WHITE HEAT

January 17 2005

– On Monday afternoon, Art Rozendal’s body was moved from the hospital to the Clark funeral home on Upper Wellington Street, and prepared for the funeral.

When Brenda had viewed the body with Art’s dad in the bowels of Hamilton General Hospital, she felt anger. She told Art she loved him, and was mad at him for dying on her.

But sitting alone beside the body in the funeral home, it was different. No anger. She cried, a lot. Brenda ran her fingers through Art’s hair, fixed it—they had not made it up quite right, she decided. And she kissed him. His lips felt cold against hers.

Prior to the visitation, Brenda allowed her two sisters, Bev and Diane, to view Art’s body in the funeral home, but denied others in the family. It would be closed casket. Clark’s had made him up as best as possible, but the bruising was still visible, eyes swollen, he had been in the morgue for a couple of days and that had not helped. Brenda didn’t want family to remember him like that. When they thought of Art, she only wanted them to see the smile, not the body lying in the casket.

Art and Brenda’s sons, Neil and Jordan, both wanted to see their dad. It was a tough decision for her to deny them that, but she did not regret it.

Bev and Diane later told her that they regretted seeing the body, had nightmares about it.

The visitation was on Wednesday, Jan. 19. It snowed, the windchill hit -16 C that morning. The turnout was enormous, people lined up outside the funeral home in the cold, right around the block. Brenda was amazed.

Among those offering condolences was Mike Maloney and the other homicide detectives.

Nancy Lutz was there, a uniform officer who had driven Brenda to the hospital that night.

So was Ian Gouthro, who tried to save Art’s life at the bar with Brenda, performing CPR. The two officers walked up to greet her together.

“Here are my angels,” Brenda said.

“No, you are the angel.”

Gouthro looked at Brenda. He was not a talkative guy, but he just sensed that he needed to say it. She struck him as a very strong woman—heroic. But he felt she needed to know.

“You did everything possible to save your husband,” he said. “I want you to know that.”

Art had been beaten, but Brenda did not know the official cause of his death. The detectives didn’t know, either—they were waiting on the final postmortem report. Brenda wondered, did she do something wrong when she tried to revive Art? Performed CPR incorrectly? Gouthro’s words now brought some comfort. Then again, she was numb from everything, the whole thing surreal, it was difficult to focus her thoughts or feelings.

The next day, about 200 people attended the funeral for Art. Rev. John Hibbs, who had married Art and Brenda and helped them renew their vows, presided. He stood before the congregation.

“Art had a great sense of humour, unique one-liners and a distinctive laugh,” he said. “Art had a hug and a kiss for everyone, even me. He loved people.”

The crime against him, Hibbs said, was hard to comprehend for anybody with “a common humanity, decency and respect for life.” But do not dwell upon the forces that took him. “We will leave the justice to be done to others.”

Debbie, one of Art’s younger sisters, spoke before the congregation. She talked of her brother’s love of cars and animals.

“Art was there when I opened my eyes for the first time,” she said, tears in her eyes. “I thought he would be there when I closed my eyes for the last time. There was a change in plans.”

Some of the guys at Stelco came to the funeral, among them Charlie Montgomery.

All the guys at work had been shocked, devastated, couldn’t get over it, someone wanting to hurt Art, of all people. Flags had been lowered to half-mast at the Lake Erie Works where Art worked.

Charlie and Art spent two years together working the same shift in the coke ovens and grew very close. You work in a heavy industrial environment, you have to trust the other guy with your life sometimes to do the right thing. He could always trust Art.

Their families would connect outside of work. Brenda and Art would go to Charlie’s place for pig roasts, stay overnight, bring the kids out at Christmastime.

Montgomery had been to many funerals over the years, his parents never hid death from them when they were kids. Great aunts and uncles died, the funerals were celebrations of life. Charlie spoke at his dad’s funeral. People asked him, where did he find the strength? Death is part of life, he explained.

Charlie could handle death.

But not this time.

It was too much, he could make no sense of it. Art? Sitting in the church with everyone, maybe it was because he was trying to understand, or keep his emotions in check, but sitting there Charlie felt this—this fever, this white heat wrapped around his head the whole time.

Back in the coke ovens at Stelco, Art’s locker remained packed with his gear. His white helmet, dusty and tarnished, the one with his name on it, still hung from a hook on the wall. No one touched it. No one.

