved taking risks: riding dirt bikes, helicopter skiing. When he married Sue, she suggested they do an activity together, take up tennis or something.

"Tennis? You can't get killed doing that," he said.

Al's daredevil lifestyle ended when Charlisa was a baby. He broke his neck hang-gliding. Al had been an accomplished glider, but one day he crashed into a cliff, became paralyzed from the neck down.

Sue and Al's marriage did not last. After they broke up, she stayed single for 20 years, thought about changing her name back to her maiden Theroux, but figured no one could properly pronounce it, much less spell it.

Sue was a strong, plain-talking woman with a dry sense of humour. She was also robbed twice in Hamilton. Once, working behind the counter of a variety store, at 28, a guy wearing a nylon mask pulled a sawed-off shotgun on her. She gave him the money, kept her eyes down but gave police a decent description of him. They caught him. It was frightening, but she moved on, rolled with it.

When Sue finally remarried, she took her new husband's last name, Ross. Charlisa kept her father's last name, Clark.

Char, as most came to call her, grew up to be very tall, nearly six feet, long hair, big dark eyes. Like her mom she took dance, but her passion and talent lay in art, drawing on anything she could get her hands on, including her bedroom walls.

After high school she left home, eventually had a boy she named Eugene Lee. Her relationship with the birth father was a stormy one, he was abusive, was convicted for assaulting her. She and Eugene got away, struck out on their own.

On June 1, 1999, when Eugene was two, Charlisa's grandfather -- Sue's dad, Camille Theroux -- died at 74 from a heart attack. Camille was a great guy, a steamfitter, built and drove drag racers. The family was devastated, but took comfort that Camille went the way you're supposed to, without suffering. In his casket at the funeral home there was a smile on his face.

One day, Sue would wonder about the timing of it all, her dad going away, suddenly, as though he was needed to comfort a loved one about to enter heaven. She sat down her grandson Eugene and explained what had happened. Papa became an angel, she told him, the minute he died.

Charlisa wrote a poem for the funeral: "Raindrops fall and breezes blow but we know in our hearts that he's near ... He will watch over us from heaven above and be our guardian angel ... We all will be reunited one day for eternity, and we will always love him, forever young at heart."

Almost a year later, Sue helped Charlisa find a new apartment, at 781 King St. E., unit C, 10 minutes from where Sue lived on Parkdale Avenue. Sue kept on Charlisa about the mess she often kept in the place, but both her daughter and grandson were not the tidy type. At the back of the apartment, just off the kitchen, Charlisa kept an art room where she painted and drew, Eugene had his own easel in the room as well. Sometimes she'd go out on errands with paint all over her hands. The art room overlooked the back alleyway, fences and old brick homes, natural light poured in, unlike her bedroom, which was smaller and had no windows.

Charlisa volunteered helping homeless kids downtown, teaching art, cooking for them, mentoring. The girls took to calling her mom, she urged them to get off the street, go back home. Perhaps Charlisa offered that advice because she had left home at a young age herself and had regretted aspects of that decision. As an adult, though, she enjoyed a free-spirited social life. When her mom or 16-year old brother Greg or her grandmother babysat Eugene, she often would hit a club, a rave, soak up the music, let go.

Her art career started to bloom, she thought about pursuing a career as an animator. On June 14, 2000, one of Charlisa's paintings was featured among works from across Canada at a gallery in Hamilton, the exhibit was called The Power of Healing. Her name was mentioned in The Hamilton Spectator as one of the artists.

Three days later, June 17, she spent time with her son, and her boyfriend Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo. She had known Pat for years, since high school at Orchard Park, but only recently started dating him. Eugene got a kick out of Pat, he made him laugh.

Later that night, Charlisa and Eugene were alone. She put the boy to bed, anticipated Pat showing after midnight, a warm evening, a night to open the balcony door to let in the breeze.

The next day, June 18, Sue drove with a friend downtown. She had taught ballet for years, and her class was presenting a recital that day. Sue and her friend stopped the car on King East, looked up at Char's low-rise apartment unit, which faced the street, and honked the horn. No one appeared on the balcony, and Sue moved on.

She had been thinking about her daughter a lot lately, was certain that Char was pregnant with her second child. Char had seemed to hint at it to a family member.

"I've got something to tell you, but I don't want to say just yet," Charlisa had said.

At the art show, someone had taken a picture of Charlisa, and in it, her hand rested on her stomach in a motherly pose. She wasn't showing, but Sue could tell, she sensed Char was waiting for the right moment to tell her.

The recital felt odd that afternoon. Usually Sue was backstage organizing the girls, but this time she sat on a table, let her assistants do the work. Just didn't feel like herself. And then after, usually she'd go with her friend to Hortons, but didn't feel like that either. She just went home.

The sun descended, darkness, and then the middle of the night, in her housecoat, trapped in the repressive light inside her kitchen, Sue in a daze, hearing the voice from one of the bodies ask the question.

"Do you have a daughter named Charlisa?"

"Yes," she said.

"I'm sorry, she's been killed."

Those were the words, Sue thought, but she could never be exactly certain, it wasn't registering, her brain not able to connect the dots. She turned to her husband. "What -- what are they saying? What are they saying?"

Sue bolting from the kitchen, downstairs to the basement where Greg had his bedroom, hysterical, jumping on top of him, slapping at him, screaming that Char is dead, your sister is dead.

z z z

Deep blue eyes meeting dark red; lead homicide detective Don Forgan, shaved head, wire glasses, suit, examining the walls and bedding in unit C.

"Extremely violent," he said.

The scene was so violent, some of the initial radio chatter among cops suggested that the victims had been shot in the head. But that had not been the case.

High-velocity spatter, on the walls, ceiling. Cast-off pattern. Transfer pattern. Unlike most of the homicide detectives, Forgan knew the blood patterns well, having worked in forensic identification with Hamilton Police for 10 years.

He saw the male lying face down on the mattress, the female on the floor, 90 degrees to the bed, arms and head on the mattress, as though kneeling, her ankles crossed. An odd position. Why?

In his 20 years as a cop, it was not the bloodiest scene he had attended. No, that had been years before, when he was in uniform. The deceased in that case was a physician; a major artery had been severed, he bled out in large volume, but not before moving through several rooms in his home. Looked like a homicide, was treated that way at first. But in fact the doctor had known exactly what he was doing. Suicide.

The crime scene Forgan now examined was disturbing, but then he had long ago taken to heart advice from Herb Walmsley, a veteran ident man who had trained him. The person is gone, Herb told him. It's just the evidence left for you. That's all it is.

Forgan tapped that mindset when he had worked as an investigator in child-abuse branch. It had helped, but then there was the case of a 14-year-old girl disciplined -- beaten -- by her father. The father had used a piece of garden hose. The attacks were so violent you could see, on the skin of her back, the imprint of the metal coupling of the hose, and even tiny threads of the coupling. Evidence. Just evidence. But Forgan could not shake that imprint in his mind's eye, many years later.

In this new case, he knew the little boy, Eugene, had not been hurt, not physically. But the little guy had to have been in the apartment a long time before he made it outside, perhaps 16 hours. What had the boy seen? How would it affect him? Forgan had too big a heart not to feel it.

