Editor's note: This week, BarrieToday is profiling some of the unsolved homicides in and around the city.
For nearly three decades, the 1994 stabbing death of Katherine Janeiro in her Dunlop Street West apartment went unsolved.
But Barrie police announced earlier this year they had charged a local man with the death of the 20-year-old mother and the file moved from unsolved to one now actively being prosecuted in the courts.
Police said new information that came to light about a year ago prompted them to concentrate more closely on the Janeiro case during a year when there were no homicides reported in the city.
“In any investigation, it is important that every piece of information received is always closely examined; you just never know which one holds the key detail you are searching for and will lead your team ultimately to arrest the person responsible,” Barrie police Det. Kevin Scales said when the charge was announced.
On Jan. 13, Robert Bruce MacQueen, 58, of Barrie, was charged with first-degree murder. His case remains before the courts.
For family members of cases that have yet to be resolved, the arrest in the Janeiro killing brings some hope of closure.
But cracking an old case is not something new for police. Ongoing detective work and strategies, technology or plain luck have led to the closure of other unsolved killings locally.
For years, the file on Alexandra Flanagan’s death remained open, even though Barrie police had a suspect in mind.
Using a year-long 'Mr. Big' sting operation, they were able to collar and convict Andrew Keene. The undercover project led to charges four years after the 2007 killing.
Last fall, the Ontario Court of Appeal denied Keene’s attempt to have his conviction and sentence reduced. He is serving a life sentence and won’t be eligible for parole for at least another 11 years.
And then there was a series of bizarre events in 2012 that led to charges in the 1978 killing of a Barrie man whose body, found shot and bound, was discovered in a wooded area in Springwater Township, north of the city.
Donald Feldhoff walked into the police station on a summer day in 2012 and confessed to the fatal shooting of Michael Traynor, 26, announcing that he and his father then disposed of the body. The 54-year-old Barrie man had just had a fight with his father and was kicked out of the house.
While there, he told police about a cache of weapons at his parents’ Virgilwood Crescent home where he was living. Close to two dozen homes were evacuated as police cleared 83 incendiary explosive devices, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and almost 30 weapons.
His elderly father, William, a survivalist preparing for a third world war with a well-armed bunker and a basement with more weapons, was also implicated in the killing.
The Traynor killing had been on the Barrie police unsolved list for decades.
Court later heard that Traynor stumbled drunk into the Worsley Street home where he said he once lived and which the younger Feldhoff had subsequently occupied. There was a scuffle and Feldhoff shot Traynor twice with a gun his dad had given him to protect himself.
During their search of the Feldhoff home following the confession all those years later, police also found child pornography consisting of four movies and 81 still images on the younger Feldhoff’s computer.
In 2016, Donald Feldhoff ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter and improperly interfering with the dead body of Michael Traynor and also possession of child pornography. After time served, his eight-and-a-half-year sentence was reduced to 27 months.
By that time, his father, who had earlier been handed a total sentence of four and a half years, was released. Upon his return home in January 2016, the then-78-year-old man told a reporter there were no explosives or bombs, just bags of fertilizer he bought years ago when a local hardware store closed.
Nearly three years later, on Dec. 14, 2018, his son was released from prison.
But there are other killings that are still unsolved in Barrie, as well as the surrounding area, and although they might be old cases, investigators say they’ll never be abandoned.
“With the benefit of hindsight and a second, fresh set of eyes, sometimes things will be picked up: details in a statement or details in the forensic evidence that may have been missed at the time,” said Det.-Insp. Matt Watson of the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch.
Watson is overseeing the investigation into Cindy Halliday’s killing, which dates back to 1992.
Other unsolved cases with Barrie ties include April Dobson, shot in the back of the head on a Browning Trail porch in 2005, and Jamie Lee Miller, whose remains were discovered in a wooded area west of Barrie five years ago.
Investigators and family members still hold out hope that they can one day see closure on the deaths of their loved ones.
“No case like this is ever closed,” said Det.-Const Tony Markic, who is now involved in the Miller case. “These investigations are always open and as we see from some of the cases from the OPP, Toronto, Barrie, when a credible piece of information comes forward, they are investigated to the very end.”