What happened at the burial that day was strange. But several people there saw it, and that included Art’s buddy Bill Murray. Bill does not go in at all for this kind of thing, psychic stuff or anything like that. But he saw what he saw.

Woodlands Cemetery, freezing cold, snow falling on and off, the burial service underway, Rev. Hibbs speaking, family and close friends gathered around the casket. Midway through the service, Bill turns, and it’s just there, a car stopped nearby on the narrow driveway that winds through the cemetery.

Bill can’t believe his eyes. But it’s true. It’s a street rod, a ’68 Buick Gran Sport, mint shape. Just like the kind Bill and Art used to put up on blocks and restore.

Understand something. No one drives a car like that in winter. Ever. You bring it out in summer, if the weather is perfect. Guys don’t even drive them in rain, much less through snow or salt.

But there it is. A Gran Sport. Art’s favourite, his love. And it’s white, of all things. Blacked tinted windows.

Bill thinks he sees someone get out of the car, but can’t see his face, he’s blocked by the Gran Sport. Seconds later, the car glides away, the engine barely audible, if at all. Most everyone saw it. Who was it? Why show up and drive away like that? Bill knew every car guy around, and he had never seen anyone with a car like that.

Bill asked Art’s old friends about it. No one knew who it could have been. Never did find out.

It had been on Monday, Jan. 17, that Detective Mike Maloney first learned of four names of known Kitchener-based associates of Kyro Sparks. But had any of them been with Sparks at O’Grady’s that night? If Sparks was living or working in Hamilton, he could have an entirely different set of associates in the city. Maloney needed more. Tips were flowing in, sightings of men in the area near O’Grady’s on Upper James Street the night of the homicide.

Maloney reflected that when a solid citizen is murdered, there is always lots of information coming forward from people who care. When it’s someone living on the fringe in Hamilton, that is not the case. Art Rozendal’s reputation was actually helping the investigation into his death.

Maloney interviewed a cabbie who said he gave a ride that night to a fare who fit Kyro Sparks’ description. The fare had been rude to him, called him a “Paki,” spat and swore at him. An interesting bit of detail: The guy also mentioned that he had a girlfriend in town who went to Mohawk College. The cabbie—who had once been a major in the Pakistani army—ordered the guy out of the cab.

The cabbie added that he had picked up the guy in front of the Double Double Pizza on Upper James Street. Maloney went to the pizza place, asked if they had a working video camera on site that night. They did not. The Mohawk tip was something, though. The detectives worked through Mohawk College, posted notices on campus about the crime, that a suspect may have visited a student in residence there. Reward for information: $2,000.

Detective Greg Jackson interviewed a woman who cut hair on campus, who said she had a customer who fit the description of one of the suspects offered up by police. The lead did not pan out.

Maloney read through another Crimestoppers tip. It was from a customer who had been shopping at a No Frills store at Mohawk and Upper James Street, on Friday, Jan. 14, around 2 p.m. Art was killed that night.

The tip described two men in the store “not really shopping, just pushing a buggy around and watching the customers.” One of them fit Sparks’ description. The other “had an afro with pony tail and a white pic (comb) sticking out of his hair. Navy blue puffy hip length winter coat, 5-11, slim build, no facial hair.”

Maloney was impressed—pretty good description from a customer who just happened to be shopping there. In a perfect world, the No Frills store would have working video cameras. He phoned the store.

“How long do you keep your security tapes for?”

“Three months,” the manager said.

Maloney smiled. On Wednesday morning, Jan. 19, Maloney drove to the store and watched a section of the video. Between 2:07 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., he saw two males on camera pushing the buggy. It was the first video tape of many.

Peter Abi-Rashed, the case manager, ordered officers to retrieve every store video in that part of Upper James Street. Viewing the No Frills video was simple enough because the tip had specified what time of day to look at. For the rest of them, it meant viewing recordings from around Jan. 14 from start to finish. A constable named Sarah Watson was seconded to view hundreds of hours of footage.

That same day, Maloney put in a phone call to the Barton Street jail. Kyro Sparks’ known associates had been in trouble with police in the past. Might one of them actually be in jail? The jail had access to data listing the names of every person currently housed in a detention centre in Ontario.

An official told Maloney that one of Sparks’ friends, the one named Cory McLeod, was currently incarcerated at Maplehurst institution in Milton.

Dead end? If Cory McLeod was in jail, he obviously didn’t have the chance to kill Art Rozendal. Except for one thing: McLeod had turned himself in to Kitchener police on an aggravated assault and weapons charge on Jan. 15 — the day after Art was killed. He appeared in court three days later and was taken to Maplehurst not long after that.