Don Forgan had started as a cop very young; straight out of high school he bugged an officer at the station until he got hired. He grew up in Hamilton, his parents were from Scotland. At eight years old his mother enrolled him in bagpipe lessons, Monday nights at 7 p.m. The Monkees TV show was on Mondays, so Don resisted, but grew to love the instrument, eventually played in competitions and won his share. With the pipes, you are judged not on the emotion you show while playing, but the emotion conveyed through the tune. Don let it flow through his music.

After 20 years on the job, in 1998, he was assigned to homicide, what was then called the Major Crime Unit. He was made for the work, intense, always up for a case, quick-witted and thoughtful, could put a family in pain at ease in the morning and grill a suspect in the afternoon with equal effectiveness.

First day on the job in homicide, Jan. 4, 1998, assigned to new partner Warren Korol, who was riding high in the branch, having arrested Stoney Creek serial poisoner Sukhwinder Dhillon three months earlier after chasing the case all the way to the Punjab. Forgan walked in the door on the second floor at Central Station and Korol met him immediately.

"Don't bother taking your coat off Donny, we've gotta head out. New case."

"But I don't even know where the coffee pot is yet."

The case was a missing person/suspected homicide, the victim's name Sheryl Sheppard. The body was missing, so there was no crime scene. They started at her apartment; you always start at the victim, start with people closest to her, and work out.

As of June 18, 2000, when Forgan cracked the new case notebook for the double murder, it was many investigations later, but that first case, while still open, had gone nowhere. Frustrating, knowing that someone was walking around free out there who should be locked up.

In the bedroom of the apartment on King East, Forgan saw the baseball bat on the floor, clothes now removed off it. Blood visible on the fat part of the bat. The killer did not bring it to the scene; a neighbour told police that she had loaned Charlisa the bat to use for protection. Char always kept it by the front door. It was a weapon of opportunity. If it was the murder weapon, why did the killer leave it behind? He rifles through drawers looking for money, tosses clothes around, and accidentally covers the bat? How could he forget to get rid of it? But then who knows what your thought process is like after you've killed two people, Forgan reflected.

Media would soon be on the story full-bore, they would need to keep the bat a secret: hold back evidence. Only one person out there knows about the bat.

He also saw a mark on the floor; a tread from an athletic shoe, a print left in blood.

Police had started interviewing neighbours, no one had heard anything unusual coming from that apartment. Forgan exited the bedroom, walked up the narrow hallway to the living room, where the open door led onto the balcony. He chatted with Korol, who had joined him at the scene. They could hear voices in an adjoining unit, so the detectives spoke quietly. If the walls were that thin, how could no one have heard anything, with the violence that had happened here? Forgan listened to the old hardwood floor under his feet creak. Did the victims hear the guy coming?

He knew the investigation would be complicated. Two victims, two circles of friends and relatives and acquaintances and potential enemies and motives. The only witness so far was the kid, who was speaking in riddles. No sign of forced entry to the apartment. Did the victims or at least one of them, know the killer?

Forgan left the living room, out the front door of the unit, saw the key chain dangling from the lock. It was the mother's key chain. Who left it there? Would make no sense for the killer to lock the door and leave the key on his way out, unless he was trying to throw them off. The kid? The boy clearly had not exited via the chain-locked back door; more likely he exits through the front, then locks the door like he had seen his mother do many times before.

Forgan walked down a flight of stairs and out into the darkness, to the strip of grass in front of the apartment building. Shoe indentations on the grass. On the front concrete facade, the word "Victoria" and an iron lamp fixture below the balcony of unit C. The second-floor balcony was maybe 10 feet off the ground. Someone with strength and purpose could grab the fixture, climb up to the balcony and hop back down again. Might explain the pronounced footprints in the grass.

His night ended at 4 a.m. Forgan went home, a few hours sleep, back in the office at Central Station Monday at 9:30 a.m. He had three voice mails from reporters about the case already.

That afternoon he attended autopsies for both victims performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Chitra Rao. Her conclusion: both were bludgeoned to death, struck numerous times in the head and face. Multiple skull fractures and hemorrhages in the brain. Tramline bruising; caused by striking by a cylindrical object.

Later that day, Forgan drove to Stoney Creek with Detective Dave Place, who had been among those called in to assist. The second of the victims, the male, had been identified by fingerprints. The family had to be notified.

z z z

It had been a sad year for Ruth Del Sordo. She lost her mother, Lily, in February. Ruth's husband had tried to tell her all the right things, that Lily had lived a good and long life, 84 years. But Ruth was very close with her mother, she could not believe she was gone.

Lily had been a survivor; her parents were born in Poland and she had family members who were captured and killed by the Nazis. Lily's parents made it to England, where she was born, and moved to Canada after the war. Lily raised four kids on her own in Hamilton when her husband left her.

Ruth grew up on the Beach Strip, went to Van Wagners Beach School on the lake, the building that would one day be reborn as Barangas restaurant. She married an Italian-Canadian named Flavio Del Sordo in 1973.

Their first child, Pasquale, was born a year later, on Sept. 20, 1974. Ruth and Flavio had four other kids: Anthony, Flavio Jr., Cindy and Joey. Flavio started a construction company, all the boys worked for him.

Pasquale (Pat) especially loved the work, had a passion for woodworking since he picked up a toy hammer as a toddler. In his teens, he won awards for woodworking and carpentry projects.

As the first-born, Pat occupied a special place in the family, but especially in Ruth's world. He had epilepsy as a boy, but with treatment his symptoms had vanished before he hit his teens. Still, she never stopped worrying about him even into his 20s, when they continued to grow very close. Pat shared everything with her. He always drove her places, took her shopping, he cranked up the music in the car or in the house, Ruth got a steady dose of his favourite rock. He used to walk up and give her a big hug, and say, "Me and you against the world, eh mom?"

She was fiercely protective of him; one of his girlfriends once broke up with him because he paid so much attention to his mother.

When he was in his early 20s, Pat and a girlfriend had a child, a girl. The mother and Pat did not stay together, though. Still, Ruth glowed with pride when in the early days she saw him bathe and diaper the baby.

By the summer of 2000, nearing his 26th birthday, Pat worked for his dad framing houses and still lived upstairs in the family home in Stoney Creek. He loved his food and music, fixing up his blue Jeep and riding around blasting classic Kiss; heading out at night adorning six or seven of his fingers with gold rings, taking centre stage on the dance floor at clubs, all 5-foot-11, 240 pounds of him. Others gravitated toward him, his big laugh and brassy presence.

His dad warned him not to stay out too late. Pat often had to work early in the morning, and most of all he needed to be careful out there. But Pat seemed to trust everyone.

"Don't worry, I'm going to be OK," he said, and gave Flavio a hug and playfully pinched his cheek.

Even when he had a late night, Pat always returned home to sleep in his own bed. That continued that summer, when he was seeing Charlisa Clark, a girl he had known since high school but with whom he had only recently become romantically involved.

Saturday afternoon, June 17, he hung with Charlisa and her son Eugene, and then later that night he was out with his friends Moe and Luca in Burlington at a carnival on the lakeshore. They stopped at a club called Billy Bob's but the lineup was too big, they decided to pack it in. Pat was dropped off at the Del Sordo home just after midnight.

His family had plans for Sunday, Father's Day, everyone going to the Mandarin for a big dinner as was the custom. Soon after midnight, Charlisa called him on his cell. He left the house, took his dad's white Del Sordo Construction van and drove the 15 minutes to visit Charlisa at her apartment on King Street East, parked in a lot right across the street.

Ruth woke up at 9 a.m. Sunday. Pat had not come home. She was worried, called his cell repeatedly, no answer, just his voice mail. At 4:45 p.m. Ruth and Flavio drove downtown to pick up their youngest, Joey, from where he was getting off a shift working at Tim Hortons. On the way, driving along King East, they noticed the white van in a parking lot. They did not know that Charlisa lived across the street.

Flavio phoned his son Anthony, told him to bring the extra set of keys. Flavio opened the back door of the van, which was unlocked, but set off the alarm. Anthony left his father, and Flavio drove the van home by himself.

By 7 p.m. no one had heard from Pat. The family decided to go back to the spot on King Street where the van had been parked. Flavio, Anthony and his fiancee, Joey, and Pat's friends Luca and Moe went down. The area near 781 King Street East now buzzed with police, yellow crime-scene tape up.

Officers invited them to Central Station, where detectives began interviewing Pat's family and friends. Did anyone have any reason to harm Pat, any trouble with friends or girlfriends? Any drug use? No, they answered, everyone loved Pat, and no drugs, he was very hard on others if they merely smoked cigarettes.

Flavio phoned Ruth, who was still at home. I don't know what's going on, he said, but the police are saying there are two people found dead in an apartment on King Street, but are not saying who it is.

Ruth dropped the phone, fearing the worst.

"Please!" she yelled, "Don't take my Pasquale, take me! God, take me!"

All that night, still uncertain if her son was alive, Ruth prayed, asked God for a miracle, even as she sensed the truth. Flavio suggested maybe Pat had been in a fight, was attacked, had fled out of town? No, Ruth thought, he would have come home, no matter what. My Pasquale always comes home.

She kept thinking back to the night before, the last time he had been in the house. Ruth heard Pat leave to go see Charlisa. She wanted to stop him. But Flavio had recently given her a hard time about being so protective of their son.

"Don't phone him all the time, he's a man," he had said.

When Ruth once asked Pat about that, he said, "Don't stop bugging me, Ma, it just shows you love me."

Still, that night she had a mind to call him on his cell when he went out the door to Charlisa's: It's too late, Pasqua, tomorrow's Father's Day. Come on back, we'll have some coffee, talk a bit.

Ruth knew if she had called, he would have come back. No question about it. How many times had he cancelled dates in the past if she needed him? Many times. Why hadn't she just called him once more, kept him home where he belonged?

Just after 5 p.m. Monday, Don Forgan and Dave Place pulled in front of the Del Sordo home, the house the family had renovated, where Pat himself had helped screw down every new floor.

Place had, just 15 hours earlier, stood in Sue Ross's kitchen to pass along the news of Charlisa's death. And now he was doing it again. Place dreaded notification. There you are, personally bearing the worst news in a family's life, a moment they will never forget.

The detectives were invited inside. They told the Del Sordos one of the victims was Pat.

Some sat in silence, brother Anthony punched a pane of glass in the china cabinet, slicing his hand, a tendon, he had to get it wrapped and rush to hospital.

Ruth? She knew the police would bring that news. Her heart was shattered. My boy is gone, she thought, my music man. My Pasquale.

Pat's cellphone was recovered from the apartment. Detectives monitored it, waiting to see if anyone called in the days that followed. There was one person who dialled the number several times. It was Ruth. She yearned to hear his voice on the recording, the one that said without fail, "Hello, this is The Pasqua. If you got something hot or interesting to say, just leave a message after the beep. Ciao."

Ruth focused her energy on the investigation, her sorrow competing with puzzlement and anger. Her boy was so gentle, full of fun, who could want to harm him? And, she could not fathom it, he was a large man, big arms and shoulders muscled from weight lifting and building houses, a gentle giant but so strong he could kill a man with a punch. Who could possibly have done this to him, she wondered? Surely not just one man.

z z z

After it had all gone down, Carl crashed at a friend's apartment, very late. In the morning he rose, stood on the balcony, high up, thought about what he had done, what he had seen and heard.

Jump? Should he? The thought crossed his mind, and not for the first time. Except Carl had issues with suicide. Not that he considered himself religious, but still, he wondered, what if it was true that you burned in hell for it? On the other hand, what if when you die, everything is just black? That would be good, he would choose suicide if that were the case.

Mostly he wondered if he had cleaned up enough back at the apartment. After it was over, he had hopped off the low balcony of the apartment to escape. Then he climbed back up the wall again, through the open balcony door, wiped down everything; walls, light switches. What had he touched? Anything that would stick? He hopped off the balcony again, threw one of his shoes in a dumpster, another in a second dumpster. Then he returned to the apartment a final time, remembering he had handled a wallet in there. Grabbed the wallet, a set of car keys, left, threw it all down a sewer.

At 11 a.m. he visited his girlfriend, Elaine, who lived down at Melvin and Parkdale, six kilometres away from where it had happened on King East. They had a stormy relationship; his violent temper and drug habit did not help. She once called police to complain that Carl had stolen her VCR.

"What channel is the Hamilton news on?" Carl asked. He never watched the news.

On TV he saw a reporter at the scene outside the apartment. The reporter was talking about a double homicide.

"What, did you have something to do with that?" Elaine asked.

"No."

In the past, when they were high, they had talked about what violence each might be capable of doing.

"I believe in God," Elaine said. "I couldn't kill anyone."

She looked at him, the red hair, bloodless white skin, the pale blue-grey eyes that seemed to possess a crazed light, an unhinged quality. As a teenager growing up back east, in the Maritimes, Carl had once dreamt of killing someone. Woke up thinking it had actually happened.

He told Elaine it wouldn't bother him, killing.

"Because I don't have a conscience."

He left Elaine's place and decided to return to the scene outside the apartment on King East. The Hamilton Police command van was there, uniform and plain clothes cops, news reporters.

"I have to see it, see what they have on me," he thought.

Was that the reason he went back? Why drop hints to Elaine? Why come to the scene and show his face, where he had just murdered two people in cold blood? Curiosity? Or was the urge explained by something else, something dark that beat inside him?

He moved closer to the yellow police crime scene tape, his thoughts spinning.

"Hey, stay back," ordered a cop in uniform.

"OK."

Eventually Carl reflected more about having taken two lives. He had done something that most people didn't get to do. Didn't get to do? An odd statement to make, he thought. He knew that.

z z z

A couple of weeks earlier, out east in Nova Scotia, a north wind off the Bay of Fundy whipped a man's face, along with a hard rain. He fought through tears for the right words.

This was it, in a sense, the moment when a man named Shane Mosher started on the road to something dark and dangerous, and also a fateful decision.

Shane was 32, very slim, a young face, short dark hair. He lived in Brantford and had travelled to his boyhood home of Middleton, a small town in the Annapolis Valley, to see his mom, Barb. She had colon cancer and time was running out. It was tearing him apart.

Mom was an angel of a woman, had always been there for him. Growing up in the valley, Shane's relationship with his father had been more complicated. He wanted to emulate his dad or some of him, anyway. His dad, a great athlete, played for Canada's national baseball team, the one that toured Cuba and met Fidel Castro in 1964. Shane kept a scrapbook of the pictures. His dad, good looking guy, women loved him, guys wanted to be like him. His dad, who couldn't deal with the shadow of his own father or not making it big-time in sports, who turned to the bottle.