Cory McLeod had been a free man at the time Art was killed. It was possible he had been with Kyro Sparks that night.

But if he was involved in the homicide, why would he turn himself in?

The detectives talked about it. McLeod was hiding in jail. Had to be. After the homicide, the guy figures, hit the road for Kitchener, out of Hamilton Police jurisdiction. Turn himself in, hide out in jail, let the dust settle. Wait for his assault beef in Kitchener to be dealt with, then take off. Police aren’t going to look for a murder suspect in prison.

Maloney knew they didn’t have to go and talk to McLeod at Maplehurst. Not yet. He wasn’t going anywhere. What they needed was evidence putting McLeod in Hamilton at the time of the homicide.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, Maloney phoned a security officer at Maplehurst. What personal effects did Cory McLeod have with him?

The officer said McLeod had white Nike running shoes, a black ski jacket, grey sweater, beige pants. Maloney passed along the information to the Hamilton constable reviewing the store videotapes.

On Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 9:30 a.m., Maloney called the security manager at Barton Street jail. He asked if inmate Kyro Sparks had received any visitors lately.

He had two visitors who came to see him on Jan. 17, and Jan. 19. Names: Katrina McLennan and Sherri Foreman, both of 643 Upper James Street, Apt. 2. In the register, Sherri had written “friend,” Katrina wrote “girlfriend.”

What about Cory McLeod’s jailhouse visiting?

Maloney called Maplehurst. He had not been receiving visitors. Letters? That afternoon Maloney spoke to the security manager. McLeod had not received any letters—but he had mailed out letters of his own.

Maloney’s heart beat faster. McLeod had written two females who lived in Meaford, Ont. And there was a letter he mailed to a woman in Hamilton. The name written on the envelope was “Sherri McLeod.” Address: 643 Upper James Street, Apt. 2.

Cory McLeod and Kyro Sparks both had a Hamilton connection. Their girlfriends lived in the apartment around the corner from O’Grady’s Roadhouse.

At 8:20 the next morning, Wednesday, an anonymous caller left a message on Maloney’s voicemail: “I think I might know who one of your suspects is from Kitchener,” the caller said. He said he knew Kyro Sparks, and that Kyro hung out with a guy named Cory McLeod. Guy has a big afro and puts his hair in a pony tail.

“Cory is the type of guy that snaps when he gets drunk. He brags about it. Brags about killing someone.”

The caller added he was offering the information because “the guy they killed was a contributor, a millwright. And now his kids are orphaned.”

At 10 a.m., Maloney and Det. Greg Jackson checked out an unmarked car and headed up the mountain to visit 643 Upper James. They knocked at Apt. 2. No answer. Someone moved a drape in the window. They were there all right. Knocked again. No answer.

The detectives entered a sewing shop at the front of the building. A woman there said her husband was the building superintendent. Apt. 2? Tenant is a girl named Katrina. Student at Mohawk College, but is from Kitchener. Her parents are really nice people.

Back at Apt. 2, the woman knocked on the door for the detectives, while Maloney and Jackson stood off to the side out of view. Katrina opened the door. When the detectives stepped out she looked surprised—and did not invite them in. Maloney and Jackson stepped inside. Sherri Foreman was sitting in the room.

“We’re investigating a murder at O’Grady’s Roadhouse,” Maloney sa id. “A man named Kyro Sparks has been arrested. We have information that he’s been here.” He said nothing about Cory McLeod.

In fact, the detectives had no information that put Sparks in that apartment. But they had a strong suspicion. An eyewitness at the bar who followed the killers outside O’Grady’s said they had hopped a fence near that building.

Sherri said they both knew Kyro from Kitchener, but he had not been in their apartment on Upper James Street. Guys come by the apartment, she said, but he was not one of them.

Maloney and Jackson warned them: This is a murder investigation. Obstruct police and we will arrest you. The girls had little else to say.

“We’d like to talk to you down at the station,” Jackson said. The girls did not want to go.

“We’ll give you a ride back,” he said.

They left the building and got in the car, the detectives drove them down the Mountain.

Better to take Katrina and Sherri downtown, interview them separately, get statements from each on the record, on videotape.

What did they really know about Kyro Sparks and what happened the night of Jan. 14?

– Jon Wells

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About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Crimewave2014@gmail.com
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