His dad hadn't been abusive to him, although Shane got his lickings growing up, sure. He deserved them, he figured. Shane face down on the bed, naked, getting it good, his mom stepping in to stop it: "Enough's enough."

And now, visiting his mom for what he knew would be the last time, Shane was nervous, his mind racing, what should he say? He came to the front door of her house, where she was receiving palliative care. Shane had come down with a sore throat, earache, he told his stepfather about it. The stepfather wouldn't let him in the door because of his symptoms.

Shane pleaded with him; it's the last time he will see her. Please. The stepfather said no. Instead he set Barb up in a room at the front of the house, by a window. Shane had to stand outside in the wind and rain, talk to her through a screen, both of them crying.

She died on June 13 at just 52 years old. Shane flew back to Nova Scotia, this time for the funeral. He went to the Warren T. Roop Funeral Home in Middleton, right next door to Shane's old family house. His dad used to work at Roop's embalming bodies; Shane always stayed away from the basement of the place, it freaked him out.

Back home in Brantford, Shane continued his life with Shannon, his wife, and their one-year old girl, Riley. On the outside he was still good ol' Shane from the valley, likable, clean-cut, big smile. But inside everything was a struggle, he could not shake the sadness, he talked to a doctor about it. Was he losing it, going crazy? He reflected on his own history a lot, such an unusual life back east growing up, he had taken it on the chin more than a few times, kept surviving. What was it all about?

He was drinking some, smoking pot a bit as he had done on occasion in his valley days when he'd have a joint and a beer with the guys after hockey. But that wasn't enough, not any more. He could not clear his head, shake his depression, and could not bring himself to talk to Shannon about it.

And then, one day he found the answer. Well, he was smart enough to know it was not the answer, but he couldn't help it, he was acting outside his own skin now.

Shane Mosher was about to plunge into another world, race toward rock bottom, put everything at risk -- and find himself face to face with a killer.

Monday: Naked eye

Caption: Photo: Shane Mosher, his newborn daughter, Riley, and his mother, Barb. As police unravel the mystery of unit C, Mosher plays an ever-larger role.

Photo: Eugene with Hamilton detectives Don Forgan, left, and Mike Thomas.

Caption: Photo: JON WELLS' research for Witness included studying investigation documents and video, court transcripts, interviewing homicide and forensic detectives, family members of the victims, and the killer. All of the detail and dialogue in the story is true, drawn directly from research. Jon has won two National Newspaper Awards for his true crime serials and has had five books published, most recently, Vanished.

Photo: RON ALBERTSON, who returned to photography nearly five years ago after 17 years as The Spectator's Photo Editor, is an award-winning photojournalist. The photographs in this series are a combination of Ron's original portraiture and those that were provided by families and police sources.

Photo: Hamilton police services

The rear of the Victoria apartments on King Street East. There was no answer at unit C when Constable Randy Carter knocked.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton Police Detective Don Forgan at unit C, 781 King St. E. The investigation would be complex: two victims, two circles of friends, the only witness a child, speaking in riddles.

Photo: Charlisa and Eugene. They both had easels in the art room in the apartment. Below, a birthday for Eugene.

Photo: Sue and her daughter Charlisa: both were artistic. When she was a girl Sue was a ballerina, and as an adult taught dance in Hamilton. Charlisa was an artist, she had a painting in an exhibition in a Hamilton gallery and a mention made of her in The Spectator just days before her murder.

Photo: A Hamilton Police photo taken at Charlisa's apartment in the aftermath of the murders: It appeared that the killer climbed the wall and entered through the open balcony door.

Photo: Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo at his high school graduation.

Photo: Pat worked in construction -- carpentry and framing houses -- with his dad, Flavio.

Witness: A true crime story Part 1 of a seven-part series: Cold blood

News Mar 06, 2010 Hamilton Spectator

If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:8

Father's Day

Sunday, June 18, 2000

Central Station

Tape rolling, video recorder light blinking, the detective makes note of the time: 9:42 p.m. He looks at the witness, and begins.

"What's your full name?" he asks.

"Eugene."

Four hours earlier, Eugene had been wandering along King Street East, the child barefoot, wearing a diaper and dirty T-shirt.

"Eugene, what's your last name?"

"Charlisa," the boy says. His mother's name.

"Who lives in your house?"

"Pat," he says. Charlisa's boyfriend. "Pat got paint all over the walls."

"Who else lives with Pat?"

"Mama."

"Could you tell me where Pat is?"

"My house."

"What is Pat doing in your house?"

"I dunno. Sleeping in Mama's bed."

"Can you tell me what happened today?"

"Door locked."

"When the door was locked where were you?"

"With my shoes."

"What did you do when you found the doors locked?"

"Open the lock."

"Then what happened?"

"I opened the doors at my house. Pat's in my house. Pat ... all over ... over the wall. Paint all over the walls. Mama's wall."

It had been cool earlier that day, and it had rained hard. But by late afternoon when Eugene walked into a variety store along King East, feeling sick, the skies had cleared and the air warmed. Then the boy saw the giant police officer enter through the door.

The call had come over the police radio at 5:30 p.m. Constable Randy Carter had arranged to end his shift early, get home for the Father's Day barbecue he and his wife, Dianne, were planning with their son and daughter. From what dispatch was telling him, the call would not take long -- just a found child. He'd be home in no time.

Carter always shook his head at found-child calls. How could a parent be negligent enough to let their kid go missing in the first place? But the half dozen or so calls he had worked turned out fine, the child reunited with parent.

He parked his cruiser in front of the K & M Variety and went inside. Carter, hulking size, head shaved bald, silver goatee, saw the child with blond hair in a full diaper that looked ready to burst. A man behind the counter said the boy had thrown up on the floor.

Carter greeted the boy, who said nothing. Then he took him outside for air, just as two women came running up the sidewalk. They said the boy's name was Eugene.

"I know where he lives," one of them said.

"Take me there."

They led him to an apartment building nearby, went around back and pointed to the unit on the second floor where the boy lived with his mother. The building was low rise, the second floor not very high up.

Carter climbed the eight metal steps on the outside of the building and knocked at the rear door of unit C. No response. He knocked again, harder.

"Police!"

No answer.

This was what really grated on him, parents who let their child go missing and then, what, head to work? Take a nap?

He thumped his big fist on the door again, this time with the intent to force it open. The door opened slightly but was stuck on something, it went no further. He moved back down the stairs.

Another tenant showed. She said Eugene's mother's name was Charlisa, said there was a key hanging from the front door of her unit. Odd. Things were not going as expected. Carter knew something was wrong. The barbecue was going to be delayed.

"I'm at 781 King Street East," he said into his radio. "Not getting any response from apartment C. Can you send backup."

He wrote down information from the two women who knew the boy, and left him in their care. Eugene needed clean clothes, a drink, his temperature taken. Carter moved around to the front of the building, met another officer, and entered.

"We're going in, I need 10-3," he said into his radio -- radio silence, no officers speaking on air unless absolutely necessary, keep the channel clear so he can call for more help, and if there's someone inside with bad intentions, you don't advertise you're coming.

Carter's senses on fire, muscles rigid, expecting to discover something bad. He opened the front door to unit C, the keys dangling from the front lock, and moved through the apartment, which was very messy, his Glock at his side but not drawn.

One of the rooms had art supplies in it, a couple of easels, brushes.

He entered the main bedroom. And now he knew. You get hardened on the job, he had been to nasty calls in the past. But nothing like this.

Paint all over the walls.

"Send an ambulance," he said. "Make that two."

z z z

Later that evening, Eugene met the detective, the little blond-haired boy the first and perhaps only witness at the crime scene.

Eugene proudly declares he is three years old, notes the detective. Observe the boy chatting off camera first, rapport building, talk of colours, the alphabet, toys. Eugene has good language skills. Load tape. Start with general questions, then focus.

"Eugene," the detective continues, "who put you to bed last night?"

"Mama. Mama's gone."

"What happened when you woke up?"

"Mama pillow wet. Paint all on Mama pillow."

"What happened when you woke up?"

"Pat's van gone. Man ride it."

"Did you look at this man?"

"Van gone."

"Tell me what happened last night."

"I was sick."

"Did you wake up?"

"Yeah. Mama gone."

"Did you see anyone hurt your mom or Pat?"

"Mom and Pat. They are gone. Mom sleeping, Pat sleeping."

z z z

That night, forensic detectives moved gingerly through the dull glow in the living room of the apartment, that was lit by a solitary light on the ceiling. Don't touch anything, not yet. Just look.

Hank Thorne was new in ident branch, Ross Wood a veteran forensics man. They noted that the door to the balcony, facing King Street, was wide open. On the balcony, an open purse on a couch. A pair of men's sandals.

Directly beside the living room was the front door to the unit; a key chain hung from the lock. Walking from the living room, about five paces, the first room on the left was a tiny bathroom, the light left on. Across the hall, on the right, was a child's bedroom, Eugene's room; the light on overhead, and also the table lamp, the room messy, toys and clothes all over the floor. In the corner was the bed, the closet door open.

Three more paces down the narrow hallway, Thorne writing observations. "Blood noticed on the west wall of the hallway by the light switch, and also on the heating radiator."

The door to a second bedroom was open. "Blood on the door frame."

Small bedroom, two bodies on the bed, unclothed, male and female. Socks the only clothing on the male; also wearing a gold watch. Fabric anklet on the female, one-inch bruise on the left elbow. Pillow, sheets, wet with blood.

Further along from the bedroom on the right was a room with art supplies in it, and then the kitchen. On the kitchen floor sat a bucket of dirty water with a mop. The back door was ajar, from when Randy Carter had knocked, the door had been caught on a chain-link lock, that's why it wouldn't open before.

The apartment was a disaster, littered with clothes. Lots of work to do on the crime scene, photograph, videotape, label evidence.

In the bedroom, the detectives saw it poking out from underneath clothes strewn on the floor.

"OK. That's interesting," Wood said. It was the handle of an aluminum baseball bat.

Later, Thorne wrote, they exited the building, and then returned with the coroner. "Entered master bedroom to pronounce dead."

z z z

Sue Ross had an odd feeling all Sunday afternoon, something was not quite right. And then, later, asleep in bed, she heard a voice, felt a hand. It was her husband. It was 2 a.m.

"You have to get up," he said. "Put on your housecoat."

She did, walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. It seemed full of people, strangers in nice clothes, suits, just these bodies she did not recognize. In fact there were four of them, two men and two women.

"Do you have a daughter named Charlisa?" a voice asked.

It was an uncommon first name, but one that Sue had pegged long before her daughter was born.

Sue Theroux grew up on the water, the Beach Strip in Hamilton, on the lake side of the boulevard. As a young girl she was a star ballet dancer, at Christmas performed The Nutcracker in Montreal, won a scholarship. At the National Ballet School in Toronto, her roommate was a girl from Memphis named Charlisa Lee Cato. Sue loved the name, decided that if she ever had a daughter, that's what she would call the baby. It happened when she was 24, on Oct. 15, 1975, Charlisa Lee was born. Sue later had a son, Greg.

Charlisa's father, Al Clark, loved taking risks: riding dirt bikes, helicopter skiing. When he married Sue, she suggested they do an activity together, take up tennis or something.

"Tennis? You can't get killed doing that," he said.

Al's daredevil lifestyle ended when Charlisa was a baby. He broke his neck hang-gliding. Al had been an accomplished glider, but one day he crashed into a cliff, became paralyzed from the neck down.

Sue and Al's marriage did not last. After they broke up, she stayed single for 20 years, thought about changing her name back to her maiden Theroux, but figured no one could properly pronounce it, much less spell it.

Sue was a strong, plain-talking woman with a dry sense of humour. She was also robbed twice in Hamilton. Once, working behind the counter of a variety store, at 28, a guy wearing a nylon mask pulled a sawed-off shotgun on her. She gave him the money, kept her eyes down but gave police a decent description of him. They caught him. It was frightening, but she moved on, rolled with it.

When Sue finally remarried, she took her new husband's last name, Ross. Charlisa kept her father's last name, Clark.

Char, as most came to call her, grew up to be very tall, nearly six feet, long hair, big dark eyes. Like her mom she took dance, but her passion and talent lay in art, drawing on anything she could get her hands on, including her bedroom walls.

After high school she left home, eventually had a boy she named Eugene Lee. Her relationship with the birth father was a stormy one, he was abusive, was convicted for assaulting her. She and Eugene got away, struck out on their own.

On June 1, 1999, when Eugene was two, Charlisa's grandfather -- Sue's dad, Camille Theroux -- died at 74 from a heart attack. Camille was a great guy, a steamfitter, built and drove drag racers. The family was devastated, but took comfort that Camille went the way you're supposed to, without suffering. In his casket at the funeral home there was a smile on his face.

One day, Sue would wonder about the timing of it all, her dad going away, suddenly, as though he was needed to comfort a loved one about to enter heaven. She sat down her grandson Eugene and explained what had happened. Papa became an angel, she told him, the minute he died.

Charlisa wrote a poem for the funeral: "Raindrops fall and breezes blow but we know in our hearts that he's near ... He will watch over us from heaven above and be our guardian angel ... We all will be reunited one day for eternity, and we will always love him, forever young at heart."

Almost a year later, Sue helped Charlisa find a new apartment, at 781 King St. E., unit C, 10 minutes from where Sue lived on Parkdale Avenue. Sue kept on Charlisa about the mess she often kept in the place, but both her daughter and grandson were not the tidy type. At the back of the apartment, just off the kitchen, Charlisa kept an art room where she painted and drew, Eugene had his own easel in the room as well. Sometimes she'd go out on errands with paint all over her hands. The art room overlooked the back alleyway, fences and old brick homes, natural light poured in, unlike her bedroom, which was smaller and had no windows.

Charlisa volunteered helping homeless kids downtown, teaching art, cooking for them, mentoring. The girls took to calling her mom, she urged them to get off the street, go back home. Perhaps Charlisa offered that advice because she had left home at a young age herself and had regretted aspects of that decision. As an adult, though, she enjoyed a free-spirited social life. When her mom or 16-year old brother Greg or her grandmother babysat Eugene, she often would hit a club, a rave, soak up the music, let go.

Her art career started to bloom, she thought about pursuing a career as an animator. On June 14, 2000, one of Charlisa's paintings was featured among works from across Canada at a gallery in Hamilton, the exhibit was called The Power of Healing. Her name was mentioned in The Hamilton Spectator as one of the artists.

Three days later, June 17, she spent time with her son, and her boyfriend Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo. She had known Pat for years, since high school at Orchard Park, but only recently started dating him. Eugene got a kick out of Pat, he made him laugh.

Later that night, Charlisa and Eugene were alone. She put the boy to bed, anticipated Pat showing after midnight, a warm evening, a night to open the balcony door to let in the breeze.

The next day, June 18, Sue drove with a friend downtown. She had taught ballet for years, and her class was presenting a recital that day. Sue and her friend stopped the car on King East, looked up at Char's low-rise apartment unit, which faced the street, and honked the horn. No one appeared on the balcony, and Sue moved on.

She had been thinking about her daughter a lot lately, was certain that Char was pregnant with her second child. Char had seemed to hint at it to a family member.

"I've got something to tell you, but I don't want to say just yet," Charlisa had said.

At the art show, someone had taken a picture of Charlisa, and in it, her hand rested on her stomach in a motherly pose. She wasn't showing, but Sue could tell, she sensed Char was waiting for the right moment to tell her.

The recital felt odd that afternoon. Usually Sue was backstage organizing the girls, but this time she sat on a table, let her assistants do the work. Just didn't feel like herself. And then after, usually she'd go with her friend to Hortons, but didn't feel like that either. She just went home.

The sun descended, darkness, and then the middle of the night, in her housecoat, trapped in the repressive light inside her kitchen, Sue in a daze, hearing the voice from one of the bodies ask the question.

"Do you have a daughter named Charlisa?"

"Yes," she said.

"I'm sorry, she's been killed."

Those were the words, Sue thought, but she could never be exactly certain, it wasn't registering, her brain not able to connect the dots. She turned to her husband. "What -- what are they saying? What are they saying?"

Sue bolting from the kitchen, downstairs to the basement where Greg had his bedroom, hysterical, jumping on top of him, slapping at him, screaming that Char is dead, your sister is dead.

z z z

Deep blue eyes meeting dark red; lead homicide detective Don Forgan, shaved head, wire glasses, suit, examining the walls and bedding in unit C.

"Extremely violent," he said.

The scene was so violent, some of the initial radio chatter among cops suggested that the victims had been shot in the head. But that had not been the case.

High-velocity spatter, on the walls, ceiling. Cast-off pattern. Transfer pattern. Unlike most of the homicide detectives, Forgan knew the blood patterns well, having worked in forensic identification with Hamilton Police for 10 years.

He saw the male lying face down on the mattress, the female on the floor, 90 degrees to the bed, arms and head on the mattress, as though kneeling, her ankles crossed. An odd position. Why?

In his 20 years as a cop, it was not the bloodiest scene he had attended. No, that had been years before, when he was in uniform. The deceased in that case was a physician; a major artery had been severed, he bled out in large volume, but not before moving through several rooms in his home. Looked like a homicide, was treated that way at first. But in fact the doctor had known exactly what he was doing. Suicide.

The crime scene Forgan now examined was disturbing, but then he had long ago taken to heart advice from Herb Walmsley, a veteran ident man who had trained him. The person is gone, Herb told him. It's just the evidence left for you. That's all it is.

Forgan tapped that mindset when he had worked as an investigator in child-abuse branch. It had helped, but then there was the case of a 14-year-old girl disciplined -- beaten -- by her father. The father had used a piece of garden hose. The attacks were so violent you could see, on the skin of her back, the imprint of the metal coupling of the hose, and even tiny threads of the coupling. Evidence. Just evidence. But Forgan could not shake that imprint in his mind's eye, many years later.

In this new case, he knew the little boy, Eugene, had not been hurt, not physically. But the little guy had to have been in the apartment a long time before he made it outside, perhaps 16 hours. What had the boy seen? How would it affect him? Forgan had too big a heart not to feel it.

Don Forgan had started as a cop very young; straight out of high school he bugged an officer at the station until he got hired. He grew up in Hamilton, his parents were from Scotland. At eight years old his mother enrolled him in bagpipe lessons, Monday nights at 7 p.m. The Monkees TV show was on Mondays, so Don resisted, but grew to love the instrument, eventually played in competitions and won his share. With the pipes, you are judged not on the emotion you show while playing, but the emotion conveyed through the tune. Don let it flow through his music.

After 20 years on the job, in 1998, he was assigned to homicide, what was then called the Major Crime Unit. He was made for the work, intense, always up for a case, quick-witted and thoughtful, could put a family in pain at ease in the morning and grill a suspect in the afternoon with equal effectiveness.

First day on the job in homicide, Jan. 4, 1998, assigned to new partner Warren Korol, who was riding high in the branch, having arrested Stoney Creek serial poisoner Sukhwinder Dhillon three months earlier after chasing the case all the way to the Punjab. Forgan walked in the door on the second floor at Central Station and Korol met him immediately.

"Don't bother taking your coat off Donny, we've gotta head out. New case."

"But I don't even know where the coffee pot is yet."

The case was a missing person/suspected homicide, the victim's name Sheryl Sheppard. The body was missing, so there was no crime scene. They started at her apartment; you always start at the victim, start with people closest to her, and work out.

As of June 18, 2000, when Forgan cracked the new case notebook for the double murder, it was many investigations later, but that first case, while still open, had gone nowhere. Frustrating, knowing that someone was walking around free out there who should be locked up.

In the bedroom of the apartment on King East, Forgan saw the baseball bat on the floor, clothes now removed off it. Blood visible on the fat part of the bat. The killer did not bring it to the scene; a neighbour told police that she had loaned Charlisa the bat to use for protection. Char always kept it by the front door. It was a weapon of opportunity. If it was the murder weapon, why did the killer leave it behind? He rifles through drawers looking for money, tosses clothes around, and accidentally covers the bat? How could he forget to get rid of it? But then who knows what your thought process is like after you've killed two people, Forgan reflected.

Media would soon be on the story full-bore, they would need to keep the bat a secret: hold back evidence. Only one person out there knows about the bat.

He also saw a mark on the floor; a tread from an athletic shoe, a print left in blood.

Police had started interviewing neighbours, no one had heard anything unusual coming from that apartment. Forgan exited the bedroom, walked up the narrow hallway to the living room, where the open door led onto the balcony. He chatted with Korol, who had joined him at the scene. They could hear voices in an adjoining unit, so the detectives spoke quietly. If the walls were that thin, how could no one have heard anything, with the violence that had happened here? Forgan listened to the old hardwood floor under his feet creak. Did the victims hear the guy coming?

He knew the investigation would be complicated. Two victims, two circles of friends and relatives and acquaintances and potential enemies and motives. The only witness so far was the kid, who was speaking in riddles. No sign of forced entry to the apartment. Did the victims or at least one of them, know the killer?

Forgan left the living room, out the front door of the unit, saw the key chain dangling from the lock. It was the mother's key chain. Who left it there? Would make no sense for the killer to lock the door and leave the key on his way out, unless he was trying to throw them off. The kid? The boy clearly had not exited via the chain-locked back door; more likely he exits through the front, then locks the door like he had seen his mother do many times before.

Forgan walked down a flight of stairs and out into the darkness, to the strip of grass in front of the apartment building. Shoe indentations on the grass. On the front concrete facade, the word "Victoria" and an iron lamp fixture below the balcony of unit C. The second-floor balcony was maybe 10 feet off the ground. Someone with strength and purpose could grab the fixture, climb up to the balcony and hop back down again. Might explain the pronounced footprints in the grass.

His night ended at 4 a.m. Forgan went home, a few hours sleep, back in the office at Central Station Monday at 9:30 a.m. He had three voice mails from reporters about the case already.

That afternoon he attended autopsies for both victims performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Chitra Rao. Her conclusion: both were bludgeoned to death, struck numerous times in the head and face. Multiple skull fractures and hemorrhages in the brain. Tramline bruising; caused by striking by a cylindrical object.

Later that day, Forgan drove to Stoney Creek with Detective Dave Place, who had been among those called in to assist. The second of the victims, the male, had been identified by fingerprints. The family had to be notified.

z z z

It had been a sad year for Ruth Del Sordo. She lost her mother, Lily, in February. Ruth's husband had tried to tell her all the right things, that Lily had lived a good and long life, 84 years. But Ruth was very close with her mother, she could not believe she was gone.

Lily had been a survivor; her parents were born in Poland and she had family members who were captured and killed by the Nazis. Lily's parents made it to England, where she was born, and moved to Canada after the war. Lily raised four kids on her own in Hamilton when her husband left her.

Ruth grew up on the Beach Strip, went to Van Wagners Beach School on the lake, the building that would one day be reborn as Barangas restaurant. She married an Italian-Canadian named Flavio Del Sordo in 1973.

Their first child, Pasquale, was born a year later, on Sept. 20, 1974. Ruth and Flavio had four other kids: Anthony, Flavio Jr., Cindy and Joey. Flavio started a construction company, all the boys worked for him.

Pasquale (Pat) especially loved the work, had a passion for woodworking since he picked up a toy hammer as a toddler. In his teens, he won awards for woodworking and carpentry projects.

As the first-born, Pat occupied a special place in the family, but especially in Ruth's world. He had epilepsy as a boy, but with treatment his symptoms had vanished before he hit his teens. Still, she never stopped worrying about him even into his 20s, when they continued to grow very close. Pat shared everything with her. He always drove her places, took her shopping, he cranked up the music in the car or in the house, Ruth got a steady dose of his favourite rock. He used to walk up and give her a big hug, and say, "Me and you against the world, eh mom?"

She was fiercely protective of him; one of his girlfriends once broke up with him because he paid so much attention to his mother.

When he was in his early 20s, Pat and a girlfriend had a child, a girl. The mother and Pat did not stay together, though. Still, Ruth glowed with pride when in the early days she saw him bathe and diaper the baby.

By the summer of 2000, nearing his 26th birthday, Pat worked for his dad framing houses and still lived upstairs in the family home in Stoney Creek. He loved his food and music, fixing up his blue Jeep and riding around blasting classic Kiss; heading out at night adorning six or seven of his fingers with gold rings, taking centre stage on the dance floor at clubs, all 5-foot-11, 240 pounds of him. Others gravitated toward him, his big laugh and brassy presence.

His dad warned him not to stay out too late. Pat often had to work early in the morning, and most of all he needed to be careful out there. But Pat seemed to trust everyone.

"Don't worry, I'm going to be OK," he said, and gave Flavio a hug and playfully pinched his cheek.

Even when he had a late night, Pat always returned home to sleep in his own bed. That continued that summer, when he was seeing Charlisa Clark, a girl he had known since high school but with whom he had only recently become romantically involved.

Saturday afternoon, June 17, he hung with Charlisa and her son Eugene, and then later that night he was out with his friends Moe and Luca in Burlington at a carnival on the lakeshore. They stopped at a club called Billy Bob's but the lineup was too big, they decided to pack it in. Pat was dropped off at the Del Sordo home just after midnight.

His family had plans for Sunday, Father's Day, everyone going to the Mandarin for a big dinner as was the custom. Soon after midnight, Charlisa called him on his cell. He left the house, took his dad's white Del Sordo Construction van and drove the 15 minutes to visit Charlisa at her apartment on King Street East, parked in a lot right across the street.

Ruth woke up at 9 a.m. Sunday. Pat had not come home. She was worried, called his cell repeatedly, no answer, just his voice mail. At 4:45 p.m. Ruth and Flavio drove downtown to pick up their youngest, Joey, from where he was getting off a shift working at Tim Hortons. On the way, driving along King East, they noticed the white van in a parking lot. They did not know that Charlisa lived across the street.

Flavio phoned his son Anthony, told him to bring the extra set of keys. Flavio opened the back door of the van, which was unlocked, but set off the alarm. Anthony left his father, and Flavio drove the van home by himself.

By 7 p.m. no one had heard from Pat. The family decided to go back to the spot on King Street where the van had been parked. Flavio, Anthony and his fiancee, Joey, and Pat's friends Luca and Moe went down. The area near 781 King Street East now buzzed with police, yellow crime-scene tape up.

Officers invited them to Central Station, where detectives began interviewing Pat's family and friends. Did anyone have any reason to harm Pat, any trouble with friends or girlfriends? Any drug use? No, they answered, everyone loved Pat, and no drugs, he was very hard on others if they merely smoked cigarettes.

Flavio phoned Ruth, who was still at home. I don't know what's going on, he said, but the police are saying there are two people found dead in an apartment on King Street, but are not saying who it is.

Ruth dropped the phone, fearing the worst.

"Please!" she yelled, "Don't take my Pasquale, take me! God, take me!"

All that night, still uncertain if her son was alive, Ruth prayed, asked God for a miracle, even as she sensed the truth. Flavio suggested maybe Pat had been in a fight, was attacked, had fled out of town? No, Ruth thought, he would have come home, no matter what. My Pasquale always comes home.

She kept thinking back to the night before, the last time he had been in the house. Ruth heard Pat leave to go see Charlisa. She wanted to stop him. But Flavio had recently given her a hard time about being so protective of their son.

"Don't phone him all the time, he's a man," he had said.

When Ruth once asked Pat about that, he said, "Don't stop bugging me, Ma, it just shows you love me."

Still, that night she had a mind to call him on his cell when he went out the door to Charlisa's: It's too late, Pasqua, tomorrow's Father's Day. Come on back, we'll have some coffee, talk a bit.

Ruth knew if she had called, he would have come back. No question about it. How many times had he cancelled dates in the past if she needed him? Many times. Why hadn't she just called him once more, kept him home where he belonged?

Just after 5 p.m. Monday, Don Forgan and Dave Place pulled in front of the Del Sordo home, the house the family had renovated, where Pat himself had helped screw down every new floor.

Place had, just 15 hours earlier, stood in Sue Ross's kitchen to pass along the news of Charlisa's death. And now he was doing it again. Place dreaded notification. There you are, personally bearing the worst news in a family's life, a moment they will never forget.

The detectives were invited inside. They told the Del Sordos one of the victims was Pat.

Some sat in silence, brother Anthony punched a pane of glass in the china cabinet, slicing his hand, a tendon, he had to get it wrapped and rush to hospital.

Ruth? She knew the police would bring that news. Her heart was shattered. My boy is gone, she thought, my music man. My Pasquale.

Pat's cellphone was recovered from the apartment. Detectives monitored it, waiting to see if anyone called in the days that followed. There was one person who dialled the number several times. It was Ruth. She yearned to hear his voice on the recording, the one that said without fail, "Hello, this is The Pasqua. If you got something hot or interesting to say, just leave a message after the beep. Ciao."

Ruth focused her energy on the investigation, her sorrow competing with puzzlement and anger. Her boy was so gentle, full of fun, who could want to harm him? And, she could not fathom it, he was a large man, big arms and shoulders muscled from weight lifting and building houses, a gentle giant but so strong he could kill a man with a punch. Who could possibly have done this to him, she wondered? Surely not just one man.

z z z

After it had all gone down, Carl crashed at a friend's apartment, very late. In the morning he rose, stood on the balcony, high up, thought about what he had done, what he had seen and heard.

Jump? Should he? The thought crossed his mind, and not for the first time. Except Carl had issues with suicide. Not that he considered himself religious, but still, he wondered, what if it was true that you burned in hell for it? On the other hand, what if when you die, everything is just black? That would be good, he would choose suicide if that were the case.

Mostly he wondered if he had cleaned up enough back at the apartment. After it was over, he had hopped off the low balcony of the apartment to escape. Then he climbed back up the wall again, through the open balcony door, wiped down everything; walls, light switches. What had he touched? Anything that would stick? He hopped off the balcony again, threw one of his shoes in a dumpster, another in a second dumpster. Then he returned to the apartment a final time, remembering he had handled a wallet in there. Grabbed the wallet, a set of car keys, left, threw it all down a sewer.

At 11 a.m. he visited his girlfriend, Elaine, who lived down at Melvin and Parkdale, six kilometres away from where it had happened on King East. They had a stormy relationship; his violent temper and drug habit did not help. She once called police to complain that Carl had stolen her VCR.

"What channel is the Hamilton news on?" Carl asked. He never watched the news.

On TV he saw a reporter at the scene outside the apartment. The reporter was talking about a double homicide.

"What, did you have something to do with that?" Elaine asked.

"No."

In the past, when they were high, they had talked about what violence each might be capable of doing.

"I believe in God," Elaine said. "I couldn't kill anyone."

She looked at him, the red hair, bloodless white skin, the pale blue-grey eyes that seemed to possess a crazed light, an unhinged quality. As a teenager growing up back east, in the Maritimes, Carl had once dreamt of killing someone. Woke up thinking it had actually happened.

He told Elaine it wouldn't bother him, killing.

"Because I don't have a conscience."

He left Elaine's place and decided to return to the scene outside the apartment on King East. The Hamilton Police command van was there, uniform and plain clothes cops, news reporters.

"I have to see it, see what they have on me," he thought.

Was that the reason he went back? Why drop hints to Elaine? Why come to the scene and show his face, where he had just murdered two people in cold blood? Curiosity? Or was the urge explained by something else, something dark that beat inside him?

He moved closer to the yellow police crime scene tape, his thoughts spinning.

"Hey, stay back," ordered a cop in uniform.

"OK."

Eventually Carl reflected more about having taken two lives. He had done something that most people didn't get to do. Didn't get to do? An odd statement to make, he thought. He knew that.

z z z

A couple of weeks earlier, out east in Nova Scotia, a north wind off the Bay of Fundy whipped a man's face, along with a hard rain. He fought through tears for the right words.

This was it, in a sense, the moment when a man named Shane Mosher started on the road to something dark and dangerous, and also a fateful decision.

Shane was 32, very slim, a young face, short dark hair. He lived in Brantford and had travelled to his boyhood home of Middleton, a small town in the Annapolis Valley, to see his mom, Barb. She had colon cancer and time was running out. It was tearing him apart.

Mom was an angel of a woman, had always been there for him. Growing up in the valley, Shane's relationship with his father had been more complicated. He wanted to emulate his dad or some of him, anyway. His dad, a great athlete, played for Canada's national baseball team, the one that toured Cuba and met Fidel Castro in 1964. Shane kept a scrapbook of the pictures. His dad, good looking guy, women loved him, guys wanted to be like him. His dad, who couldn't deal with the shadow of his own father or not making it big-time in sports, who turned to the bottle.

His dad hadn't been abusive to him, although Shane got his lickings growing up, sure. He deserved them, he figured. Shane face down on the bed, naked, getting it good, his mom stepping in to stop it: "Enough's enough."

And now, visiting his mom for what he knew would be the last time, Shane was nervous, his mind racing, what should he say? He came to the front door of her house, where she was receiving palliative care. Shane had come down with a sore throat, earache, he told his stepfather about it. The stepfather wouldn't let him in the door because of his symptoms.

Shane pleaded with him; it's the last time he will see her. Please. The stepfather said no. Instead he set Barb up in a room at the front of the house, by a window. Shane had to stand outside in the wind and rain, talk to her through a screen, both of them crying.

She died on June 13 at just 52 years old. Shane flew back to Nova Scotia, this time for the funeral. He went to the Warren T. Roop Funeral Home in Middleton, right next door to Shane's old family house. His dad used to work at Roop's embalming bodies; Shane always stayed away from the basement of the place, it freaked him out.

Back home in Brantford, Shane continued his life with Shannon, his wife, and their one-year old girl, Riley. On the outside he was still good ol' Shane from the valley, likable, clean-cut, big smile. But inside everything was a struggle, he could not shake the sadness, he talked to a doctor about it. Was he losing it, going crazy? He reflected on his own history a lot, such an unusual life back east growing up, he had taken it on the chin more than a few times, kept surviving. What was it all about?

He was drinking some, smoking pot a bit as he had done on occasion in his valley days when he'd have a joint and a beer with the guys after hockey. But that wasn't enough, not any more. He could not clear his head, shake his depression, and could not bring himself to talk to Shannon about it.

And then, one day he found the answer. Well, he was smart enough to know it was not the answer, but he couldn't help it, he was acting outside his own skin now.

Shane Mosher was about to plunge into another world, race toward rock bottom, put everything at risk -- and find himself face to face with a killer.

Monday: Naked eye

Caption: Photo: Shane Mosher, his newborn daughter, Riley, and his mother, Barb. As police unravel the mystery of unit C, Mosher plays an ever-larger role.

Photo: Eugene with Hamilton detectives Don Forgan, left, and Mike Thomas.

Caption: Photo: JON WELLS' research for Witness included studying investigation documents and video, court transcripts, interviewing homicide and forensic detectives, family members of the victims, and the killer. All of the detail and dialogue in the story is true, drawn directly from research. Jon has won two National Newspaper Awards for his true crime serials and has had five books published, most recently, Vanished.

Photo: RON ALBERTSON, who returned to photography nearly five years ago after 17 years as The Spectator's Photo Editor, is an award-winning photojournalist. The photographs in this series are a combination of Ron's original portraiture and those that were provided by families and police sources.

Photo: Hamilton police services

The rear of the Victoria apartments on King Street East. There was no answer at unit C when Constable Randy Carter knocked.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton Police Detective Don Forgan at unit C, 781 King St. E. The investigation would be complex: two victims, two circles of friends, the only witness a child, speaking in riddles.

Photo: Charlisa and Eugene. They both had easels in the art room in the apartment. Below, a birthday for Eugene.

Photo: Sue and her daughter Charlisa: both were artistic. When she was a girl Sue was a ballerina, and as an adult taught dance in Hamilton. Charlisa was an artist, she had a painting in an exhibition in a Hamilton gallery and a mention made of her in The Spectator just days before her murder.

Photo: A Hamilton Police photo taken at Charlisa's apartment in the aftermath of the murders: It appeared that the killer climbed the wall and entered through the open balcony door.

Photo: Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo at his high school graduation.

Photo: Pat worked in construction -- carpentry and framing houses -- with his dad, Flavio.